Happy Birthday to The Swipe Up!


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The Swipe Up is officially one year old, and like your great-aunt who stands in the greeting card aisle in Wal-mart, painstakingly searching for that ONE Hallmark that will perfectly encapsulate all the tender and hilarious feelings she feels towards you, this one really packs a punch. I even ate cake for it, because a Swipe Up reader, Jinny, sent me a BUNDT CAKE gift card. I was supposed to share with Ben, but he was in DragonCon prep mode, trying to get that bod tight, so I took one for the team and ate both cakes. It felt very on brand for our little newsletter here. The picture below is obviously me pre-cake-eating. I’m sorry it’s so big. I have no idea how to make it smaller at the mome. I just wanted to thank Jinny for sending me cake, so now you all have to deal with what might as well be a life-sized portrait, hanging over your internet mantle.

(Segueway music)
Which is a great time to mention that we’ve (Me. We is me.) changed platforms, got a lil’ branding in the mix now. The Swipe Up got a glow up for her birthday. Maybe some of you are like, why would I subscribe to this now? It’s just a website, so this is like your blog, I’ll just come and visit whenever I want. You could do that, but I’ll also send special updates to JUST subscribers, so you’ll want those as they contain magic and unicorns. Also you’ll see an open thread below (or click here) — feel free to leave comments or ask questions there, if you want!

You’ll note the audio player at the top of this email is new (there are some other new tweaks and treasures scattered throughout). Something I wanted to try with the new year of The Swipe Up is an audio version. It’s basically a podcast iteration of the newsletter: I’ll be answering from the This Month’s Question section, and reading This Month’s Essay. My hope is to maybe do additional audio for you in the future, so consider this a pilot program. This is currently JUST for subscribers, but you can easily put the feed into your podcast player of choice and listen from the comfort of wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Click the link under the audio player that says “Listen in podcast app.”

  2. Smash that “Email me the link” button.

  3. ON YOUR PHONE (this part is really important, don’t click the button on your desktop), open the email and click the button.

  4. Choose your preferred podcast app from the list provided.

  5. Your phone will open the selected app and you’ll see a pop-up, confirming you do, indeed want to subscribe. You do, so click ‘subscribe.’

  6. You did it! Now anytime I publish an audio version of the newsletter, it’ll land in your podcast player just like a regular old podcast. Technology is beautiful.

I hope you like the update to the newsletter! Let’s get into the fun stuff, shall we?

P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, affiliate links support The Swipe Up at no extra cost to you. It makes Ben Moon really happy when you purchase something via the affiliate links, so thank you! 👌

We had some great questions from Instagram this month, so in the spirit of birthdays and excess, I answered a few more. Without further ado…

What celeb isn’t that famous but you are very very overly obsessed with? - @lemonadeh
This is the PERFECT time for me to tell you about my deep and abiding love for Robert Duvall, American treasure and recipient of the only fan letter I have ever written. I also have a Robert Duvall spreadsheet where I track watching all his films.

Watching movies with talkers: “it me” or “nah”? - @kaylashunk
I don’t have a lot of pet peeves, but movie-talkers are definitely the Lord testing my Christianity. There’s literally no reason for you to be talking during the movie. Do you have questions? The answers will be revealed during the course of the movie we’re both experiencing. Did you miss a line? You’ll miss seven more if you ask me “what did he say?” Only people who are addicted to chaos talk during movies.

What do you wish people knew about wedding planning? - @beks228
Rent a wedding gown, buy it second-hand, don’t pay full price.
Spend all your money on a photographer and all your energy on a tight contract with that photographer.
If you aren’t having kids at the reception, you cannot ask a child to be in your wedding party.
Be thoughtful about honoring the people who helped make the day happen.
If someone offers you a cash pay-out in exchange for not having a wedding, take the cash.
No matter what you do, in ten years, your wedding will feel dated.
A wedding is great and fun, but as a culture we’ve put them in a weird space as the pinnacle of a woman’s life and I think that’s reductive to women who choose not to get married, and women who do choose to get married! Look for other ways to celebrate milestones as well.

Thoughts on Emma Watson as Meg in the new Little Women? - @b.juliet.b
If anyone in this broken world can play Meg March with a shred of credibility, I believe it is Emma Watson.

What are some practical things you have done to grow in your writing? - @kj_duggan
I read a lot, and all kinds of things. Articles, novels, essays, poetry, research, tweets, anything.
This is going to sound condescending, but I don’t mean it that way at all: writing is the best practical thing you can do to improve your writing.

I also like these books on writing:
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron

When you read a book you like and you think: this right here is in the ballpark of what I want to do, go to the back of the book and write down every title in the bibliography. Read those books. Find interviews with the author. Read the books they talk about.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about taste and how you become good at something. I used to have this Ira Glass quote taped to my wall, because it reminded me that figuring out what you want your voice to sound like and discerning good writing from bad writing takes time. I highlighted the parts I think are especially important.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” — Ira Glass

How do you find the good in the really tough days? - @midwestdrawl
I recently hooked up with a spiritual director (if you’ve been here for awhile, the journey has concluded), and the first thing she got me into is the prayer of examen. We’re reading about it together, but the basic shape of it is spending time each evening looking at the things or moments that drew me closer to God, and the things that pulled me away from Him. I really like this because it takes into account that every day has good and tough in them, and helps you sift through both sides accordingly. Someone else asked “I’m in an extended transition phase and often lack a feeling of purpose. Tips for thriving?” and I really feel like the prayer of examen could be helpful in that case as well. You’re creating a living document that chronicles the ups and downs, enabling you to find patterns and draw comfort from past experiences. It’s also clueing you during those times when your faith feels dry or stretched: reminding you: “There is water here.”

Do you have any ongoing internet feuds (real or imagined)? - @ally_castaldo
I’m feuding with all Christian thought leaders who rail against Game of Thrones having never seen it, and I’m also feuding with The Babylon Bee. I’m feuding with you if you refer to yourself as a Christian thought leader. I’m also feuding with Matt Walsh, President Donald Trump, and the Apostle Paul, but for all very different reasons and in a very respectful way (except for Matt Walsh, I think he’s a robot specifically designed to tempt me into sin). Obviously, these are all one-sided feuds.

How do you unplug from social media/stay off your phone? - @elizabethj423
I take weekends off. Kids are also very intelligent about the phone now; they’ve been sold its ills and if they see you pick it up, it’s like, “How come you’re on your phone so much? Don’t you love me? Did you know increased screen time rots your brain?” So that’s also very effective.

Book everyone else loved, but you disliked? - @saf9498
Look, I want to like Sally Rooney’s novels, but I hate them. It’s a subjective thing. I can clearly see she’s a great writer, but I hate everything about her books. She seems mind-bendingly cool though, so I have to admit I’m probably just an old millennial fart.

Best resources (non-partisan) for those wanting to become more politically informed? - @sarah_fisher
I really love Pantsuit Politics (podcast and book). I like ISideWith.com for helping you figure out which candidates you align with most. I like Vote411.org for helping me understand what I’ll be voting on. A podcast like The Daily or Up First are good, quick overviews of what’s happening in the world, and they let you come to your own conclusions about the political repercussions.

How would you advise a 34 year old woman with 5 kids to start pursuing her dreams? - @shelleysmucker
It’s hard for me to know how to advise you because I feel like there are so many variables that could be at play here! Their ages? Do you homeschool? What is your dream? What does it entail? Is it to be a world-class bodybuilder? Is it to write a novel? The vaguest (and probably best) advice I can give you is to start small. Tiny forward movement is still forward movement. My friend Kendra says to commit to something so small, it’s dumb NOT to do it. Whatever it is, if it’s your dream, start making progress, even if it’s laughably (to other dumb people who don’t pursue their dreams) miniscule.

Best kept Birmingham secret? - @haleigh_mitchell
The best Thai food is in a gas station.

What kind of worship songs do you love? - @bayliewintle
Is it old? Does it have four stanzas, but we’re gonna skip the third? Who knows why! That’s just what the Minister of Music told us to do! Does it include a more robust theology than is found in most Biblical Studies courses? I’m here for it. Give me some Fanny Crosby. Give me something out of the Baptist hymnal. I want my worship songs to have an M.Div.

Favorite theologians/thinkers? -
Henri Nouwen, Wil Gafney, Ekemini Uwan, CS Lewis, Francis of Assisi, Soren Kierkegaard, NT Wright, Fr. Richard Rohr, Carolyn Custis James, Julian of Norwich, and Walter Brueggemann.

3 make-up favorites? - @hannahlmorris
Right now I’m pretty into IT! Cosmetics Bye-Bye Pores Translucent Powder, these Real Techniques brushes, and my old standby is the Sephora Rouge Tint in Ruby.

Several of you asked questions that I’ve already answered in previous Swipe Ups, but GOOD NEWS: I transferred the entire archive over, so there’s an entire year’s worth of content a mere scroll away!

What’s a Mastermind Retreat?

Over Labor Day weekend, I went on a little retreat in the mountains with three other women to talk about BUSINESS. I’ve been meeting with my mastermind group online for about five months, and we thought it might be beneficial to have a concentrated time of face-to-face. Turns out, it was.

Several of you asked if I would unpack it more here, so I will!

How did you find your mastermind group?
In peak Enneagram 3 style, I knew everyone in our group separately, and rounded us (we and us here refers to Retha, Jacey, and Courtney) up. I wanted these people to fit three criteria. 1) We could not be intimately involved in each other’s lives prior to the mastermind (the exception for my group was Courtney, who is my dear old friend, but she lives in another state, so I decided FOR MYSELF I would break this rule). 2) Everyone would be an expert in something, but also a non-expert in something. 3) We would be adjacent to each other’s work, but not competitive with each other (whatever that means). The joke is now that we are all intimately involved in each other’s lives…but whatever.

Let’s say I don’t have three friends I want to do this with. How do I find people?
This is hard, because honestly, I’m not sure. There are some mastermind networks you can join, but there’s a (sometimes steep) fee. Maybe there are some people you know online who you think would be a good fit — you admire them, they are doing good work, and you feel like you can sharpen each other. I knew each of them enough to know that they could be trusted with sensitive information about work, and I think that’s important. If you talk about money or analytics in your group, you want someone who will keep that information private, and it may be hard to discern that just knowing someone online.

Do you have a leader?
This is a benevolent democracy, until no one wants to make a decision, then I will.

How often do you meet?
We shoot for twice a month for an hour. We also have a Voxer channel that gets some heavy use in the in-between.

What do you talk about in your regular meetings?
We do our professional highs and lows, and concentrated time on problems or questions we have. Every once in awhile, we do a hot seat, which is one person gets the entire hour for a pressure point. We chat via Zoom or Skype, and we have a recurring set date on the calendar.

So what exactly does a mastermind retreat entail? Is it just a fancier word for “girls trip?” It’s so vague!
This is a fair point. It IS vague, and we DID have an amazing charcuterie, which is a must for any girls trip, so I get the confusion. We used our mastermind retreat to ask a big question about our work, and then talk through our options with the rest of the group. I kind of liken it to picking up a rock on the beach. The rock is a project or an aspect of our work, and the mastermind retreat gave us space to turn that rock over in our hands, look at it from critical angles, examine the nooks and crannies, and decide if it was worth keeping, or we wanted to leave it on the beach. It also gave us:

  • Extended periods of time to think and talk about aspects of our work — you know how you get in a funk or a rut and you just don’t feel like you have the space to critically think about anything? The mastermind helped us untangle some of those knots.

  • A place to float ideas or dreams — it’s great to suggest an idea and get practical encouragement, as well as suggestions for how to make it happen.

  • Immediate feedback — as a Certified Feedback Monster™, I love saying something, and having quick thoughts and reactions to it.

  • Clarifying perspectives — I don’t view the world in the same way as the rest of my mastermind members, and it’s helpful to have additional personalities in the room to voice another side, or to ask a question I never would have considered.

Do you have any good resources for structuring a successful mastermind?
We were inspired by…other people on the internet. We searched “mastermind schedule” and cherry-picked what we thought would work well for us. Here are those links:

How to Plan and Host a Mastermind Group Retreat via Barrett Brooks
How to Plan a DIY Mastermind Retreat via Paper & Oats
Tips for Planning a Mastermind Retreat via Society for Creative Founders

We didn’t stick to our schedule super strictly (this is mainly because I accidentally slept in until TEN IN THE MORNING), so we made some adjustments. But we hit the main high points like we wanted. I also know several people who were already in a mastermind, so I asked a lot of questions for how they structure theirs. Not an expert by any means, but we can mine the collective brain trust and figure it out.

Everything I shared on Instagram this month, in one handy little post.

The Little Women trailer
The Highwomen album
The 1619 Project
Billy Porter Crushes Broadway Karaoke
Greta Gerwig Calls Her Babies Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet A ‘Bonfire’ Together
How To Help Your Anxious Teen by Jessica Thompson
The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King
Apocalyptic Safe Spaces with Elizabeth Bruenig (With Friends Like These podcast)
The Hope Mindfulness app
The Bible Binge QTNA on Patreon
TOMS Desert Tan Leopard Print Suede Kelsey Booties
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Cream Coldbrew
Pumpkin Spice Lattes — and the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash, explained
Desk exercise bike
CaptainAhmazing on Instagram
Olive and June
Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion Dip and Cornbread Crisps (no link…)
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series — seriously considering a recap of what will ultimately be the pinnacle of my fall.

I tend to be the most vocal on Instagram, but hot dang if I don’t love some Twitter. This new section is just a best of my Twitter feed. Some of these tweets have PG-13 language FYI. I promise not to share a tweet that isn’t totally worth you having to look at the s-word.

Fun things from ‘round yon internet.

This Henri Nouwen print from heatherschieder on Etsy is sitting in my house waiting on a frame.

I think I’ve found an everyday tea I can get on board with.

Loved this deep dive into the world of art forgery.

One of my very favorite (Birmingham) artists just launched some of her work as prints. I am particularly partial to this one.

Lisa Whittle’s got another book coming down the pipe and I’m ready.

The fine people at Mapiful helped me make a beautiful map to commemorate my time in the UK this summer and generously offered you a code so you could do the same for a special place of your own. You can enter erinhmoon10 at checkout for 10% off!

My obsession with daily naps grows stronger at every turn. The article gives you 10 tips for productive sleepy time.

As always, you can email me at erin(dot)hicks(dot)moon(at)gmail(dot)com to continue the conversation, offer feedback, or just say hi! Have a great rest of the month, and I’ll see you back here soon! Take care of each other, and take care of yourself. - ehm

The Swipe Up, vol. 11

Originally published in August 2019

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Hello friends! 👋

It's August, and I'm so excited about fall, mainly because I'm looking forward to not having sweat roll down my back the first millisecond I step outside. Oh, sweet Lord, it is so hot. Hopefully, you're reading this issue of The Swipe Up in a full-body refrigerator. That is my dream for you. May it be so.

I'll shoot you straight, August is not in the running for my favorite month of 2019 so far. It's a good thing I recently started going back to therapy because wow, August, you are being the worst. Do you get emotional sweaty palms when big terrible news comes across our chyrons like it did already in August? I do. I start to spiral because it feels like I can't do anything to change anything. So I stay in bed and Door Dash me some Chipotle and get rice in my bed and all around my body but I don't care because I'm despairing at the state of the world when really, there are lots of things I can do. The issue of immigration may be complicated, but we can make sure babies have diapers and families are together in clean and safe environments (RAICES and Preemptive Love and Together Rising are doing great work here, or they are pointing you to the local people who are on the ground). It will take forever to sort out the gun laws in this country, but I can make sure my elected officials know exactly what I think (over and over and over again if I have to) by contacting them (Resistbot and 5 Calls are GOLDEN tools). Sometimes self-care looks like a dang bubble bath and sometimes it looks like calling your senator.

Next month, the Swipe Up will turn 1 and I'm thinking of ways to celebrate. Should we all get bundtlets at Nothing Bundt Cakes and have a Google Chat? Should we do giveaways? Maybe release a project? I don't know: we're in the brainstorming phase. But there will be a celebration because this is my newsletter and I said so.

Back to this month's edition - it's the July issue and I guess I need to figure out a better way to delineate these volumes. It's August, but we're talking about July? This is ridiculous. Anyway, we're talking spiritual directors, the best celebrity profile I've ever read in my whole entire life, and Q & A's are back by popular demand from the eight of you who cared very deeply.

So let's make like Drake and go.

P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, affiliate links support The Swipe Up at no extra cost to you. It makes Ben Moon really happy when you purchase something via the affiliate links, so thank you! 👌

Bringing Back That Rapid Fire Q&A

I upset the balance of the universe last month when I denied you all your Q&A section, so this is me: benevolent overlord, bringing them back. BEHOLD: questions and answers.

What are your tips for spinning so many plates at once? Literally how do you do it? - @marybethwalk
Here's what's up: we all have plates and you can have as many plates as you want. Spin those bad boys. The key is in which plates are paper, which plates are Project 62 from Target, and which are fine china. Some of them will fall, but which will break if they do? And which can be pieced back together if they break? Do whatever you can to keep the fine china plates spinning, and if the paper or Project 62 plates need to fall, you can pick them back up later. Sometimes Project 62 plates fall in service to fine china plates. It's not ideal, but that fine china plate is priceless. Never let paper stay spinning at the expense of fine china. Or as my guy Thoreau says: "Never let the things that matter the most be at the mercy of the things that matter the least."

Are you doing an Advent devotional? - @carlampatton
No, I'm not but I will absolutely have a recommendation for you on that in the coming months. You'll love it.

When's your next devotional coming out? (Pleeeeeeeeease!) - @ajmilad
Good news! Before the end of 2019, and Swipers will be the first to know about it.

Tips for making internet friends and how to turn them into IRL friends. - @briannakayb
I have a good mix of friends I met IRL, and internet friends who transitioned to IRL friends, so here are my tried-and-true tips for turning those IRLs into RLs:
1. Bribery with treats.
End of list.

GOT from a Christian's POV - should we watch (No judgment just want your opinion)? - @lesliegpearson
I got you, Leslie.

Any behind-the-scenes info on The Last Beholder? - @katieb_rice
I've been ignoring this question for a while, mainly because it's tender and sensitive, not only professionally, but personally. As of earlier this year, I made the decision to step away from The Last Beholder project. This was hard, and the whys behind the choice are nuanced and complicated, even to me. The good news is that Megan remains the finest caretaker of the characters and story we created together, and whatever she chooses to do with them, I fully support her. I'm so grateful for everyone who loves this series, and it is still very special to me. There is no beef between Megan and I (we're watching Persuasion together soon), and I'm cheering her on as she decides how to best move forward.

If you hosted a talk show, who would be your first guest? - @erchla
Robert Duvall.

Are you still traumatized by the CATS trailer? - @heatherirene79

Where did you go to seminary? - @shanda_scherdin
BibleGateway.com (but really I love BibleGateway.com and their subscription is one of the best $4 I spend a month). Shanda, I did not go to seminary: I am, lo, just a layperson armed with plenty of commentaries, a Hebrew/Greek/English dictionary, and a love for this weird book called the Bible. I've been a Bible studies writer and editor for about 13 years, so I kind of have this weird, patched together Biblical education. If anything, let my lack of an M.Div. remind you that the Bible doesn't just belong to the scholars or those who can properly conjugate a Hebrew verb (although it IS helpful). The Bible belongs to the people and understanding it is within anyone's grasp.

Best Amarillo restaurants to hit up? Going in September for the Popcast Live! - @lexieleigh_92
Oh Lexie, we have such wonderful foodstuffs in the Panhandle. Amarillo has Tyler's Barbeque, which is one of the top 50 BBQs in Texas according to Texas Monthly, my favorite publication. Coyote Bluff has perfect burgers, but get there early or late to avoid the line (it's tiny). You must come to Canyon (it's 13 miles away, but it takes a second) and go to Barrel and Pie. All their pizzas are delicious, but I really love the grape and prosciutto. Canyon also has Fat Boys BBQ that has literally not changed one iota since I was in elementary school. The chopped beef sandwich is simple perfection, as is the sign behind the counter: "I may be fat, but you're ugly, and I can lose weight." Oh and the Tex-Mex! Where does one even begin? And you cannot miss the Donut Stop. It is the finest donut that you will ever eat. It's not fancy or Instagrammable, but I charge you to find a better cherry frosted donut on this planet.

What's the next Stephen King book I should read (currently wrapping up The Long Walk)? - @itsno_hassel
Is it crazy to suggest you jump into The Gunslinger series? I love those books.

What's your advice for newlyweds? Things that have helped your marriage in the early days? - @laurenwhock
If I could travel back in time to 23-year-old Erin, I would tell her not to quit going to pre-marital counseling just because she was now post-marital. I know I talk about this one piece of advice literally all the time (it just works for almost everything), but I had a therapist who told me that for every major life change, an average human takes 18 months to adjust. That's someone who hasn't had trauma in their life, someone who is mentally and emotionally healthy. 18 months! At once that is awful and freeing. And you don't get to kill two life change birds with one 18 month stone. Give yourself a minute. And if your marriage accompanied a move or a job change, give yourself two minutes. Handing out grace and assuming best intent will take you far in those early days.

The Brass Tacks of Spiritual Direction,
or What the heck is this?

For about a year now, I've been scrolling websites, reading books, listening to podcasts, and trying to learn more about spiritual direction. A lot of people (some of you!) have very strong opinions about what is and what is not spiritual direction, so if I say something here that doesn't fully jibe with your understanding, that is a-ok.

So obviously, many of us receive spiritual direction from various types of people, but a spiritual director is an official title: someone who has been trained in some way or another to fulfill this role. Being a spiritual director is different from a discipleship relationship and it's different from a mentor/mentee relationship. This person is not a therapist, and not a counselor, though they may have a background in one of those fields. The practice of engaging a spiritual director is found often in more liturgical traditions (which is where I first heard about it), but you don't have to be Anglican or Catholic to embed yourself in this practice. I know there are other religions which practice something similar as well. And it's definitely not a new thing.

A spiritual director is a guide in your spiritual formation. The Order of Sustainable Faith states that they "help you notice and nurture the work of God." I love this from Rev. Douglas Hardy: "Spiritual direction is the facilitation of one’s spiritual formation through a covenanted relationship with another, formalized in regular meetings for inquiry, conversation, and reflection around one’s personal experience. The spiritual director is one who, by virtue of personal holiness and spiritual maturity, helps the spiritual directee to pay attention to the presence and work of God in her or his life." Thomas Merton (if you went through Lent with me, you are well acquainted with my fave Trappist monk) says, ""The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what we (Christians) call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul.  This is an entirely supernatural thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit." At the Transforming Center, they say, "The phrase "spiritual direction" is a misnomer in a way because it is not so much about being directive as it is about being open, receptive, aware of and responsive to the movement of the Spirit in the directee's life. It is understood that the Holy Spirit is the true director, Advocate, or Counselor given to lead us into truth as we are able to bear it (John 15, 16). The director is present to assist the directee in paying attention to the invitations of the Holy Spirit and to support the directee in making a faithful response."

I'm drawn to spiritual direction because I have a listening and discernment deficiency, especially when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I am pastored well at my local church (I am so grateful for this, because I am aware of the differences of a preacher and a pastor in the local church). I am in Biblical community with my small group, and with other friends. I'm into the spiritual disciplines. I'm doing all the things! But I want to unlock the next level. I want to learn how to listen. I want to be attuned. I've said this before, but I'm not an introspective person. I want to be. I want to be able to pay attention to the ways God is working, so I can be a part. I want to learn how to hear. I feel a pull to do it: to give attention to my soul in the places where God is speaking to me. Why would I ignore this?

What really set me off about this was my time in London (I will at some point stop talking about this) with Emily Freeman. Emily asks the perfect questions, getting to the heart of a matter. I knew how transformative her questions about work and my heart were, and it clicked that a spiritual director would be able to do that as well, in everyday life.

Here's what I've discovered as I've researched this:
1. You cannot rush this process. I cannot tell you how many times I've hovered over an email or a phone number. I know that many folks go through a few people before they find their person. Pray. Be thoughtful. Slow it down and trust the process that the Spirit is walking you through.

2. Don't feel like this is something you have to do. There's nothing in scripture that says you're a better Christian or have a holier faith if you have a spiritual director.

3. Decide what you're looking for. Remote or in person? Do you feel more comfortable with a certain gender? Do you want your director to come from a certain faith background? These directors can specialize in many different areas (clergy, persons of color, trauma, etc), and they have been trained and are equipped to guide you.

Honestly, this is terrifying to me. To be so vulnerable in front of someone, to answer questions instead of asking, to push past what I am comfortable with into the mysterious: it all makes me nervous. But I know I have a desire to keep pushing, and spiritual direction seems like the next best step towards that desire. I'm getting ready to hit the commit button, and we'll see how this all pans out.

There are a lot of resources (thank you Lord, for the internet and how it connects us) out there. Here are some that I've gathered, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Here's a good overview from ChristianityToday.com
The Transforming Center
Sustainable Faith
Spiritual Direction International
Ignatian Spirituality
I am really liking the Renovare podcast as well. 
The Fr. Mike Schmitz Catholic Podcast - Getting a Spiritual Director
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther
Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spiritby Henri JM Nouwen
Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri JM Nouwen
Spiritual Direction and Meditation by Thomas Merton
The Practice of Spiritual Direction by William Barry and William Connolly
Sarah Bessey's Instagram post about her recent time with a spiritual director (I noticed a few spiritual directors commented directly on this post, and they might be good resources as well).

I'd love to know your thoughts about this branch of spiritual formation! 

What I Love This Month

The Best Kickstarter Campaign: Y'all know I ride for BT Harman, and his newest project is so close to being fully funded on Kickstarter. Support storytellers and throw him a couple of bucks!
Most Helpful Podcast: It's a tough listen, but The Daily's Two Cities in Mourning is incredible.
Favorite Piece of Happy News: Danny Trejo rescued a baby trapped in a car.
Favorite Advice: I know I talk about The Cut's Ask Polly a lot, but this most recent letter she answered is so absolutely bonkers, I simply must direct your attention to it. As a note, there is some language.
Favorite Make-up Thing: My friend Morgan directed my attention to this IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed™ Poreless Finish Airbrush Pressed Powder (that's its real name what even?) applied with these crazy-dense giant toothbrush makeup brushes (you use this one for the powder and this one for foundation) and wow I'm basically a newborn baby now.
Favorite Skincare ThingSome Call Me Crunchy's Cleansing Oil I guess has some kind of witchcraft in it because I'm pretty sure it's making my lashes grow longer as well as being the best cleansing oil I've ever used? I don't know how she does it, but my skin has never been clearer. Also loving her Soothe Serum.
Delightful Video: The internet is so specifically weird, and this deep fake of Ron Swanson on every Full House character is the best representation of that I can possibly imagine.
Incredible Profile on Top-Secret Female Investigator: Please give me an incredible nickname like The Savant (this article comes with a content warning for sexual assault and violence).
Clothing Line That Makes Me Wish I Was A Millionaire and Also Five Years Old: Boden's Harry Potter Line -- please check these Hedwig overalllllllllllls
Favorite Binge Watch: I started Derry Girls on Netflix one night and watched both seasons in one fell swoop. It's wonderful (another language flag), but about as accurate a portrayal of those self-centered teenage years as one could find.
Single TV Episode If You Need Endorphins/Bawl Your Eyes Out: On Golden Kenny - Queer Eye Season 4
Book I Haven't Read Yet But the Author Is So Precious, You Need To Know: Kristin Strong, who is possibly one of the kindest people I've ever met, released her book, Back Roads to Belonging, this week. I've not been able to dive in yet, but if this book is anything like the welcoming soul of its author, you won't regret curling up with it.

Links for the Month

Restaurant for When You're Traveling Through Arkansas: David's Burgers
Podcast: The Bible Binge
Modern Blessing: Shipt
Cookie: The Breakup Cookie at Church Street Coffee
Celebrity Meeting: Meghan and Beyonce
Restaurant for When You Need Donuts at Lunch: Hero Doughnuts
Bookseller: The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA
Skincare: Some Call Me Crunchy
Art: Winsome Paper
Trailer for When You Never Want to Sleep Again: CATS
Trailer for When You Need A Good Cry: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Stay: Hotel Clermont - Atlanta
Eat: Ponce City Market - Atlanta
Eat: Dr. Bombay's Tea Room - Atlanta
Visit: Georgia Aquarium
For Pre-Teen Graphic Novel Reading: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy
Patreon Community: The Bible Binge
Read: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Read: Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
Watch: Emma
Read: Burnout
Read: Lonesome Dove
Read: Freddy and Fredericka
Read: Walking on Water
Read: Life of the Beloved
Read: Frankenstein
Read: The Prisoner of Azkaban
Podcast: Without Fail: The Cost of Having a Conscience in the Senate
Weird 2020 Presidential Candidate: Vermin Supreme
Read: Prayer: 40 Days of Practice
For When You Need to Contact Your Representatives: Resistbot
Read: Every Moment Holy
For When You Need a Touching and Emotional Essay: The Crane Wife
For When You Need to Hear About People with Passion: Elizabeth Warren's Classroom Strategy
For When You Need More Baby Shark in Your Life: The Baby Shark Sound Book
Mood Booster: First Day of School Playlist
Unreal Celebrity Profile: Nicolas Cage in the NYT
For When You Need Some Extra PrayersA Liturgy for the First Day of School
For When Love is Dead: Scott Moir is Engaged to Not Tessa Virtue

The Swipe Up, vol. 10

Travel, tiny wooden boxes, a horse dressed like Mister Rogers, and clotted cream...

Did someone send you this link? Wow, you have good friends. You can get The Swipe Up every single ding dang month straight to your inbox by subscribing! Just click that button below.

Greetings, internet friends. With this edition of The Swipe Up, we officially hit double digits. I know everyone who has a newsletter says this, but I do want to let you know how much I love popping up in your inbox on a monthly basis (like your cycle! But nicer! And hopefully more welcome!) and it really just sends me over the moon to think about our little community here. I've thought a lot about the nature of the internet and boundaries lately, but I can honestly say I've met some of the most delightful people here, and I love our chats. 

This edition of The Swipe Up is mostly about travel, but don't think that means there's a referral code for Away luggage or anything (LOL there totally is). We're also going to talk about anti-chafing shorts (what a time to be alive!), how I want my kids to remember me when I die (hint: it's not because of what a great mom I am), and what to do when you've seen too many ancient cathedrals (hint: look at a dumpster).


P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, affiliate links support The Swipe Up at no extra cost to you. It makes Ben Moon really happy when you purchase something via the affiliate links, so thank you! 👌

Things I've Loved As I Traveled This Summer

Through a fluke of scheduling, I've travelled more this summer than I have in a long time. Scratch that, I vacationed more this summer than I ever have in my life. That feels bougie, and let me assure you, it WAS bougie and I had a great time. I had a spa treatment in Bath where Sebastiana rubbed hot oils on me and braided my hair, so yeah it was a little hard to come home where no one was eagerly braiding my hair. But now I shall return to my very regular life of waking up to Cy artfully decorating his crib with his own feces and wondering if can stay awake long enough to watch season 3 of Stranger Things (so far, no). 

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I drew a heart around during my travels. Some of these are travel-specific and others are just, yeah, I think I like tea now? 

Away Luggage
I know people talk about their stupid Away luggage all the time, but guys: it really is that amazing. I took everything I needed for an entire week in England in the Bigger Carry-on (because I now ride hard for carry-on life). I get that forking out that kind of cash for luggage seems silly, but 1) lifetime guarantee and 2) you know what else is expensive? Buying a new suitcase at TJ Maxx every year and a half because American Airlines lost your luggage or broke a wheel or the handle. If you travel by air more than three times a year, it's 4000% worth it. I even started carrying the ejectable battery around with me in London in my fanny pack (also yes to the #fannypacklyfe) to give my phone a lil battery boost after taking 196 pictures of a 12th-century cathedral window.

So I like tea now?
My friend Emma (isn't it funny how you can travel for a week with internet strangers and suddenly if you decided to have another wedding, they would totally be your bridesmaids? You don't know their middle names, but they are now named in your last will and testament?), who is from Australia (also if you live in Australia and you need business support with heart, she is the best), told me that afternoon tea is a thing in basically every part of the world except for the States. I was today years old when I learned that every country has an afternoon snack and rest time ritual and we do not. So begins my one-woman campaign to reignite the flame of afternoon snack. We're still in branding mode (I need something catchy, so HMU), but I have a feeling it's going to take flight. If not, catch me still doing it. All that to say, I found the act of making tea (or having tea made for me) and sitting down with a little spoon and some cubed sugar to be like Sebastiana braiding my brain hair. I love it fancy, I love it non-fancy, I love it with scones in London, I love it with Mango Jo-Jos in the Popcast office. I'm a tea newbie, but I'm here to learn. I'm adding cream to tea. It's magical! Why didn't anyone tell me about cream in tea?! I love saucers now! When we were London, we had high tea at The Swan and they served your tea in these vintage Bakelite kettles and mine had "Anna" engraved on the side. If I had my bigger bag, I would have popped that Anna kettle in it and left an extra 40 Liz-faces on the table; it was precious.  I've been scouring Etsy for something similar because ANNA! Anyway, I went to Fortnum and Mason's and procured some of their Smoky Earl Grey, their Elderflower green tea, and their Moroccan Mint (I did discover that Fortnum and Mason has product at Williams-Sonoma [it is unFORTCH still vurry expensive, but treat yourself] therefore us sloppy Americans can still partake in this fine tradition). So yes, I'm very INTO tea now.

TSA Pre-Check

For $80 and an interview at a slightly shady location downtown, I am a Pre-Check believer. If you fly even once a year (it lasts for 5 years), I think it's worth it. PLUS if you travel with kids, guess who also gets to go through Pre-Check? All those tiny people with their jackets and their shoes and their strollers. Plus I secretly think TSA is just a touch lax with the Pre-Check folks since they have your fingerprints and everything.

Anti-chafing shorts
Well everyone, I'm at that age and weight where, if I want to look cute in a dress and walk around a big city all dang day, I need my thighs to not rub together with enough friction to start a bonfire. While I did not have these shorts in London, I wished literally every waking moment that I did. I even tried to have them Amazon Primed to our guesthouse after the first day but alas, no dice. 

Speaking of cute dresses...
I bought a couple before my London trip and ended up really loving them. This dress in the red print (you'll need a tank and slip for underneath as it is very see-through), and then this plain black one. These two dresses and my Madewell shorts were the only things I packed that weren't Universal Thread. 

The life-giving power of creative women
My trip to London was led by traveller-par-excellence-slash-finder-of-beautiful-hidden-things Tsh Oxenreider and queen of the soul nurturers, Emily P. Freeman. Yes, friends. I died. I'm not even going to act like it wasn't a transformative experience because you'd all know that I'm lying. Tsh guided us to a meadow in Oxford and future geniuses rowed by on gondolas and church bells rang and Emily read a blessing over us and if you go back to that spot today, you will find my body still there, because I died. The other women on the trip were absolute magic, and I want to make sure you know about them. I already mentioned Emma (she of business support fame), but Annie B. Jones of Bookshelf fame, Erienne Jones of Some Call Me Crunchy fame, and Morgan Thomason of Winsome Paper Goods fame were also in attendance and these women are a force. Women working with kindness and passion and diligence and care in their places on this Earth, and it was so inspiring to be with them. I urge you to check out the work they do (Independent books! Caring for their clients! An amazing dry shampoo! Beautiful art!) and if you like what you see, support them. Their thoughtfulness about their work and the why behind what they do will never cease to amaze.

Kindle & Libby/Overdrive
Yes yes yes, I love the smell of old books and the feel of paper in my hands and whatever, but I also love not having back problems from carrying a bunch of books around. I know it's not romantic but I have tea to make me romantic now, so it's fine. I really liked having my Kindle with me, mainly because it enabled me to download a weird PDF about Westminster Abbey (that was free!) the night after our tour AND I can download books (and audiobooks!) from my library via Libby. I know this is not new news to literally anyone else, but it felt like a difficult concept for me to understand and execute, so I never did it. But it's a new day, I have confidence like never before, so I'm downloading books and audiobooks and drinking tea and putting cream in it.

Signature Scents
I've been trying to find a signature scent for a bit now. Not necessarily because I like perfume (it honestly stresses me out because I once wore a lavender-scented Bath and Body Works spray and someone commented that it "smells like the inside of a tampon box" and I've JUST NOW RECOVERED)(also I have friends who get migraines around perfumed ladies and I want to be respectful of all olfactory-disabilities), but after I've passed, I really want my kids to get a hint of scent and be reminded of how much they love me. I read articles about how to wear perfume so one is not the odor-equivalent of a nuclear bomb (although for the record, I will NEVER spray perfume on my belly. I am not ever in a situation where my belly needs to be bescented). I took many quizzes to figure out what scents I prefer to smell like - answer: fresh and citrus (as a side note, I'm having a very citrus moment in my life as a whole: I have oranges everywhere in my house, I bought a lime tree, and I smell like a lemon). I bought two trial-sized fragrances: Replica's Under the Lemon Trees (which I loved but a tiny person who is no respecter of property broke it after about a month), and Atelier Cologne's Clementine California (which I also loved). When I was in London, Jamie had the brilliant idea that I should go by Jo Malone and find something I liked there, to commemorate the experience. I thought this was a great idea and really liked the Orange Blossom scent. They even engraved my initials on the bottle cap, which made me feel super fancy and not at all like the inside of a tampon box. 

Fanny Pack/Belt Bag
As you know, I am very into that fanny pack life. I had this one, but it was too minimal for my needs (read: it didn't hold my phone, but I liked it AND it's on sale right now) and so I got this one, which I love. Anything to add more girth to my waist: that's what I always say.

Jane Austen
Yes, I like Jane Austen now, I have fully repented to those who desperately tried me to see the light forever ago, and the internet at large, so we can move on with our lives. I mentioned in my Stories that I have an immersion plan to fully embrace life as an Austen-ite, and it is as follows:
1. Finish Jane's Letters (I have the paperback but this illustrated one is so pretty!)
2. Finish Jane Austen: At Home
3. Read Jane Austen: A Life
4. Read Persuasion
5. Re-read Pride & Prejudice

I have a phase II list and don't worry, I'm sure it has your fave on it.

This Picture as My Phone Background & Travel iPhone Photography
We passed this building on the train our first day in London and I didn't get my dumb phone out fast enough to take a pic. Then the day I wandered into Evensong, I looked up and saw I was right in front of it. Obvs, I had to know what the heck it meant, and it turns out to be a beer advertisement, but alas! I also discovered a good cardinal rule of taking pictures of buildings: point up. When you point up, you don't get things like tourists taking their own terrible pictures or selfie sticks or cars in the shot. Even if the place is crawling with people, it's empty space right above their heads. I really like this building pic, and a couple of you said you might like it as well, so you can download it here and slap it on your phone or do whatever you want with it. Enjoy and take courage!

The Comfortable Words,
or Tiny Wooden Boxes

Directions are not my strong suit, and I got on the right bus going the wrong way. I was supposed to meet my fellow travellers at Covent Garden, but now my blue dot moved away from their location. We had plans to see a show at the Globe Theater in just a few hours, and the bus took me that general direction. I thought I would wander around, maybe grab a bite to eat (because I had not eaten in like...an hour and half), and take my time.

Somehow I found myself staring at yet another beautiful, old church. England is filled to the brim with these and they are all appropriately majestic and ancient. They spill over with thousands of dead people from hundreds of years ago, unbelievable architecture, and reverent tones. The air is old and smells of wet earth, and even this seems sacred. There is always a plaque on the wall, listing every abbot or rector or dean in charge since the 1300s. Since the 600s. The churches from the 1300s are the new ones. You almost experience awe-inspiring cathedral fatigue. Where's a dumpster or an abandoned warehouse (honestly even the abandoned warehouses are cute)? I need to look at some trash to recalibrate my brain.

I look at my app to figure out where I am: Southwark Cathedral. Because something amazing and historic happened on literally every inch of London, I check Wikipedia to see which famous person is buried here or which fire it almost burned down in. He's not buried here, but Southwark Cathedral, back when it was known as St. Saviours, happened to be Shakespeare's parish during his time in London.

Every dumdum theatre major worth anything loves Shakespeare. We all had that moment in high school where we knew Shakespeare was important, but we didn't really get it until we watched Heath Ledger serenade Julia Stiles at her soccer practice (you may also substitute the Amanda Bynes classic She's the Man to this scenario). It's not revelatory or interesting that I love Shakespeare in any way, but 15-year-old Erin played a small role in her high school's One Act of The Taming of the Shrew and that little taste of joy was what scooted her into making the dubious decision to study theatre as if it were a real money-making job prospect, so Will has always been a friend to me. This is what scuttled me into the church that afternoon instead of getting a baguette and walking around looking at other old things.

Every church in England seems to be unlocked. You can walk in, any time of day and someone is either there to greet you, or there is a little sign that welcomes you and tells you the history and asks for maybe a couple of Liz-faces for looking around. There is no high-tech security (that I saw) and I never encountered a locked door. The person in charge at Southwark was speaking to a couple about something old (as you do), so I dropped a couple of coins (no clue how much it was) into the box and began meandering. There was a small crowd gathering for Evensong, so I took a couple of pictures, wandered over to Shakespeare's reclining memorial (he's not buried there, but I can only hope my church will one day memorialize me with a fabulous lounging statue), and just kind of looked around, enjoying the fact that my eyes weren't in Alabama, looking at yet another Guthrie's. Another gentleman passed out programs for Evensong, and gently handed me a copy of the BCP as well. He didn't smile, and it was clear that he took his job very seriously and he was making sure to memorize your face in case you decided to go rogue and try to escape with the program as a memento. 

Under icons and images within the sanctuary were votive candles and little coin boxes. I think the Reformation made it fairly clear that we don't do the whole money for prayers thing, so I had never done anything like that: dropped a coin in a box and lit a candle and said a prayer. My prayer felt weighty. It wasn't exceptionally profound or serious, but slipping a coin in the box gave me pause and sobered me. Later, I would leave a folded up piece of paper with a written prayer in a wooden box. I tried to do this at every church we entered; they all had them. Hear the gentle clink of a coin in the box, think about the people who have served there for hundreds of years, some of their bones crowding around you that very moment, ponder the unchanging God who has had eyes on this tiny wooden box, this votive stand, this altar since before it was in existence, say a prayer.

Later, as the choristers and priests entered with their chanting and singing and recitations, something inside me connected to the old earth smell, to the lessons, the same verses spoken over ancient believers in this very room. It felt like if you cut open the stones that held that building up, the same timeworn hymns would come seeping out. During a service like Evensong, the congregation hardly does anything: there's some sitting, some standing, maybe a short call and response. But for the most part, you are just there, just being. I cannot tell you how antithetical this is to my American (former Baptist? Enneagram 3?) brain. Yes, I've been a part of a liturgical tradition for ten years now, but I'm still looking to do: can I take notes? What's the application? I should flip to this part in the Bible so I know the context. None of those things are bad, but that kind of busywork is just not what you do. Evensong is to remove you from distraction and to place you inside time immemorial, with ruffled collars and Latin words and rascally boys wearing robes and singing sweetly.

I thought about all the people who walked over this patch of floor: writing prayers, grieving, experiencing God, the clink of a coin in the box, lighting candles. I thought about William Shakespeare paying a few shillings to have his brother buried in the churchyard, and requesting that the bell be rung for him.

I thought about our verger tour guide from Westminster Abbey, Brett, who gave a small speech at the beginning of our tour like his heart would break if you took pictures. During the Abbey's moment of silence, he firmly directed tourists to observe a reverent pause. He knew every inch of that massive structure like it was his very soul. He looked you in the eye and reminded you to be careful going down the stairs because there was an awkward height to one of them and he didn't want you to fall. If you were only going to walk into one church your entire life, he wanted to make sure you felt care for here.

I thought of All Saint's in Brenchley, where our guesthouse was located, its bells (not-so-gently) waking us up every morning, bells that have been ringing for 800ish years. I thought about the small plaque commemorating Kingfisher the donkey, "who served the church for many years". Of the thousands of stories contained in that small plot of land, in the poppies growing wild in the churchyard.

Looking back on the experience, I think now of Jane Austen's church, with its little wooden prayer box with a painted red flower, containing the prayers of parishioners from before Jane, Jane herself, and beyond. I think about the medieval hex dials our guide Phil pointed out, graffiti from the Dark Ages, where one would trap a curse in the doorway before they entered a house of worship. I think now about the memorials in Bath Abbey: ancestors laying down marble and stone to mark that they were once here, they were loved by their family, and they loved God. Thousands of tourists wear down their records, these are the lives of saints as well.

I thought of my great-grandfather's Bible, sitting on a bookshelf in my living room. My grandmother's hand-written recipes.

In that moment, I realized that one day, in the not so distant future, we will be as these are to a new generation. They will pause for a moment over a photo or a letter (a text? Yikes.) of mine, it will be mildly interesting to them as an artifact. They might drive past Birmingham and wonder where we lived, maybe even slowly cruise by this house that holds my treasures. It occurred to me that we are connected to those earthy churches and slabs of marble and lounging statues, those ancient prayers and long-lost stories because they belong to a greater narrative. Someone began building a church in 1246 and someone else fed that person and a mother loved her children and every action created a chain of stories that smells like a basement with a dirt floor and opens up to tiny wooden prayer boxes here in the year of our Lord 2019. 

There are broken links in this chain. I know it's not perfect. But standing in Southwark Cathedral, with a priest reading Mary's Magnificat over a raggedy group of tourists, I saw the arc of the greater narrative, bending towards grace, desiring peace, inching towards justice, and I saw that my small story was a part of the chain.

There's a portion of the Anglican liturgy called the comfortable words, various passages of scripture that are read over the congregation and the only purpose of them is to provide relief, to console, to hearten the hearer. That evening, the words of Matthew 11:28 were spoken over me: "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Come to Him. Light your candles. A clink of the coin. A wooden prayer box. Lay down these burdens in ancient halls and high school cafeterias and parking lots and under bridges and on back porches, and He will take them from you. He has been doing it for many, many years.

Things I Love This Month

Favorite Piece of Mr. Rogers MediaHorse media has betrayed us as of late, but here's a horse dressed like Mr. Rogers to redeem it all.
Podcast: I loved this episode of Criminal about a woman who was a stowaway on a cruise ship in the 60s.
Favorite Article: I love Jill Lepore and loved this essay about diving into her best friend's laptop after she passed away.
Favorite Newsletter: I adore The Cut's advice column Ask Polly by Heather Havrilesky, but I just discovered her Substack newsletter Ask Molly, which is written from the perspective of her Ask Polly's evil twin sister, Molly. Now, there's a big old language warning for this, kids, so please do not respond to me that it's not uplifting or whatever. It's not a Bible Study, Karen. But it is very funny.
Non-Amazon Buy: I bought bao pork buns from Trader Joe's and they set me free in a way I wasn't fully prepared for.
Delightful Video: My friend Morgan sent me this video of Eugene Peterson and it completely undid me to the point that I had to lay down in the floor.
Essay That Most Accurately Describes My Feelings Re: USWNTI love R. Eric Thomas.

This Month’s Links

Article: Dick Van Dyke Vows to 'Defend' Angela Lansbury After Another Actor Challenges Her to a Fight
Article: The Best Classic All That Sketches, Ranked
Modern Blessing: Shipt
Article:World War II Veteran Reunites With French Woman He Loved 75 Years Ago
Bookseller: Hatchard's 
Shop: Fortnum and Mason
Place: The British Library
Bookseller: Word on the Water
Eat: Dishoom
Eat: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Eat: The Swan
Wikipedia EntryScones
Stay: The Hotel Gainsborough
Eat: Vaults and Garden
Visit: The Kilns (where CS Lewis lived)
Eat: The Eagle and Child
Visit: Jane Austen's House Museum
Instagram Post: @maggierogers
EatLittle London Kitchen Food Truck
Buy: Breathe-Right Strips
Instagram Post@pantsuitpolitics
Instagram Post@blackcoffeewithwhitefriends
BuyWinsome Paper's painting of the field where Jane Austen was born
Essay: Serena Williams Poses Unretouched for Harper's BAZAAR

This Month’s Book

Lots of you recommended Bill Bryson's book Notes from a Small Island for my British reading, but I didn't get that one. I'm sure it's great, and I'm sure I'll read it someday, but Libby said I could check out A Short History of Nearly Everything, so I did and I loved it. I don't fully understand it all (most...98%?), but it's so well-written and incredibly summarized that I feel as though I understand chemistry and geology.

The Swipe Up, vol. 9

More British lit than a show dog can jump over, Draco Malfoy, UFOs, and gag reels...

Did someone send you this link? Wow, you have good friends. You can get The Swipe Up every single ding dang month straight to your inbox by subscribing! Just click that button below.

Let's cut to the chase today: it's midway through June, and this is the May Swipe Up. Things are not going smoothly over here at the Lunar Module: we're hot, there is now no discernable schedule or routine, everyone is hungry all the time, and [insert gripe from random child]. I'm not a good Summer Mom, so we're all just really working that humility and forgiveness muscle at the moment. In fact, I just got yelled at for "not caring" that one of my children hurt herself while brushing her teeth.

Anyway, let's get to it, shall we? Happy Swipe Up Day!

P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, affiliate links support The Swipe Up at no extra cost to you. It makes Ben Moon really happy when you purchase something via the affiliate links, so thank you! 👌

This Month’s Questions

What's your go-to stress reliever? - @simplygiann
The Calm app (I'm gonna keep talking about the Calm app), Brene Brown is making me more aware of my breathing, reading Alison Weir books, and sadly, exercise. I'm sorry that it does exactly what it claims to do.

How do you find babysitters? We live 1000 miles from both sets of grandparents. - @shscochrane
Y'all heard about the Wyndy app?

A regret that you came to terms with. - @dreafranz
Buying our house without selling the other one.

Favorite hidden food/drink gem in Birmingham? - @laurenwhock
Food: Hot Box at Parkside (get the lemongrass fried chicken) or Blue Pacific (thai food in a gas station), Drink: The Collins Bar

Why should I see Rocket Man over Aladdin this weekend? - @jessspain17
It's better (unless you have kids or don't do rated-R).

What's your thought on Christine Caine's comment about GOT? - @em.brew
I hope it was an off-handed remark that she didn't fully think through.

Why don't you like Pride and Prejudice? - @therealmistykarges
I don't like misunderstanding as a plot device.

Have you ever worn contacts? - @heapness

Favorite mid-to-late nineties Christian rock album? - @jubyleebean
Jesus Freak by DCTalk.

GOT is over. Where do we go from here? - @heymandymae
Waiting on GRRM to finish those books and crossing our fingers that His Dark Materials is gonna be good.

Favorite fiction book? - @punky_pierson
Lonesome Dove and Freddy and Fredericka

What's the weirdest job you ever had? - @dolihavila
Elementary school janitor.

Was your husband's glacier reaction real or was he hamming it up? - @ashley_r_west
100% genuine.

If every animal were the size of an elephant which would be the most terrifying to you? - @mrsawt
It's not an animal, but a cockroach.

Which Harry Potter character do you most identify with? - @erchla
Draco Malfoy.

Beach read? - emmyann419
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

How do you stay informed and curate, consume, and create such great content without being overwhelmed? - @christinanottinaturner
I'm frequently overwhelmed.

What Biblical character "gets you" the most? -- @givegracelivemercy

Favorite devotional that's not fluffy? -- @alishamarieknapp
Sacred Questions by Kellye Fabian.

This Is Not An Essay,
or It's a List of VERY British Books...

Although I am fully aware I'll probably need to retract my Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga essay in the coming days, this month, I asked you for suggestions and I've been asked to report my findings. I'm headed to London (and a few surrounding areas) in a couple of weeks, and while I was listening to the 10 Things to Tell You podcast with Laura Tremaine, she highlighted one of the best travel tips I've ever encountered. Abigail Murrish said that she likes to read a book written by someone from that location while she's travelling: so simple and so brilliant. Of course, I put out the call and you came through with flying colors. Below are my choices, as well as all the suggestions (hopefully I didn't miss any):

I'm gonna tell you a sad story about the fact that these aren't linked. Please cue the sad violins.

Last night, I was PAINSTAKINGLY linking every.single.one of these titles and my computer froze up at 11:47pm and all the links vanished before my eyes. I said several choice words, shut my computer, and took 3 melatonin.

So anyway, that's why nothing is linked except my choices. That's just how it's gonna have to be today.

My Choices:
History: The Plantagenetsby Dan Jones (the person who recommended this to me also wanted to let me know that Dan Jones is, in fact, a snack. And he is!)
Historical Fiction: The Gownby Jennifer Robson
Biography: Jane Austen at Homeby Lucy Worsley
Essays: Notes from a Small Islandby Bill Bryson
And One to Grow On: In Farleigh Fieldby Rhys Bowen

An absolute barrage of suggestions from you fine people:
Authors: Phillippa Gregory, Adrian Plass, Winston Graham, GK Chesterton, Stephen Lawhead, Rosamunde Pilcher, Agatha Christie, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, PG Wodehouse, Zadie Smith, Jojo Moyes, Neil Gaiman, Dorothy Whipple, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JM Barrie, Lewis Carroll, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Julian Fellows, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L. Sayers, AS Byatt, James Herriot, Sophie Kinsella, Vera Brittain, Jasper Fforde, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hester Browne, Roald Dahl, Jenny Colgan, Alafair Burke, Elizabeth Cadell, DE Stevenson, Julie Klassen, Charlotte Mason, William Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Robert Galbraith, Charlie Lovett, NT Wright, Kate Atkinson, Rhys Bowen, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Day, Laura Jane Williams, Jill Mansell, Phaedra Patrick, Deanna Raybourn, AA Milne, Hilary Mantel, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Stevie Smith. 

Books (I put an asterisk on the ones I've read and also recommend):
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling*
Atonement by Ian McEwan*
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
The Inklings by Humphery Carter
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding*
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Samson
Lady Susan by Jane Austen
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
And Did Those Feet by Charlie Connelly
84 Charing Cross by Helene Hanff
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
NW by Zadie Smith
Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett*
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis*
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Children of Men by PD James
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett*
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde* (honestly anything from Oscar Wilde)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
Glittering Images by Susan Howatch
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a World War by Joseph Loconte
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan
The Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Free Country by George Mahood
Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith
The Book of the Lost Grail by Charlie Lovett 
One Direction biography (this got me)
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams
London by Edward Rutherford
Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
The Rivers of London series by Ben Arronovitch
Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Remind me never to ask you guys for suggestions if I'm not fully prepared for the answers. Y'all are amazing!

What I Love This Month

Instagram Follow:@labmuffinbeautyscience - Michelle is a chemist and debunks all the dumb skincare and beauty myths. 
Favorite Piece of Mr. Rogers MediaMr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children via The Atlantic
Podcast:To Live and Die in LA (I seriously went to the gym and walked for two hours so I could finish this podcast)
Amazon Purchase: I bought this dress for London because I want to look European but also my undercarriage needs breathability, ya heard?
Favorite Parenting Hack: @mamasystems put me on to this feelings wheel, that helps older kids identify the emotions they are feeling at any given time. We use it at dinner to talk about our day.
Skincare: Your favorite Everywoman Beauty 'Grammer Jamie Golden has given into peer pressure and started a website, chronicling her favorite skincare and makeup. Now everyone can get the same benefit I receive by sitting next to Jamie in an office every day. This probably isn't new news to you, but in case it is, go ye therefore and gather ye rosebuds, etc.

This Month’s Links

Article: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor
Eat: Bojangles
Wear: Boden Rainbow shoes
Instagram Post@hamiltonmusical Hamilton/Homecoming Mash-up (please understand that I would listen to an entire album of this also I think the West End cast won this)
Fun ThingTSA Pre-Check
Instagram: My Alaska Trip Story Highlight
Post: All the Alaska Tips, Crowd-Sourced
Instagram Account: @thebluestwillow
TEDTalk: Tony Porter - A Call to Men
Article: Navy Pilots Are Seeing UFOs on an Almost-Daily Basis
Instagram Account: @rudeassenneagram
Article: The Aladdin Exit Survey
YouTube Video: Captain Marvel Gag Reel
Article: Should I Invite My Mean Aunt to My Wedding?
TV Show: Last Watch: The Game of Thrones documentary
Podcast: To Live and Die in LA
Podcast: Root of Evil
Podcast: Theology of Hustle with my cutie mom, Gwen Hicks
Podcast: Don't Mom Alone with @courtclarkcleve and @mamasystems
Podcast: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls on Corrie Ten Boom
Podcast: The Popcast - The Nos of Weddings
Instagram Account: @abbiepaulhus and her adorable Enneagram series
Fun Thing: The Bible Binge Patreon (complete with access to our deep dive episode guides)
Eat/Drink: Wild Roast in Hoover, AL
Instagram Account: @mamasystems
Jewelry: Local Eclectic
Podcast10 Things To Tell You - Travel Tips
Eat: Saw's BBQ
Eat: Hero Doughnuts
Eat: The Essential
Eat: Post Office Pies
Eat: Brick and Tin
Eat: John's City Diner
Eat: Dreamcakes Bakery
Eat: Steel City Pops
Eat: Big Spoon Creamery
Drink: Church Street Coffee and Books
Drink: Red Cat Coffeehouse
Book: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This Month’s Book

I love Jill Lepore, and have read her book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, as well as Book of Ages (about Benjamin Franklin's sister, Jane), and Mansion of Happiness (which I'm not sure I can even describe what it's about other than "life and death" but it is fascinating). I finally got around to picking up These Truths, which is a look at whether or not the United States has honored its commitment to upholding the self-evident truths it was founded on. I'm not quite finished, but it is a great start for those of us who were taught a very white-dude-centric version of the land that became the United States and want to do a little reprogramming. May I also say that my reading has skyrocketed since I broke down and got a Kindle ((I just saw this model is $20 off today on a one-day deal!)? I'm still buying physicals, but it's freeing me up to quickly enjoy books I know I just want to read and never think about again.

The Swipe Up, vol. 8

Christians and Game of Thrones, face pants, #becauseofRHE, and padsicles...

Did someone send you this link? Wow, you have good friends. You can get The Swipe Up every single ding dang month straight to your inbox by subscribing! Just click that button below.

Just like many of you, I have spent the past few days just reeling at the news of the sudden passing of Rachel Held Evans. I did not know Rachel personally, and I come to this news as a consumer of her thoughts as a public theologian, and an author that I greatly admire. I think what I respected the most about Rachel from my vantage point is that if you wanted to argue with Rachel about something, you better come correct. Don't show up to this fight with a water pistol. Rachel's public persona reminded me of the Carl Sagan quote: "If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth." She had a way of slicing through the noise and cutting to the quick. She had a way of standing up for the vulnerable and the marginalized. I truly revelled in Rachel's way of eviscerating gross trolls on Twitter with the precision of an open-heart surgeon, but always with the sword of truth firmly in hand. She was intelligent and bold online, and from all the tributes I've seen from her friends these past few days, she was also kind and honest in real life. I am so sad for her family and friends, and for all of us as well. It is a great loss for someone who only knew what she shared publicly. I cannot begin to imagine the loss for those she counted as friends.

If you're looking for a way to say "thank you" or "I'm sorry for your loss", you can donate to the official GoFundMe here, which will help to cover costs incurred during Rachel's time in the hospital. If you're new to Rachel and want to jump into her books, I recommend her latest, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. If you found Rachel's theology to be different from your own in an uncomfortable way, I recommend jumping on Twitter or Instagram and looking at the #becauseofRHE hashtag to learn more about what she meant to people who were on the outskirts of institutionalized religion. I'm so grateful for Rachel's voice and mind, and what we've been given of her words. 

P.S. If you like The Swipe Up, will you share The Swipe Up? I giveaway a lil gift card to one lucky sharer every month. Just make sure you tag me or if you’re private, shoot me a screenshot of your share. Thank you! 🤘

P.P.S. As a reminder, affiliate links support The Swipe Up at no extra cost to you. It makes Ben Moon really happy when you purchase something via the affiliate links, so thank you! 👌

This Month’s Questions

Where do you get your glasses? - @brim1114
I get my face pants at Warby Parker. I wear the Haley, the Lowry, and the Black Hunt as my sunglasses in everyday rotation. 

Will you share the tips you learned about Alaska cruises? - @cooperkr22
I made a blog post for you, cooperkr22! All of you were so insightful, and I also included all the things I learned/purchased for the trip after scouring the internet! Enjoy!

Have you ever considered writing a resource for teens? - rileyjmccune
Riley, do I have good news for you. The majority of my resource writing has happened at a youth publishing company. I wrote for YM360 for years, and I think every resource they have is spectacular (even the ones I didn't work on). They are mainly geared towards being used in a great youth ministry, but there are some gems in there. Check them out for sure!

Can We Talk About Christians and Game of Thrones?,
or Am I Going to Hell If I Watch This Show?

“We are narrative creatures, and we need narrative nourishment—narrative catechisms.” - ND Wilson

I think the way we've been taught to consume stories is wrong.

[When I say we, I mean Christians. Christ followers. Insert Jesus-loving-Christian-adjacent label here.]

Let me set the scene: you're six years old, a bright and inquisitive kindergartner, sitting in Sunday School. A kind volunteer is teaching from Genesis, particularly the passage that includes Noah and the Ark. The teacher relays the beats as follows:
+ There were evil people in the world, and Noah was the only good guy left.
+ God sent a flood to wipe out humanity, except for Noah and his family.
+ God put Noah and his family and two of every animal on a boat.
+ It rained.
+ The floodwaters left (a dove!) and Noah and his family lived happily ever after.
+ Also a rainbow!

I know why we are afraid to tell kids the real story of Noah and the ark. I know why we make crib bedding with the animals all two by two. I know why we end the story on the rainbow and not Noah's drunkenness with his sons a few verses later. Because looking that story in the eyes is terrifying. We gloss over that story like ice skaters because we don't want to think about a God who destroys almost all of humanity. The story of Abraham and Isaac? Same thing. What is that story trying to tell us about God? About humanity? About me and you?

Humans crave story. We always have. This is not new information for you, because our brains are always trying to tell us a story to help explain the world around us. We need to understand why this friend hurt us, so we create a narrative. We try to process a death, so we ask to hear the stories that surround a person's final moments. We look back at trying times in our lives and want a trial to serve a greater purpose, so we write a draft. It's embedded in our DNA to seek out truth, to try and make sense of chaos, and story is one of our major tools.

When the author of Genesis unflinchingly recorded these details in the stories of Noah and Abraham, no matter if they actually happened or not, no matter the trails they walked to become sacred text, I believe they are the inspired word of God, and I believe God wants to tell us something about Himself in these stories. When the major prophets paint pictures of fire and brimstone, when the minor prophets boldly spoke truth to power, none of it was pretty. None of it was fit for the Hallmark channel. When Jesus embedded the truths of the Kingdom into stories, He was giving us a way to better understand the unfathomable news of a shepherd who rejoices to find one lost sheep, a man who sells everything to buy a field with a hidden treasure, seeds that fall on good soil. Jesus is helping us understand the mysteries of God by telling us a story.

Or as one of my favorite authors puts it:
“Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don’t imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God’s language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.”  - ND Wilson

On its surface, I cannot say that Game of Thrones (or The Walking Dead, or Saving Private Ryan, or or or...) meets Saint Paul's criteria for things to think about (Phil. 4:8). I would argue that is because we've confused true with clean. Clean says: there's no bad language or sex scenes in this movie, so I can watch it. When in all actuality, while that Hallmark movie is rated G, it makes you hate the fact that you're single (or creates dissatisfaction in your marriage) and gives you wildly painful expectations of love, relationships, and what your life should look like. It stirs up jealousy in your heart. But it's clean so...we let it slide.

Not everything that is clean is true. And not everything that is true is clean. I want my stories crackling with truth, and I don't really care if they are clean, mainly because the world isn't clean. Human nature is deeply flawed. Evil exists and sometimes it looks like it wins. The world is rated for mature audiences whether we like it or not. 

Shall we let our friend Gilbert Keith Chesterton expound in his way: "Fairy tales then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear. Fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a Saint George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear." 

I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you that some story exposition taking place in the inner chambers of a brothel is uplifting. It's not. This is not me trying to tie a clever knot that insists senseless killing is holy. I won't. I don't like those aspects of any story, but I know that in order for a story to be good, someone has to be the villain. Good is meaningless without evil. Redemption doesn't come without blasphemy and you can't free something if it's not enslaved. There has to be a struggle in order for a story to be told, otherwise, it is just a report of information. 

I'm always on the lookout for how I can better understand the world and the people in it. Madeleine L'Engle says that "when we look at a painting, or hear a symphony, or read a book and feel more Named, then, for us, that work is a work of Christian art. But to look at a work of art and then to make a judgment as to whether or not it is art, and whether or not it is Christian, is presumptuous. It is something we cannot know in any conclusive way. We can only know if it speaks within our own hearts, and leads us to living more deeply with Christ in God...there is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred."

When I first read the book that quote originates from (Walking on Water, absolute mandatory reading for anyone who considers themselves a creative) in 2005, I made a little note in the margin: "Is that true?" Twenty-two-year-old Erin wanted to know if sacred could hide in the secular: if Harry Potter was a cautionary tale about the evils of witchcraft, or if it was a story about the eternal struggle between good and evil and the real lives shaped in its midst.

A stranger once muttered that I must be "ungodly" because I read Harry Potter. 

I was perplexed because what Harry Potter did for me was draw me closer to God. It pulled me in: I asked questions about humanity and destiny and death and love and the meaning of life. I saw a picture of redemption and resurrection. I explored my questions about friendship and family and higher powers in a fantasy world, but the answers still checked out in the real world.  To me, it is "ungodly" to view the world any other way than by looking under the rocks and in the dark hidey-holes for places God has left truth. In a painting, in a story, in a sky, in a person. Why are you not picking up everything you see and turning it over for what God might have to say to you? Why are you not searching for Him in all of it?

I can only speak from a Christian perspective, but not only have we confused true with clean, we've conflated joy with happiness, holiness with rightness, gentleness with weakness, peace with quiet, and faithfulness with being a doormat. It is easier and more socially acceptable to be right as opposed to seeking holiness. We mock gentleness because it has somehow been made feminine and feminine is fine for the ladies, but dudes better freakin' man up and rub some dirt on it. "Why can't you just be peaceful" is code for "why can't you just shut up and let this go?" Happiness looks for its own satisfaction, instead of finding joy in whatever comes our way: happy or sad. But this worldview lacks teeth, and it shows up in our stories. It's why Christian filmmaking gets such a bad rap, it's why we look at something and decide it's "bad" before we've used an ounce of the brain God gave us to think critically about it. I'll agree that I don't think everyone should or can consume story this way. And I'll agree that I'm not sure Game of Thrones will end up telling a story where the hero wins and good prevails. I don't need it to do that. I need it to help me understand my own life and the world I see around me: good and bad, light and dark, truth and falsehood.

I watch Game of Thrones because the sacred is hiding in the secular bulrushes. I don't watch Game of Thrones because I'm jonesing for the next sex scene, or because I love watching people die. I'm looking for handles for how I interact with my own love, my own ashes, my own joys, and sorrows. That's what anyone who is in the business of telling stories is doing. 

God is not shying away from these stories. The stories of God are terrifying, vast, redemptive, troubling, holy. There are heroes. There are villains. Sometimes they switch. Are we not looking for these themes in our own lives? Are we not living on the same epic scale? Twenty-two-year-old Erin didn't know what thirty-six-year-old Erin knows. Thirty-six-year-old Erin knows she barely knows anything, but most of what she does know that is true was laid on her doorstep wrapped up in a story. 

*****I'm about to get slightly spoiler-y here, so you've been warned.*****

I don't think you're wrong for not watching Game of Thrones. If you feel strongly about the content, I'm not advocating that you watch it or read it. I also don't think you hold the higher moral ground because you only watch the Hallmark channel. (I'm coming hard for the Hallmark channel, but it's just the most opposite form of storytelling I can come up with) I don't think it's true to say that GoT (or any number of films, shows, books, whatever) isn't dicey at times. I don't love the way they've handled parts of the story as a book reader and a show watcher. I'm definitely not going to defend gratuitous sex and shock value violence. But when Arya Stark decided to eschew being No One, and reclaim her true identity as a Stark of Winterfell, I was reminded of my own experience of salvation and my own true identity. When the Hound found redemption only to fall back into his old ways, I was reminded of how hard trauma is to shake. When I watched Jon Snow open his eyes after being dead, what else was I thinking about but the hero of my own story?

*****Spoilers over*****

I can only speak for myself here, but these stories are stones for me, ebenezers that remind me of my place in The Great Story. I don't live with any kind of guilt because I watch the show. Buechner says "who can say when or how it will be that something easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die?" Maybe something easters up for you in sports or spreadsheets or scripture. For me, it is story.

I've talked before about my love for Every Moment Holy, and because it's perfect, it contains a beautiful liturgy entitled "A Liturgy Before Consuming Media". I won't quote the whole thing (go get this book, it's wonderful), but here's a part I try to always keep in mind when asking these questions:

"Let me experience mediums of art and expression, neither as a passive consumer nor as an entertainment glutton, but rather as one who through such works would more fully and compassionately enter this ongoing, human conversation of mystery and meaning, wonder and beauty, good and evil, sorrow and joy, fear and love."

Maybe it feels like a justification for you. That's okay. It might be. I've loved this story for years, since I read the books, and I am so invested in these characters, I can see a possibility where that investment overshadows good sense. I try to be objective, but I don't always get it right. I don't feel bad for watching the show in the least, but I understand myself well enough to know that I need guardrails and boundaries. I ask three questions that help me decide whether something like a story or a book or a movie is worth my time and my soul, my two greatest non-renewable resources.

1. Is it doing any work in pointing me toward God? Can I find the sacred in the secular?
2. Is it doing work to help me understand my own place in the world? Is it giving me handles to process hard and holy things?
3. Does it contain a pressure point for me personally? If you happen to be a sex addict, I can see where watching something like Game of Thrones might be particularly troublesome for you. If you're a recovering drug addict, I think a show or a movie that glorifies that behavior might not plant a good story in your brain. For me, I cannot watch shows like Real Housewives or Keeping Up with the Kardashians because jealousy and greed will overtake my heart in a flash. Political news created so much deep anger and discord in my soul that I had to stop consuming it. It's probably different for you. That's okay.

Madeleine L'Engle wraps up Walking on Water with these thoughts, and they seem like the perfect way to wrap up thoughts here. At the end of the day, here's what I care about in my consumption of any type of art:

“The journey homewards. Coming home. That's what it's all about. The journey to the coming of the Kingdom. That's probably the chief difference between the Christian and the secular artist--the purpose of the work, be it story or music or painting, is to further the coming of the kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.”

Some writing that helped me formulate my own thinking on this subject:
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederich Buechner
Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson
Death by Living by ND Wilson
Article: The Thin Places of Fantasy by Chris Yokel
Article: Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me by Andrew Peterson
Article: Harry Potter is a Hobbit by Dr. Amy H. Sturgis
Article: Confronting Reality by Reading Fantasy by Lev Grossman

What I Love This Month

Instagram follow: Y'all @kelly_bandas is making me LAUGH lately.
Podcast:The Cut on Tuesdays
Music: I can't say I LOVE IT, but we are listening to a heck of a lot of Me! by Taylor Swift
Fascinating Article: The Body Pullers of Syria
Shoes I Love: I bought these shoes for Easter and they are crazy comfortable.
Shows I Haven't Had Time to Watch: The Perfect DateExtremely Wicked...Killing Eve
Skincare: Ever since Jamie Golden made me start using retinol, my skin peels about once a week. Now I can beat those flakies to punch with the Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel. GUYS -- it's very magical.

This Month’s Links

Instagram Account@tiny_pep_talks
ObituaryTim Schrandt of Ridgeway, Iowa
PodcastThe Bible Binge - Gomer and Hosea
Video: Do It Debbie's Way: Debbie Reynolds Workout Tape
Fun ThingMy shower cap
ClothingTarget's Universal Thread Overalls
ArticleDoctors Found Bees in Her Eyes, Eating Her Tears
ArticleKate McKinnon Will Transform Into Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout
ArticleWhat Does It Mean? Mysterious Mashed Potatoes Perplex a Historic Neighborhood
Accessory: Blue Light Filtering Glasses
Podcast: Potluck - Mashed Potato Mystery
Fun Thing: Target Restock
Clothing: Easter Jumpsuit
App: The Calm App
Fun Thing: Away Luggage
Eats: Dallas -- Royal Blue Grocery
Podcast: The Bible Recap
Eats: Dallas -- Sachet
Instagram Account: @courtclarkcleve
Instagram Account: @katiramer
Instagram Account: @mamasystems
Eats: Dallas -- Velvet Taco
Instagram Account: @justmyenneatype
Fun Thing: Padsicles
Fun Thing: MyCreativeType.com
Instagram Account: @humansofny
Show: Zac Efron on Ellen
Instagram Account: @kelly_bandas
Video: High School Dance Battle with Noah Centineo
Instagram: @scottthepainter
Article: Remembering Progressive Christian Author Rachel Held Evans
Instagram Account: @actualenneagram

This Month’s Book

I read Sally Rooney's Normal People after hearing her give an interview on The Cut. Here's the thing: her writing is incredible. She wields dialogue so well, and I appreciate how well-formed her characters are: I just don't think I care about them. I'm not invested in them at all. To be fair, I'm probably not smart enough to like Sally Rooney, but it just didn't connect with me.

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