In Which This Is a Change, But It Isn’t a Goodbye

sadie chick

It was just over a year ago now that Tammy invited me to be a writer for the Mudroom. I had given her this passionate piece, “The End of Secrets,” and I believed very much in this idea, of a place for Christian writers to be messy. Also for messy writers to be Christian. And for all of to just tell a truth that is synonymous with true freedom. 

Today I’m getting this post up in the eleventh hour. I mean, like, the eleventh hour and forty-five minutes. I’m stretched thinner than ever, which is saying something as I’m a person who is often stretched thin. I’m juggling too many things, living too fast in a year of slow. I have to find a way to let the steam out.

For me, these seasons of too much always come up when there is an unresolved tension in my life. A lack of integrity, you could call it, pulling me tight between where I’m needed and where I’m pressing in. Basically, I feel “too much” whenever I’m trying to live more than one life. 

The particular transition I’m bridging now has been a long time coming. I’ve tried for decades to avoid being like my mother, a homesteading and country living advocate who literally milked a goat on national TV. My mother was a force of nature. I’ve said this many times, but it’s always true. Her gifts and history and natural charisma were a magnet to me. They were such a strong pull that I couldn’t maintain safe distance unless I turned our energies against each other, to repel. In order to know myself as separate from my mother, I had to fight my way free. 

I was 25 years old when she died. Eleven years ago. And I was too young, still, to have any idea what I was losing. I lost my mother the way you lose an object, thoughtlessly. One day she was here and then she was gone. Even my grief was too cold.

I’ve had many remembrances of her in my adult years, as I’ve birthed babies, baked bread and canned apple plum butter. They come in waves, each one a little stronger than the one before, and each one heating up that grief. I have never had one as strong as the one I’m living through now.

Half the things I say, about homesteading these days, I can’t tell whether they were mine or hers first. The distinction is blurred. That boundary that I fought for — that I sacrificed for — for so many years…it just doesn’t matter very much anymore. 

I teach my mother’s skills as if they were mine. I share her knowledge as if I had never disregarded it. That joining, between my mother and I, that I so resisted all those years has come to pass. I guess you could say the magnet has turned around.

It wouldn’t be true to say that I have chosen all of this. I remember, when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and this was nowhere on my list. I wanted to be a social justice warrior on Twitter. But what people wanted from me was to be a homesteader, on YouTube. I wanted to be a literary writer, or a playwright, or a poet. But what people want from me is just my stories, the stories of my unusual life, and this precious-as-gold unique family heritage which I am rebuilding — again hardly by choice — with my own kids.

It wouldn’t be true to say that I have created any of this. But it would be true to say that I have allowed it. In the last twelve months my personal landscape has changed. Just this year — and I can track this, believe it or not — I have found my way through a kind of thicket, through which I spent my energy defending myself against both real and imaginary pushback. I literally just gave up an entire line of defense, and it released all this energy, that I had been using to try to control the narratives around myself.

It’s terrifying, to just be honest and vulnerable, right wherever you actually happen to be. It’s completely terrifying. But it also happens to be a lot less work.

I can’t write every month for the Mudroom. I just can’t do it. Not on top of my new gig writing for Molly Green Magazine, and the growing tribe I’m trying to feed at the Fouch-o-matic Off Grid YouTube channel…not to mention the already full time work of practicing the homesteading life I preach.

But I can’t just wander away, either. Not when it was the very same impulse that wrote that first essay, “The End of Secrets,” that has brought me into this phase of my life. Not when it was precisely the work that Tammy has fed into the Mudroom here, and my twelve months of writing raw with this precious community, that has helped me to peel back these layers and face what the world might want from me.

It’s too perfect that this month’s theme is vocation. This month in which I have been twelve months with the Mudroom and I need to make a change, the theme is also vocation? Who plans these things?

My story is a story of having my vocation chosen for me. Though I’m not exactly like my mother—nor could I possibly be!—I’ve stopped fighting the possibility that the world really needs me to take on her same job. I’m falling downhill now, it feels a bit like a mudslide, but also like a perfect inevitability. It feels a bit like createdness. Like calling.

It doesn’t feel at all like goodbye.

If there’s no other reason to lean into your faith today (though, of course, I think there are many) it might be this. Jesus doesn’t cut us apart into these genres. Jesus doesn’t say to me, “Oh, she’d rather write about cornbread than messy faith, so she’s not mine anymore.” That just doesn’t happen. The love of God is so wide and vast that it can hold every bit of me. My tired young mother struggles, my prophetic passion for calling out greed and environmental injustice, and the way I can brood a box of chicks beside a wood stove. Jesus wants it all. And that’s what we want from one another, too.

So, don’t you say good bye to me. Don’t you dare.

Just because I need to flex the muscles of my arms doesn’t mean that my legs stop working. And just because I need to go and preach a different shade of gospel in a different town doesn’t mean that I am casting away this place. I have to set down the ball of being a writer for the Mudroom, so that I can hold some other things. But I am not setting down my love and appreciation for Tammy, for all the writers here, and for the readers, who value the kind of truth that is synonymous with true freedom.

This is good work that’s happening here. I’m just the proof.  

Esther Emery

Esther Emery

Esther lives with her husband and three children on three acres of Idaho mountainside, in a yurt her husband designed and built himself. She's out there in pursuit of self-sufficiency, integrity living and solidarity economy.
Esther Emery
  • I love your words wherever you are. I know well the callings that choose you and the seasons in which your callings change and surprise even you. Blessings on you and your family and where God is taking you! I can’t wait to watch and read wherever you are! Thank you for your words in this place that have helped shape what it is and is becoming!

    • Thank you, Nicole! I love being in the sisterhood with you.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Oh, Esther, as a mother and grandmother on the other side of your journey, I will posit this is the greatest tribute you could give your mother, to be YOUR version of her, and God’s best version of you. It has been a stunning kind of joy to see you grow in this space and on your blog; thank you for being vulnerable and open to us with your words. God bless you.

    • Thank you, Jody. it means a lot to me to hear this.

  • Esther, another moving, beautiful, truthful piece. I rejoice in knowing glimpses of you via your work, wherever it alights.

  • So good, Esther! So so good. Shucks. I feel like we might be able to have some really good conversations around how God doesn’t waste anything … Not your heritage and not mine, either. It’s right where i’m at ..: this reclaiming. This laying down of the denial of where I come from … But embracing it with a new fierce passion.

    Boldly on, beautiful friend.

    • Oh, yes. Laying down the denial of where I came from… It makes me tear up just thinking about it. Powerful stuff. xo

  • you

  • Esther, it has been the profoundest privilege to have you as an original member of our mudroom family. I am so thankful for your heart and mind and indomitable spirit. You will always be family. Your words have helped form The Mudroom from the beginning. We will probably still seek out your wisdom from time to time:)

    • Thank you, Tammy! I’ll look forward to showing up.

  • Colleen Reid

    So beautiful Esther. I feel your pull and push. I have no idea who your mother is, but as a daughter, I understand the tension of identity apart from my mom. So often I lament to my husband that “I’m turning in to my mother” And yet, my mother is a warrior, loving and kind. We all just want to be known, and known for who we actually are, not who people say we are.

    • So true. We all just want to be known. thank you for this.

  • Argh. I was all sad about this transition, and then you had to go and make it worse. I love the image you create here of us frantically maintaining and protecting the boundaries/categories of our lives so we don’t lose control–and then discovering those categories are largely meaningless–that the parenting and the writing and the art and even the different genres of writing are all open doors and invitations to go deeper in every direction. This isn’t goodbye, but we will miss having you here so frequently. But oh, Esther–you unleashed and empowered to do the good work under your feet–that idea makes me very, very happy.

  • Beautiful! Love it. Thank you for sharing. Gives me a lot to ponder.

    • I’m glad you found something in it. Thanks for being with us!

  • Rea

    “The love of God is so wide and vast that it can hold every bit of me.” For someone still struggling to identify all of the bits that make up me, this is perfect.

  • Esther, of course it’s not goodbye. The work of uncovering all the parts of ourselves and then living in the complex, contradictory, puzzling, beauty of our totality is what life is about. I’m so convinced that what God most wants is our wholeness and that’s what you are pursuing. You were one of the first to show me that. A blessing for the future : May the mudslide throw up some good views and may you find a comfortable pace at which to fall downhill !

    • Wonderful. Thank you so much for the blessing!

  • I have walked the Mother of All Roads as well, I think we all do in some way or another. You share beautifully about the feelings and thoughts surrounding the journey, thank you. Today, after oceans and years of emotional distance just to find the sound of my own voice, my own words, I’m hosting her birthday…..with joy! It will be a celebration of all the bits she’s handed down.

    In your words here I can feel the pride you have in your own mom as well as the pull to continue becoming more fully you and I’m so encouraged by them!

    • All these comments are making me cry!! Oh, maybe it’s just me. Thank you for sharing yourself here.

  • Esther, I will miss reading your words here in the Mudroom, but I know I will continue to read them elsewhere and hear them when I watch your videos! You are so inspiring, and while we will miss you here we know you are still with us in spirit. I’m glad you are following your heart and finding your niche. Blessings to you and much love! <3

  • I love your words, so dearly Esther. Without knowing it, you have mentored me into being a truth teller. Into excepting the “no secrets” life. I love watching you become what you are being called to be with ever less hesitancy. It opens a swath in the woods for me.

  • Esther, you are full of fire and boldness and such gentle truth-telling. You write the stuff that calls us all to be better writers, to be better humans. I hate that you’re leaving here. But I’m inspired by your ability to say “no” so that there is room for bigger “yeses.” I so cherished our time together last April. Your faith in me and others has helped me step boldly into this writing life. And at least we have voxer.

  • carameredith.com

    Beautiful, my friend. I love your words and I love your story and I love your story weaving ways. And, I shall continue to cheer you and Team Fouch-O-Matic on, because I love the glimpse into your life!

  • pastordt

    Beautifully said, Esther. You’ll be missed here, but found in other good places. So glad to read of your newfound freedom to be you — all of you.

  • So much good here, Esther. Knowing when to say no, our limitations or boundaries but only ours, not God’s He’s more than all of it. Yes, so much here to ponder, share, take hold of. Thank you, Esther. Beautifully said.

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