You guys! Seriously. This is the book Mudroom readers are desperate for. Not only does it have essays by two of our regular writers (!!) (Tammy Perlmutter and Tanya Marlow), it has so many voices in it all saying the same thing in gorgeous, unique ways: You Are Not Alone.
Soul Bare is a new title from InterVarsity Press edited by Cara Sexton. This book is Cara’s labor of love to get out the message that we can bring our mess and Jesus can hold it all. I had the immense pleasure of interacting with Cara to bring Mudroom readers the heart and soul behind it all. Read along, stay tuned for more, and be sure to snag a copy! When you do, take a picture with the hashtag #soulbare, because we all need a dose of vulnerability and hope. –-AH
Where did Soul Bare start? Tell us a bit about the first inklings of the idea and feelings that made you chase publication and all the hard work of curating people’s stories.
Soul Bare started with a flash of insanity in a difficult season of life while sitting at my desk writing something vulnerable and scary. I thought, “Why is it so hard to tell these stories? Why do we try and write our lives in a way that makes us look like we have it together? Nobody I know has it together. Do all these bloggers and writers really have things so under control? Don’t they ever doubt and cry and slip into depression and wrestle with their faith and thrash about? Because I sure do.”
I sat down and wrote a letter to bloggers and writers who I knew had stories to tell and who I believed would write with the kind of raw vulnerability something like this would require. It was just an experiment to see, if I proposed this to a publisher, who might be interested in joining me. I reached out to 50 writers and within 24 hours, 25 of them had enthusiastically said yes. Within the week, I had completed a proposal and sent it to a publisher, who accepted the proposal a week later. The journey then took many turns, including ending up with a different publisher in the end, but at every turn I have known this was God’s project. Why he picked me to curate it all, I’ll never know, since I am the most scattered, disorganized person on the planet, but working with this team was really incredible and 5 years later, here it is!
What does “soul bare” mean? What is your hope for readers?
To be “soul bare” is to stand naked, stripped open and honest, before God and man to reveal your true humanity. You are a beautiful mess. We all are. My hope for readers is that by reading the struggles, addictions, doubts, fears, joys, discoveries, and connections that some of us have made through our darkest and most confusing times, it can help even just a tiny bit to create a culture where we start telling the hard truth about ourselves and our lives so that the Church can resemble Jesus, who never ran from the broken and the taboo, but towards it, straight into it, to cover it all with an embracing, redemptive love. I hope that more of us will remove our masks and get real about our struggles and hardships so we can bridge the gaps between who is “in” and who is “out” of the Christian circle. We’re all welcome to this table, no matter what. All of us. Full stop.
You write about needing to know what to do when you “once were lost and then were lost again” in your essay in the collection, and not finding satisfactory answers. What hope can you give readers of The Mudroom who may be in that same place, based on being “soul bare?”
I think that, for me, being found was always something I felt like I had to do, like it was on me to be good enough or to act Christian enough or to actually finally discover something that made me know for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was real or the Bible was true, or that I was forgiven.
I said in the book, “…coming to faith is not like climbing a ladder; it is, instead, like falling from one.” That is where I find hope. Not in having answers or certainty, but in surrender of my need to understand, know, and touch with my own hands. It is to embrace, to a certain extent, the doubt and uncertainty, to allow the questions themselves to teach me dependence, and to let go of the idea that this is somehow up to me. Fall from the ladder. Let go and find yourself caught. Held. Loved.
What has been the funniest part of editing Soul Bare? Give us some behind-the-scenes outtakes.
I can’t remember anything specifically, but I think it’s safe to say that probably all of the outtakes and bloopers of Soul Bare involved autocorrect mishaps or my trying to communicate prior to drinking coffee, and that’s a whole lotta nope.
What is your greatest hope for Soul Bare?
My greatest hope for Soul Bare is that reading it will be like a Spirit-filled breath that loosens the chains around our hearts, minds, and deepest souls. I hope that everyone who reads it will have a “me too” moment, or many of them, while they make their way through these stories and that maybe it will help some of us who are in tough places begin to rest into surrender, healing, and the all-consuming love of the God of the universe.
Hooray! We’re THRILLED Cara took some time out to chat about her vision and dreams for Soul Bare. I bet you’re wondering how YOU, too, can get your hands on a copy! You can’t miss out on essays from Tammy Perlmutter and Tanya Marlow, regular writers here at The Mudroom, plus a whole host of other voices!
There are lots of places to get a copy:
Or, visit your local Barnes and Noble to find it in the wild!
If you’re interested in supporting the book in other ways, tell your friends, buy an extra copy, ask your local bookstore to carry it and shop locally, blog about it, tweet about it and spread the word on all social media, write a review on Amazon/Goodreads, stock up on some for Christmas gifts, introduce it to your book club, and tell the world about Soul Bare! Most importantly, though, let it seep down into you, change you and your connection with God and humanity, and begin the hard conversations of truth and vulnerability so that we may all begin to love and live more like Jesus.
Find out more about the woman behind the book:
Cara Sexton is a married mom of four who describes herself as “part monk, part punk.” She is the general editor of Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption, published by InterVarsity Press, and is currently writing a spiritual memoir while also completing her BFA degree in creative writing at Goddard College. When she isn’t writing, she is probably decorating, daydreaming, kissing freckles, scouring flea markets for vintage trinkets, or preparing for her next big adventure. You can (try to) keep up with her at carasexton.com.