Back in the day, I used to write for Cornerstone magazine. The staff was a community inside of a community: artists, proofreaders, marketing, writers, mailroom. It was frantic and insane and glorious. I miss that sense of secrecy, the privilege of beholding a work of art before anyone else does, the camaraderie of common deadlines and late-night last-looks.
For the last few years, I’ve been wanting to do something to bring back that feeling. Start something. Create community. Carve out a space for people to share and listen and smile knowingly.
Right now, I’m holding 16 secrets. These are stories, confessions, epiphanies that the authors are willing to share with you, too, for no other reason than to let you know you’re not alone.
The fear that takes your breath away and keeps you up at night? They’ve been there. The choice you made years ago that still makes you cringe a little? They’ve done that. They share that same epiphany. These writers imagine life without walls and invite others into the cluttered and lonely mess. We are all making that discovery together.
It’s an honor to be blessed with the entrusting of these secrets, to be the caretaker of these stories. They made me smile with familiarity, get weepy from the deep wounds these words unearth, they made me laugh with their clever wordsmithing and ability to extract humor from their own flaws and foibles.
I want you to see yourself here. I want you to give yourself the same grace you will give these authors when you hear their hearts and find yourself next to them. I want you to claim your narrative as a wealth of richness worthy of bestowing on your fellow sojourners. I want you to picture each other, as Flannery O’Connor writes, “stalking joy—fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest.”
So dangerous, in fact, that we shouldn’t embark upon it alone. That’s where you and I, and the writers and the readers come in, we’re stalking this joy together. What are we armed with? Each other.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor in the Confessing Church in Germany, knew how desperately people need each other. He wrote a whole book on it, Life Together, in which he challenges and encourages us to find the kind of community that speaks Truth to us.
“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself, he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the heart of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”
That truth is the message of salvation, and we need to hear it day after day, because each one of us becomes uncertain and discouraged, day after day. That truth is not only uttered from altars by ordained individuals, it is spoken every day, everywhere, by people who are sitting in parks together, or gathered around a cafe table, or sitting side by side in a dark car where confession frees itself. It is shared in the simplest of ways, a Post-It note on a mirror, a child’s unbroken, affectionate trust, a phone call at a needful time, an email that says out loud what your heart is keeping quiet.
So here is us, on the raggedy edge, as Firefly captain Malcolm Reynolds says in Serenity, the raggedy edge of loneliness, discouragement, desperate discovery, and slow-coming joy, but even a raggedy edge leaves a place to stand. And that’s where The Mudroom comes in, standing on that raggedy edge together, keeping the darkness at bay, claiming hope for all of us, holding each other on the right side of it.
Check out the Who We Are page for our editor and monthly contributor bios: Brenna D’Ambrosio, Esther Emery, Emily Miller, Mary Beth Pavlik, Abby Norman, Ashley Hales, Bethany Paget, and Cara Sexton.
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess, and is the founder and curator of The Mudroom. She is a co-founder of Deeply Rooted, an annual faith and creativity gathering for women. Tammy is a Benedictine oblate and a C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow. Her natural habitat is in the woods by some water where you will find her geeking out over lichen, fungi, and insects as a Master Naturalist Intern for the Forest Preserves. Tammy has written a poetry chapbook, contributed to two anthologies, and has written for Christians for Social Action, The Englewood Review of Books, Paper&String, and The Redbud Post.