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Welcome to Nourish, a newsletter to help you be kinder to yourself and others. I'm Erin Strybis, a writer/editor, registered yoga instructor, bookworm and steadfast believer in grace and gratitude. In this issue, find a reflection on calling, tips for boosting your mood and my latest book recommendations.
Dear reader,

It was Monday. I’d just reached the walking path when raindrops tickled my shoulders. Torn between beckoning wildflowers and the pull of home, I paused. Should I turn back or risk getting caught in a summer storm?

Praise the rain, the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk— 

Joy Harjo’s poetry in my earbuds, I plunged onward. 

Yellow daisies, periwinkle chicory and white lace hugged the path as it wound toward the highway underpass. This stretch always made my stomach tighten — it’s dark, it’s long and there’s a spooky skeleton graffitied under the bridge. The river flowed past, undaunted.

Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, 

Voiced in the soft Irish lilt of Pádraig Ó Tuama on his poetry podcast, Harjo’s words convinced me to look again. White bones popped against grey cement, and I realized the skeleton wasn’t menacing at all. Actually it was dancing.

Yards from the underpass, I glanced at cotton ball clouds pregnant with rain and something else, maybe hope. Escaping the humdrum of remote work and pandemic parenting for a daily walk keeps me happy — and sane.

Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—

Last week over video call leaders announced a restructure at work, and while I should have felt dread, I felt calm. I know what it’s like to find your sky flipped upside down and lose your footing. I know many have lost jobs due to COVID-19. I don’t know what will happen, but I do know how to walk through the dark. That Monday, I put one powder blue Nike shoe in front of the other and kept moving.

Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—

Lately, I’ve been praying about my calling — how I’m meant to show up in the world and share God’s love in the days and years ahead. I haven’t found an answer to that question, but I keep listening. 

Framed by forest, the path curved upward and my legs dragged. My turnaround point loomed ahead, but I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to keep exploring.

Praise the path on which we’re led.

A flurry of deer appeared; I froze in my tracks. They galloped across the path, disappearing into the tall grass. Only a small fawn lingered. I don’t remember exactly, I may have imagined this, but I think she met my gaze.

In her eyes, I recognized a familiar hunger.

Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end. 

The raindrops reappeared, gracing my shoulders. I stayed put and so did the fawn — we weren’t afraid. We knew the truth: storms catalyze growth.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain. 

Finally, she leapt off the path into the wild. An answer?

I wonder where we’ll be called this year.

Nourish yourself

CHANNEL CHEER: Call it chaos, call it the economy, call it a genuine pandemic — whatever has you feeling down, I hope you know that your angst is valid. While I’d never tell you to stifle or ignore your emotions, I do have a few tricks for banishing the doldrums. I believe that shifting your perspective can lift your mood. I shared my top ten tips for channeling cheer with readers of The Everymom last spring, but I think these ideas — like buying yourself flowers or making a gratitude list — are timeless and for everyone.

DIP: Who doesn’t love a good dip? First up is an addicting one I discovered from a close girlfriend years ago during a girls’ weekend at her lake house. This buffalo chicken dip is amazing with celery, carrots or pita chips. If you’re searching for an alternative to your usual guac or salsa, dip a tortilla chip into Kristin Porter’s zesty, refreshing southwestern black bean dip. Last but certainly not least, here’s a sweet dip that impresses unruly children and hungry book club members alike — chickpea cookie dough dip. It’s delicious on apple slices, graham crackers or by the spoonful.

TUNE IN: The question "How shall I live?" is one that we contemplate at all stages of life. Whether you're feeling settled in your current role or you're being tugged toward something new, tuning into your heart's calling is a worthwhile endeavor. One tactic to explore where you're being called now is to look back. Try writing a short trajectory of your vocational path in a journal or a Word document. End in the present. (If you need an example, here's mine ... an updated version is being co-created by me and the Author. 😉) Set that aside for an hour or a day, then return to it with fresh eyes and look for movement. What themes do you notice? If you're a believer, where do you see God showing up? Next, write an answer to this prompt: Who do I want to be for the remainder of 2020? Where do I feel called? It may help to think about what drains you, energizes you, angers you or makes you feel fulfilled. Write to discover.

Nourish others

SUPPORT WOMEN: While working on a story about the global church’s response to COVID-19, I learned from my colleague Rebecca Duerst that domestic violence is on the rise worldwide. “When men are not providing there is more opportunity for depression leading to gender-based violence in the household,” she told me. It's happening everywhere from Turkey to India to the U.S. This month, locate a shelter near you that serves and protects women who have experienced domestic violence. Consider how you could lend support with a monetary or in-kind donation, such as gently used clothing or sewn masks. Connections for Abused Women and their Children is a Chicago-based organization to which we'll donate. You can use Charity Navigator to check out your nearby organization. This work is critical; investing in it at the local level makes our neighborhoods safer.

INSPIRE A MAMA-TO-BE: Gift them a copy of Expecting Wonder by my friend Brittany L. Bergman. This a treasure of a book speaks to the emotional and spiritual transformation women undergo during pregnancy. I’m halfway through it, and I've been underlining quotes and nodding my head repeatedly at her honest stories, heartfelt encouragement and expression of deep faith.

JOIN FORCES: At a recent virtual book club meeting, we discussed Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and wow, was it a powerful, vulnerable conversation. Some of us shared times we had been called out for racial microaggressions; others talked about challenging racist ideology when we encounter it. My friend Jess talked about incorporating time each day to learn about and advocate for the flourishing of our Black neighbors. We recommitted as a club to supporting diverse authors and businesses. I share this because I think finding others committed to antiracism offers a source of accountability that catalyzes action. Is there someone with whom you could join forces for social justice? Maybe you already joined a chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice or a committee at your place of worship. If you haven't already, invite your spouse, kiddos, siblings and/or friends to join in the ongoing struggle to make our country safer for BIPOC individuals.

Nourishing words

On my nightstand — strong books by strong women:

  • Fiction: A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum (powerful page-turner)
  • Memoir: Untamed by Glennon Doyle (revelatory and memorable) 
  • Humor: Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (spit out your drink funny) 
  • Devotional: Beholding and Becoming by Ruth Chou Simmons (exquisite art)

Over time I’ve learned that everything, from the rhythm of our days to the people we meet and the state of the world, are experiences we can use to offer prayers. When we hear a police siren, we can ask God to watch over those in need. If our patience seems to be fraying, we can ask God to still our hearts. If our child is sad, we can pray that they feel God’s presence. Small moments throughout the day give us the opportunity to speak to God.”

This faith reflection about vocation at end of life made me tear up, especially "This is always life's challenge, to become, not to accomplish." May we stitch these words on our heart for the days when we feel we are not enough.

If you missed it last summer, here’s the link to Hover Mom, an essay I wrote about grappling with fear and finding freedom in parenting. (Alt. title: The Time I Lost Track Of My Toddler At A Birthday Party While I Was Playing Frisbee. 🙈)

Finally, this essay from the late civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis published posthumously continues to convict me: “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

…. When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” Amen.

Thanks for reading this month's newsletter! I’d love to hear from you: What’s moving your heart these days? Where are you feeling called?

Grace and peace,
Erin 

P.S. If you liked this newsletter, consider forwarding it to a friend. Or if you received it from a friend, you may subscribe here. I’ll be back in your inbox in the weeks ahead with a new blog post, followed by next month’s newsletter.
"Love yourself.
Then forget it.
Then, love the world."
—Mary Oliver
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