Sarah Styf

Sarah Styf: Don't Be The Reason Someone Else Isn't a Christian and Others Ways to Further The Kingdom Online

Jon: [00:00:00] What's up y'all? Welcome to Better On the Inside. I am here with my friend Sarah Styf. Sarah, how are you?

Sarah: I'm good.

Jon: It is

Sarah: It's a little cold here in Indiana.

Jon: Ooh, how cold is it?

Sarah: Uh, well we had really nice temperatures last week and then it rained all day yesterday and now it's. Down to like 30, but it is supposed to get colder like it's supposed to. Yeah, I know. I'm seeing the Texas face say no, and we, we kind of miss it. We kind of miss our January temperatures after six years in Houston.

Jon: it was literally 80 yesterday. Um, and for those not watching, Sarah and I are wearing pretty much the same like hoodie sweater, and it's 50 something here and it's like 30, oh, it's 61 here and it's 30 something there that

Sarah: snowy. It there was like this snow, sleet falling out of the sky as I was walking the dogs. So

Jon: we would just stay [00:01:00] inside in Texas. If that was the weather, the dogs wouldn't get walked. It's we're a different people. We're a different people. Uh, Sarah, this is the first time I get to see you face to face. We've interacted on Twitter several times. I don't remember how we ended up getting connected.

Sarah: I don't know either.

Jon: probably through like Hector Martinez, Janai Ahman, uh, Courtney , Courtney b Ellis, like we kind of run in the similar circle where we have probably interacted and you said some super interesting things and I'm like, oh, I would like to have Sarah on the podcast. one half of lit think, right?

And you have a, you have your on the journey, uh, ck that people can subscribe to, and we'll make sure that we drop links to all those things. Um, you are a very interesting person, so I'm glad that you're on.

Sarah: I don't know if interesting's a good thing.

Jon: Interesting is super good. Interesting. Is like you have a, [00:02:00] a lot of things of interest going on because you got podcasts, newsletters, and you have a day job and you do English stuff.

Sarah: I have a day job. Yeah. Yeah. I teach English . I'm a high school English teacher, so I. Have plenty that I'm doing during the day, but the creative stuff keeps me grounded. So I do the creative stuff. Cause I, yeah, it helps me stay sane cuz I'm like, I, I can do all the grading and lesson planning and everything, but after 20 years of teaching, you kind of need something that's a different challenge.

So the writing and the podcasting is part of.

Jon: yeah. Well, okay, so I have two questions. One is a very tactical question while the other is will take us on our journey today. The first is, is what book are you working on right now in class?

Sarah: Um, well, we just finished 12 Angry Men in my sophomore English classes, and that was a lot of fun. And I had never taught 12 Angry Men before. I love the play, [00:03:00] but I had never taught it before and. Teaching it just, that just brought me joy, just to talk about 12 bigger men all day long, all for the last three weeks.

Um, and then I teach a monsters and monsters class to juniors and seniors as the themes course. And we read the metamorphosis over the last couple of days and we start Dracula on Monday.

Jon: Ooh. A little Kafka. I like it. Um, and who wrote, who wrote Dracula? I forgot.

Sarah: From Stoker.

Jon: Oh, okay. Um, it, you

Sarah: I have, that one's fun. Like it's fun for, I like doing the monster stuff. The monster stuff is kind of like the fun class where I get to talk about different things like British imperialism and I get to bring my history stuff in. And then for Frankenstein, we do some science type stuff. So I get to do lots of interdisciplinary stuff with my Monsters class, which is always fun.

Jon: that's a lot of fun, man. Metamorphosis is a trip. I didn't read that till I was [00:04:00] in college. Um,

Sarah: Yeah. It is

Jon: We could talk about monsters all day then. I love monsters. Monsters are such a, a cool thing. Okay. But we won't, we won't go down the monster pod uh, route today.

Sarah: Yeah. That's my lit Think podcast

Jon: Yeah, we don't want to, we don't want to get in Lit.

Thinks Lane. I wanna stay out of lit. Thinks lane. And, and if you wanna learn more about monsters, go to lit. Link Lit. Think, sorry. Uh, lit. It's hard to say many times over and over again. What, um, how did you end up gravitating towards the creative piece that you gravitated towards? Because you could write, you know, fiction or you could do like poetry or art.

Like why, why did you gravitate towards what you gravitated towards?

Sarah: I never saw my, I've never seen myself as a fiction writer. I took a fiction writing class in grad school and at, by the end of the class, [00:05:00] my prof was like, you can write fiction. I was like, yeah, but it's not really my thing. , I love reading fiction, but writing fiction always feels like I'm really outta my comfort zone there.

Um, and so I just, I started blogging 10 plus years ago when I was in grad school, and we had. Bought this house that was a total fixer for, I mean, we moved into this house and we had a toddler and I got pregnant with our son shortly after that and it was gross and we were ripping out carpet and we were tearing off wallpaper and we were doing all sorts of renovations on this house in Fort Wayne for five years.

And about two years into it I was like, I should probably write about this because this is kind of like just the different things we were doing. And so I started writing about that and then, , it took on a life of its own. So I, I started a blogger account and then when we moved to Texas, I changed it over to a WordPress account and just kept writing about the things we were doing.

And then I started write about [00:06:00] travel because we camp. And so I wanted to write about all the things we were doing and all the camping we're doing. And then I, I said on Instagram, uh, a few weeks ago, it was like, I just don't like the whole idea of niche. Cuz they're always like, you're, you have to have a niche.

You have to focus on one thing. . I am not someone who focuses on one thing, so I wanna talk about all this stuff. So then, you know, sometimes get myself into trouble cause then I dip into politics and stuff like that. Challenging sometimes the the faith community. But

Jon: Yeah.

Sarah: yeah,

Jon: pants pantsuit politics. Right?

Sarah: that's one of my favorite podcasts.

Yeah, I love that podcast.

Jon: Okay. That's okay. We might go there today. We'll see. Uh, I would, I think it's, I think it's fair to describe you as somebody who is pretty online in the sense that, you know, you're, you're writing, you're on social media, so you're like, there, you're, are you like up to date on memes and trends and stuff.[00:07:00] 

Sarah: Um, I don't think as much as I, I don't wanna be that up on, I mean, I do, I pay attention to it. Um, I, I, in November, I stepped away from Facebook for the most part. And so that has been actually a really nice cleanse,

Jon: Yeah, I was gonna ask if you had any regrets, and I was

Sarah: no, I have no regrets. Like, and I still have it and I still post stuff on there cuz I wanna put my blog pieces and stuff up there.

And sometimes somebody will ask me like, well, did you see this? I'm like, mm, I don't have it on my phone. It's cause, so I, I think our phones get us into a lot of trouble, right? Because we have everything on our phones and so we can just page through and see everything. And the minute I took it off my phone, I suddenly stopped spending a lot less time on there.

So it, and it's been really good for me. And so I have to be really intentional. If I'm gonna go on Facebook, I have to go on my computer and I'm not carrying my computer all over the house with me.

Jon: No.

Sarah: Um, and I was still on Twitter, but I might have stepped back just a little [00:08:00] bit from Twitter just because things got kind of weird with Elon and stuff.

But I'm still there cuz I still see you. So I'm still there. I'm, I'm, I'm still like, paying attention and retweeting and, and, and commenting and stuff. So, um, yeah, I, I pay attention to the things that get brought to my attention. How's that

Jon: Ooh. That's good. That's good. Well, I think one of the things that really like made me think like, I wanna talk to Sarah on this season as we talk more about digital and church and kingdom and all those things. Like how does that, how does that all work? And you kind of had a really interesting thought and kind of a.

dare I say, like metric for how to share things online that you were kind of talking about, and so I would love for you to share a little bit more about that.

Sarah: Okay. several years ago, and I was getting really frustrated with what I was seeing on Facebook. And so I finally was just like, what if we use the metric does this further the kingdom as [00:09:00] our metric for what we post? And this was before the pandemic. So like this was before all the misinformation and, and everything else was going on.

And I was like, I, I get tired of seeing things that are half truths to be generous. It's generous sometimes to call things half.

Jon: Yeah.

Sarah: and seeing people who are Christians, who I admire and who I respect to our family members sometimes who post things and I'm like, but that's not accurate. And that's not that.

That's either not accurate or it's not real. Or even worse, it might be true, but how do non-Christians view that or how do people who are questioning their faith view that and. and I, I'm a public school teacher now, but I taught in Lutheran schools for a really long time and as I was teaching in those Lutheran schools, I was like, I still kept in touch.

I'm a high school teacher, so the relationship with high school students is different than with [00:10:00] elementary students cuz we're gonna maintain sometimes those relationships. And I did theater with um, kids for five years actually for. Seven years cause it was a crossover in two different schools. Um, and so I had some kids who I still, who are now grown adults, who I still maintained relationships with and they were, sometimes they were faithful and stayed in the church and sometimes they didn't stay in the church.

And I knew that what I was saying and doing impacted them. So was what I po was, were the things that I posted going to encourage them to maintain their. or was it going to drive them away? Was it making them think that all Christians are not crazy or was it affirming what they already thought? Um, and so that's what, that's why I came up that metric cuz I was like, that has to be, am I perfect?

No. Have I sometimes made some questionable decisions, especially on Twitter? Probably [00:11:00] Cause Twitter's an interesting space. Um,

Jon: yeah.

Sarah: but. I just, I didn't want to be The reason, and maybe this is probably the best way to put it. I didn't want to be the reason somebody wasn't a Christian

Jon: Mm mm That'll preach.

Sarah: and I didn't, I didn't want that to be the case. And the thing is, I knew that there were things that people were posting on social media. that did in fact drive people away. And then, and then we, then you, and that was the metric before 2020 . And then you get to 2020 and you get to a pandemic and you get to a seriously contentious election cycle, and you get to then 2021 insurrection.

You get to all of these things and. that thing people were posting things that were driving people away from the church, faithful people that like were cleaning, I'm including myself, that were holding on with their fingernails and trying to hold onto [00:12:00] institution, trying to be still be an institution without being dragged in the muck.

Jon: Hmm.

Sarah: it, it just was not. and still isn't great, which is why it's been really nice not to be on Facebook for the last two months.

Jon: Yeah. it's been a well-deserved break.

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, it, it really has been.

Jon: well, but part of what you're talking about is like a holy discontent. Of this was born out of frustration. This wasn't born out of like, sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. And so l let's dive into like some of the frustration if you're cool with it, um, when you are.

Um, I love it. I told you, I told you.

Sarah: Fine.

Jon: Can I say hello? Say hello.

Sarah: Well, he was sick last night and he's asking for chocolate

Jon: [00:13:00] Oh, okay. How old?

Sarah: 11.

Jon: My 11 year old is sick too.

Sarah: So,

Jon: And he was, and we sent him to school today. He was sick last night but he was outta school yesterday. And it's like that, like once they turn, once they like turn the corner a little bit, it's like, can I just eat Sour Patch kids? And it's like, dude, you were so sick yesterday And

Sarah: like at 1145 last night,

Jon: Hmm.

Children. I had a feeling that was the 11 year old. Just cuz I was watching your face.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jon: Um, I love.

Sarah: it.

Jon: I love it. Well, speaking of tension, let's, let's dive into, let's like dive into truly something you were talking about with. The church driving people away or individuals posting kind of as Christians on behalf of the church driving people away?

Like what hit you in that there? There must have been, [00:14:00] I know that it's not just one singular thing, but what hit you in that, that made you go, okay, I'm gonna be somebody that's just going to think about whether this furthers the kingdom.

Sarah: um, I think it was a compilation of things. A lot of it was post was post 2016. , like everything felt fine and I, I know that things were not fine. . I think we, we all have our moments where we realized things aren't fine, but everything seemed fine and by the time 2016 was over, there were people, I did have, I, there were.

a few. There were probably two or three people I had to just completely like, just block and whatever from Facebook that had been Facebook friends and, and stuff like that. And, but I kept seeing some of the same things popping up over and over again. Um, and I think that was it. I think it was 2016 and I can't even say it was a particular meme or a particular article or [00:15:00] even an argument people were making.

I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn. . I couldn't tolerate this idea that, and I didn't wanna contribute to it anymore. Um, and my struggle is I'm an Enneagram one, so I have this very strong sense of justice

Jon: Oh,

Sarah: I want everyone to do the right thing, . And I want everyone to do what I want them to do. And I want everyone to do what I think is the right thing.

And, um, and so, It was still, I mean, I was, I was still, I was posting all these, I was like, Christianity Today says this and Relevant, says this , like posting out all these articles. But I was trying really hard to make sure that anything that I posted was, had good review, like had been reviewed and was something that had some, some good standards behind it.

Um, and I, I think, so I even kept that up after 2016, but I was trying to make sure that if I posted. and I was trying to change people's [00:16:00] mind. I wanted whatever mind I was trying to change to not drive people away. So that, and I kept, and that's where I, I kept that up. I was like, you know, I might be posting something that says, So much to be impeached.

But if I'm gonna post it, I want, I'm not posting it because I am trying to be contentious. I'm posting it cuz I want one to change minds, which doesn't happen. We all know this. Social media doesn't change minds. Right. Um, and I think I finally, in the last six months have come to this conclusion. It took me a really long time to come to this conclusion, but I just

Jon: that's classic one. No, but, but if I do it right and I cite my sources, and if it's all laid out,

Sarah: As a red comp major for my, my master's degree is in rhetoric and composition. So like, that's my, that's my whole, that's my world . It's like everything. It too, it's an argument. Um, even though I'm an introvert, so I, I do, and I'm, I'm, I'm a one-way nine, so I want everybody to do the [00:17:00] right thing, but I don't wanna make anybody mad when I'm trying to get them to do the right thing.

It's a very hard space to be in

Jon: Yeah, I could only imagine truly.

Sarah: Um, it, but that, that's really where it all came from, is just, I, I finally had to say, look, if I'm gonna argue, I don't want, I want to try to change your mind, but when I, but while I'm trying to change your mind, I wanna make sure that other people, my non-Christian former students or those who are questioning, or those who are struggl.

are not seeing what I say and being like, well, she's just another crazy. I want them to see what I'm saying and be like, oh, here's someone who's actually doing their research, who actually cares enough to. Put some thought into this. And they're doing, they're putting thought into this, and I think the affirmation that I got was always private.

It was never public affirmation cause was. It would be private affirmation, right? I would get a message from somebody and they'd be like, thank you for posting that. Or they would send me a [00:18:00] message and they'd be like, what do you think about this? You know, like asking for my opinion on things that they wouldn't have felt comfortable asking me about if they hadn't seen what I had posted.

So, it again affirmed this whole idea of furthering the kingdom means not pushing people away. And it means not ma, it means not being the reason somebody is not a Christian, or it means not being the reason somebody doesn't go to church or not being the reason why somebody even is willing to ask questions, is curious.

I wanna make them curious as opposed to.

Jon: Yeah. Part of what's so interesting about what you're talking about is that it's not even outcome driven in the sense that you're not even talking about what your argument or thesis is. , it's not even whether people agree with that. It's how you are presenting it and what goes into it. That it's one well sourced and [00:19:00] not misinformation.

So like actually dealing with facts and truth and things along those lines, but also that it's like it's thoughtfully presented so that even if somebody disagrees, it's not incendiary in its nature.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. It's, and it's un it's recognizing, it's recognizing nuance. It's recognizing that there is, that black and white doesn't exist.

Jon: Hmm.

Sarah: black and white is something that you can't, we we're human beings. We are not black and white individuals, and so we can't see a situation and be like, well, it absolutely has to be this because in so many cases there is no one answer.

And and so if you're just saying there is only one answer and I'm not gonna listen to anybody else has a say. , no one's gonna be curious and no one's gonna wanna know what you have to say. And I think that, that [00:20:00] we, we see so much of what people post online as being a, well, it's just this, and you talk about right or wrong.

I mean, I have, I've, I've taken a stance of things and I think are definitely right and things I've definitely wrong. But again, outcome, the difference between the outcome driven and how you approach it. Because

Jon: Yeah.

Sarah: all, a lot of us want the same outcome. We just have totally different ways of getting to that outcome, and we don't wanna talk about that.

We just want to be like, Nope, this is the only way to do it. Only way we can make this happen is if we do this this way. You know? And, and it can be tough and it's hard and it can be so hard to have those conversations, you know, like, , you get into some of the most, one of the most contentious issues out there in being abortion and something like that.

It's so hard to have those conversations because the reality is everybody has the same out, like the out everyone. I don't think anyone doesn't want the same outcome, right? I think everyone wants [00:21:00] the same outcome, but our, how we get there is always so different. Well, are, is my answer going to drive people away or is it going to.

Start a conversation and work towards that outcome,

Jon: Right, right. Well, uh, but y something that I've observed that you're talking about, and I just hear so many people talking about over and over and over and over again, is the distinct lack of curiosity of the church and the, the a drive and need for certainty when even when it oversimplifies.

Sarah: mm-hmm.

Jon: for some people that's kind of comforting.

So I think there would be people that would push back on you that would say, but it is black and white. But it, no, there are answers. No, it is simple. And what do you think that simplicity, that that need for, um, certainty. and the reduction of complex things, removing all [00:22:00] the nuance, right. That was one of the words that you used.

What is removing all the nuance and oversimplifying things doing to people that are outside of the church environment? What are you seeing with those students that are not Christians or other people? Like what is that doing?

Sarah: It's making them completely Dr. I mean, they have no interest whatsoever. I mean, and we can have conversations and this all denominations are having these conversations. I'm lifelong Lutheran. They've been having this conversation for years and they've been going about it the wrong way, . So, but I mean, the conversations of like, why are churches shrinking and why can't we get people in the doors and why aren't people giving money?

Like all of those questions and all of those questions are good questions to ask, but they're asking for black and white answers.

Jon: Mm

Sarah: and there are no black and white answers to those because there's not one single answer to those. And if they really wanted to think about it, it's if you're gonna say that, [00:23:00] yes, it's, it's definitely this, and we have no curiosity.

Well, you know what? People are curious and they want to have their curiosities answered, and they want to be allowed to be curious, and they want to be allowed to be intellectual and not just be told that it's this or this or this. . And I think one of the things that really opened that up for me was reaching, was reading Rachel Held Evans and you know, reading all of her books and saying, oh wait, I can actually be curious about this stuff.

It's okay to ask questions. Is is something that should be encouraged. And in the online space it should theoretically be a great place to ask those questions and be able to have those conversations because you can have conversations with people all over, but instead we've siloed our. , and some of it's been done by algorithms, but we don't help.

I mean, we intentionally pick things that then pick our algorithms for us, right? Like you follow certain people, then they're gonna give you more of those certain people. So if you don't diversify your feed, they're not gonna, the algorithm [00:24:00] isn't gonna diversify your feed for you.

Jon: Yes.

Sarah: And so that, that's where a lot of that comes in, I think.

And that's where it drives people away because they want to know that they can ask questions and not be shut. . And far too often people ask questions and they get shut down, and then they're like, well then I don't want anything to do with this.

Jon: right. Nobody likes to get shut.

Sarah: Hmm mm-hmm.

Jon: and everybody has questions. That's pretty normal. And it seems, especially as we're looking at younger folks, cuz you're a high school teacher and so you're dealing with I think all Gen Z at this point. Um, in terms of age and

Sarah: after, I'm not sure where the

Jon: gen alpha, like, I don't know where the break is

Sarah: I don't know where the break is.

Jon: not important. When I, when my kids ask about it, I tell them, that's usually determined later. Like, it's hard to tell a break until people have come more of age and economy and all that

Sarah: Yeah, it's kind of like how decades don't have a clean break either.

Jon: that's true. As an, as an elder [00:25:00] millennial born in 1982, I, I am in between generations.

Sarah: No, I like Kyle. I like the Ziel term. It's calling everybody that's in that like 1978 to 19 72 70 or 1978 in 19 82, 83 range. Ziel like, I think it's good. It matches. I'm like, yeah, that fits me.

Jon: It's better than geriatric millennial, that's for sure.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jon: Um, that's for sure. Well, and so these younger folks are asking questions and there is a built in skepticism, best case scenario of institutions, um, outright rejection. of institutional things like it, there's not a lot of trust in institutions, and I think we can also acknowledge that maybe institutions have largely failed these young ones.

Um, and so I, I think that the, the lack of [00:26:00] a lack of authenticity and transparency from the institution just reinforces all the worst. that they're already holding onto. Um, because they're just like, yeah, I didn't trust you guys anyway. Like, this tells me that I, I, that my lack of trust was the right move.

Sarah: Well, and I think they keep seeing that over and over again. You know, if they're being misled, if they're being told lies, if they're not, if people aren't being honest with them, then yeah, why would they trust those institutions? There's no reason to trust them.

Jon: Yeah. Well, okay, so as a teacher, like how are you connecting beyond that? Not even as a teacher, just online. You've talked a little bit about it, of asking questions and allowing for a open space and a dialogue and everything else, but what are some of the good things that you can point out and like even hype yourself up a little bit about some of the good stuff that you're.

Sarah: Um, I. [00:27:00] there, you pick your space, right? Like everybody has their spaces that they love. Like I personally, I enjoy Instagram for the photos. I'm not really a fan of the fact that the video be has become a big thing on Instagram, but I think that that becomes a space where you can, if you diver, I think diversifying my feet is the biggest thing I try to do is make sure that I, I have as diversified as I can and that's not always perfect because there's some diversity I.

That isn't healthy and , they don't need it. But I think it's really important to make sure that you are getting the stories of other people in your life so that they're people that are not like you and are not from the same places that you're from, even the same generations that you're from, and hearing what they have to say about issues that you care about.

Um, and so I do, I, I try. . I mean, my Instagram feed, like my favorite ones actually are like outdoor camping type stuff. But , I've been moving some of my, the [00:28:00] people that I follow on Twitter, I've also been following them on Instagram and moving over, which is different medium and people treat it differently, but they do on Twitter.

The biggest thing that I tried to do, um, especially, I mean before, uh, the, the purchase of Twitter is I was really trying to make sure that I had a diverse. So I wanted to make sure that I was following people who were conservatives and liberals who were progressive in the church and who were very conservative in the church.

Um, uh, are you looking at like environmental type groups that are, that have different solutions, that have solutions all over the map? Like they do, they're not just focused on one particular solution. News feeds and making sure my news feeds. trustworthy, so treking my trip, my news fees to make sure that whoever I was following had a good reputation.

Maybe not just the facts, but as close to being just the facts as possible. Um, I think for me as a Christian, it [00:29:00] became really important knowing that I was coming from a conservative background and conservative, like friends and family. That conservative, conservative background to make sure that those that I followed, that I had those types of sources in my feed.

So I followed the dispatch in the bull work and in knowing that they have solutions to, cuz if we we're gonna talk about solution being solution based, that they have solutions to problems that face us that are gonna be different than a progressive solution. But I also know that they're making good faith arguments.

So I knew, I know that they're not. Bowing off opinions on culture wars, and I really tried to break away from anything that was culture war oriented. So I tried to make sure that whatever I was fi, what people weren't fighting for, winning some kind of battle over who's gonna win the culture because I don't think that that's healthy.

We're in a pluralistic society and we need to appreciate being a pluralistic society.

Jon: Yeah. [00:30:00] What do you mean pluralistic society? It's black and white. Your for us are against us. Right. Okay. Sorry. Um, I knew, I knew that that would be good. Uh, something that you talked about that was really cool is that. The only thing that has changed my mind online is hearing people's stories. And so you mentioned it's important to diversify your feed with people's stories because there are things that I learn where I go, oh, I'd never really thought about that.

And so like one of the things that has popped up, In the last year has been like the antisemitism in Christianity and, and, and a reading of the Old Testament and other kinds of things, and so it's been really cool to hear rabbis and Jewish scholars talk about how they would interpret the passage or the pieces that we are, when we talk about the Pharisees, were actually. being anti-Semitic because we're, because we're not imagining them the right way. We've made them bad guys in a different kind of way. And so I would've never [00:31:00] thought about that before. Not that it, I didn't care. It's

Sarah: And it's a learning posture. Yeah. And it's a learning posture. It's saying, okay, so I know, so now I'm gonna do better. Not, I was just corrected and I need to defend myself and I need to double down, but that, oh, I just learned something new. So maybe I just need to rethink the way I approach that. And, and that's what I think.

We've seen a lot of people just doubling down and I try not to double down. I'm, like I said, I'm not perfect.

Jon: Yeah.

Sarah: everybody makes mistakes.

Jon: yeah,

Sarah: especially when you're very justice minded and you want everybody to do the right thing.

Jon: You get your justice haunches on, you're one miss and you're like, it's gotta be right. I love, I'm a two with a three wing by the way. Um, and I love my ones. I work very closely with a bunch of ones and they're some of my favorite people. I drive them absolutely bonkers a lot, but I love them. Um, [00:32:00] well, you, I, I was thinking about, you know, you're posting stuff online and like I tweeted something last year about like, Hey, you don't need to read the Old Testament.

Like, you don't need to. Right. And for, it was a hot take. It was definitely written as a hot take and. in the context when I'm working with people who are new to scripture, that's a, that's a good statement. They don't need to start in Genesis and read all the way through and get Exodus and Leviticus and all that.

But one of my, a great guy, Dr. Sam won, who is awesome and is an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary was like, oh man, there's so much richness in the Old Testament that you're missing. And so we end up recording a podcast about it, and that starts this whole Old Testament journey. That comes from just a flippant hot take of like, Hey, I'm just gonna say this, and it turned into like, Hey, I actually learned something from this, and that's kind of cool.

It's into your point. Not always easy, but that's really cool. [00:33:00] To learn about whatever it might be that you're talking about and have a posture of humility. Um, and not that I usually do, I usually don't. Um, but in this case, I did and I learned from, from people that were smarter than me. And so I loved the idea that you, that you talked about of diversifying your feet and getting stories of people that are not like you

Sarah: it changes the way you and, and sometimes it, it actually enriches the way you look at things. And I think sometimes it changes and sometimes it just enriches it. And you have. a slightly different perspective, and you're able to put a little more conflict. You're able to complicate it a little bit, and I don't think that complication's a bad thing.

Jon: Yeah, it, it's very real. It's kind of how life is.

Sarah: Yeah. It really is. And we don't, and some things we don't know and understand until 10, [00:34:00] 20 years later, I may think about the fact that we're 20 years out of even something like nine 11. and we are just now starting to understand things right? Like we're d things that we just didn't understand in 2001 that we're just now starting to to understand because we're learning things that just come out and that's okay.

It's okay to suddenly change the way you viewed something because you learned something new that wasn't there before that we didn't know.

Jon: New information should, should change. perspective, um, in some way or another? Well, okay, you're getting me super excited because as an English teacher, like the idea, we are wired for story. Like people are wired to understand story and that's one of the original like communication methods, whether it's cave drawings or you know, oral history, like story is something that [00:35:00] allows you to have nuance that allows you to.

Have all these things, but story doesn't resolve itself. It's not bullet points and check boxes. And so that story piece is something that I'm gonna sit with. I That's a good one there, Sarah.

Sarah: I'm glad.

Jon: Yeah. . . You're so funny. I, there should be a whole podcast of just people complimenting you and you having to deal with it. Um, I, I noticed

Sarah: It's so funny cause I, with my, uh, Because I have a book coming out and one of my colleagues, I gave her the, when I gave her the copy today, she like started talking me up to her to class today. And I was like, will you stop? Because I really just wanted to out and leave. I wanted to run the room. There were all students that I'm not gonna have that, there's students that are in her, um, her class.

And I was just really embarrassed.[00:36:00] 

Jon: Okay, now everybody knows to embarrass you. Just compliment you. Uh, you made the perfect segue though, and we get to talk about your book, embracing the Journey, and so people order the book. Let's just throw it out there right now. Order Embracing The Journey by Sarah Stfe. Do that. But what, like how did you write a book?

What is the book about? Tell us all about it.

Sarah: Um, I took a lot of my blog pieces from. We moved in 20 to Texas in 2015, and we moved back to Indiana a year and a half ago. But, um, in 2015 when we moved to Texas, I started a blog and started just kind of like writing about all the things that we were doing, and it, it became a hodgepodge of everything.

I don't like niche , I don't like to think in terms of niche, so I really just wrote about whatever I felt like writing about. and over the last year I started, I've been reading a lot of like, books of essays. Like I read John Green's [00:37:00] book, anthrop Scene reviewed, which was delightful and I really enjoyed it because after moving back to Indiana, I was like, oh, he's writing about Indiana stuff and I really appreciate this.

Um, I'm from

Jon: out to

Sarah: I wanna be very clear that I'm from Michigan, so like I don't consider myself a Hoosier. Truly a Hoosier. We just

Jon: where on the mitten are you from? Okay.

Sarah: Right in the southwest corner, our parents, both sets of, our parents live like two miles from Lake Michigan . So when we go home to visit, we go to Lake Michigan. Um, and I'm getting bye. Um, the 11 year old again. Um, and so. As I was reading a lot of those books that had different types of essays, I was like, wait a minute, I have like all these blog pieces that I've written and I could probably go back and revise them and make them into something.

So I took a few, I did not take, I [00:38:00] had over 300 to pick for a minute, and a lot of them are travel ones. And so I actually am planning on doing, um, I had started a memoir, a camping memoir, like five years ago. Um, so I'm planning on getting back to that one eventually, but I took some of the more. Meaningful personal ones and decided to turn them into a book of essays and did a ton of revision and had friends help me with the revision and, and we're self-help, I'm self-publishing it, um, because I just wanted it to be timely and I wanted it to get it out now because, , if you try to do go the traditional route, you gotta wait almost two years.

And I was just kinda like, hmm, no, this is timely and it's for right now. Um, so I split into four sections. I did growth, so I did like personal growth of me in my mid thirties moving into when I turned 40 and what the thoughts I was having as I was moving into my forties. Um, I did a section on motherhood and.

I've been a mom for almost 14 years, so [00:39:00] there's a lot of what it that comes with the growth and the journey of motherhood. Um, I did one on place because place has kind of always been an uncertain thing for me. Um, my dad is, well, he's a pastor now, but he was a church worker my entire life, and so we moved several times and you know, by the time it turned to 18 we had.

Four, five different places and four different states and four different time zones, . So I had, by the time I turned 18, I had lived all over and I had gotten a, a pretty good view of the country. Um, and even then, you know, we lived in Indiana for 13 years before we moved to Texas, but even then we lived in three different cities in Indiana.

So we had never really. in one place. Um, so I did a whole section on, on finding place and, you know, making those transitions. And then [00:40:00] the last one was on healing, um, because we had a life upheaval two years ago and, and. That life upheaval was, was rough and it was a lot of learning and growth and grief.

And so I had, I do a word for the year every year. And last year my word was heal, um, for 2022. And so I focused that last section on just that journey and that process. And so, so yeah, I, a lot of. I think it's got good stuff in it.

Jon: Yeah. Well,

Sarah: think it's some of my best. I think it's, I think some of the items are some of the best of my personal rating and I've got, I've got a lot of other stuff that are on my CK that is, , other good stuff that deals with like religion and politics and travel.

Um, like I said, no niche, um,

Jon: [00:41:00] Yeah.

Sarah: but this was really, I thought, a good first attempt at how can I put these pieces together and kind of weave them in together and telling both a narrative and also be encouraging at the same time.

Jon: Yeah, that. Okay. Exciting. Embracing the journey. Uh, longtime podcast listener, John Green. I'm sure John Green is a huge fan of this podcast, uh, blurb, Sarah's book, like, just, if you could blurb her book, we'd really appreciate it. Uh, and then come on the podcast, John. Uh, we'd love to have you. Uh, but this is definitely something for people to read because it's, what, part of what I love about a collection of essays like this is that it's not just one thing.

it's not just a book about, you know, the engineering of early Denmark. Like it's not, that's a super random example. Um, it's also not fiction, right? So it's not the story, [00:42:00] it's not a singular story. It's, it's a lot of stories and a lot of it is, like you said, very timely of the stuff that we're wrestling with right now.

Sarah: Yeah.

Jon: So embracing the journey, buy it. It's good. It's totally worth reading.

Sarah: Thanks.

Jon: Um, and you can find it at Amazon. Is that the best place for people to

Sarah: I, yeah, I did do Amazon publishing, so it's available both ebook and paperback.

Jon: Okay. And if you want to search for Sarah, Sarah Stfe, s a r a h s t y F. Search for her and find the book. Sarah, you've now entered the final stage of the Better On the Inside podcast, you've reached the non-judgment zone of joy. And before we go into the non-judgment zone of [00:43:00] joy, I didn't tell you this in the pre, I should have told you this.

Um, we do, I do a little song for the non-judgment zone of. And I, I keep saying we should record a song, but nobody's recorded one for me. And so I sing the song for the non-judgment zone of joy. And um, what would help me is if what is a genre of music you've been listening to a lot lately.

Sarah: Oh, I don't know. I've been sitting down listening to Taylor Swift's new album a lot.

Jon: Okay

Sarah: I've been doing a

Jon: she's really good

Sarah: Yeah.

Jon: little ta. Okay. Um, very cool. So the question is going to be before I sing this song as I pull out my seven year old's guitar, um, and just a, you know, just a note, I'm not a musician, which is why I shouldn't be singing the theme song or playing, but [00:44:00] here we are. The question is what is bringing you joy?

And so I'll try to find like a Taylor Swift, kind of poppy, folky kind of acousticy kind of, Ooh. Sounds great. Wonderful. Um, are you a musician, Sarah?

Sarah: Um, I used to play piano and guitar

Jon: Ooh. Okay, so

Sarah: I

Jon: is going, this is gonna be an abomination

Sarah: My son found my, my guitar and, and broke one of the strings because he was trying to play it, but my strings were so old because I hadn't played it in so long that he felt really bad. He felt like he had broken it. I was like, the the strings, they need to be replaced.

If you wanna learn how play guitar, we can talk about you taking my guitar. But those strains probably need to be completely replaced.

Jon: yeah. I know I'm, I'm stalling a little bit, but did you lead worship when you played the guitar?

Sarah: I did in high [00:45:00] school. When I did, when I did youth group stuff, we would do it.

Jon: let's

Sarah: And, and I also, um, in high, my high school choir, I, we moved my, between my sophomore and junior year. So my high school choir in freshman, sophomore year in, in Wyoming, um, they, my choir director. Needed accompanied. So he would pick one person, like we, one of us would play for each song.

And so I played for, um, almost every concert, like one song for every concert, and then got to get back to the choir. But yeah,

Jon: That's awesome. Um, what was your favorite worship song to lead since we're roughly in the same generation? Was it like every move I make, I make in you, you make me move, Jesus. Uh, sorry. You were Lutheran.

Sarah: Yeah, it was Lutheran stuff, so it was like, yeah, I don't even remember which ones I liked the most.

Jon: Shout to the Lord. That's [00:46:00] a

Sarah: Yeah, we did that one a lot,

Jon: Okay. Shout

Sarah: but I can't even remember what the chords were anymore.

Jon: Well, I mean, I never knew what they were. All right. Without further delay, we're here at the non-judgment zone of joy with the style of Taylor Swift, and so it's always. Nonjudgment. Zone of joy. Nonjudgment. Zone of joy. Nonjudgment zone.

Nonjudgment zone. Nonjudgment. Zone of joy. Oh, missed that note a little bit. Came up a little shy on it. So Sarah, it's okay to laugh. Sarah. Uh, what, um, what is bringing you joy right now?

Sarah: I'm, this is the fake one actually, because it's been two years since we had like a whole life blow up [00:47:00] and um, the first year that we were here in Indiana was really rough. . And I have to say like since probably the end of 2022, as we moved into 2023 and getting ready to publish my book and all that stuff, I kind of feel like I finally have my groove back

And so it feels really that it, it really feels good to feel like I have my groove back. Um, we've started talking about planning for even like I love travel and our own family loves travel and we love camping, but even planning travel. Sometimes didn't take, wasn't nearly as exciting as I wanted it to be because it just, it was overwhelming, you know, like my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last year, and we went to Hawaii last spring break, and I think I finally started to feel like I was getting some things back when we went to Hawaii.

But even planning for something that I so desperately wanted to do felt overwhelming. And now it, it just, it feels good. Like [00:48:00] I feel. things feel good. And uh, that just makes me happy and it brings me joy. I can actually say joy cuz like there is a very big difference between happy and joy. Right?

Jon: Yes.

Sarah: That's a very big, and, and I had told a friend a year ago, I was like, I just want to feel joy again.

And I actually feel like I feel joy again. You know, I, I would have happy moments, but they were enjoy. Like, and I finally feel like getting that back. So that, that's a big.

Jon: That's awesome. That's awesome. I actually have joy on my socks today, uh, from inside out, literally joy. Um, so that's awesome. For all the folks listening at home, I just showed my joy socks. Um, that's awesome. Uh, thank you for sharing that, Sarah. I really appreciate it. I'm glad you got your groove back.

Congratulations on 20 years of marriage.

Sarah: Thank you.

Jon: That's that. I mean, that's significant.

Sarah: It is. Well, we're 21 now, but

Jon: Yeah. [00:49:00] Nice. Well, this is our,

Sarah: it, it's good.

Jon: this is our 19th year, my wife and I. So

Sarah: Yeah. That was why we were really, that, that that was why we, we broke the bank to go to Hawaii. Cuz we were like 20. That, that's important. 20 years matters. It's a big

Jon: do 20, right?

Sarah: Yeah.

Jon: You gotta do 20, right.

Sarah: So, and we did, and I felt like we did it right. You know, we, we left the kid, the, my, the parents came and stayed with the kids and we flew to the Pacific

Jon: Fantastic.

Sarah: It was.

Jon: All right, Sarah, thank you for joining us. Everyone go out and I, by embracing the journey, subscribe to her ck follow her on Twitter. We'll put all of these things in the notes. But the book, embracing the Journey with Sarah Styf, S A R A H S T Y F, Sarah Stfe. Thank you so much.

Sarah: Thank you.

Jon: Yeah, we'll see you guys next time.[00:50:00]