Quarterly Round-up: Winter 2023
: what you may have missed :
Welcome to new subscribers Keith, Joe, Susan, Jim, mfms60, el, Glenn, Chris, Russell, Maura, Carol, and Maria!
Russell happened to be Release and Gather’s 300th subscriber, which made me want to bake him a big ol’ skillet of biscuits, but alas—the biscuits I make probably wouldn’t ship well and people who aren’t from the South (not that I actually know where Russell lives) may not appreciate the gesture of Southern “cathead” biscuits!1
300 doesn’t seem like a large number if you compare it to other Substacks, but as someone recently said, imagine if this were a yoga class—300 people showing up would be kind of a big deal. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to do any Pigeon or Warrior poses, but I will give you this heartfelt thanks for showing up.
I know a couple of weeks ago I said you’d receive “the story of a local business owner and his resilience in adversity” today and the Quarterly Round-up next week, but the CEO of this operation2 made the executive decision to flip the schedule. The piece on Rivers (isn’t his first name cool enough to entice you back next week?) wasn’t where I wanted it to be, and I’d rather not rush such a great story.
So today, you get the Quarterly Round-up, which marks nine months ofon the Substack platform (a milestone that actually won’t occur for another ten days, but you know what they say—close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and Holly’s world).
If you missed it (a third of you joined in the last three months, so that’s a good possibility), you can check out the round-up of Fall 2022 posts here.
Please consider sharing this publication with someone you think may enjoy it (please do not share with people who definitely won’t enjoy it because that will greatly increase our chance for trolls in the comments and no one wants that—just askor read his post about handling trolls).
I don’t promote my writing on social media—only by word of mouth. So you’re my marketing team. I pay in biscuits, red beans & rice, and handwritten notes.3
Note: sometimes while writing, I get a warning that these posts are “too long for email.” What this means for you, the reader, is that the post that lands in your mailbox may get truncated by your email provider. Not to worry! If you don’t see the whole message, then click here to read it on the website.
Release and Gather Round-Up
Some of my favorite posts from others are collections of what they’re discovering, so each month I share some of my own.
For this quarter I scaled back to one post a week instead of two, which was the right call. I plan to continue publishing each Saturday morning for your weekend reading pleasure. I hope you’ll check out some of those posts you may have missed and let me know what you think by commenting or emailing me directly at email@example.com. If you’ve been around a while, what was your favorite post from this quarter?
For much of my 20s and 30s, I was hellbent on living fast and efficiently without impediment or interruption, cramming as much life as I could into every 24 hours. But time has given me the wisdom to slow down, notice the world around me, and appreciate the unexpected treasures along the way.
For a couple of years, I wasn’t sure Jonah would see this milestone. I questioned whether he would be alive on December 13, 2022. My son used drugs for four years. We knew he had a problem, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten. I had no idea he was addicted to opioids.
As I watched DJ demolish that potato, I thanked God for a canceled grocery order, a sack of potatoes, and the willingness to answer the door when there were so many preparations to be done for our overnight guests. Life’s interruptions are often moments of the greatest lessons.
I don’t know why we complicate Christmas and twist it into something that looks nothing like it was intended. It’s really simple—love and presence. God with us. God through us.
A bit later as we’d gotten about 3/4 through our journey, the two routes converged, and I asked the kids if they wanted to continue on the hiking trail into another wooded area or take the paved road back. 11-year-old Chloe thoughtfully replied:
“Let’s take the trail. I always have to choose the most daring path.”
Last week I had a check-in session with Jonah and his counselor. Next week it will be eight months since he entered a long-term rehabilitation program for his opioid addiction. The weight of all he’d been carrying for four years finally exceeded his limit. Shame. Guilt. Anxiety. Loneliness. Depression. Despair.
He’d run from all who loved him for so long, hiding all that heavy cargo until one day I showed up unannounced and uncovered it. His bridge collapsed, and he was left dangling. He needed help.
As she shut the door this woman I’d met only half an hour before called out, “Love you!”
Love comes in the interruptions.
I knelt by the older man and inhaled the scent of fermentation seeping from his pores and looked into his yellowed and bloodshot eyes as I took his folded hands from his lap. I held them in mine and prayed in the name of Jesus that the weight of this depression would be lifted from him.
I haven’t been reading as much on Substack these last three months, but I’ve still managed to find some Substacks I’m enjoying and would like to share with you.
The value of Substack is the obscure writers who don’t have a myriad of subscribers but are put on an even playing field because of this platform. As I’ve said before:
…fewer subscribers only means less discovered—not less wonderful or successful. Actually, sometimes those obscure writers offer more thought-provoking reads than the well-known.
My favorite way to read is on my laptop (old school, I know), but I also read and peruse on the mobile app. You can find out how to download the app, adjust email notifications, and more at Substack’s Frequently Asked Questions page.
artchive of an artist
Mina writes about her experience of giving up her life in the classroom in Canada and moving to Japan. Her words are often thought-provoking as she writes about the culture there, but you’ll also fall in love with the visual beauty in her posts.
Everything Is Amazing
After getting sucked in—I mean wowed by this publication, I’m now wondering if author Mike Sowden isn’t actually a group of 100 people giving us such amazing facts, stitched together to great beautiful tapestries for the curious. And if you aren’t naturally curious, you will be after reading some of his posts. Mike truly is a wealth of knowledge (that he gained by being curious) and writes with a good measure of wit!
John Dobbs shares “thoughts about Christianity, Books, Television, Photography, and other miscellany.” John currently pastors a church in Louisiana, and I love the practical, authentic way he shares truths from God’s Word and his own experiences.
Jen Zug Writes
Storyteller Jen Zug is messy. And that’s just what I love about her. She opens the door, invites us in, and lets us see her life and heart in their true state. In a world of carefully curated snippets on social media, Jen refreshes us with her realness.
New York Photo City
Simple, visual goodness three times a week. Period. Brazilian-born, NYC-based photographer and music curator Leo Mascaro will inspire you with his work.
Run to Write
Not only does Julie Hughes publish short poems and other inspirational words Monday through Friday, she hosts a 30-minute free writing group every Friday. It’s a great chance to block out the world for half an hour and put thoughts to the page. Julie recently sent me a copy of her book My Road: A Runner’s Journey Through Persistent Pain to Healing, which I’m looking forward to cracking open this week on a road trip. She also has a new book landing at the end of the month—Staring Down a Dream: A Mom, a Marathoner, a Mission, so be sure to check it out. Hope to see you at Write Together Friday!
Sundays with Stella
Stella Kalaw writes “about finding meaning and noticing the beauty of life's imperfections through writing, art, and photography. Life takes a turn or throws us a curveball. Underneath all that, some kind of beauty emerges.” You will love Stella’s beautiful Sunday posts—check them out!
I’m not sure how I went so long without discovering Mark DeLong’s wonderfully worded missives, but I’m hooked! From the writing process to his amateur drawings to automobiles (which helps me stay in the know when talking to my car enthusiast son!), Mark draws you in and keeps you reading until the end.
Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
I bumped into Bill at one of Substack’s virtual Writer Office Hours and was intrigued when I checked out his publication, whichs is “a daily email newsletter dedicated to great stories, history, and promoting understanding among people who sometimes don’t have a lot in common.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to subscribe to a newsletter that published as often as he does (every weekday), and I confess I don’t read every edition. But I’ve enjoyed every post I’ve read so far, especially the “7 things worth knowing today” sections at the bottom of each—and I really thought I’d be skipping over those. That goes to show how little I know myself!
“Cathead biscuits are a feature of the Mississippi Delta. The name comes, apparently, from the size of these biscuits – the size of a cat’s head – and that they are often misshapen and rough. You’ll find them in soul food joints and meat-and-three restaurants, places where the waitress calls you hon’, and you’re glad you’re can’t see into the kitchen. The places you are drawn to by the smell of frying chicken, and leave saturated with that smell yourself. Catheads are not precious, but big and raggedy. Not passed in a napkin-lined basket, but dropped on the table on a big plate. Maybe served with rich, creamy, sausage-flecked gravy. A meal for a champion eater. Or maybe they come with eggs fried in bacon grease, the crispy strips of smoky bacon and a side of grits. Or later in the day with fried chicken, greens and field peas.”
It’s me. I’m the CEO.
I really do send handwritten notes if you supply your mailing address by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I will not mail you biscuits or red beans & rice, so don’t even ask.