Emily: It’s difficult to explain a moment. You can give the facts, sure, but to put words behind an experience in such a way it brings the listener to the edge of your memory is no easy task. And that’s why I sit here, at my dining room table, staring out the window at the humid day instead of focusing on typing sentences and paragraphs. How do I put into words the vision and desires of my heart that morphed into this website called To Unearth? How do I help you experience through a letter this journey as if you walked it yourself?
If you’ve read the About page on the website, you’re familiar with our mission: to unearth the truth rooted in the ordinary (shameless plugs here, I know). The six short paragraphs explain our goal of digging up truth using God’s word and helping readers — and ourselves in the process — understand how God uses the ordinary just as often as the exceptional.
What that page doesn’t describe are the months leading up to the moment we hit “publish” on the site. OK, it was an automatic countdown, so we didn’t actually hit any publish button, but the scary reality was we didn’t know what would happen when those numbers reached zero and To Unearth went live.
It started out as an idea, as everything does, really. An idea of a way to follow this call God had given me: Get back to writing. The thought of starting a blog professionally sounded ridiculous. I probably laughed at God multiple times. But it was that kind of nervous laugh, like I was secretly saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” There was no way I was going to quit my job so I could start something I really didn’t know much about. The one thing I did know was that most people use blogs as public diaries, and those trying to make a career out of it normally fail.
Christie: When Emily and I first reconnected, she wanted my advice on her current struggle: “is it ever right to quit my job to do the thing that I feel called to do?” I could only smile at the question, because precisely two years prior, God had asked me to do exactly that.
Emily: True, I had my own blog for a few years, but that was more of a chance to get out my creative juices in a way that felt somewhat productive and encouraging to the three people who read it. So when I say I felt in over my head with the thought of starting a website as my new job, I actually felt like I was downright stupid for walking into the deep end not knowing how to swim.
But then God said, “Start a blog with Christie,” and I knew He actually meant what He was pushing me toward, step-by-anxious-step. When I presented the idea to Christie, I took it as a test of whether or not this idea actually was from God. Not the most trusting move, laying a fleece before God. And I would be lying if I said that was the first time I had placed my fleece on the front lawn.
Christie: When she first mentioned the idea of a website to me, I knew right away that the timing was perfect. I was in the throes of composing a compilation of adventures after six months of travel with missionaries on horseback. Emily was doing the 9-5, on the verge of a marriage proposal, and had an itch to write. I had recently sensed this inner nudging toward writing on more of a regular basis on my blog, so when she first asked what I thought about doing this website with her, an instant peace swept over me.
Emily: We won’t bore you with the details of making business plans and learning the right tools to block spammers on WordPress, but there are a few details we can’t skip in order to help you understand how we’ve begun this crazy journey.
One detail is the funny name of To Unearth.
“When Emily first asked what I thought about doing this website with her, an instant peace swept over me.”
Christie: During a brainstorm session, I started quoting to Emily the opening monologue of Matthew Barber’s Enchanted April, a stage play in which she performed at our Alma Mater, Liberty University. It was through this show that Emily and I met at school. I mustered up my most credible English accent and delivered the opening line with dramatic poise.
“I was once told the story of a man who, while surveying the grounds of his home, dug his walking stick into the earth as a reminder of where he wished to one day plant an acacia tree.”
Emily burst into laughter. I continued, “One he could watch from his veranda, and lie under with his wife on warm summer afternoons, cooled in the shadow of its white flowers, and blanketed in their sweet scent.” Her laughter deepened into an elongated silence, incredulous that I ever had it all memorized.
“But!” I said abruptly, remaining in character and feeding into her hysterics. “When planting season came ‘round and he returned with a spade and an acacia sapling, the man was vexed.” I furrowed my brow, perplexed. “The stick he had left had taken root and begun to grow. It was nearly as tall as himself now with young, awkward branches and small clusters of frail new leaves. And this, on the very spot that was to be his acacia.”
Emily breathed again, laughter subsiding into a large grin and hanging on my every British word. I continued with thoughtful intensity, “The man buried his spade into the ground to unearth the strange thing… but stopped…” I lingered in pause. “For there, hidden among the leaves he spied a small blossom. It was acacia!” My eyes lit up, followed by Emily’s. “‘Enchantment’, some would say! Or ‘providence,’ perhaps. I supposed the only real certainty is that the fellow had lost a perfectly good walking stick. If that’s the part you choose to see. The rest is open to opinion.” (Barber, Matthew. Enchanted April. 1995)
After reeling over the ridiculousness of my memory, I narrowed in on that one phrase: “Hey, that’s a cool word: unearth. ‘…to unearth the strange thing.’”
Emily: The concept is easy to understand (hopefully). We want to dig up truth. But the name isn’t about picking up a spade and digging into your life, hoping we’ll shed light on some magnificent enigma with which you’re dealing. It reflects the idea that truth is right in front of us just like the earth is below our feet.
But we’re so used to this surface we walk on that we rarely think about the miracle of nature that lies below it. We don’t think how, with every step we take, the ground supports us. So it is with truth. We have become so used to the daily routine that we have forgotten what it looks like to pursue truth. We have grown numb with conveniences to the point of mistaking truth for coincidence.
Christie: I have been wrestling with this idea of “truth” most especially for several months now. It’s a word that I’ve heard all my life and thought that I knew exactly what it meant. I am finding, though, that there is always more to unearth about the pure meaning of anything. And I am also finding that this world is craving for the truth to be broken out of the dry, fallow ground that has hardened around what once was vibrant with meaning. “Truth” has become culturally one-dimensional, and I have noticed the stretch and expansion of its borders in my own heart as it violates all my presuppositions and bursts into multidimensions.
“We have become so used to the daily routine that we have forgotten what it looks like to pursue truth.”
Emily: Oswald Chambers, a man I love to quote in my writing because his words drip with wisdom, said it like this: “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”
Christie: And so here we are, combining our forces alongside of you to dig that spade deep into the cracked soil.
Emily: We are not trying to tell you something about your life that you don’t know. We simply want to unearth the truth that is a part of your routine, your normal, your ordinary. While many blogs and devotionals try to wrap truth in a 21st century, politically correct bow, Christie and I want to write truth the way God reveals it to us. We aren’t trying to dig up some extraordinary way of living that will give you the false impression of needing to accomplish exceptional things in this world.
Our purpose is to bring to light how you can be exceptional in the ordinary.
To read part two, Letter from the editors: To look at where we’re headed, subscribe to To Unearth. You’ll receive the letter in your inbox June 19 along with other freebies throughout the course of your subscription!