On a Sunday morning over a week ago, I sang in the hymns and worship choruses in church and felt uplifted and refreshed in my spirit. An hour later, I stood in my kitchen trembling with PTSD. I had only been looking for something healthy to eat when a cluster of memories whispered to me, suddenly triggering sadness for the past and fear of the future.
My first impulsive thought was to find a box of donuts and eat every one of them. But I didn't. I had no donuts. I didn't even have any chocolate. And anyway, I knew that sugar would be an ineffective escape from anxiety. Instead, I needed a way to fully face and then safely process my feelings. So first I ate a little chicken salad on whole wheat and tried to breathe. I managed to pull myself together a little for the moment.
Driving my son to his friend's house a little later, the overwhelming feelings welled up again into quiet tears. My son turned to me with a questioning look, laid a warm hand on my arm, and offered words of comfort before we arrived.
Alone again in my van, I sobbed. I could not go home just yet. Mama needed some time to herself to clear her head. Mama had a Barnes & Noble coupon. Mama was going to the bookstore.
I'm flying to Switzerland and France with one of my adult daughters soon (she's a grad student presenting a paper at a mental health conference), so my first stop in Barnes & Noble was the travel section. I already had tourist guide books, but I picked out a tiny French phrase book to help me on my adventures. The very thought of our upcoming trip brought joy to my heart.
Then I wandered around the Christian inspiration section and browsed through several books. Maybe one could help me focus my thoughts and soothe my soul. This one here looked interesting, right where I was at in life. I could have bought it then, but didn't. I wanted to keep looking. At least I snapped a picture of it on the floor for future reference. (You can click on the title below to see my affiliate link at Christian Book Distributors.)
Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She Is Both Too Much and Not Enough by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan
Next I went to the bargain section and found another cheaper book to buy on the same general topic as Wild and Free. Reading that one later at home, I wasn't impressed. I knew I should have spent the extra money and bought Wild and Free instead. More on this later! Stick with me to the end here, OK?
My final stop in the bookstore was the huge magazine section that had hundreds of different titles. I decided to try a little personality experiment. I walked around and took note of what appealed to me. Sports? No way. Cars? Guns? Fishing? Nope. Fashion? Celebrities? Nah. Gourmet cooking? Not so much. These just aren't me.
Who am I?
I am a Christian. A mother of 10. A nurturer. A reflective thinker. A blogger. A poet. A longtime home school mom. An artist. A nature photographer. A beauty lover. A home creator. A penny pincher. A peacemaker. An advocate/activist for women's and children's justice issues. An adventurous soul. A wanna be world traveler. Don't box me in. I'm WILD AND FREE. That's all part of how God wired me.
So what magazines there reflected these facets of who I am? These are a few of the dozen I actually picked up to look through.
Artful Blogging: I blog. I love art. I try to make my online space attractive with pretty photos. Yet words and ideas are the main focus of my blogs. I put it back, along with another one on blogging as a business. Maybe in the future. Not now.
Home: Why yes, I love my home. You probably know from reading this blog that I'm always puttering around trying to make my house prettier and more practical. Yet this magazine was full of complicated projects that didn't interest me and that I would never get around to doing. I put it back too, along with some other homey magazines.
Womankind: Hmmm. I love being a woman. I want to see women empowered for life in the real world. This one had an intellectual flavor and featured women around the globe. I figured it could be very enlightening for me to broaden my perspective. I nearly bought it. I looked at the price tag. I put it back.
Hey, most of these magazines are pretty expensive. For $10-$20, I'd usually just buy a book instead.
I did buy this one magazine - life:beautiful. I've read a few issues of it before. It's Christian. It's pretty. It's got a variety of articles on inspiration, health, recipes, home decorating, crafts, and community service ideas. And it's only $5. I brought it home and enjoyed it. I'll pass it along to a friend when I'm done with it. Let's spread the joy, eh?
After over an hour at the bookstore nourishing and tending my soul, I had settled back into peacefulness and hope, unshackled from my sadness and fear. My mind was stimulated to think of bolder solutions. I could breathe and think and embrace my life again.
But this story isn't over. It isn't just about me.
It's about all of us women.
It's about being WILD AND FREE.
I mentioned the book to my oldest daughter, a busy working mother of four. She decided to order it for my birthday. It arrived last night, and I snatched it from the mailbox just as I was leaving to take a teen to a sports physical. I flipped through it in the doctor's office and read several pages that night at home. Yep, right up my alley. I could really use this book in this season of my weird life.
On a whim, I posted a photo and synopsis of it on Facebook.
On a whim, a local friend suggested getting some ladies together at her house for a study group on it.
Then another friend across the country wanted in on the fun, so on another whim, I mentioned the possibility of an online study in a private Facebook group. A friend who had moved to Japan then quickly jumped on board.
A day later, we now have eight members of the group with more still considering the opportunity. We're in the "getting to know you" stage now, and we'll start our actual study on September 24 when everyone has their book.
These are precious Christian women who, like me, have often been made to feel like they are both too much and not enough. Most of them don't know each other at all. We're each in unique circumstances, but each of us has perspective, comfort, and good cheer to offer to one another. We want to be set free from unrealistic expectations and legalistic assumptions that Christian women so often face. We want to move beyond the hurtful memories and hindering habits that hold us back. We want to venture into the vast wildness of our faith, to be bold enough to step forth into all that God has for us as his liberated and empowered daughters.
This isn't about me. It's not even about us as a group. It's about being all that God has called us to be so we can reach out with healed hearts and healing hands to a world that is hurting like never before. Blessed to be a blessing.
I can't wait!
P.S. We still have room for a few more women to join our group. If you are interested, message me on Facebook.
- The Puritans, The Quakers, and Little Old Me (Reflections on A Measure of Light)
- Women's Voices Rising
- Moving on from Broken - My Church and Life Transition Story
- For All the Faithful Women (Strength in Hymn)
- Wonderful Words of Life (Strength in Hymn)
- Pilgrimage and Jubilee
- Lift Up Your Head and Laugh
- Your Kindness Gave Me Courage
- "It Became to Me a Dark Thing" (A Poem)
- The Holy Wild
- Wisdom from Letters of Direction by Abbé de Tourville
- Beauty for the Soul at the Morse Museum