Today I’m delighted to share this space with my friend, Melanie, who is one of my major writing inspirations.
Although I was initially intimidated by her — she’s a real writer, after all, has authored several books, and is an award-winning professor of writing at a university — I soon learned that Melanie is also an encourager, a kindness monger, a humble advocate and mentor, and a loyal friend. Now Melanie has released her latest book, my favorite so far, and I think you’ll see immediately why I’m sharing it (and her) with you. It’s titled Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else. For those of us who grew up in conservative Evangelical Christian culture and have felt enormous pressure to conform in order to fit in — for those of us who have desperately longed to be wildly and truly ourselves with all our magic and mess, as though that is who we were created to be all along — this book is a life-giver and a game changer. Vulnerable, funny, heart-wrenching, and deeply true, Melanie shows us the way to discover that we’re already worthy of love exactly as we are. Which is what I hope we do here every day.
I asked Melanie to write a guest post, which I offer below, AND we’re also doing a giveaway of Worthy. Leave a comment here on the blog post, and you’ll be entered to win. (But also go buy it… you’ll be glad you did… and you can always give it to a friend if you win.) I wrote a post not long ago about my own sense of vulnerability at the retreats we offer at the Oregon Coast, and Melanie picks up the theme for us below…
With much love,
Last week, when I took my dog Nellie to a new-to-us veterinarian, I noticed an unlit candle at the front desk, with a sign that said something like “If this candle is lit, please be quiet and respectful, as someone is saying good-bye to a beloved companion.” The candle and sign slayed me, and I cried right there in the vet office. And then at home. And several times since, telling people about the candle, the sign, the thoughtfulness of it all.
Something about middle age has made me weepy as hell. Part of this may well be genetic, and part might be because a lot of people I love are going through really hard things. And part of it is totally inexplicable—like, when my dad texts me cute videos of dogs doing cute things, or when my own cute dog needs to see her doctor, and I find myself weeping in the vet lobby.
What else can I do, but admit that I’m a middle-aged woman who cries in vet offices whilst holding the leash of a healthy dog? And cries at movie trailers, home renovation shows on TV, and the overnight (and sometimes short-lived) maturity of her two teen sons?
Then there was that time at the Magic in the Mess writing retreat, two years ago, when I was leading a session and started crying, so much so that no one could probably understand what I was saying. We were talking about something—vulnerability in writing, maybe—and I shared about an article I’d recently published in Christianity Today, one that had gone viral(ish), but that had narrated a childhood experience that was deeply painful for me. And, given my tears, apparently still was.
The cool thing about the Magic in the Mess writing retreat is that it’s okay to cry. Heck, if the facilitator can cry at the retreat, then anyone can, right?
The other cool thing is that the article in Christianity Today, alongside some of my other published work, opened the doors for a book contract, which opened more doors for my most-recent book to be published last week. Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else is part personal narrative, part cultural critique, and all vulnerability, as it discusses what it means to hear, over and over again, that you are not worthy: of acceptance, of community, of inclusion, of love.
In one way or another, we all hear and internalize those messages of unworthiness, and we spend our lifetimes seeking validation for who we are, not always recognizing that we are inherently worthy, and that nothing we do changes that inherent worthiness. Also, because I am a believer, I write about how God’s love for all of us is unconditional, despite what the church says about who deserves inclusion and who does not.
So I spent about nine months writing that book, in bits and pieces, as I continued teaching university writing classes and trying to survive my sons’ teen years. And then, I spent another year revising what I’d written, working with the publisher to create a marketing plan, and checking and rechecking the minutia of my manuscript.
I cried a bunch then, too, because deadlines seemed overwhelming, and my stories a little too raw to relive, and (okay, I’ll admit it) once or twice because I wrote a cool sentence. The writing process can be all that and more sometimes.
Last week, the book was published, and my community came out to celebrate my accomplishment. One of my closest friends threw an awesome launch party, because she has mad skills for that kind of thing, and the loving willingness to share her gifts with me. While I’ve panicked about whether people would come to my party, and whether I’m even worthy of celebration or attention (oh, the irony in wondering if I’m worthy to have a Worthy book launch party!), I’ve mostly been grateful for all the people who have been in my life, helping me become the person God created me to be. I’ve cried tears of gratitude then, too.
The Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat is one place I’ve found supportive community in the last few years. The other people on the retreat staff are part of my community already, and they work hard to make sure that everyone at the retreat feels welcomed, supported, and encouraged: in writing, and in life. We’ve been holding these retreats for three years now, and at each one, people have found the loving community that lets them know they are worthy, just as they are. The relationships I’ve made there, and will continue to make, will last a lifetime, I’m sure.
So tell me, what has made you inexplicably cry lately? Post in the comments below, and you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else.
(We still have two spots left for the next retreat, May 3-6, where we will explore together the power of story to express our amazingly unique, wonderful selves. Consider joining us! I imagine there will be crying, maybe even by me. Because I am a weepy middle-aged woman, yes, but I’m also so grateful to be retreating in a beautiful setting, with beautiful people, writing beautiful things.)
Melanie Springer Mock is Professor of English at George Fox University, Newberg. She is the author or co-author of five books, including most recently Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else (Herald Press, April 2018). Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Nation, Christian Feminism Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Christianity Today, and Mennonite World Review, among other places. She lives in Dundee, Ore., with her husband and two sons. In her free time, she likes to run, take naps, and watch reality television. Feel free to join her author’s Facebook page here!