Brave On was a safe space for my heart to rest and to shift. Who knew there could be a place with (gasp) a bunch of Christian women that also carried the adjective “safe”?!
I entered this big Red Tent feeling battle weary. A cross-country move from the desert to the rainforest had left me aching with deep grief and lonely to my core. I could count on one hand the number of hugs I had received in the last two months. Beyond that, I have baggage about Christian women, and the spaces where they congregate. We are not talking about Southwest’s fly free with two, but some serious baggage here, sisters. Plus, I don’t like shopping. A thrift store maybe, if I have a need for something; but not a flair for fashion kind of joy in the hunt.
On day zero and counting, there was a reception in a mall. I nearly bolted. On day one, boutiques were set up in the foyer. And I was in a church, big church, with a foyer. I felt alone.
It felt safer to judge. From my tower, I could see how things should have been structured differently to create safe space. I analyzed the food, and the clear bias toward coffee. It was too white, too rich, too surface. The music seemed familiar to everyone but me. I felt safer, sort of; and alone.
On day two, cracks began to appear in my resolve. Becky Allender’s tenderness softened me. Determined to preserve my fragile sense of safety, I strengthened the fortress. I swore on the phone at lunch, eating alone; smiling between at a passer-by. I felt less safe and more alone.
After lunch I made a choice to dive in. The first speaker back was a Texan. I don’t have baggage around Texas; Michigan roots my clan on both sides. In spite of myself, I cracked wide open. Jen Hatmaker said: “Sometimes a season doesn’t have to be bad for it to be done. It’s just over.” I felt tears, hot and unbidden, coming up. Yes. So much yes. These 40 years in the desert, thirty investing in one precious distressed neighborhood…done. Then she began to talk about the itty bitty committee. There was a cleaned up version, but the Texas remix rang true: “the itty bitty bull-s@#t committee”. These are the voices in your head who have lots of opinions about that new choice or risk you are about to take.
The walls crumbled. With tears, I began to fill pages of my journal with all the things the itty bitties had to say about this move for our family, which flowed from my decision to apply to grad school. Often, the voices carried a face and a name of real people who freely offered opinions thinly veiled as questions or concerns. An aha came: when I am 56 I will be, God willing, done with grad school, and a doctorate in midwifery. In four years, I will be 56 if I don’t apply. Either way, I am 56.
The itty bitties ran screaming down the hall, tripping over each other in their haste to leave.
I looked around the table in the dim light at these women, strangers to me all but one. I felt a kinship with them.
Somehow, we had come to this place, from Colorado and Indiana, Michigan and New England, Texas and Oregon. And we were here.
And that was enough.
We had come into the Tent. As women. To rest, to be replenished, to honor our moons and our mysteries. And this crazy big church was bold enough to host. That seems like a good starting point to me.
The itty bitties were quiet, and my heart was soft and open. The words and music fell like rain to this parched desert-girl’s heart. And just like that, it was done. I said goodbye with warm hugs to women who had been strangers 24 hours before.
I got on the plane, bound not for PHX but this new “home” called PDX. As I walked out of the airport, I was greeted by cool moisture instead of the old familiar “open the oven door” blast of heat. And there was my family, with hugs from my kids and my soul mate.
And it was enough to make me say these bold words….
”it’s good to be home”.
“How was Brave On?” they asked.
“Really good, actually…”
Funny enough, the itty bitties agreed.
Joanna Wilder is a midwife, a mama, and a keeper of her-story. She has a passion for community development, and walking with women. She is learning how much she doesn’t know. Read more of her writing here.
Hi Joanna, I loved your piece. It felt so raw, so honest, and so inspiring. First of all, I’d like to say thank you for giving women choices about giving birth. Secondly, congratulations for pursuing a graduate degree in midwifery. And another high five for following your heart and attending the Brave On conference in spite of your reservations. I could feel your angst as I read your story. It is so hard to feel like the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit the puzzle. The Itty Bittys – loved that story as well – we all have those little yammering voices that tell us what we should do, can’t do, should have done, or should never do, etc. I’m glad you were able to listen to and hear your heart above their yammering inside your head. Thank you for writing this. And I wish you much success with your studies! Brave on!!
Barbara, thank you for those words of affirmation. Angst…yes! Such a good word.
Dear Joanna, I love your heart and your vulnerability. I think you are amazing to have moved and gone to Brave On. Talk about being brave! I loved meeting you and was so touched by you mentioning my name. I especially loved this paragraph: “It felt safer to judge. From my tower, I could see how things should have been structured differently to create safe space. I analyzed the food, and the clear bias toward coffee. It was too white, too rich, too surface. The music seemed familiar to everyone but me. I felt safer, sort of; and alone.”
I could have never gone alone and I love your bravery. AND!!!! A doctorate at 56!!! Who does this? Only the bravest and most hopeful people on the face of the earth. You won my heart. And…I forgot about the “itty bitty bull#^%+ committee!!! YES!! Brave On, Joanna! May you love your instructors and be energized by what you learn. I love knowing your not too far away! You are a lover of life and your anointing to bring life to be is palpable.
Thank you Becky. Your gentle words helped crack the shell. I am sitting with your book this fall, letting the stories and vulnerability stir images and longings. Thank you for these words of blessing here. So grateful you are offering your voice to the world. Brave lady!
Thank you Joanna for your transparent heart. What a brave, honest and kind woman you are!
Even though we were at the same table at Brave On I feel I missed the opportunity to connect with you more and for that I am truly sorry. We spoke briefly a few times, but I remember your smile, your quiet strength and then I remembered why I knew your name. YOU write for Red Tent. I was so happy to meet you and your words have touched me in the past.
I am so glad that you have followed your desire to attain your doctorate. How wonderfully amazing! Your kindness shined through so brightly at Brave On. So I cannot even imagine how you touch the lives of the women you work with.
Your statement of ” Often, the voices carried a face and a name of real people who freely offered opinions thinly veiled as questions or concerns” hit so close to home for me.
Thank you for your words and I hope you and your family are blessed beyond measure in your new home, you pursuing your career path and for you to be true to who you are.
I loved that you were at my table. I wish we could have slipped away and talked more over tea. Thank you for these words.
It was so good to see you at Brave On! Thank you for writing with such honesty and vulnerability💗MJ
You taught me about that by your bold example. And your courage keeps inviting me deeper into my story. Thank you for talking