Sunday Support #1 – Mandy Steward and the Secret Message Society
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When I finally decided to dedicate time to a website and blog, I knew that one thing that’s really important to me is supporting other artists and writers. I couldn’t see a better place to start than by telling you about my friend, Mandy Steward.
I first found out about Mandy when my therapist came running into her office with a little package, thrilled to bits to have gotten her preorder of Mandy’s book, Thrashing About with God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything. “You have to read this book,” she declared. “It’s exactly what you need. But you have to wait till I read it. You can have it next week.”
I read it in one sitting. Or rather, one session. I stuck it on top of my son’s stroller, read it on the bus, and stayed up long into the night to finish it.
One idea that Mandy brings up in get book is that of secret messages. I think this idea has evolved quite a bit for her in the years since she wrote Thrashing, but at the time she suggested that perhaps God speaks to us through the large and small things that stir us personally, and that if we simply open our eyes, we might find messages written on the walls of the world that were intended especially for us. (This is my paraphrase.)
Now Mandy has a created a club or a “society” as she calls it: the “Secret Message Society.” A group of subscribers to her monthly handmade zine that revolves around keeping our eyes peeled for secret messages in the world. One subscriber even facilitates a monthly postcard exchange based on the theme of that month’s zine. Being a part of the Secret Message Society has been a beautiful part of my year.
In late 2016, after stalking her art online for three years, I got brave enough to contact Mandy directly. I sent her an email telling her how much I love her book and asking her a bunch of nosy questions, and she politely set boundaries on what she was willing to disclose to a stranger. What was interesting and powerful for me was the realization that she set those boundaries based on what was best for her, not me. She emphasized that my answers won’t look like hers anyway, but it came down to Mandy knowing what was good for Mandy.
And over the last couple years of engaging with Mandy online here and there, and pestering her with emails, I’ve come to admire her firm choice not to people-please, but to be true to herself. That’s a really hard thing to do! It’s something I want in my own life, and I’m working actively on, because it is quite freeing. One time, I was telling her how excited I was that my dad called my work “art.” She was happy for me, but then she said something really important. Here’s how I received it: “When will you NOT need someone else’s validation that what you do is art? I hope for the day when you can extend that validation to yourself.”
Mandy helped me get to the point where I could call myself a writer, and yes, even an artist, simply by being herself boldly. So go check out her webpage or find her on Facebook. Mandy and her art (and her commitment to that art) have been a huge influence on my progress.