Growing up with a deep love of books, it was always such an overwhelming experience to meet and listen to an author in-person. I can remember authors of children’s books visiting my elementary school and being thrilled to wait in line in the school gym to get them to sign my copies of their books. Later on in life, I can recall the nervous energy I felt when Nicholas Sparks came to my college town to speak and sign books, or when my college roommate visited another campus and snagged me a signed copy of Jodi Picoult’s Salem Falls. All of these are wonderful memories that the book lover I am cherishes.
But, there is one specific author Meet & Greet that stands out in my mind. Not because I had to wait in line for hours to meet her or because she visited my college campus, but because of her message and authenticity.
In the fall of 2019, I attended an event, The Ladies Retreat, at a local Christian Camp that I have either been a camper or camp counselor at since I was five years old: Camp Calvary, located in the hills of Central Kentucky. At this annual event, there is always a keynote speaker who delivers the main message on Friday evenings and then leads workshops the following Saturday. At this particular Ladies Retreat, that speaker was Sarah Mae, author of the book, The Complicated Heart.
Just a few weeks ago the 2020 Ladies Retreat took place. It was still a wonderful event, but given the current circumstances, the event looked a bit different with women live-streaming the worship and message from remote locations instead of gathering together at Camp. While it was still amazing, it did make me reflect back on the retreat from the year prior and the experience of hearing from and meeting Sarah Mae.
Sarah shared her personal testimony at the retreat in front of hundreds of women who were complete strangers to her. She divulged some of the most intimate details of her life with us as a glimpse of what she reveals in her book, as well as to offer support to other women who may have gone through similar hardships.
Without giving away the content of her book (because it is so moving you need to read it for yourself!), the premise follows her strained relationship with her mother from childhood to adulthood. She details the emotional distraught she felt, how she recovered, advice from therapists, as well as her mother’s perspective. As the cover of her book reveals, her message is truly focused on “loving even when it hurts.” While every woman longs for a seamless relationship with their mother, that is not always the case. Nor is it so simple to totally cut-off a parent from your life if they have wronged you. It is this messy back-and-forth limbo that Sarah focuses on in her story: how to offer love and compassion, even if you have been truly wronged by those who are meant to protect you the most.
After hearing Sarah speak and reading her book myself, I would recommend it to anyone, whether you have a strained relationship with a parent or not. We all can struggle with showing love to those who have wronged us, but that is one of the hallmarks of a person who loves as Christ loves. As He commanded in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 44-45).
There were times when Sarah’s mother definitely seemed like her enemy, but in her book Sarah walks her reader through how she learned to love her mother in spite of the way she was treated. A message that people need to hear now more than ever.
When I met Sarah after her talk and she signed my copy of her book, she was radiating positivity and was genuinely so happy to share her story with us. She signed my book with a simple statement that I hope will be inspiration for you to go out and purchase your own copy of The Complicated Heart. She wrote the date (9/20/19), Psalm 40: 1-3, and left these words: “Light always finds a way in!” With such a positive message and uplifting spirit interwoven throughout her story, if you take the time to read it, there is no doubt light will pour from the pages and find a way into your life, too.