The Education of
Nancy Ann Mathys Thurston
School by Osmosis
Sue Mathys’ Backyard Art School, 1957–1986
My mother, Sue Tipps Mathys, was creative in multiple medias—woodcut, words, silk screen, pantyhose rug making, celluclay, watercolor, acrylics, oil, fabric.
Today I play with words, people, collage, leadership, altar building, organization building, ritual creation … Do I really wear my mother's "jeans"? You betcha!
In the Box Public Schools
Abilene and Midland Texas, grades 1–12, 1960–1972
I learned my A, B, Cs and math, how to play the viola and discovered the mysteries of the earth and plants. I struggled through chemistry. I delighted in writing and reading.
I also was well schooled in sitting quietly, coloring within the lines and following the rules. I remained blind to segregation for my first eight years of schooling, then didn’t change any friendships or perspectives during the remaining four years of integration. I was taught history exclusively from the perspective of white, male historians and was oblivious to all that was missing, misleading or just plain untrue.
The Universities: Trinity and University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
BS in Physical Therapy, 1972–1976
If you overlook little things like complete financial dependence and a limited and skewed-by-culture view of myself as a female, I was a free woman when I left home for Trinity University. Between the complexities of the college social scene, I thrived in the intellectual stimulation of the university. I pursued biology as a stepping stone to physical therapy, my profession for fifteen years.
Wedded Bliss, 1967–present
What can I say? We met in 8th grade over a viola music stand and had our first date in 1969. Two weeks after I graduated from college (1976), we married. Neither Howard nor I would be who we are today without each other. Long term marriage may not be the easiest classroom, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Connection to Spirit and Soul, For as long as I can remember—present
For generations, my family has included faithful Church goers. Christianity was and is the faith tradition in which I stand. However, I’ve struggled to contain my spiritual journey inside one church or a traditional understanding of Christianity. Spirit continues to call me to the ever-expanding edge of faith. I’ve taught, learned, preached, organized. Church leaders have often struggled to know what to do with me—a theologically educated Spirit-woman, highly committed non-clergy person.
Mothering Paul (born in 1982) and Laura (born in 1986) has, and continues to be, one of the most powerful educational experiences of my life—loving, letting go, hanging in there, delighting .... There aren't enough words for the degrees I have earned through mothering and, in 2018, am earning another though grandmothering Daniel.
Master's degree, Physical Therapy, 1983–1986
I thought I wanted to teach physical therapy, and this degree was a step in that direction. But while I was at Stanford, my life's work took an unexpected turn. Many of my educational experiences listed below were seeds planted (outside the classroom) during my time at Stanford.
Ministry of Money/Journey Into Freedom/Harvest Time/Wisdom & Money
Aligning money with faith in a global world, 1984–present
Through two workshops and reading and rereading their newsletters, Church of the Savior’s Ministry of Money awakened my heart to the powerful interconnection between faith with every aspect of my daily life, including my money. Little did I know that this work would lead me out of physical therapy and into “Big Topic” work. All four of these ministries, including Wisdom & Money today, flowed from this “grandparent” organization.
Be Present, Inc.
Life-changing Practice and Community, 2002-present
I went to my first Be Present conference because I realized I had no idea how to navigate or how to participate as a white, wealthy woman—places of cultural privilege—in the midst of a cross-class Bible study class that I’d called together and was leading. Should I shut up and defer to those with less cultural privilege? I had no idea how to be in alignment with my values in the midst of such diversity. Be Present, Inc. showed me the way.
Be Present’s work began in 1983 with Black Women and now includes everyone. Each of us is encouraged to bring our whole selves to all of life, to work together collaboratively, and to take responsibility for aligning behavior with our personal and shared values. That level of partnership, strong enough to sustain relationships and be effective in our work—including navigating moments where race, class, gender, power or any of the other Big Topics crash into the room—was the practice I’d been longing for.
I am chair of the Vision-Based Social Change Fund Development Team to align philanthropy with equity, believing that philanthropy can take the lead in the movement toward justice.
Words on the Page University
Musing through Writing, 2004 (Blossoming when I turned 50)–present
I write about things I care about, from my life to Spirit to the Big Topics. When I set out to write Big Topics at Midnight, I knew that since I was exploring Big Topic diversity, I also needed be use creative diversity. As a result, my book includes words, photos and drawings, personal memoir, and fictionalized memoirs: my ancestors, a speaking moon, a Texas-sized and spirited Hectate, and my mythic self as the Eight-eyed Steam Girl in her Little Red Boat.
School of Womanly Arts
Full Powered Womanhood, 2005–present
I was born into a family and culture that nurtured my intellectual and organizational skills. I learned art from Mom, but for most aspects of my life, logic and reason reigned supreme. Those skills were needed for writing Big Topics at Midnight ... and for living my life ... but they weren't enough. I needed to access my own feminine wisdom too.
I learned to listen to my intuition, my body and the earth (including working with essential oils, vibrational essences and crystals). My more feminine nature has blossomed into one important part of my full intelligence.
Community Wholeness Venture
Standing in the Gap, 2005- present
My friendship with Alease Bess and the ministry she birthed—Community Wholeness Venture—has woven its way into my book. This includes the ancestral pilgrimage that the two of us took back to the land that once held my family’s North Carolina Plantation and was near the land where her family was enslaved. We also dance with money, spirit, discernment and friendship. She invited me to "stand in the gap" with her—those divisions that cut through our world—and my life has never been the same.
Life is an excellent classroom for the curious student.Drawing by Khara Scott-Bey from Big Topics at Midnight