Why I Was Late for Church on Sunday

Imagine my excitement when on my way to church last Sunday I became engrossed in an interview on the radio that confirmed the wisdom of a concept I learned forty years ago that has helped me make sense of personal relationships and world events.

Some simplified examples of that concept:

Values of the dominant worldview (fear-based separation):

  • I’m the authority. I know best. Listen to me and do what I say.
  • I compete with you because power, performance, and winning are what matters.
  • Follow my rules or all hell will break loose.
  • You are only important if you are supporting me and doing it my way.
  • If something goes wrong, it’s your fault.

Values of a relational worldview (trust-based connection):

  • We each have gifts to offer and a perspective that may be helpful. Working together, we can find a better way.
  • I collaborate with you in the service of finding a workable solution.
  • People matter most. Rules can be changed to meet people’s needs and preserve connection.
  • To reach the most compassionate outcome, all voices are needed.
  • When I’m wrong, I admit it and participate in finding a better approach for all concerned.

WYSO Weekend host, Jess Mador, interviewed Doug Oplinger, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and forty-six-year veteran in the business. He related how the way reporters have been handling the opioid epidemic hasn’t solved the problem.

“We’ve been writing gruesome stories for years … 4000 have died in Ohio, 1000 in Southwest Ohio. Where’s the public outcry?”

Oplinger said he and other investigative reporters grew frustrated that people weren’t engaging in the conversation. So they joined forces and tried an experiment that evolved into a new approach and a project called “Your Voice Ohio: Journalism Driven by Ohioans, for Ohioans.”

You could hear the passion in Oplinger’s voice as he described what he finds exciting about this different approach … something he is devoting himself to in retirement.

As my excitement merged with his, my brain went off course. I missed my turn toward church, drove about a mile out of the way before I realized what I had done, made a U-turn, and retraced my steps.

I was thrilled to hear how changing their worldview and values led these journalists to change their behavior. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in their new approach to what had inspired me forty years ago.

Oplinger said, “News organizations are setting aside their competitive instincts…they are sharing resources, reporters, and stories to provide better information more often.” Instead of aligning themselves with politicians, they invite ordinary people to watch journalists doing their jobs and then cosponsor community meetings where reporters listen to the people. They explore together what is needed in order to find personal and community solutions.

As they sat with the people and listened, the news organizations were surprised to find that they needed a very different approach. In their redesigned coverage, they are changing the conversation to lift up the voices of the people. Instead of an emphasis on gruesome stories, the emphasis is on solutions and highlighting the stories of people who have successfully overcome their dependence on opioids.

I felt so proud of this Ohio initiative and hope news organizations nationally will learn from it. In my experience and that of many of my friends, we are weary of being bombarded with “gruesome” news about everything that is going wrong in the world.

We are concerned, we want to be informed, and we want to make a difference, but this bombardment leads to a sense of powerlessness that is not helpful. Having worked as a family therapist in the addictions field for over twenty years, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of this epidemic. And as a concerned citizen, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of the situation in our country and world today.

My friends and I are overjoyed with this emphasis on success stories and finding solutions that work.

It was worth missing the organ prelude on Sunday to learn about this innovative and creative initiative by Ohio journalists who are committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem! They are an inspiration and deserve a standing ovation!

If the opioid crisis has touched your life and/or is on your list of concerns, I encourage you to get involved in this creative, solution-oriented initiative.

Angels Among Us ~~ Barbara

Do you have a friend so trustworthy that you can safely share anything with them? Fortunately for me, Barbara showed up in my life in 1968 and filled the bill.

Barbara in 1990

When I met her, Barbara and her daughter worked in the church nursery caring for children so parents could attend worship. About three years later, she approached and said, “I would like to be friends with you.” We built a friendship that has lasted for forty-seven years.

Barbara appears in my memoir in 1999, late in the book.

“I couldn’t wait to tell Marvel and Barbara about the miracle.” Page 256 of A Long Awakening to Grace

It was somewhere around 2:30 a.m. and she was in Portland, Oregon facing similar circumstances to those I faced. I couldn’t wait until a decent hour to connect with her. She was grateful I called and wanted to hear every detail.

Even though she appears late in my book, Barbara was my constant companion throughout much of the story. She was the best kind of friend a person filled with shame about the circumstances in her life could hope for … a true angel. With her I didn’t need to hide. I could reveal all. Perhaps that is because she carried shame, too, so she understood.

A story that didn’t make it into the memoir illustrates the nature of Barbara’s friendship. She was open and willing to grow with me, a quality I highly value.

Our family had moved from Middletown to Dayton in late 1981, so Barbara and I met halfway for dinner regularly. We both held grievances against our husbands and part of our dinnertime conversation involved raking them over the coals.

Then, as I recount in the memoir chapter titled “Finding a Better Way,” in 1984 I entered a Living in Process training program where I learned about family roles and codependence and began working a twelve-step program of recovery for family members of alcoholics/addicts.

At one of our 1985 dinner meetings, Barbara began as usual going over her grievances. I squirmed for a bit and then said, “Barbara, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve learned that I’m a codependent and I’m going to twelve-step meetings to recover from it.”

She said, “Tell me more.”

After I explained to her what I had learned about myself and codependence, she said, “I’m a codependent, too. I’m going to start going to meetings, too.” Two years later she entered the Living in Process training.

Barbara learned not to harbor grievances. As passionate as she was in communicating the importance of our friendship, she could be equally as vehement about calling me on the carpet when I unintentionally did something that hurt her or when she thought I was wrong. I’m sure her husband can relate. Thankfully, her expressions of love far outweighed her confrontations. In fact, no one has shown their love for me as much as Barbara has.

Despite my discomfort at being confronted, I valued Barbara’s honesty and knowing where I stood with her. She cherished our friendship too much to cut me off or keep her distance. I could, but won’t in this post, write a whole essay about how much that means to me in a relationship. It is a major component of my ability to trust someone wholeheartedly, and I find it a rare attribute.

Linda & Barbara in 2013

An extraordinary woman, Barbara obtained her bachelor’s degree after rearing two children. A major corporation in Middletown hired her to be their communications director. Unemployment was high in our country in 1982 and she developed a program in her corporation to help those who were laid off. Her program received national attention and she was invited to the White House to accept an award for it from President Reagan.

Later she obtained a master’s in Creation Spirituality and developed a practice as a Reiki practitioner. I could go on and on about her remarkable accomplishments.

Barbara and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon about three years ago. Their move and her illness have robbed us of much of what we enjoyed for many years. I miss her everyday.

She would have been so happy for me with the publication of A Long Awakening to Grace and it is a huge loss for me not to be able to celebrate this milestone with her. There will always be a special place in my heart for Barbara.

Barbara and Linda in 2015 at Columbia River Gorge

Lost and Found

“Once I was lost and now I’m found.” ~from the Hymn, Amazing Grace

LOST

A common phenomenon for writers finishing a book is to experience a letdown. While being interviewed after publishing his latest espionage novel, John le Carré admitted to being depressed and that he always experiences this between projects.

My writer friend Susan J. Tweit who generously gave me a blurb for my memoir just sent her recent memoir, Bless the Birds, to her agent. When congratulated, she admitted, “I’m feeling both relieved and excited, as you can imagine, and also feeling a bit of the postpartum blues to not be carrying the story around inside me anymore.”

After the initial flurry of excitement about completing what a high school classmate referred to as “the achievement of my lifetime,” — writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace, I felt lost. I am familiar with that feeling. I’ve experienced it many times throughout my life when I’m in a period of transition. But this time it felt a bit different. I pondered the difference.

I wasn’t asking “What’s next?” as I had done during other transitions. Inept as I was at it and totally out of my element, I charged ahead doing what was logically next … marketing my book. Between dealing with the “pecking order” among writers (self-published authors frozen at the bottom) and in the social media world of changing algorithms, I grew increasingly overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, cranky and disgruntled…not the energy I wanted to bring to the process.

FOUND

I took a break from marketing last week and went to four movies. This quote attributed to P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman jumped out at me.

“I was trying to be someone I am not.”

  • I am not nor do I aspire to be “A New York Times Bestselling Author”
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to make a living as a writer
  • I did not write and publish this book to make money though if I do, the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation will benefit from it. I did not write and publish to be a big name in the literary field. I wrote it to be of help to others.
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to be a marketing whiz

And yet, I am fortunate to know and interact with New York Times Bestselling authors, authors who make a very good income writing,  authors who receive acclaim widely, and authors who are willing to master the world of technology to promote themselves. And I admire them and I compared myself to them and tried to follow their example.

And that is not who I am!

Who I am is:

  • Someone who writes as a spiritual practice … to understand myself better and to connect with the best version of who I was created to be. Writing my memoir gave me a whole new perspective on my life and was transforming. I share my writing when I think what I have to say would be helpful or enlightening to others.
  • Someone who loves to connect with other kindred spirits by reading spiritual literature, inspirational memoirs, historical fiction … along with books that inform me about cultural challenges we face.  Check out my Goodread’s Book Page and you will see.
  • Someone who likes to participate in groups who share my interest in spirituality, who are committed to growing, and who are interested in being informed and active in dealing with cultural challenges.
  • Someone who is energized by connecting with people. An interesting challenge for an introvert who loves to write … a solitary activity. Sharing with interested readers and receiving their comments in this blog is enormously satisfying for me.

WHAT BOLSTERED MY SPIRIT THIS WEEK

  • Receiving a hug from Pastor Larry who appears in my book and being told that my book was wonderful and he was moved by it.
  • Receiving a long embrace from Larry’s wife, Clara, and receiving expressions of empathy from both her and Larry.
  • Receiving a post on my timeline from a Reader’s Facebook group. One of their members, Debbie, a woman from Minnesota who I’ve never met, read my memoir, called it amazing, and said she loved it. I reached out to thank her and we had a few back and forth interactions. Then she gave me an Amazon review. Made my day!
  • Seeing another woman from that Facebook group decide to read my book because Debbie loved and recommended it. Thanking her, asking her to let me know what she thinks after she reads it, and receiving a response from her that she will do that.
  • Receiving a telephone call and reconnecting with an Imago colleague to tell me she is reading my book and wants to work with me to arrange a book signing in her city. We are having lunch together this week and I’m so excited to connect with her again.
  • Receiving a Facebook message from a high school classmate who read my book, had no idea what I had gone through, called me a strong and resilient woman. She wrote this while receiving chemotherapy. Later that week she wrote an Amazon review and said she was proud of me. Brought tears to my eyes.
  • A woman who I admire but don’t know well at church sharing with me that she had finished reading my memoir. She was silent for a moment. Then she said, “You know suffering, don’t you?” She went on to share her experience reading it and the most powerful part of the book for her. She wanted to know if I had given any talks about it. I haven’t, but I’d like to … once I discern the message that would be most helpful to others.
  • A friend from church telling me that she spent time on my website this week and found a lot of good stuff there. Makes me feel like the hard work I’ve been doing updating it is worthwhile.
  • Receiving fabulous e-mails from members of the Works-in-Progress group through the Story Circle Network.

Two of those e-mails were in response to my rant to them about my frustrations with marketing and social media and my decision to do only what is enjoyable and gratifying.

This group member who makes her living writing said, “There was a time when you were discouraged about the writing, and you persevered nonetheless. I think the hardest part of being an author/publisher is that you wear all the hats. But you’re right to do what you enjoy or at least can tolerate. What I read in your posts is that the human connection is what fuels you the most. … Those person-to-person connections may be the most effective form of marketing for you, and they’re clearly the most rewarding.” I felt really seen and understood.

And this prolific and award-winning author said, “Linda, rejoice in your ability to sell books one-to-one. Booksellers will tell you more books are sold that way and by word of mouth than all the advertising in the world.” That helps me feel better about my choice.

These e-mails came through this weekend and addressed the challenges all authors face. In comparing myself with this group of women writers, I unintentionally distanced myself from them. I didn’t feel worthy of belonging. It is nice to be back in connection:

One group member, a New York Times Bestselling Author said, “…it’s simply nonproductive to make comparisons between genres/audience communities. The writing universe (and now, the publishing universe) is broad enough to include all of us. We don’t have to live (or die) by others’ preferences and judgments. We can just set them aside, do our best work, and move forward on the paths we choose.”

And another is committed to literary citizenship — supporting her sister authors and, in my experience, does it extremely well. She has an Amazon Author Central Page that is quite impressive in my opinion but looked down upon by some who are “snooty” (not her word or mine but made by a writer who could be and thankfully isn’t).

This group member did a rant of her own when she said, “Sometimes when you hang with writers you forget about the non-writers who are simply dazzled by our output, not busy saying ‘Well that’s good but not quite enough yet.’ … I work to be as transparent as I can about my growth and progress as a writer. I want to celebrate every step of the journey. I am so glad to be able to do this here (in the WIP group) but also want to do it publicly both as joy and as encouragement. … What I am striving for is to do work that comes from my heart and that I can give to the world with the intention of reaching others. I can’t tell you the number of times my heart has been soothed or uplifted by ‘light fiction’ or, and this one grates at me when it is used in a diminishing way, ‘women’s fiction.’ I love a beautiful piece of “literary” work AND I love ‘light fiction’ and ‘women’s fiction’ and all the other genres that get sniffed at. Don’t even get me started on the folks dissing memoir as me-moir!  Those me-moirs have been life changing and life affirming for me, sometimes a hand out that’s pulled me out of the muck and given me hope.

I say “AMEN!” to that!! I am so fortunate to be a part of this stellar group of women writers and to be accepted and supported by them.

And I’m so fortunate to have had such a spirit bolstering week … even though I took a couple of days off.

And I’m so fortunate to have come home to and be back in connection with “myself.” I have much for which to be grateful!

THRIVE

A couple of years ago, Jude, one of my local writer friends, invited me to her solstice gathering. She had been holding these for many years. I was honored to be asked, and as an introvert, a little nervous about meeting and interacting with new people. I set an intention to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and reach out. On my half hour drive home, I patted myself on the back for my new behavior and for the connections I made.

At the winter solstice, Jude asks us to share our word for the year. My word for 2016 was “JOY.” For 2017, I chose the word “OPPORTUNITY.” My word for 2018 is “THRIVE.” Then she gives us a reminder to position in a prominent place in our home as a prompt to be on the lookout for evidence of our word materializing.

The major OPPORTUNITY that manifested for me in 2017 was being gifted by April with her expertise to publish A Long Awakening to Grace.

I choose THRIVE for 2018 because I have never been satisfied with calling myself a survivor. I want to do more in life than survive. I want to THRIVE. And now that I’ve accomplished what a high school classmate referred to as “the greatest achievement of my life,” what’s next? It will be hard to top 2017.

In November and over the holidays, while we have been experiencing frigid weather and I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out, I made use of this time with a major cleaning out the old. My office is reorganized and I have a pile of papers and records I no longer need (I tend to be a pack rat) waiting for the recycle bin. I already feel lighter and love how much more accessible my new office arrangement is.

It occurred to me that letting go of this old stuff is a part of making way for the new … the new that promises to fulfill my intention to THRIVE. I still have more I want to do, but I am well on my way. And seeing these actions as my commitment to THRIVING in 2018 increases my enthusiasm and curiosity. It will be interesting to see how THRIVE materializes despite whatever rejections and disappointments as a writer and author may come my way. (Rejections and disappointments come with the territory and we THRIVE when we keep plugging away and noticing the gifts we receive despite them.)

To celebrate these surprises and gifts, I’m going to record everyone of them as a celebration in my THRIVE journal.

If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your word for 2018 and how you are preparing to live into it?

My Return Visit to ImagoLand

Eight of us gathered in a circle in Marcia’s living room for a “Giving and Receiving Love” advanced Imago training.  I flinched, surprised at how startled I felt as our trainers, Marcia and Orli, vulnerably revealed their childhood coping mechanisms and the ways these sabotage their efforts to give and receive love. I had not entered ImagoLand for over five years because I retired as an Imago Relationship Therapist in 2012.

It was as though I was a fish who had been out of water for a long time. My initial shock at being plunged back into my natural habitat gave way as I relaxed and began swimming with the current.

In 2002, I learned something about the current in which I swim when I met Marianne Paulus and read her book, Four Paths to Union. Her first chapter titled “An Inner Urge” begins with a quote.

“Our hearts are restless until they come to rest in thee.” ~St. Augustine

Paulus writes about a deep spiritual impulse within all of us … a powerful force at work that motivates our choices and illuminates our differences from others. This inner urge reveals itself in ordinary ways through personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities. These are easily recognizable when we become familiar with the four broad Pathways we paddle through when we become conscious of our desire for Union with the Divine. She goes on to describe each pathway in detail … the Paths of …

  • Devotion
  • Action
  • Contemplation
  • Self-Mastery

While these Pathways are not mutually exclusive, in each person one urge tends to be stronger than others and determines our predominant way of interacting in the world. I like to think of it as the way The Divine created us and calls us to offer our gifts to the world. It makes sense to me to be faithful to our “true selves.” Life seems to work better that way, though not always smoothly.

World religions grew up around these various urges and cultures arose out of the religious orientations that emerged. Paulus hopes that by knowing this, we will find it easier to respect other people and their choices.

I share her hope because after reading about these four impulses, I realized that my strongest urges reside in the Path of Self-Mastery, one of two paths (the other being the Path of Contemplation) that are least understood and respected by the Western culture in which I live. I declared to myself in astonishment, “No wonder I feel so different. No wonder I don’t fit in.”

It is no surprise that my Self-Mastery inner urge led me to United Theological SeminaryLiving in Process, a twelve-step program, and Imago … all places where I would be challenged to evolve into my “true self.” Paulus says that our inner urge acts as a kind of homing device. In these settings, I could attend to my greatest challenge, changing myself.

Paulus says that our predominant urge is also our greatest opportunity, but because I was more focused on how I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t conscious of that until I wrote my memoir. In the writing, I needed to draw on the strengths found in the Path of Contemplation, a more cerebral path of using language to reflect deeply on the large questions of life. If one is determined to write with the depth and honesty requested of memoirists, and I was, exploring those large questions as they pertain to one’s own life is imperative … and for me exciting and enjoyable.

As I wrote about and reflected upon the meaning of my life, I discovered that my difficult circumstances had provided me with just the opportunity I needed to learn to give and receive love. As insurmountable obstacles presented themselves, I was forced to surrender to a power greater than myself. As I surrendered and received love from the Divine, my “true self” rose to the surface … the part of me who knows how to give love without conditions … even and especially to those who seemed responsible for throwing obstacles in my path. These are clearly important spiritual lessons. And without my predominant urge, I might never have learned them.

Those of us who follow the Path of Self-Mastery believe that mastering our own functioning will be our primary contribution to the world. And so it is, that my account of mastering myself forms the backbone of my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer the world. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer to those I love up close and personal than to master the parts of myself that sabotage my ability to give and receive love.

And so, after my initial shock at being plunged back into ImagoLand’s ocean, I relaxed and enjoyed the flow. All of us self-mastery devotees swam in a current matching our personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities … our natural habitat.

It felt good to be back. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Larry spoke for all of us when he said of our experience, “I got to be a part of what is best about humanity.”

In good “self-mastery form,” I’m grateful for the opportunity to be enlightened about the parts of myself that sabotage my capacity to give and receive love … to be given another opportunity to master myself. I couldn’t have had better trainers than Orli and Marcia. They shared from their hearts as well as their intellects. And swimming with Mike, Margaret, Suzie, Deborah, and Larry in ImagoLand’s ocean waters … well what can I say. It was just so much fun to be back in my natural habitat.

Orli (from Israel), Larry, and Marcia (from Michigan)

 

Angels Among Us ~~ Alice

Friends who have read my memoir and especially those who have accompanied me on my journey the past eight years of bringing my book into the world have been remarking about how just the right person has come along at every juncture in my life to take me to the next level. That, too, has amazed me. If I ever doubted that the Universe has my back, writing and publishing my memoir has dispelled any lingering uncertainty.

Shirley, the Angel in my November 24 post, and Alice, the Angel I am featuring today, were people from the church who extended love to me at times in my life when I needed to know that I am Divinely loved, that I am a person of worth, and that I am capable of much more than I realize. The Universe had plans for me I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

I’ll bet if you think about it, you can point to a person or persons from your childhood or youth who changed the trajectory of your life. That one person for me is Alice.

Alice

Alice moved to my hometown when I was about twelve to serve as the parish worker in our church. She appears in two places in my memoir because her influence in my early life was great.

Because she was new in town and didn’t know many people, she welcomed frequent visits from my friend Saundra and me. We always had fun at Alice’s apartment. My most precious memories, however, are the times when I was alone with Alice. I carried the following secret in my  heart related to Alice. When she read A Long Awakening to Grace, she was shocked to learn about it.

“I remember most how Alice made me feel. When we spent time alone, she treated me as someone important to her. She listened as though interested in what I thought and how I felt. She didn’t seem to consider it ‘weird’ talking about serious topics. She gave me the individual attention I received from no one else. I felt ‘at home’ with Alice and wished she could adopt me so I could live with her.” ~Page 27 of A Long Awakening to Grace

And then, when my high school graduation was nearing, Alice changed my life’s path. She asked me what I planned to do after graduation and recommended I go to college. I didn’t think I was smart enough, no one at home or school had suggested it, so I hadn’t given it any thought. I am forever grateful for her suggestion. And I’m grateful I was wise enough to follow it. Going to college opened opportunities that I would otherwise not have had … including meeting people who could take me to my next level of my development.

It took fifteen years and a second recommendation for me to heed her next suggestion. Alice was the first person to suggest I consider a career in the church.

“‘You should think about being a parish worker like me.’ … I tucked Alice’s recommendation in the back of my mind …” Page 11 of A Long Awakening to Grace

Alice’s suggestion led me to Bowling Green State University and a major in Business Education. I didn’t know myself well back then and chose a major that wasn’t a good fit for me. I took a circuitous path through United Theological Seminary, Living in Process and Imago Relationship Therapy trainings that revealed a counseling ministry as a better fit.

And now, after publishing my memoir to such high praise from readers, I wonder what life might have been like had I pursued creative writing. Even though I was selected by the faculty to be the editor of our high school newspaper, that was a possibility that never occurred to me. I knew no one and had never heard of anyone who had followed such a path.

It is not too late, however. What lights up my life these days is increasing my learning about the craft of writing. Despite my eighteen-year-old attitude that I wasn’t smart, thanks to Alice, I have emerged at seventy-five into a life-long learner. It is what makes my life meaningful.

“Conscious aging is about having meaningful goals for our elderhood that spring from our authentic selves and using the power of intention and inner work to make our vision a reality. It is about having the courage to aim high in an unconscious world.” ~Ron Pevny in Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter.

Surrounded by Angels

 

Back Row: Rosie, Teresa, Mary Lou, Carol, Joy, Ruth
Seated: Betts, Gloria, Meribeth
On the floor: Gay

A group of women who call themselves “The Angels” have been meeting every Monday morning for somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty years. This picture shows the group who met this week. A few had to miss this special gathering as we celebrated what Teresa has meant to us. She is moving to Michigan and we won’t be seeing her as regularly.

Ruth convenes us as she rings her Tibetan Meditation Tingsha Cymbal Bell. Sometimes bringing us to our opening meditation is a little like herding cats. Next we share gratitude’s around the circle, followed by a spirited discussion and a reading from Toby, an Angel who lives in Alabama. In closing, we hold hands and pray for others we know and those in the world we don’t know. We also include any woman who is or has ever been a part of “The Angels.” Once an Angel, always an Angel.

I joined The Angels almost four years ago, about half way through the process of writing my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. They took an immediate interest in my project and wanted regular reports about my progress. Toward the end, they became impatient. I often heard, “When are you going to get that thing published. I can’t wait to read it.”

The day came when I was actually ready to distribute the books to them. In my excitement about finally reaching this goal, I forgot to take a picture. So this week, I asked them to bring their copies for a group picture. I wanted to share with all of you these women who consistently cheered me on while I wrote and who continue to be generous with their praise.

I often hear, “You wrote a wonderful book” followed by what they loved about it … and best of all … what they love about me now that they have read about the shortcomings I had to overcome in order to triumph over the adversity in my life.

It is because of the support of these women and that of many others that I’ve had the courage to publish and ask others to read my memoir.  They believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself and continue to celebrate every milestone with me.

I am filled with gratitude and joy for the presence of all the angels in my life. And today I lift up my thanks for this particular group of angels. You bless me in so many ways.

Angels Among Us ~~ Shirley

We never know when we make a small gesture how it can change a person’s life. Shirley Santo smiled at me from the choir loft at church. She couldn’t have known that her smile meant the world to me. I was almost eight years old and painfully shy. For three years I had been holding onto a belief that there was something wrong with me. My belief was accompanied by a fear that I was unlikable and unlovable.

“When I spotted the older sister of a neighborhood playmate in the choir, I poked Mom’s arm and pointed, ‘Look, Mom, there’s Shirley, Fred’s sister.’

 

Shirley noticed and smiled at me. I scrunched close to Mom and buried my face in her arm. When I peeked out, Shirley wore a big grin. … Each week I anticipated the smile she never failed to flash. It spelled love.” Pages 25-26 in A Long Awakening to Grace

Then one day I arrived home from school to find Shirley visiting with my mother. She had come to ask me to be the flower girl in her wedding. I had never felt so special in my life.

Shirley Santo and Ralph Cole’s wedding held during the 1950s blizzard

An interesting aside: Shirley and Ralph were married in Sidney, Ohio, in the aftermath of the 1950 Thanksgiving blizzard, the worst in Ohio’s history. The snow was so deep (20-30 inches) and the winds so strong (40 miles per hour), cars couldn’t risk being on the road and confronting drifts as high as 25 feet in some areas … more like 5 feet in the Dayton area. I remember walking to the church for the rehearsal, my mother carrying my gown. As you can see from the picture, it was a beautiful wedding.

photos.medleyphoto.8403426 from The Dayton Daily News

As the first person to challenge my self-defeating belief, Shirley is my first Angel. If she is still alive, she would be in her late 80s or early 90s. My last contact with her was in 1980 just before my ordination. At that time, I was able to find her and let her know where the love she had extended to me thirty years previously had led. I wanted her to realize that she had always held a special place in my heart. I’m grateful that I was able to let her know before we lost touch with each other. I am no longer able to track her down.

Sixty-seven years later, during this season of Thanksgiving, I am eternally grateful for all the Angels in my life … and for today, I am particularly grateful for this very first one.

On Being Relational

David Letterman

“I’m here tonight because of hundreds, probably thousands of people who helped me.” ~Dave Letterman upon receiving the Mark Twain Prize for Humor.

When I heard Dave Letterman acknowledge that he was successful because a lot of people helped him get there, my admiration for him expanded. Not that I disliked him before. I’m just an “early-to-bed” kind of person and miss all the late night shows.

His words demonstrated to me that he is a “relational” guy. He named some of the people who helped him and acknowledged the talents of several who he believes deserves the Mark Twain Prize every bit as much if not more than he does. I liked that.

In the 1990’s I trained with Harville Hendrix. He and the woman to whom he is married, Helen LaKelly Hunt, co-developed Imago Relationship Therapy. I retired in 2012, but still value this community of therapists and their partners who devote their lives to improving their own relationships and helping others do the same.

Recently one of my friends and colleagues, Ani, told me that Harville no longer likes the word psychology because of its orientation toward individuality.  I agree with him because, in my opinion, we’ve gone too far with the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that is pulling our culture apart.

Click here for an interview with a linguist that gives the interesting origin of that phrase which started as an insult and has morphed into an admirable quality and cultural demand that is not serving us well.

Harville has coined a new word that I think is much needed in our times. His word is “RELATIONOLOGY.”

Harville Hendrix

It seems to me and many people whom I respect that our culture is based on an illusion of separation. No matter how it looks, we are not separate. We are one. And much of the loneliness and angst we experience in life comes from the emotional distance that results when we act out of a belief that we are separate.

Think about what means the most to those facing terminal illness and death…their loved ones…be that family or close friends who are like family. Trophies, awards, accolades, and material wealth mean little if we aren’t surrounded by those we love. Somehow, when our life is going well, we often forget what matters most.

I am receiving a lot of positive responses to my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. Some of them are beyond my wildest imaginings. I am being referred to as an amazing woman. Those are words I never expected to hear and I enjoy hearing them and am grateful to receive them.

However, I am keenly aware that whatever writing and publishing success I am experiencing…whatever growth has turned me into an amazing woman…I must attribute to Divine guidance and the many people who came into my life during my journey to grace as “God with skin on.” I call them angels.

My blog series, “Angels Among Us,” is to acknowledge those people. I have indeed been blessed. I have a lot of material to continue writing this series for a good long while.

Once I’ve acknowledged all the folks mentioned in my memoir, I have more angels to write about … those who taught me to write well, those who helped me revise my manuscript, those who gave me advance praise and blurbs, those who helped me with the task of publishing, those who helped design the cover, those who are currently mentoring me with marketing (something I am attempting to do from a relational paradigm) and those who are writing wonderful reviews. The list goes on and on. I am so blessed.

It is clear to me that A Long Awakening to Grace is not all my doing.

And so, I ask you, as you read about my angels, to reflect on your own. We all have them. If we look up from our cell phones and social media long enough, we might more easily recognize them. And I think we could all benefit from paying more attention … for taking time to appreciate who matters most in our lives.

Please join me in giving a hearty hip, hip, hooray for this new word in our vocabulary … a word with the potential for drawing our culture back to our spiritual roots. We are all one … interconnected … created to be relational beings. We have so much to learn about and so much to benefit from embracing …

RELATIONOLOGY

Have a Happy Thanksgiving with those who matter most to you.

Angels Among Us ~~ Rachel

Yesterday I did a favor for Rachel. She recently moved, is still feeling overwhelmed with organizing her new space, and I’m pretty good at organizing. It is the least I could do for this angel … a small repayment for her kindness to me during difficult times in my life.

Rachel

Rachel first appears in my memoir on page 176 in the chapter titled, “Daunted.” It was 1989 and I had just left my marriage of almost twenty-three years. It was moving day and Rachel noticed my daughter and me working hard all day carrying stuff into my new home. We were exhausted, and I had neglected to make plans for dinner.

“As we carted in another load, Rachel came by to welcome us to the neighborhood. She invited us to dinner at her house. … A single parent with two teenage daughters, Rachel lived two doors down. Her invitation felt like a good omen. I hoped a friendlier neighborhood with girls near her age living close would make my daughter more comfortable moving in with me.”

Then she appears ten years later on page 259 in the chapter titled, “Fire Walk.”  Rachel is more extroverted and fun-loving than I am, but our friendship survived my move away from the neighborhood where we first met.

I was even more exhausted and rattled in 1999 than I had been on moving day in 1989. I was in the midst of a crisis with my daughter. She needed appropriate clothes to wear to a funeral and I didn’t have the time or energy to take her shopping.

“Rachel appeared with a bag full of clothes she and her daughters no longer wore. In the bag was a nice dress and shoes for my daughter to wear to the funeral.” 

When Rachel arrived at my home with these clothes, she saw the state I was in. I had so much to do and couldn’t even think straight to get started. Rachel helped keep me focused for the tasks at hand and helped me accomplish them.

Rachel sees a need and jumps in to help. She is known for helping many others. When reminded of her generosity, she is surprised because she has forgotten all about it. That’s just the kind of friend she is.

Yesterday morning as we worked on organizing her kitchen, our conversation deepened as we both reflected on what I wrote in A Long Awakening to Grace. She is not the first friend to note, after reading all that I went through with my children, that they didn’t feel they had been there for me … had not been a good friend.

That has nothing to do with their friendship. When something came out in the open, friends responded, including Rachel. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to write this “Angels Among Us” series. My friends couldn’t know the extent of what I was dealing with because I mostly kept it to myself. When I needed to talk about my family struggles, I saved that for my support group meetings.

When I was with my friends, I wanted to enter fully into our social activities. I wanted and needed a break from family matters. So many friends, including Rachel, are now learning the details. What is meaningful to me is that my story seems to touch some of their own tender places and they now feel free to share with me. Our eyes moistened as Rachel and I bared our souls in her kitchen. And then we did what good friends do, we gave each other a big hug.

Thank you, Rachel, for being an angel in my life … in days long past and currently as well.

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