a memoir of loss and discovery
by Linda A. Marshall, M.Div.
Linda A. Marshall’s contemplative spirit and internal directive to grow and evolve served her well when life handed her one heart-wrenching circumstance after another. In the midst of an arduous search for the cause of her children’s perplexing challenges, mentors validate Linda’s worth, name her leadership gifts, and propose a surprising course of study that would allow her to share her talents more widely. Striving to follow their guidance, Linda continues her search for the cause of her children’s problems, discovers how family and cultural forces have influenced her choices, faces her emotional immaturity as a young wife and mother, and embarks on a path of change and spiritual growth. In A Long Awakening to Grace, Linda gives voice to difficult topics in a heart-felt, vulnerable and courageous manner. Her twenty-two year search culminates in a gift of grace and a diagnosis that explains her children’s puzzling behavior and their heart-breaking path. In the writing of her story, Linda’s perspective on her life totally changes. She emerges transformed as she awakens to her difficult life as the context for her spiritual journey and to her children as her most profound spiritual teachers.
Excerpts from A Long Awakening to Grace:
From Part I: Preparation
“Unaware I possessed inner wisdom that I needed to heed, I walked down the aisle and said ‘I do’ to another future that was not a good fit for me. Just as I had chosen a college major that didn’t suit me, now I chose a mate who wasn’t a good match. I didn’t know myself or the importance of choosing a path in alignment with my soul–one leading to well-being. I continued trying to make the best of my wrong turns.”
From Part II: Awakening
“Because anonymity is observed at twelve-step meetings, no one knew I was an ordained minister. I liked it that way. It helped me hide my embarrassment at the difficulty I had trusting the wisdom and guidance of a power greater than myself. I couldn’t reconcile my intellectual understanding of a compassionate spiritual presence with my one-damn-thing-after-another episodes with my children.
The depth of my difficulty revealed itself at a meeting focusing on the third step–We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. I was stunned by the sudden spasm of sobs that burst forth when it came my turn to share. All I could squeak out was, “I don’t believe God cares about me.” My prayers for my family seemed to go unanswered. I interpreted what seemed to be God’s silence as judgment and lack of care. I couldn’t make sense of how I could have been called to be an ordained minister while being judged for my personal life.
Years later, I realized that the God I experienced when I was in pain bore a striking resemblance to my mother–critical and disapproving. As a result, I turned God’s judgment in on myself and created a toxic cycle of self-reproach and suffering. All this tortuous thinking contaminated my relationship with God. Bringing my intellectual image into my everyday life at an emotional level was what ultimately transformed my relationship with The Divine and provided the key to lasting change.”
From Part III: Emerging
“I sank into a loveseat, leaned back, closed my eyes, and felt the exhaustion I had been carrying for weeks … for years really. Doubt and guilt lashed me with dark thoughts and condemning questions.
Was this my fault? Have I been such a bad mother? Did the atmosphere in our home produce this? … Is this punishment? Why are both our children following such self-destructive paths?
One more time, I faced the challenge of turning my will and my life over to a power greater than myself. Part of me resented having no other option. I leaned forward, shoulders hunched, head down, fingers twisted between my legs. … I straightened, looked up, stretched out my arms, turned my palms toward the heavens, and surrendered. ‘I turn it over to You.’
A deep calm descended on me as I experienced the serenity of full surrender. I took it in. With it came trust in my Higher Power to work our circumstances out for the best, even if I couldn’t see how. Curiosity about how the day would unfold accompanied the peace.
To my surprise, humor emerged. I chuckled and chided myself for the hold my controlling ways had over me, convincing me the world would fall apart if I didn’t orchestrate everything. ‘Things have to become pretty drastic for you to surrender, huh. An ordained minister you say you are? This is a major spiritual lesson, you know–surrendering.'”
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Sophia’s Table: Women’s Wisdom in Five Voices
Kathy Zamonski, Linda A. Marshall, Dodi Matheny Wozniak, Marty Davis Cottrill, Karen Ander Francis
In the account from the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom sets a table.
“Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity and live, walk in the way of insight.” ~Proverbs 9:5-6 NRSV
Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom, and is a feminine noun.
It is clear in the Proverbs passage that Wisdom is a woman who set a table and asked guests to join her. The table is an age-old gathering place where women traditionally have nourished and refreshed family and friends. It is often where we sit to share stories and solve problems over a cup of coffee or tea.
Sophia’s Table: Women’s Wisdom in Five Voices is a collaboration among five women participating in a contemplative writing group. We are five ordinary women with lives that hold the myriad joys and challenges comprising the human experience. All of us find writing to be central to leading healthy, balanced lives; to gaining fresh perspective; and to finding meaning and purpose. Each of us has a distinct voice, pitched and toned by her unique life experience.
Sophia invites people from the desert into the cool shade of her home…a metaphor for the soul–a numinous, refreshing place shaded from the glaring light and heat of the sun. At her table, we balance the exterior life of the mind with an interior life of the soul–stepping out of the bright heat of reason into the cool shade of intuition.
Like mellow wine, insight ferments in quiet reflection on our life experiences and emerges from profound knowing and trusting what we know. Insight is drawn from the deep well of inner stillness where we meet the Divine within us, the Source and Font of Life and Love, the very essence of who we are. Sophia bids us to discover and trust our own innate wisdom.
Praise for Sophia’s Table:
“Reading Sophia’s Table, you feel as if you’re talking with an old friend. Such deep sharing. Warm and insightful. It triggered some thinking for me, and made me look at my own life differently.” ~Cynthia R.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the quality of the writing in Sophia’s Table. Your writing is well up to professional standards.” ~D.B.
“Kudos to all of you. Sophia’s Table is awesome! It is truly remarkable the way you captured the human experience–as a daughter, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a survivor, a woman. I laughed. I cried. It moved me.” ~Deanna H.
Praise for Linda’s contribution to Sophia’s Table:
“I just spent a delightful early Sunday morning with you via Sophia’s Table. I’m touched by the vulnerability, the risk you take ‘in letting others into’ the hidden recesses. Thank you for your lifetime of unfolding.” ~Diana S.
“I’m in awe of how you’ve taken your experiences of personal growth and translated them into ways of relating to family and working with others.” ~Martha C.
“You are incredibly open and honest. I think so many mothers could relate to what you wrote but wouldn’t dare say it. I think as mothers we all have things we regret and just have to live with. I know I do. You are an inspiration to just own what is real.” ~Barb K.