Lost and Found

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


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.


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.


  • 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!

The Plot Sisters — Part II

In April 2014, I wrote about The Plot Sisters, a vibrant group of five Dayton area writers who I first met in Katrina Kittle’s Character Development class.

Traci Ison, Cindy Cremeans, Christina Consolina, Jennifer Harper Messaros, Ruthanne Templeton Kain (not pictured)

They celebrated with me after I successfully pitched to a New York agent. I was thanked for a “well-crafted pitch, the agent noted that my story has a compelling narrative arc, and she asked me to send her a proposal … after I built my platform (a large enough number of followers for a New York agent to actually represent me.)

Christina pointed out that Dayton has a lot of good writers and we support each other. She said, “We can be part of your platform.” Her words were music to my ears. And she didn’t disappoint. She agreed to be one of my beta readers and gave me valuable feedback that strengthened my memoir.

Even though I didn’t build a large enough platform to interest a New York agent in representing me and my publishing path went in a different direction, that hasn’t stopped the Plot Sisters from supporting me. They invited me to be their guest at their December 21 meeting. And do they ever know how to treat their guests.

Jennifer Harper Messaros, Jude Walsh, Cindy Cremeans, Ruthann Templeton Kain, Christina Consolino, Traci Ison (via FaceTime), and me

Some changes have occurred for The Plot Sisters. Traci moved to Oklahoma, but continues to attend their meetings via FaceTime. And Jude Walsh has joined their ranks. Because writing is a solitary activity and can be discouraging as what we have poured our heart and soul into receives rejections, having a support system is vital. I’m grateful for my connection with these wonderful women.

After sharing with me a little about the state of their writing, we launched into a spirited discussion about A Long Awakening to Grace, my writing style and the narrative arc. They noted the humility with which I told my story and how that draws the reader in. They wanted to hear all about my decision to self-publish and we discussed the pros and cons of that publishing path. They inquired as to what I’ll be writing next and had some great suggestions.

Because this meeting occurred on the eve of winter solstice, they brought goodies to share with each other and included me in the sharing. I was thrilled. But then they surprised me with a gift bag. I pulled out a lovely box of notecards adorned with butterflies. What a lovely gift.

And then Jude said, “There’s a little something else in the bottom of the bag.”

I rummaged through tissue paper and pulled out a velvet jewelry box. My eyes widened as I opened the box to find a beautiful butterfly necklace decorated with Black Hills gold. They couldn’t have known how significant receiving this gift was.

When I was twelve, I spotted a birthstone ring in the window of the local jewelry store. It was mounted in Black Hills gold. I fell in love with it and was thrilled when my grandmothers joined together in gifting me with it on the occasion of my confirmation.

The mounting wore away as the years went on. My dad wanted to place it in a new mounting. I protested. Because I loved the uniqueness of that mounting so much, he refreshed it instead. It continues to be one of  my most important treasures to this day.

And now, thanks to the generosity of The Plot Sisters, I have a matching necklace. It is already one of my favorite treasures … a lovely reminder of the importance of supporting each other as writers and as women. You all are the best and I am blessed by knowing you and being known by you.

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 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.

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 …


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 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.

Another Welcome Gift of Grace

In my last blog post, I wrote: “For many years as an adult, I hid. I cut myself off from old friends who would have wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t want to tell them.”

When our family moved from Middletown to Kettering, OH in the early 80s, we left behind a whole group of tight-knit church friends. I didn’t include in my memoir the story of the house church some of us founded, a most meaningful experience for us. But that is another story for another time.

This week, I reconnected with one significant friend from my past, LaVerne, my daughter’s first piano teacher. LaVerne, her husband Dick, and their three children Dale, Bruce, and Sandra were active members of The Church of the Continuing Creation, our house church.

After her husband died, LaVerne moved to Houston, TX, to be near her daughter. My memoir brought us back together.


LaVerne and I have been friends on Facebook for awhile, but we hadn’t talked in several years except for a visit I made to her shortly before she moved to Houston. I was still in the process of writing A Long Awakening to Grace. I trusted LaVerne to give me honest feedback about how she experienced me in my relationship with my then husband. She had many opportunities to observe us in the 70s. I wanted to be as candid as possible about my part in our relationship not working.

But because some of what I experienced with my children was still too painful to talk about, I didn’t share much with her about that part of the story. She learned about it through reading my memoir.

It was important to me that someone significant to me from my past know my truth. In fact, a Facebook message I received from another member of the house church when my memoir was first published brought me to tears. Karen was a teenager in the house church and her mother, Wapella, was one of my dearest friends. Unfortunately, Wapella died before my memoir was published. Karen said:

“Linda, I read your book this weekend and was very moved. I smiled at the memories of people from our past and shed a few tears during certain passages. Thank you for sharing your insight and pain.”

When I knew LaVerne, also one of my closest friends, wanted to read my book, I asked her to give me honest feedback after she finished reading.  And thankfully she called me Sunday evening instead of sending a text. We talked for two hours.

“Through memoir people get to know us, the inner details they never knew. Glad you rekindled your relationship!” Linda Joy Myers, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and one of my teachers.

Not only did LaVerne not know the inner details of my life, she knew little of the outer details. She seemed to hardly know how to respond. She just kept saying “Wow!” She also told me that she talked with her children about reading my book, telling them, “I lost touch with Linda a long time ago and her life just kept getting worse.” She wondered how I am “still standing.”

As Linda Joy, author of two memoirs, Don’t Call Me Mother and Song of the Plains, and several books on writing memoir, knows … it is the inner details that most interest friends.

Most of the conversation with LaVerne centered around the deep, inner details of our lives. She didn’t seem to recognize her musical talents as gifts that are every bit as spiritual as my contemplative writing and involvement in groups that delve deep into soul. But by the end of our conversation, she seemed pleased to appreciate that fact at a deeper level.

LaVerne is an extrovert with a great sense of humor. She finds people fascinating and loves to interact, often initiating contact through humor. People enjoy and trust her almost immediately. That is a gift I wish I had. While I find people as intriguing as she does, I have a much more difficult time initiating conversation.

And, now that, in LaVerne’s words,  “…we broke the barrier we’ll talk often to check up on each other.” Before we ended the call, we reaffirmed our friendship and love for each other. What a blessing. Another gift of grace that has come as a result of publishing A Long Awakening to Grace. I am once more filled with gratitude.


Unexpected and Continuing Gifts of Grace

People often ask memoirists why we write the story of our life.  Writing is for me a spiritual practice — an exploration of the deepest terrain of my soul. I felt compelled to write my story. In the beginning stages, I couldn’t have told you why.

In my studies on the art of writing memoir, I learned of the importance of writing honestly about our shortcomings … of not glossing over our flaws and failings. I was determined to be as honest as possible. That meant facing head on a fear I had lived with from a young age … the fear that there was something wrong with me that made me unlikable and unlovable. You may remember that I kept Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, in the book cubby above my writing desk.

At the end of eight years of writing A Long Awakening to Grace, I received a whole new perspective … my life finally made sense. The writing proved to be healing and transforming … an unexpected and welcome gift of grace.

Publishing what I wrote was another matter. I needed to let go of a coping mechanism I had used since childhood to avoid criticism … being quiet and invisible.

For many years as an adult, I hid. I cut myself off from old friends who would have wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t want to tell them.

Except for my twelve-step support system where it was safe to be open and vulnerable, I lived a double life. I avoided people and activities where I might need to reveal my life beyond the superficial. In my professional associations, I didn’t talk about the nitty gritty details of my personal life, even with colleagues I trusted.

Publishing my memoir was a big deal. In exposing my flaws and shortcomings to my readers, I risked the possibility of actualizing my childhood fear of being judged unlikable and unlovable. My editors even prepared me for such a possibility.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” ~Brene Brown


The truth of Brene Brown‘s words revealed itself in these comments from readers:

“…it took courage to be so open and vulnerable.”

“…your honesty and vulnerability shown through … You are a true hero in my eyes.”

“Your willingness to be vulnerable and open about your challenges and struggles and self-criticism leave me in awe.”

If there are readers out there judging me, they are keeping quiet. If and when judgment comes, these voices will override them:

“You memories have given me hope I can survive the past two devastating years.”

“…your sharing has given me strength and courage. …your brave vulnerability has been healing for me and I am extremely grateful.”

“Your story confronted me and gave me hope.”

“Your book will bless many people.”


More words of wisdom from Brene Brown:

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world around us a little braver.” Brene Brown

And then last week, an awareness began to float to the surface of my consciousness. I’ve put it all out there … my worst stuff … for the world to see. I no longer need to hide. I’m truly free … another unexpected and welcome gift of grace.

Angels Among Us ~~ Phyllis

“A tall stately woman in her late fifties, Phyllis’s presence made an impression. Soft white curls framed her face. Her dark, deep-set eyes regarded others intently as she listened to discover the values that guided their life choices. When she was delighted, a huge smile lit up her face. When troubled, her thick eyebrows furrowed and her generous lips tightened. I hoped she wouldn’t find any reason to furrow her brows or tighten her lips while observing our group.” ~excerpt from A Long Awakening to Grace

I wish I could reconnect with Phyllis and insert her picture here holding my memoir, but Phyllis died in October of 2004, thirteen years before the publication of A Long Awakening to Grace and five years before I became serious about writing my story in something more public than my journals.

Phyllis was an extraordinary woman. For over fifty years, she dedicated her life to ministry and being an active volunteer in the community. She served several churches as their director of Christian education. She and her soulmate and husband, Norbert,  pioneered mission work in Kentucky’s mountains and Middletown’s inner city.

St. Paul’s United Church of Christ Middletown, Ohio

In the early 70s, Phyllis began serving as the Director of Christian Education for the church in which I was an active member. She asked to observe a group I facilitated in my home. Fortunately for me, she didn’t furrow her brow. In fact, when I turned around after ushering the last group member out the door, a huge smile lit her face. Her words thrilled me.

“Wow, I’m surprised at the depth of sharing tonight. The group went very well. I’m impressed with the strength of your leadership. You have gifts as a small-group leader.” excerpt from A Long Awakening to Grace

Phyllis saw something in me that needed to be nurtured. A few weeks later, she suggested I pursue a career in the church. Alice, the parish worker from my home church, was the first person to make such a proposal. Alice made her’s as I prepared for my 1960 high school graduation.

For many reasons, I didn’t heed Alice’s advice. With Phyllis’s urging, I decided to at least explore the possibility. But it took a third prompting for me to get serious about it. That one came in response to a letter I sent to Ruby, the Director of Christian Education preceding Phyllis, seeking her advice. At first I thought Ruby’s counsel outlandish. Because I already had a bachelors in education and four-years teaching experience, she recommended I pursue a master of divinity degree in seminary.

I resisted. I just couldn’t fathom my being “holy” enough to associate with the “saints” I would surely find in seminary. But when others didn’t seem to think it was crazy, I decided to explore further.

I enrolled in Dayton, Ohio’s United Theological Seminary for their fall quarter, 1975. Phyllis gave me a butterfly pin with a card that read, “Now you can fly.”

After sharing with my classmates in the first course I took about the pin Phyllis gave me, they dubbed me, “Emerging Butterfly.”

“That’s a perfect name for you,” my classmates enthused. The butterfly became my favorite symbol for resurrection and transformation — and after graduation, the symbol for my retreat ministry titled Emergings.” excerpt from A Long Awakening to Grace

I still had a lot of growing and changing to do after I entered  and graduated from seminary. Phyllis didn’t get to witness it all. However, I will always be grateful for the role she played in smoothing out some of my rough edges and believing more in me than I was able to believe in myself.

Phyllis definitely served as a significant angel in my life and I regret not spending more time with her toward the end of her life to thank her for the important role she played in my life. Let that be a lesson to you. If there is someone who has been pivotal in your life, let them know before it is too late.

I did eventually learn to fly, as my awakening to grace testifies. I will always be grateful to Phyllis for her part in giving me wings. I like to think she would approve of my flight path.

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