Autumn in Oregon

Autumn in Oregon heralds our rainiest season of the year. Weather prognosticators promised rain for days. Areas nearby and surrounding us received showers. Sometimes only sprinkles. Our neighborhood received nothing.

 
Until…last Saturday night. We awoke on Sunday morning with evidence of overnight rain. And we’ve had several good…let’s say heavy showers since.
 
When it rains in Oregon, we experience fog of varying levels–light, moderate, heavy. Especially when driving through forested areas. The fog dances through the branches of thick and heavy evergreens. It may sound a bit spooky, but it’s a lovely site and cozy too. The white-gray of the fog softens everything around it.
 
Sitting here watching the rainfall, I’m entertained by everchanging colors. The sky goes from blue to gray to almost black and then bursts open with either rain or sun breaks and white clouds.
 
The leaves are changing from green to the bright colors of autumn. With the days shortening, darkness drops its curtain earlier. Then the sky turns a blue-black dotted with sparkling lights if the sky is clear.
 
As I watch the changing of the seasonal colors and weather, I sense the Presence of the One who made it all possible. He calls me to rethink changes in my life and the lives of those around me.
 
I take a few moments and reflect on family and friends. I realize our great-grandchildren are no longer toddlers but are four, seven, and ten. Oh, and a new one on the way in January!
 
I take a look too at those friends who have left us for a better place and give thanks for their presence in our lives. God now has new angels in His heaven looking down on us.
 
Always present God provides our every need. Even a good conversation on a somewhat dark and dreary day.
Featured image attribution: Knopka Ivy on Unsplash

Adrift or Evolving?

 

I feel adrift.

Since January, following a fall, I feel adrift. Adrift as a wife, a writer, a friend, a human being.

My body, in pain most days, isn’t allowed to do housework as ordained by professionals. Simple cooking is OK. No vigorous kitchen cleanup reads don’t make a huge mess while cooking.

My mind won’t wrap itself around the craft of writing. Whether it’s working on my book, the blog, or book reviews, it doesn’t seem to matter. I feel mindless, wordless.

My summer days are mostly inside, and little or no exercise is ordered by any of the illustrious physicians in attendance so far. Don’t even mention flowers and gardening.

One chair in our home allows me to sit comfortably. Our bed allows me the comfort of lying down, but have you tried working from a prone position? I am trying to grow accustomed to standing while using my laptop, but years of otherwise make unlearning difficult.

Rays of hope arrived over the past few days.

After seeing multiple physicians, undergoing as many lab tests and imaging studies, and receiving steroid injections times too many, another doctor seeing me for an unrelated problem listened. I mean she really listened to my complaints and symptoms.

This doctor gave me what probably comes the closest to a correct diagnosis anyone has attempted. Then she referred me to a physical therapist specially trained in treating the adverse physiology I’m attempting to overcome.

(Sorry for the mysterious explanation. It’s a rather sensitive and personal subject as far as I’m concerned.)

We left that appointment feeling we’d been given a ray of hope.

A couple of days later our church newsletter arrived. Physically unable some Sundays to attend church, I’ve learned the importance of the newsletter to feeling in touch with people and activities.

On the last page of this newsletter, the second ray of hope came to me. In the form of a #40wordprayer, incredibly beautiful word creations limited to 40 words.

I requested and received permission to share not only the #40wordprayer, but also a reflection on a conversation with a friend and former student:

evolving

for the reminder
from a dear life-giver
that in life
all of the goals
and striving
do not automatically lead
to arriving
and as the world
is revolving
the purpose resides not
in solving
but in serving
and evolving…

Thanks.
Amen.
#40wordprayers

This prayer emerged out of a conversation I had recently with a dear friend and former youth group student who now serves as a radiation oncologist and just finished her final oral medical board exams. We marveled at how milestones in our lives give us the impression that we will one day ‘arrive’ at the destination to which we have been striving for so long. And then we mused at how this contrasts with the reality that so often these points of ‘arrival’ are actually springboards of ‘departure’ into the next season of the journey.

When Jesus came to the greatest milestone on his journey and cried out ‘It is finished’, it took some time before it became clear that he was actually saying ‘It is beginning’.

In our desire and hope towards ‘arriving’ at the next ‘destination’ of vision and mission as a family of faith at MPC [Moreland Presbyterian Church], may we be ever mindful that in this journey of life and faith, the ‘ends’ (great and small) are actually ‘beginnings’. And as we receive the gift of each new moment of life, may we hear the voice of the Giver saying, ‘My child, begin again.’

With Jesus and with you, brian

ATTRIBUTIONS:
PRAYER AND REFLECTION: BRIAN MARSH, HEAD OF STAFF, MORELAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, PORTLAND, OR
IMAGE OF CHILD: “PATH OF LIFE,” DIGITAL ART BY ALICE POPKORN VIA FLICKR

 

Am I drifting or evolving?

Perhaps this is a God-given time for reflection, discernment, and new direction. If so, I feel better about the conditions I find myself struggling through in my writing, my home life, and my friendships and other human connections.

Days on end, as many of you know firsthand, of the same thing takes us to a land of drought, parched to the elimination of our art. A life of illness or injury with no definitive answers, again as many know, leaves you with anxiety and stress and doubt, none of which enhances the body’s ability to heal. Nor do these emotions lend themselves well to family relationships and friendships with our online or real-tie community.

I am filled with hope on two fronts now: (1) from the medical community caring for me; and (2) my faith community providing prayers, encouragement, and as Brian said in an email this week special prayers for “sani-T!”

James 1:5-8 MSG
James 1:5-8 MSG

Attributions:
Image: Adrift via Unsplash (no attribution required; free images)
Image: James 1:5-8 (MSG) via Pinterest

Stay tuned for more about my “evolution.”

Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life by Lorraine Ash | A Review

Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Questioning what it means to succeed? Wondering if your efforts matter? In this uplifting memoir, Lorraine Ash uses her own life experiences to explore inner landscapes where the seeds of divine healing and insight reside. These are the landscapes on which we create our own meaning and find the resiliency to thrive in a changing and challenging world.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Lorraine Ash shares courageously the story of her greatest loss: the stillbirth of her daughter, Victoria. I cannot begin to know what a loss, such as losing a child before life is breathed into it, does to one’s soul.

A beautifully written memoir takes us along with its author to explore the search for meaning after a loss of this proportion.

As I traveled along learning more about Lorraine’s journey, I began to realize there were still hurts and pains within me from childhood abuses. While combing through her words, I began to realize what I could do with those old abuses and scars.

One particular quote sticks in my mind and heart and will stay with me:

Some people scream out our insignificance … but it is we who choose to believe it.

These words jumped from the screen of my Kindle and into my being with such force it was as if they belonged to me all along. After rereading them a few times, I realized Lorraine’s words had given me permission to toss aside all the hurtful words flung at me as a child. A very freeing experience! (Thank you, Lorraine.)

As I continued to read, I felt as if Lorraine was a friend, a sister, a mentor of sorts. Life never gave her the gift of motherhood, but I see in her memoir that the qualities of mothering are within her and her nurturing reaches into the world via her words and her skillful usage of them.

Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances and/or your pain, reading Self and Soul will bring you inner peace, a new outlook on life, and perhaps even a moment of healing energy which allows you to move on with embracing life as it transforms with each new experience. to be.

I highly recommend Lorraine’s memoir to anyone interested in memoir, coping and healing following loss, and transforming life into a rich and bountiful experience.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from WOW! Women on Writingas part of Lorraine’s book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet the Author:

Lorraine Ash, MA, is the author of “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life” (Cape House Books, 2012) and “Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing” (NewSage Press, 2004). Both are spiritual memoirs, an old but evolving genre she believes in as a catalyst for personal healing and transformation and social change.

“We each were born as a character into a large family and cultural story,” she said, “and not always in the roles we would have chosen for ourselves. Then fate takes us in unexpected directions. Writing spiritual memoir is a way to weave our outer and inner lives to create meaning and trace and direct our evolving identities over time, including that timeless core in each of us called the soul.”

What does all that have to do with social change? Nothing helps the human race see and understand itself more than such honest witnessing in every corner of the human experience. There is no taboo territory in autobiographical writing, which the author William Dean Howells once called “the most democratic province in the republic of letters.”

In her workshops and writing retreats Lorraine fuses rigorous literary techniques with a wide range of spiritual and philosophical thought. Participants learn to find their strongest writing voice, structure their stories in compelling ways, and see their lives from surprising and useful new angles. All these goals are achieved in an informal backdrop of serenity and relaxation. Why? Because gracious contemplation is a friend to creativity. The ultimate achievement always is for the writer to lead herself, and her readers, to some spiritual truth.

Connect with Lorraine here:

Website/blog: www.LorraineAsh.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LorraineAshAuthor

Twitter: @LorraineVAsh

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/lorraine-ash/45/77/650

Book Details:
Publisher: Cape House Books
Published: October 20, 2012
Paperback and e-book available
ISBN-10: 1939129001
ISBN-13: 978-1939129000

Where to buy Self and Soul:

Paperback edition from CreateSpace (Publisher’s fulfillment partner—the fastest and most author-friendly way to buy!)

Paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com

Buy iBooks edition from iTunes

Buy Nook edition from Barnes&Noble

Buy Kobo edition

Also available for other popular ebook readers, or through your favorite bookstore! Audiobook edition coming August 15, 2014 at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and the iTunes store.

For delivery right to your inbox of upcoming memoir reviews, writing resources and tips, plus news items related to writing and publishing, sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter by clicking on the image below:

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman | A Review

Fifteen years ago, Alice Hoffman received a diagnosis that changed everything about the life she’d been living. Most significant, aside from the grueling physical ordeal she underwent, was the way it changed how she felt inside and what she thought she ought to be doing with her days. Now she has written the book that she needed to read then. In this honest, wise, and upbeat guide, Alice Hoffman provides a road map for the making of one’s life into the very best it can be. As she says, “In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it’s impossible to have one without the other. . . . I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And to remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still some choices I could make.

(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

* * *

My Thoughts:

A simple comment I left on a blog post I enjoyed at Women’s Memoirs offered me a chance to win Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons. Luck was with me, and not too long ago a copy arrived in my mailbox.

A short but graciously filled book highlighting Hoffman’s experience surviving cancer, Survival Lessons shares the important things in Hoffman’s life during her battle with this evil disease. Not all things work for all people, but even if you glean only one tip to help you over the next hurdle, reading Survival Lessons will have been worthwhile.

Each chapter begins with the word “choose,” giving form and importance to the choices we have not only in crises like Hoffman’s, but in life itself.

Recently, my husband and I have faced health issues, more for him than me. This past week, when I read Survival Lessons, we had faced a trip to the ER and some startling news following a minor surgery the week before.

As I read these words in the chapter, “Choose Love,” I shared them with my husband and they bridged the myriad of emotions we’ve been feeling:

You may feel alone, but your husband, lover, girlfriend, or wife is going through this with you. True, they are not the ones with needles in their arms or surgeries to recover from, but they have to watch you go through these things. Which is worse: to be the person who is ill, or the one who has to watch someone he loves suffer?

Both are not too good.

My Recommendation:

I highly recommend this book for anyone facing any type of crisis in her life, or his. These choices Hoffman shares fit more than just the health part of who we are in this life.

* * *

Meet Alice Hoffman:

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman’s first novel, PROPERTY OF, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become PROPERTY OF, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.

Read more at Goodreads