Life restored after a season of loss: “River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times” in word and song -
I am pleased to announce my first book, published by Ave Maria Press.
River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (now available on Amazon) is a spiritual memoir that reveals how several major losses helped me rediscover creativity and faith. Ave Maria Press describes it as "Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace--in the Mass and the sacraments, nature and grief, and even through the life and works of Louisa May Alcott--River of Grace guides readers in strengthening their faith, discovering their own hidden gifts and restoring a joy in living during and after tough times." It contains lots of practical spiritual exercises called Flow Lessons that lead you there. (Some of the Flow Lessons are on this site--check them out here.)
Losing a part of yourselfOne of the losses I experienced was that of my singing voice. Yet throughout the writing of River of Grace, I kept thinking of songs that would fit with each chapter. While writing the third chapter on the loss of my voice, I experienced a miraculous healing after receiving a throat blessing on the Feast of St. Blaise. This song was playing in my head; here's a passage from chapter 3 on why:
How Can I Keep from Singing (click to hear sample) • Traditional Quaker hymn “Instead of being raw and fragmented, I began to feel whole. A sense of wonder and deep gratitude welled up inside. The following Sunday as I entered the church to go to Mass I was immediately struck with the knowledge that I had received a significant healing with that throat blessing. I couldn’t wait to tell the priest. Thereafter during Mass I noticed that it became easier to sing the hymns. Buoyed, I pushed my voice a bit further each week. One day while driving home after Mass I sang some of the most challenging songs in my repertoire including “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before. My voice had been restored. I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (from chapter 3, River of Grace)
New life after lossRiver of Grace is also about new life. In the writing I learned that creativity is far more than being able to sing, dance, paint or write. Creativity is all about intention. As the Lord led me on my journey towards a new creativity in my life, I thought of Psalm 103, traditionally read during the Easter season, and this song:
Lord, Send Out Your Spirit (from Psalm 103) (click to listen to sample) • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©2001 Susan W. Bailey “If you recognize and accept the presence within of God’s Spirit, you will live a creative life. Since God is limitless, the possibilities of creativity are limitless too. You only need to believe it and take your own deep dive to discover the authentic person within, the one created in the image and likeness of God, the person you are meant to be. Nothing is too small or too insignificant. Nothing is too foolish or crazy. No effort is wasted. God has placed the capability in every person to be “great” even if that greatness is quiet, unassuming, and shared within a small circle. … Broken as we are, we can be made new, made whole though likely we will never be the same again … By being immersed in the river of grace, we can go on the adventure of a lifetime.” (chapter 5, River of Grace)
Working through fearRiver of Grace is also about overcoming fear; stepping out and seeing life as a glorious adventure. Seeing obedience to God's will as a series of wonderful "yeses" rather than onerous no's. This song came to mind:
Touch the Sky (click to hear sample) • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©1998 Susan W. Bailey “I saw yet again that working through my fear was necessary in order to find and then be my authentic self. I could be like Gloria: passionate, confident, joyful, and enthusiastic, affecting those around me as a result. By believing in God’s love for me I could then become his emissary. I didn’t have to travel to Haiti; I only had to travel within to discover where the river of grace was leading me, and then commit to the journey. I had to get used to living with the uncertainty that is the fundamental part of self-discovery. It required being alert and awake to that quiet voice of God inside of me, his gentle hand nudging me this way and that. It gave new meaning to the scripture to “Beware, keep alert” (Mk 13:33). We must be alert and awake at all times to God’s call. This is what it means to be truly present to each and every moment. And if we pay heed to such moments, we won’t have the time to worry about the future or regret the past.” (from chapter 6, River of Grace)So that's the big reveal! This project has been my life for the last two years and a lot of the transformation I write about happened as I was writing the book. Gotta love the immediacy of the Holy Spirit at work. Ave Maria Press is everything everyone said it would be. Totally professional, really helpful, and daring, taking chances on newbies like myself. I am so honored to have a book published by them. You can order River of Grace (the book) through Ave Maria Press and Amazon. Don't forget to write a review after you've read it! The CD is available here.