I am excited about a new daily devotional coming out from Ave Maria Press called The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections, edited by Lisa M. Hendey and Sarah A. Reinhard. I was asked to contribute 4 devotions to this wonderful book and am honored to be included in this distinguished group of over 80 leading Catholic authors.
I just got my advance copies and I can now share with you one of my reflections:
I love St. Paul. And I am a woman. Yes, I am fully aware of the famous passages in which he instructs wives to be “submissive to their husbands” and how they are not to speak in public. I believe these passages need to studied carefully for their true meaning for nothing is ever as it seems, but that’s for another day.
I wrote a book about loss and grief. In a second book, I included passages from an author who guided me through my loss and grief.
And yet, I am afraid to share that story with others.
Sounds absurd–after all, both books have been published and are available for the public to see. But I am glad I don’t have to be there when the book is read. Well aware that grief is uniquely tailored to the individual, I feel utterly unqualified to say anything about it, face to face.
Mysterious … unpredictable …
Grief is mysterious, unpredictable, you might even say, capricious. I can’t tell you how many times grief has decided to drop in when I am in front of other people. It has often visited in the form of tears and I have to hide away until it passes. It has also visited on too many occasions when I’ve sung in public, crippling my voice or simply rising up in the form of irrational fear.
Important to share
When I read this story by Claire Fallon, Virginia Woolf’s Guide To Grieving, and how she connected her grieving over the loss of her mother to that of Woolf (both lost their mothers near puberty), I realized it is, in fact, important to share our grief stories.
Comfort through companionship
Fallon derived a lot of comfort from Woolf, not because Woolf offered consolation or answers, but because she was a companion on the journey. Fallon found a like mind in Woolf which helped her work through grief that had been bottled up inside for many years.
Reading Louisa May Alcott did that for me. Alcott offered no quick answers, no “5-step plan,” and certainly no skirting of the truth of suffering and death. Instead, Alcott shared her beliefs about death through her stories and they just happened to match mine. I was numb with grief at the time I took up reading and found that turning the pages of my mother’s antique volumes of Little Women, Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag and An Old-Fashioned Girl (all marked with her personal nameplate) and reading Alcott’s words helped me remember my mother when she was healthy and vital.
The best way to help
My process did not take as long as Fallon’s but it reminds me yet again that the best thing I can do to help someone who is grieving is to just be there to listen. And when it’s appropriate, share a few stories.
The value of writing
Alcott and Woolf had the courage to write it down and share it with the public. Writing has a way of uncovering what is really going on inside of you. Writing doesn’t have to be public to be helpful–keeping a a journal and writing letters to others (handwritten, as opposed to email) can help a great deal. But if you choose to share stories through the written word or through conversation, you have to own it.
I will be at Boucher’s Good Books, 254 Lake Street, Worcester for a River of Grace book signing and impromptu live concert featuring the music from the River of Grace Soundtrack CD! The book and CD would make a great gift for someone you love. Come on down and say hello!
Susan Bailey has faced her fair share of challenges and “difficult times” and yet she’s emerged not only a survivor, but also even stronger in her spiritual commitment and joy. In this book, learn what made the difference for Susan in her spiritual journey, but even more so how to face your own struggles with a faith that will renew and support you. A perfect gift for any friend or loved one facing a time of loss or difficulty, or for yourself when you need the companionship of a trusted friend. The “Flow Lessons” contained in this book are the perfect tools to help you more fully rely on God’s love in your life. Highly recommend!
In this EXCEPTIONALLY well-written book, Susan Bailey shares some of her most challenging moments and shows others how to find the grace hidden in life’s difficulties. This book inspires Christians to pursue the paths of authentic faith amid the currents and seasons of life. The “flow lessons” that accompany each chapter provide readers with simple, hands-on, experiences that move the author’s reflections into concrete and practical application. With both eloquence and humility, what River of Grace offers is a deeper answer to personal struggle, and a healthier alternative to the fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. Above all, this is a book that gives hope.
Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday–spread the word!
A dear friend from my Louisa May Alcott is My Passion blog wrote a wonderful review of River of Grace! This is a really comprehensive review; if you’re wondering what this book is about, Tarissa (the reviewer) summed it up beautifully! Here’s a portion of it:
Susan Bailey shares about the trials and triumphs in her life in her new book River of Grace. She tells how God’s mercy has shown her a greater kind of essence, once she let herself glide along with His unending grace.
A running theme that you learn all throughout this book is how creativity and spirituality go together, hand in hand. Susan illustrates this time and again. Susan pauses to personalize the reading and ask you how you can create new life in your surroundings as you allow the river of grace to run through you. In each chapter, she takes time (and allows you to take time) to reflect and focus on your emotions, thoughts, and defining events in your own life. If you take a few moments to perform the suggested activities, and allow creativity to lead the way, you will be blessed with fresh insight and positivity.
For people struggling with grief, this book shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Freely, the author doles out the pain she encountered on the deaths of her parents, and how greatly her life changed under those circumstances. She then dispenses the successful tools and mental thought process behind obtaining victory over death. Triumph is available to anyone! This is not a story of how to get over grief fast — but how to deal with it and give your afflictions to the Almighty. You will get through your time of sorrow, and when the grief cycle has ran its course, you will become a more complete person.
Anyone who enjoys Contemporary Christian praise and worship music knows about Matt Maher. Coming on the scene in 2007, Maher has written and produced eight solo albums with three of them having reached the Top 25 Christian Albums Billboard chart; four of his singles have reached the Top 25 Christian Songs chart (Wikipedia). He was awarded the Dove Award this year for Songwriter of the Year and Best Song (“Because He Lives (Amen))” Continue reading “Matt Maher rocks the house for Christ”→
This past Wednesday was a BIG day. This arrived in the mail …
But that was not all. I also got the final mix of my soundtrack CD for River of Grace from the producer. And I have to say he really outdid himself. I sent him a text back with 7 hearts – one for each song!
It was one of those rare, extraordinary days that sends you into orbit and you just want to cling to that feeling forever. I will write about it in my journal so I can go back and bathe in that grace, that pure gift from God whenever discouragement knocks on my door.
Now, I would like to share what God gave to me with you.
River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times is a spiritual memoir that reveals how several major losses helped me rediscover creativity and faith. Published by Ave Maria Press, it is described 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 yourself
One 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 • 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 loss
River 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:
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 will be available by the end of October; I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
Fundraiser almost over; still need your help
I hope you are enjoying these clips from the new CD. With the deadline of October 15 looming just around the corner, I still need much help in meeting the goal of raising $1600 to pay for the making of the CD. You can donate at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey. Every dollar counts. If you can only give $5 or $10, I will be so grateful. And for those who can give more, I am offering some rewards which I think you’ll appreciate.
Have you ever wondered just how a song is recorded? It’s rather like building a building from the ground up, or making a layer cake. Here’s a simple demonstration from the recording of “Spirit of Life” (written by Carolyn McDade, Surtsey Publishing Company) for my River of Grace Soundtrack CD:
Recording is a long and tedious process of such layering but it’s fun and rewarding too when you hear the final product. Besides the layering of vocals, instruments are added in (more than you can imagine!). Then the engineer (in this case Ron) makes sure every little piece can be heard – this is done by something called panning. When you listen to a stereo recording through headphones you can pick out how there’s a little guitar here, a little percussion there … it’s all quite fascinating to figure out just what is in a recording of your favorite song.
Special effects are added in as well (such as putting a little echo into the voice, known as reverb. Without reverb, it sounds like you’re singing in a small room. With reverb, it can sound like you’re singing in a cathedral with slate floors (or something a little smaller).
This is just the beginning of the process for “Spirit of Life;” very soon I can show you the final result.
By the way, here’s a peak at the cover for the CD. Longtime readers of Be as One will recognize it:
8 days left … need your help!
With just 8 days left in the campaign I really need your help! Please visit my Indiegogo site at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey and contribute what you can. And thank you!
Thank you to all who have pre-ordered River of Grace! You can find it on Amazon.com.
The CD is coming along nicely and I expect to have some finished product later this week! I will share as I receive them. There are several short videos on my Indiegogo campaign page that you can view for a sneak preview.
Here is one showing the progress so far on a classic hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing:”
We recorded the lead vocals at Ron Zabrocki’s studio and then later I added on harmonies from my own studio which I then sent to Ron. He then will polish it with additional instruments and vocals. I can’t wait to hear what he does and share it with you!
In River of Grace, I wrote about how it felt to lose my singing voice …
“Eventually we face the prospect of letting go of something we cherish about ourselves. As my voice began to lose consistency, I knew now how others felt: the loss of my voice truly was a death. I missed that sensual feeling of singing, how it used to vibrate in my throat and buzz in my head. I’d never again hear that nice clear sound echo throughout the church and come back to me. I had sung with such ease that I could forget all about the technique of singing and just get into the prayer of it. There were times when those memories would flood my mind, and I would break out in spontaneous tears.” (Chapter 3, River of Grace)
And then regain it again:
“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 … and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before … I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (Chapter 3, River of Grace)
Thus you can see how I had to record “How Can I Keep from Singing”!
Coping with loss
Perhaps you have lost something precious about yourself; something that was once so natural, so easy to do is now hard or impossible to do. As we age, this kind of loss can occur. We can lose something we cherish about ourselves and feel sad and adrift. It is a great challenge that requires patience and faith; we have to learn to let it go.
In River of Grace I write about the struggle of letting something I loved go; I never expected to get it back again, It was in the course of writing the chapter that I experienced the healing. I did not seek it nor ask for it; I just wanted to learn to live with the loss. It was pure gift, abundant grace, and that is the mystery of God’s merciful love.
My gift from God
All I know is that now I feel deep gratitude every time I open my mouth to sing. I savor the moments I can sing in church, awestruck that God would give me a second chance to sing for Him.
This is why I had to record this album. I wanted a musical testimony to accompany what I had written. I wanted to share my gratitude and offer a witness to God’s merciful love. His love is available to all of us!
Launch day is coming soon!
By the end of the month, River of Grace will be officially launched. The CD will be available as well. In the meantime, I would really appreciate your help in financing the CD. There are ten days left to contribute to my Indiegogo campaign; click here to contribute.
Over the course of the next ten days I will share other songs from the soundtrack and passages from the book to show you how these songs correspond with the text.
They asked if I would focus on the works of Louisa May Alcott. As you know, I am passionate about Alcott’s life and works, having run a blog called Louisa May Alcott is My Passion for the last five years. Here is the result:
This book contains fifty passages from several of Alcott’s book including Little Women. Each passage is accompanied by a Bible passage from The Message, a fresh and contemporary translation of the ancient text.
What is cool about this is that In River of Grace I write extensively on the impact of Louisa’s life and works on my life as I was grieving over my mother. There were many passages from her books on which I wrote about and pondered which acted as a balm on my grief. This reading and writing eventually led to my becoming a published author.
A prayer book to accompany River of Grace
Many of the passages that I have included in this Louisa May Alcott volume as those that inspired me during that time. It’s like reading an accompanying prayer book to River of Grace!