Writing lessons. Creative lessons. Living lessons from St. Paul.

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.

Why St. Paul?

Remember my post on deliberate intent? St. Paul embodied that in everything he did. It began with a zealous persecution of Christians (for he was a Pharisee) and ended with himself being persecuted and killed for the faith he sought originally to destroy. Continue reading “Writing lessons. Creative lessons. Living lessons from St. Paul.”

Owning our grief and why this is helpful to others–Virginia Woolf and Louisa May Alcott as guides

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.

Mike Schaffner Angel of Grief, Flickr Creative Commons
Mike Schaffner Angel of Grief, Flickr Creative Commons

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.

woolf books

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.

My companion

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.

alcott books

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.

That’s what I have to learn how to do.

Here is the link to Claire Fallon’s article. I think I will try a little Virginia Woolf; she is showing me the benefits of ownership.

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Wonderful review of River of Grace!

InTheBookcaseA 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.

You can read the rest of the review here. Be sure and treat yourself to the rest of her blog for reviews and other interesting posts.

Thank you Tarissa!

You can pick up your copy of River of Grace here.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Life restored after a season of loss: “River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times” in word and song

This past Wednesday was a BIG day. This arrived in the mail …

river of grace books-640

cover front only for webBut 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.

00 cover drop shadowRiver 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:

Lord, Send Out Your Spirit (from Psalm 103) • 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 fear

River 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 • 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 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.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Preview from the River of Grace Soundtrack: “Spirit of Life:” Ever wonder how a song is recorded?

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:

cover front only for web

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.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

What is Your Spiritual Catalyst? Try this Flow Lesson to discover yours!

We all have experienced “triggers” – things or events that causes us to remember something. These memories can be pleasant or unpleasant, and often we are not even aware of what is triggering a memory.

Sometimes we intentionally create these triggers so that we will remember to do something. Before we had Google Calendar and smart phones to remind us, we’d write notes on our hands, tie a string around a finger or create a little ritual that will trigger the reminder to do what we want to do.

This same idea can be applied to the spiritual life. Imagine having something that would instantly place you in the “zone,” that place where you can give yourself over to God. That place where peace reigns within and you meet your Beloved.

Here’s a flow lesson that helps you discover your spiritual catalysts – those triggers that bring you close to God. Try it out and then share in the comments about your spiritual catalysts and how they help you come closer to God.

flow lesson logo-640
Materials needed: pen or pencil and paper, and your memories

Pick a quiet place in your home to do this exercise and make sure you can sit still comfortably for several minutes.

Be still

Take a moment to be still with God, taking several long and deep breaths and listening as you breathe. In and out, in and out. Be conscious of the rhythm of the breathing. As you breathe in, whisper the name of Jesus; as you breathe out whisper, “Be with me.” Do this for several moments until you feel quiet and still.

Shawn Rossi Breathe
Shawn Rossi Breathe, Flickr Creative Commons

Recalling a happy memory

Take a piece of paper and fold it vertically in half so that you have two columns. Next recall one memory, object or smell that makes you feel especially good. In thinking of it, what words pop into your mind? Write them down in the left hand column. What feelings come to mind? Why do you feel that way? Write those down too in the same column.

Brainstorm with these ideas:

Look at your list. Are there any words on that list that you could equate with your relationship with God? Can you match up any of those impressions with how you feel when you spend time with God, either in a formal setting, such as attending Mass or a worship service, or on your own, praying for yourself or others, or simply meditating? In the right hand column, write down any words that pop into your head when you think of your experience with God.

Once your list is done, see if there are any similarities between the list in the left hand column and the list in the right. If you see similarities, draw a line from the word or words in the left hand column to the one in the right. Is there a possibility that in the future, your favorite memory, object, or aroma could prompt a pleasant memory about attending church or simply being in the presence of God?

Matthew Doyle Incense and Sunlight
Matthew Doyle Incense and Sunlight, Flickr Creative Commons

Pray and Ponder …

Do not be disturbed if you can’t see an immediate connection; it can take some practice. Ask God to reveal it to you over the course of several days and then look at your notes again to see if a connection becomes more evident.

00 cover drop shadowcopyright 2015 Susan W. Bailey;
from Chapter 1 of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times,
published by Ave Maria Press
Visit the Flow Lesson Pages for more of these prayerful exercises.

Three ways your smart phone can strengthen your faith

This is from my recent Tech Talk column on Catholicmom.com. Portions of this article were taken from my upcoming book, River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, from Ave Maria Press. It is available  on Amazon.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You and your smartphone are tied at the hip. Emails, phone calls and Google Calendar reminders direct your day’s activities. What if that same smartphone could help you develop spiritual discipline? Continue reading “Three ways your smart phone can strengthen your faith”

Celebrate with Song: “Teach Me to Love”—the first person to post a comment wins a free copy of this song!

Andy Morffew Singing in the Rain with words featuredCelebrating second chances in song

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Teach Me to Love,” recorded in 2000, is one of my favorite songs for several reasons.

@Peta_de_Aztlan Mother-Teresa-collage. Flickr Creative Commons
@Peta_de_Aztlan Mother-Teresa-collage. Flickr Creative Commons

It’s about Blessed Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa died right around the same time that Princess Diana died. With Diana dominating the headlines, there was very little attention focused upon what had been a living saint. It was then that I sat down and wrote “Teach Me to Love” so that I could honor this woman small in stature who loomed large in her service to the poor.

Who is that singing with me?

I love “Teach Me to Love” for another reason– because my daughter Meredith, then eleven, sang on this song with me. Here she is in the recording studio:


This is the result:

Eight years later, Meredith and I had a chance to sing “Teach Me to Love” at our parish coffeehouse and someone captured it on video:

Part of the healing process

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult Times“Teach Me to Love” was an important song when it came to learning to sing again after losing my voice. In River of Grace I write,

“That first small step back to music was taken with my high school confirmation class. After hearing a speaker who had worked with Mother Teresa, we returned to our classrooms to discuss it. As music has a unique way of conveying a message, I wanted to present the right song to the class that would affirm what we had learned about Mother Teresa’s mission while creating an atmosphere conducive to prayer and reflection. Searching through my iPod, I came upon one of my own songs called “Teach Me to Love.” The words were perfect but the song was recorded in a way that would not produce the ambiance I desired. I paused, wondering if I still had the voice to sing it live in front of my students. Singing to them in person would create a sense of intimacy that a recording could never achieve. I decided to go for it. I loved these kids and wanted to give them the best opportunity for meaningful prayer and reflection. The result was that sweet stillness in the air followed by spontaneous applause. By overcoming fear I was able to lead my students into a sacred moment. I gave; the gift was returned, and it became a prayer.”

teach me to love“Teach Me to Love” is part of the Teach Me to Love CD.

You can win a free copy of “Teach Me to Love”
by being the first to comment on this post.
I will email you the mp3 file.

Good luck!

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
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When Worlds Collide! After yelling “Help!” what next do you do?

What happens when you are in one place but your head and heart are elsewhere?

How does it feel when you must pay attention to the present while your head and heart are dragging you into the future?

What happens when you have the essence of two full-time jobs colliding?

Does it feel like this?

Ugh. That was my week. Super busy at work and equally busy in my head. Struggling to remain in the present moment.

Are you feeling like that too?

What worlds are colliding for you?

Continue reading “When Worlds Collide! After yelling “Help!” what next do you do?”

Love begets love: how can something you love to do spread love to others?

This past Tuesday I did something I love doing.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have several chapters of WINGS, an organization dedicated to gathering together women of faith in an effort to support and deepen that faith.


I was pleased to be invited to speak this past Tuesday at Christ the King Parish in Worcester, MA, at their first WINGS meeting of the season. I presented my “Let’s Go Swimming!” talk with songs, ending with a rousing rendition all together of “Can You Teach Me?” Continue reading “Love begets love: how can something you love to do spread love to others?”