Preview from the River of Grace Soundtrack: “How Can I Keep from Singing”

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.

Mysterious mercy

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.

grace Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon Grace of God...
Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon “Grace of God…”, Flickr Creative Commons

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!

00 cover drop shadowBy 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.

You don’t have to wait to order your copy of River of Graceit is available right now on Amazon and at a reduced price!

Thank you for your continued support!

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Launch day for “River of Grace” is approaching, and it looks like I’ll have TWO books launching!

When I texted my dear friend Lisa Hendey of what happened in the last couple of days, she replied back, “God has a funny sense of humor!”

Indeed he does. And the blessings are coming like a deluge!

Yet another book!

While writing River of Grace, I was approached by a different publisher (ACTA Publications) about contributing a volume to their Literary Portals to Prayer series. The concept is simple:

introduction graphic

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:

louisa cover

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.

Here’s where God shows his sense of humor …

The best part? Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message launches two days after River of Grace!

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!

Free sample!

I am offering a free sample of Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message to anyone who subscribes to my email list (this still also includes the sneak peak into River of Grace). You can subscribe here.

As each of the songs on the River of Grace music CD is dedicated to a chapter, this one about Louisa is dedicated to chapter 4. Here is a video showcasing the song:

Have you donated yet to the River of Grace CD?

Speaking of the music CD, the Indiegogo fundraising campaign is nearing the October 15 deadline (as you can see from the countdown clock).

If you like what you hear, please consider donating to the campaign. This song is one of seven featured on the CD which accompanies the River of Grace book.

You can find out more and donate here:


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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
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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.

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?”

A room of one’s own: what if your “room” could be portable?

What happens when you get the urge to create?

  • Do you retreat to a music studio to write a song?
  • Do you go to your specially designated study to write?
  • Do you paint your latest masterpiece in a light-filled studio?
  • Do you shut the door when you enter your room?

Why do secret hideaway places draw us like magnets?

I wanted a room of my own when I first discovered Louisa May Alcott as a kid. There was an illustration of Louisa in her special room where it was quiet and she could think. When she had finished writing her latest poem or story, she could indulge in her other favorite passion, running, by racing out the door to her room that led outside.

drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard
drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

Getting away from the noise

Louisa’s family was noisy; quiet and privacy were hard to come by. Journals were a community affair with the parents writing notes in the margins. Louisa’s father Bronson often encouraged the children to read from their journals during the evening meal. Louisa was criticized by her father for writing too much about herself.

No wonder then that Louisa spent much of her life seeking out rooms of her own.

Finding a separate space

I used to think that a separate space away from everyone was necessary in order to create. A busy household with younger children makes finding quiet time difficult. It’s even more difficult when your home is too small to afford a separate space.

This was when I began to learn that any space could be a room of my own.
The physical space was not the key; it was the rituals you established that created that space.

512 louisa writing in the appletree
illustration by Flora Smith, from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

With that kind of mindset, a room of one’s own can be portable.

You might think it’s a waste of time to explore tools and work routines.

It is time well-invested. In the end, it saves time.


It took me hours, days, weeks, even months to figure out what worked for me. I searched diligently for those t00ls, those routines that would catapult me away from the world into my creative “zone” in an instant.

Now I snap into my “zone” with no effort at all, wherever I happen to be, so long as I have my tools (which for me are the Nook and my iPhone – see previous post) and routines.

My room is portable.

I can set up anywhere, anytime, in quiet spaces and noisy ones too. The rituals and tools I use act as a trip wire, sending me into my head for a delicious time of writing.

ADDENDUM: I just found this post about other writers and their own “rooms” – check it out at

What tools do you use to create? What are your rituals that help you to create?
Where is your room?

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Writing a Book on a Nook – collecting all the pieces together in a compact package

As this blog is about collecting and connecting all the pieces of a life together into one flow, I realized I needed to add another interest to this blog: technology. I love technology and have ever since I started on my first Mac back in the 1980’s. I’m a PC person now but I have the iPhone, 2 iPods and a Barnes & Noble Nook. I was holding my iPod when I heard Steve Jobs passed away and I shed a tear.

nookA great example

As a practical example of collecting pieces together, the Nook is my favorite example. You won’t believe what I require of my Nook and how it delivers!

Why I love the Nook

I have had a Nook for a few years and I love it. The backlighting and adjustable size of type and line spacing is perfect for my failing eyesight. It’s so convenient having most of my favorite books in one tablet that I can put in my pocketbook and take anywhere. As I have gotten into writing I began to long for the capability to write and save files on it.

With last year’s upgrade, I am not only writing on it, I am writing books on it. And I have all my research on it too.

Write a book on a Nook?

nook1How can that be done? Better yet, why would anyone want to do that?

In my dreams I had several things I wanted a tablet to do for me. Rather than invest a large sum in an iPad (which is rather heavy to carry around), the Nook provided a very affordable alternative along with its lesser  size and weight.

I probably spent around $350 total including the tablet, cover, keyboard and apps.

What do I ask my Nook to do?

  • Provide a word processor that saves Word files so I can write as much as I want and edit too.
  • Provide a means of transferring files easily back and forth between the Nook and my computer.
  • Have every piece of research I have done on the Nook.
  • Give me a light-weight, smaller tablet that I can easily take with me to the library.

How can a Nook do all this, you say?

You’d be surprised …

It begins with the right apps.

office suite professional 7Office Suite Professional 7 provides me with a paired-down Microsoft Word version of a word processor. It is easy to use and gives me the perfect place to jot down notes as I read, journal or actually write chapters for my books. I balked at first at the $14.99 price tag as that seemed high for an app, but it was worth every cent.

ES File ExplorerAnother “must” app is the ES File Explorer. It allows for the easy organization, management and the transfer of files to and from my laptop. Since the Nook has Wi-Fi capability, I can back up files to DropBox on my computer through ES File Explorer (and also from Office Suite Professional 7).

A blue tooth keyboard is a must.

nook with keyboardI bought the Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case and while it’s small, once you get used to its size, it works very well. The blue tooth connection is easy and the fact that the keyboard is wireless means I can have the keyboard in my lap and the Nook on a tabletop if I want to. This is especially helpful when I visit the library.

The Nook’s capacity to hold a mini SD card (plus knowing how to make PDF files) is the trick to holding all of my research.

I scanned numerous pages out of books into PDF files so that I can have all my notes in one place. When I go to the library, all I need to do is bring my Nook to have all my research available at the press of a button.

The Nook doesn’t weigh much nor does it have a large footprint.

That makes transporting it a breeze. This was important to me as I often travel from Central Massachusetts to Cambridge and the libraries at Harvard University to do my research. This requires travel on the subway and a certain amount of walking. It is much easier to get there without a heavy laptop in a bag banging against my body as I walk!

I can pull out the Nook literally anywhere, sit down and write.

It’s my electronic notebook. Because I’ve learned to associate writing with the Nook, it puts me in the “zone”; I can immediately fixate on the job at hand. Only one app can be open at a time proving to be just enough of a deterrent from checking email and Facebook. I have my iPhone nearby if I want to get at an online dictionary quickly or check out a fact or theory on Google.

A great reminder

The Nook is a wonderful physical reminder of how wonderful life can be when have all the pieces are gathered together into one place and work in harmony.

Now if I could just live my life like that all the time, I’d be all set! It’s a work in progress.

Have any of you used a Nook, Kindle, iPad or other tablet in this way?

Let’s swap stories.

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Taking advantage of the season of Lent through a notebook and a chunk of time

For many Christians, the late winter/early spring signifies a time of stepping back and examining how we are practicing our faith. It is a time of assessing our failings and sins: how have we strayed from God as the center of our lives? How have we forgotten the needs of family members, friends and strangers? How can we come back home to God?

The season of Lent

In my Roman Catholic tradition, this time of assessment is known as Lent. In my childhood I recall purple cloth (signifying penance or, being sorry for your sins) all over the church, covering the statues. It was a time to give up chocolate or some other treat as a symbol of penance.

lent statues covered in purple

Lent is so much more

As an adult, Lent can offer so many wonderful opportunities if we can get beyond our preconceived childish notions and misunderstandings. The words “penance” and “sacrifice” and even the color purple can denote negative thoughts and feelings when in fact, they offer chances for healing and purification. The word “repent,” often misunderstood, brings reconciliation and wholeness. Just as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

The true meaning

I like to think of the Prodigal Son, despairing and destitute, falling into the loving arms of his Father. Coming back home prompted merrymaking on the part of his father rather than judgment. This is such a beautiful illustration of turning around and coming home, the true meaning of repentance. It is a moment of sorrow that leads to celebration.


Searching your soul

The Prodigal had to do a lot of soul searching to humble himself and come back home to his father. After all, in essence, he told his father to “drop dead” by taking his inheritance money early. We can learn from his example.

Tools for soul searching

Keeping a journal, whether you are a writer or not, is a wonderful way to search your soul. I took up the practice again a couple of years ago and find it especially helpful for sorting out confusing times in my life. A block of quiet time and a notebook can help you connect the past with the present in powerful ways. It can even be life-changing.

lent purple journal

Tough times make for good soul searching

Since writing things down was not done in the Prodigal Son’s time, he had sort out his life without that tool. He had the other essential tool however: time. As he was feeding pigs and longing to eat his fill, he had plenty of time to recall his past life (which he realized had been quite good), his past behavior (taking his inheritance and squandering it) and his current situation. He realized in the end it was worth the price of killing his pride to come back home to his father.

My soul searching

We are lucky because we can write things down. Of late I have been exploring in my journal why I feel the way I do about losing my singing voice and music in general (a series of posts for another day) and have made some important discoveries about how I have treated (or mistreated) this special gift that God gave to me. It has shone a glaring spotlight on past sins which I am now bringing before God, asking for forgiveness.

I am using my Lenten journey to focus on how I can too return home to my heavenly Father, make peace with past actions, and learn again to embrace my gift for his people and his glory. Through taking the time to be quiet and write down my thoughts, I have been able to navigate through murky waters and come to understand what I did, how I feel, and how everything can be made right again.

Connections and healing

More than one author I know has told me they see writing as a spiritual experience, even as prayer. I am beginning to see this too. I do know it helps me connect the fragments of my life, bring them together and make sense of them. This is the beginning of wholeness and healing.

How are you taking advantage of Lent this year?

Share with us what you are doing.

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Creating sacred spaces

I am a big fan of sacred spaces.

My car is a sacred space.

The dashboard contains various pictures and icons that I can gaze upon. God has gifted me with a long commute – two hours each day of time alone. Here I can pray, reflect and sing. And often I end up brainstorming as well. It’s not only a prayer space but a creative space.

My writing corner is a sacred space.

On my small desk is a picture of my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, plus 2 paintings by her younger sister May. Sitting at the desk and working from my laptop, I can see my bookcase dedicated to all things Alcott plus the birds at the feeder outside the large window. Lots of writing has been done in that space.

The entrance to our home is a sacred space.

Here my husband, a deacon in the Melkite church, has set up his icon corner. Each morning he faithfully prays the First Hour of the Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. I marvel at how he prays the same prayers every morning and frequently experiences new insight. He’s been praying those same prayers for close to ten years.

Physical sacred spaces prompt the mind and heart to enter the spiritual sacred space in the soul.

I am pleased to offer a guest post by Lori Erickson of the Spiritual Travels blog on sacred spaces. Here’s a tease:

There seems to be something instinctual about the human desire to create sacred space. We set St. Francis amid our garden flowers and tuck the Virgin Mary under the shelter of an overturned bathtub. Many of us do even more inside our homes, creating private altars that seem to grow of their own accord on a shelf in our bedroom or on top of a dresser, spots that gradually accrue photographs, stones, sea shells, candles, holy water, and prayer cards. Each seemingly inconsequential item carries a deep weight of memory, prayer, or hope.

You can read the rest here.

And finally, here’s a beautiful and simple song to get you in the mood. The words are:

Silent, surrendered, calm and still,
open to the word of God.
Heart humbled to his will,
offered is the servant of God.

Words by Pamela Hayes; music by Margaret Rizza

Share with us your sacred space. Where is it and what do you do there?

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Review: Jeff Goins’ impressive new book, WRECKED “slams” into life as we know it

Pain, suffering and sacrifice are dirty words in today’s world, meant to be avoided at all costs. In the process, the meaning and value have been lost.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, the impressive debut book by blogger Jeff Goins not only restores the meaning to suffering and sacrifice, but exhorts the reader to value, embrace and learn from them.

What does it mean to be “wrecked?”

Goins describes it as a painful, often messy experience that opens your eyes to a new life. It is transformative, introducing you to sacrificial love if you’re willing to go along for the ride.

He shares experiences in his life that have “wrecked” him, the first one taking place in Spain while spending a semester overseas.

Putting a name to the poor

Goins met a homeless man and quickly developed a relationship with him. The “poor” suddenly became a flesh and blood person with a name and Goins grew to care about him. It was a first of many experiences that would alter his life course forever.

Why Wrecked is important

  • It is a radical book, “slamming” into the conventions of
    21st century life
    “Our culture is so individualistic and wired for success that we often miss the point of life. We think it’s about self-actualization, about becoming the best version of ourselves. It’s not. It’s about losing ourselves.” (pg. 40, ebook)
  • It is counter to everything society says is necessary for
    “the good life:”

    “We are conditioned to believe life is supposed to be comfortable. But ask anyone like my friend Matt who has radically changed his life, and they’ll tell you the best decisions they made were when they were uncomfortable … What we have to learn to do is lean into the things that hold us back, to move through the pain and push forward.” (pg. 42, ebook)
  • It gets to the core of the Gospel of Jesus, a core that is often sanitized, glossed over in favor of the warm and fuzzy “God loves you.”
    Instead it confronts the Cross:
     “If we are to follow the Jesus who suffered with us and bled for us, we too must suffer.” (pg. 33, ebook).

Christian without being “Christian”

Wrecked imparts the core message without mucking it up with a lot of “church speak.” This book, although produced by a Christian publisher, speaks clearly to all people with a language that anyone who is searching for the meaning of his or her life will understand.

A book for Millennials

Even though there is much written about mission work and social justice (as this is Goins’ experience), don’t be fooled by this emphasis – this is not a book on becoming a missionary. Wrecked is the handbook for the Millennial generation. A Millennial himself, Goins spells out the problems, diagnoses them and offers the cure.

Wrecked also shouldn’t be construed as just another self-help book or spiritual guide. It is rather the authentic account of someone who writes honestly, understands spirituality and has “been-there-done-that.”


Wrecked isn’t perfect. Goins’ trajectory for the journey of life (having adventures when you’re young and making long term commitments as you get older) is sound but maintains that if you don’t have these adventures when you are young, you will spend the rest of your life trying to recapture your youth or relive old dreams (pg. 71, ebook).

Obviously that is true in many cases but what he doesn’t take into account are late bloomers like me and the whole idea of second chances. I was too timid in my youth to have adventures and married young, raising two children. Losing my parents between 2003 and 2010 “wrecked” me and subsequently transformed my life. Now in my 50s I am pursing the creative vocation I believe God has called me to with total dedication, confidence and commitment. I did things backwards – committing first (to my vocations as wife and mother) and having my adventure later on.


My other problem with Wrecked is one I see frequently with regards to Christians and service – that of the the cart being put before the horse.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment (Matthew 22), He presented two: loving God and then loving neighbor, making it clear that loving God needed to comes first. A close, loving relationship with our Creator results in a pouring forth of grace which empowers us to love and serve our neighbor. Being immersed in God allows us to see Him in others and the desire to serve becomes irresistible.

Goins mentions the Gospel story of Martha (the busy one) and Mary (the introspective one) but fails to mention Mary and the need to take the time to sit at the feet of God. I can’t be sure if he assumes the reader knows this or not. He does stress the importance of taking care of our inner lives and he also makes it clear we need to let go and allow God to lead but I was hoping for a more direct connection between taking care of ourselves and allowing God to take care of us.

Committed to Wrecked

That being said, I bought a copy of Wrecked as a going away present for my Millennial son who is heading to New York City from sleepy central Massachusetts at the end of this month.

I also got the Wrecked ten-week study guide which I intend to use with my eleventh-grade Sunday School class. And I’ve recommended it to a deacon friend of mine who runs a young adult book club at his church.

My advice: commit yourself to Wrecked.

Click to Tweet & Share: Jeff Goins’ impressive debut book, Wrecked, “slams” into life as we know it

em space

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