The past two Saturdays I’ve been conducting “Writing for Publication” workshops at the River Lights bookstore in downtown Dubuque. At one time, the building had been a grocery store, with an apartment above it. In the winter of 1959, a couple living in that apartment gave birth to their seventh child. That child was me. As a little girl, I had aspirations of being a writer, but in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined that someday I would be teaching a writing workshop in the bookstore located below the apartment where I’d lived as an infant. I credit both God and my mother for beginning me on this particular path in my journey as a writer and speaker. When Mom passed away in November of 2010, she left behind many notebooks and a memory book where she detailed some of her deepest thoughts, including her strong desire that her children utilize their talents. A year later, I would attend a Christian writer’s conference where a speaker reiterated the importance of stepping through the doors that God opens for us. It was only after that conference that I began conducting couponing and writing workshops as a part of my platform building, and I believe I truly have found my forte. Next to writing, I’ve discovered I love public speaking, something my father foresaw when I was a very verbal teenager. He always told me to use my talents of writing and speaking for “good not evil,” long before I realized I actually possessed either talent. In fact, I enjoy doing these workshops so much, that after my initial one in November, I commented to the coordinator in the parking lot that I couldn’t believe I was going to be paid to have that much fun. Two months passed before I realized they hadn’t paid me! I can’t imagine any other job I would love so much I would fail to notice I hadn’t been compensated.
Every time I start to think about the morning I discovered my beloved husband dead in his chair, I replace that memory with the look on his face the night before. I hated leaving him the weekend he came home from the hospital, but I had two couponing workshops scheduled for Saturday and another one that Monday evening. When I came home from the Monday evening workshop I practically glided through the front door, I was so happy. David sat in his chair, just beaming.
“Did it go well? It looks like it did,” he said, and I walked over and leaned down to give him a big hug. David loved seeing me utilizing my talents and enjoying my work. Whenever I’d worry that he was feeling left out of all my activities he assured me he reveled in watching me, and I believe that now. “He was so proud of you,” family and friends informed me after his death. Which of course makes it all the more bittersweet and lonely in continuing these activities without my biggest supporter at my side.
I got a taste of what it may have been like for David watching me soar last night when I called my son-in-law Ben on the phone to ask if Abby was done playing. His reply was so boisterously cheerful, I couldn’t help but smile. It struck me that I hadn’t heard true happiness in his voice since David’s death. Not only is Ben the father of a seriously ill child, he lost his best friend when David died. I was thrilled to hear something akin to joy in my dear son’s voice. I realized then what David must have felt like as he watched me enjoying my passions. What my sisters and friends likely search for in me. If they truly love me, they want to see a return of some of that joy I exhibited before the loss of my spouse.
I’ve been reading a lot of books about grieving, books I’ve picked up specifically because I felt I needed some help navigating the labyrinth of grief. It’s what I do besides write; I read and research. I did the same thing after David’s cancer diagnosis. I read every book about cancer that I could get my hands on, bypassing any of those that included the death of the cancer patient. I avoided those like the plague. Instead, over the next few months, I wrote the very book about caregiving, love, and cancer that I wished I had found upon David’s diagnosis.
Occasionally, just as God sends us the right person at the right time, he will also send a special book our way, one we didn’t even realize we needed. For me, it was Knowing God, Knowing Myself by Cecil Murphey. Not only did I win one of his scholarships for an upcoming Christian Writer’s conference, but Mr. Murphey generously sent me a copy of this book.
From Cecil Murphey’s Knowing God, Knowing Yourself, page 12:
“Find the things about which you are passionate. We can give ourselves to enjoying those tasks, jobs or professions. If we don’t find pleasure in what we’re doing, maybe we need to think about doing something else. I found my greatest joy in writing; Others have experienced joy in other areas.”
“If we want to enjoy life, it’s not in accumulating trophies of big houses, expensive cars or profitable investments. The joy comes in following our inner desires. If we give our best to whatever it is, we can enjoy the process.”
“I want to give you permission to dream- just as I gave myself the freedom to do that. Think passionate and powerful thoughts about your life. Enjoy the excitement that comes when you throw your energies into a project. Why not do your best, regardless of how things turn out?”
Wow, what powerful words for me to read during this period of my life as I struggle to continue down the path I felt led to embark on last year. This is what I want for my children, I think, what my mother wanted for her children. What David wanted for me; a feeling of joy in our chosen profession. It isn’t about money or material items.
With each workshop, with each success, I begin to feel stronger. Not only am I following my inner desires, I’m enjoying the process. Yes, there is that pain of loss, that yearning for the companionship of my beloved David and that bittersweet sadness with each success that isn’t shared by him.
But, dare I say it? There is a growing sense of excitement, too.
What does God have in store for my future?
A prayer from my journal;
“Dear Lord, thank you for opening all these doors and leading me to something that feels so right and is so much fun I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do it. This feels like what my mother and David wanted for me, but even more importantly~ a way to utilize the talents you have bestowed upon me. Thank you, Lord, for giving me David so I could recognize how true love wants joy for the beloved.”