As a follow up to the previous post, another author who makes me laugh is new-to-me memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert
. Her book, Eat, Pray, Love
chronicles her journey through three countries as she explores what each has to offer in the way of culture, religion, and balance. I had so many people recommend this book to me that I was almost resistant to read it. That ever happen to you? Anyway, I'm so glad I picked it up. Gilbert's writing is inspired and witty, and once you start reading, you won't put it down. I especially liked the "Pray" section as she travelled to an Ashram in India and learned about prayer and meditation.
Spiritual journeys intrigue me, and I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket to the other side of the world and hiding out for a month. I wonder what it would be like to be a monk on a mountaintop, or a nun living out a life with orphans in China. What does that type of committed service feel like, look like?
I recently went on a spiritual retreat in pursuit of my own faith (I am Christian), and the timing couldn't have been better. You see, this past month I've lost two dear friends to cancer -- Mary Ann Corrigan and Ronda Thompson
-- and the losses hit me rather hard. Ronda Thompson, as some of you may know, is a New York Times bestselling romance writer from Amarillo, and was one of my first real writer friends on the journey. She was electrically sarcastic and a terrific storyteller. Mary Ann Corrigan is the mother of one of my best friends, and I spent about a third of my youth sitting at her kitchen table eating sandwiches on white bread -- a secret luxury. Mary Ann's daughter is a sister of my heart, and that she has lost her mama is unthinkable. Both women were way too young to have gone so soon, and have left many an aching heart in their passing.
In the midst of grieving those losses, I discovered a lump on my own breast. Perhaps the worst part was watching the ultrasound technician measure the black spheres that showed up on my film. It wasn't in my head, or a sympathy bump...there was a mass, and it was real. I scheduled an appointment with a surgeon, and waited.
It is true, as Tom Petty sings, that the waiting is the hardest part.
Then came the spiritual retreat. It was a 72-hour period of no phones, no watches, and a complete immersion into learning and prayer. Plenty of eating and love, too. I think I gained about five pounds. We took communion and sang songs, and I had ample time to focus on other things besides what might or might not be growing in my breast. We sang the old hymn, "It is Well With My Soul."
The opening lines go like this:When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
These words, for me, became that flowing river of peace and a personal plea. Faith pulsed with the longing that, whatever my lot, it would be well with my soul. The Monday after the retreat, I had my first medically-supervised chest stabbing. Some refer to it as a "biopsy," but I speak the truth. During the whole time the surgeon was poking me with needles (I kept my eyes closed, but I'm sure they were about a foot and a half long), I sang that hymn in my heart and prayed.
The results came back yesterday.
No cancer for me.
It is well, it is well, with my soul.What inspires you? Nature? Music? Time with family? Ever been on a spiritual retreat?
Labels: books, spirit