To help those seeking a way to preserve these experiences, I am conducting special Spiritual Memoir workshops. I chose the word spiritual because of its ambiguity. Spirituality is personal and defined by you. Anyone can write spiritual memoir, and spiritual memoir is not necessarily about religion.
Did your life change when you finally took that dream vacation? Has your belief grown because of a unique personal challenge? Are you searching for the right way to share these experiences with your loved ones? Do you have an experience you want to share because you know it will help others? Those are all good reasons to write spiritual memoir.
I have collected writing samples from a few participants of my most recent spiritual memoir workshop. You’ll see that a wide range of topics can be classified as spiritual memoir. I hope they inspire you to try your hand at the genre yourself.
How Do I Be a Grandma?
by Becky McGregor
My daughter handed me a bundled up baby, saying “Here you go Grandma.”
I replied, “I told you not to call me that.”
My mind went in a million directions. First, I was too young to be a grandma. I wasn’t yet finished with being a mom. How do I treat this baby? So many questions ran through my mind that I had no answers for.
Then he locked eyes on me. Such beautiful blue eyes, which seemed to hold a depth of knowledge and love. I began asking him my questions. Bruce stood next to me and laughed at each question. Then he stopped me and asked what he considered the most important question, “Do you love him?”
“Of course, I love him.”
“Then tell him that, and everything will work out.”
Looking into the baby’s eyes, I told him I loved him and then kissed him on both cheeks.
My first grandson, Logan, would never call me grandma; I decreed that before he was born. I told Logan he would address me as YaYa and continued snuggling with him without realizing the beginning of a fascinating new journey had already commenced.
The Tension Screw
by Norma Beasley
In June of 2003, I bought a red and black Remington, eight-foot, electric telescoping pole saw, to prune dried palm fronds and small errant branches from a growing Chinese tallow tree and a ligustrum patio shrub.
As I sat on my patio, I started to replenish the small oil well of the saw when I noticed the chain was sagging from the guide bar. A guide bar is a metal bar that extends from the saw’s body and supports and guides the chain. A sagging chain is a real no-no in safely operating chain saws. I knew I had to locate the adjusting screw to fix the problem. But where was it? A handful of tools rested in a chair near me. Different sizes of Phillips screw drivers. Common screwdrivers. Socket wrenches. An eighteen-ounce plastic bottle of Briggs and Stratton small-engine oil. But nowhere could I locate the adjusting screw.
I found the manual in my house file cabinet and began to pour through the pages looking for something about the adjusting screw or tension screw. Nothing I spotted resembled my saw. Time for plan B—the repair shop. I hated that solution because I knew I could solve the problem. Besides, it meant defeat in a way.
I propped the saw against the blue wicker end table. Then, sat back in my chair and waited. It has to be there. I must have missed it.
Soon, prompted by the God of my heart, I started to wipe away the oily sawdust residue at the front end of the engine. What’s that? A small screw. The tension screw? It was. Yippee!
An Undeniable Answer
by Wilma Bozenhardt
Mama spent her last few years living on the banks of the St. John’s River in her aging trailer. She determined in the early eighties it had one last move in it and had it towed to her brother’s fish camp located off Highway 46, east of Geneva, Florida.
Her emphysema was taking its toll. She loved the peacefulness of the river and found even more comfort that she and her brother could look after each other daily. When she was able she would help him keep his little concession corner stocked. There fishermen and boat launchers could purchase cold drinks, live bait, ice, and dusty packaged fishing lures, which hung on the wall on faded cardboard displays. She helped when needed and she felt up to it, but if she didn’t, she liked the fact that she could just say in bed all day if she wanted to, though I doubt she ever did.
My heart was comforted today as I thought about the peacefulness of her last few years there along the river bank. Today, would be my last visit to her humble little home. I had spent the last week going through all of her personal things to salvage what was treasure and what was not. Her trailer would now become a rental to those who wanted a place to sleep over for an extended fishing weekend.
My plan was to go through the weather-beaten trunk she had covered with one of her large embroidered scarfs and, like all the things in her trailer, had served a dual purpose—storage and as her coffee table. I knew it had always been a place where she put special to her mementos. The trunk was well traveled and had been around since my childhood.
Lastly, was the closed shelving in the end of the trailer which faced the river. It was at the table in front of these shelves where she spent most of her waking and wakeful hours. Being an organized messy as she called herself, it contained mama’s cookbooks, shoeboxes of pictures, newspaper clippings, medical papers galore, quilting projects, an assortment of small tools, and remnants of anything she could not throw away for some reason. I soon learned as I shuffled through it all that Mama, during her neat attacks had stuffed important papers where ever they happened to be at that moments of time, so I dared not toss anything without flipping through it all carefully.
By the end of the day, I had made the journey through it all, experiencing both laughter and tears at what I had discovered. I carried lots of things to the big dumpster near the back door of the camp building.
The sky was growing dark, and in the distance, it seemed one of Florida’s afternoon storms was coming my way. I hurried to load my car with the things I was going to send my sister and her girls. I had put the treasures I was going to keep in mama’s large Tupperware square. It was yellowed from sitting on top of her fridge. In it, I had placed mama’s Bible with all she had left in it and a stack of her mother’s letters written to her in the late forties and fifties. Grandma Nora had only gone to the third grade, and she wrote as the words sounded to her if she didn’t know how to spell them.
From my dad’s mom, Granny O, I found a family tree, listing of all the members of her and Paw O’s family with dates of births, marriages, children, deaths, and the places of their burial. They were all beautifully hand written, every letter perfectly formed on the pages of yellowing notebook paper.
Tucked away in a tattered old envelope I found the sweetest of treasures. It was a little folded brochure given to Mama when she had made a personal decision to become a follower of Jesus. It was dated and signed, and recorded at the bottom of the page was the date of her baptism, which I understood took place in a nearby river near Jacksboro, Tennessee. Except for Grandma Nora’s letters, I did not know the other items existed. They are now in my closet still in mama’s Tupperware square.
I said goodbye to my uncle, gave him the keys to the trailer, and headed home. I had wanted to stop by the cemetery in Oviedo on my way home. The sky was even darker now, but the storm seemed to be moving ahead in the distance, and though it looked and sounded threatening, I never caught up with it.
My mind was flooded with all the memories I had unearthed that day. I was so comforted to know mama could now breathe without laboring as she had during her last days. I was at peace about where she had gone to be forever. As I approached the cemetery the sun had finally come out, and across the heavens was a beautiful rainbow. My heart leaped as I saw it. It seemed to be a confirmation that Mama was indeed in His presence.
I found Mama’s grave site; it was yet marked with just a metal stake and plastic covered card that listed her name and her birth and death dates. I told her all we had done to close up her home and how it would give others some of the pleasure she had known by the river the last few years. She liked it would now be a bit of an income source for her brother as he would take nothing from her for the years her trailer was parked on his property.
My eyes fell on my dad’s pillow stone, and I felt a pierce in my heart. His bondage to alcohol had made life so difficult for Mama and all his family. I wished I had the same peace about his life I had about Mama. My mind seemed to war with conflicting thoughts as I stood looking at their resting places, side by side now. Daddy too had made a choice at one time to turn his life over to Jesus, and though I do not remember the specific time, I know Mama said there was a change in his life. However, in time, he returned to his old buddies and fell back into behaviors that were so painful. He was never able to grow strong in leaving alcohol behind him.
I know that the scriptures teach those who come to Me, I will in no way cast out. If only there had been someone in his life to help him, perhaps things might have been different. We had moved from Tennessee to Florida in the forties for Daddy to make a new start and life had really been good during our first years in Florida. However, in time when money was good, Daddy relapsed.
My heart felt heavy for Daddy. I walked back to my car, comforting myself in the knowledge that God was always good and knew every heart. I thought of the scripture in John one that says, “He came unto His own but His own did not receive Him but as many as received Him to them He gave permission to be His child.” Lord, I thought, I know Daddy did not reject You. You said, “That before we were born, while we were yet sinners You died for us and whatever would keep us out of heaven, you made a way for all because Your Father accepted what You did to count for all who did receive you.” Lord, I thought, Daddy lived as a cripple child most of his life. I pray in death, You received him as such. I choose to believe what Your Word says about all men and not my feelings.
As I stopped my car at the main road to get onto Highway 426 and head west to my home, I looked up at the sky again, and what I saw flooded my heart with joy—a double rainbow clearly graced the heavens!
A Moment in Time: a Journey to Parenthood
by Cheryl Floyd
Rod and I ate silently for a few moments before I blurted out, “What if they call? It happened once, it could happen again!” On our lunch hour at a fish house near the clinic, Rod and I talked about the fact if all had worked out we would be parents. For months after the first adoption option ended I sulked and mourned the loss like someone experiencing a miscarriage.
In the spring of that year, 1980, a chiropractor colleague of Rod’s approached me at the annual Louisiana Chiropractic Convention in Baton Rouge. She walked right up to me and said, “Hi Cheryl, how would you and Rod like to adopt a baby? Shocked at the question, I stared at her in disbelief. How did she know? I never told her or anyone for that matter that we were considering adoption. Doctors told us that the chances of conception were slim to none. We only briefly considered adoption, but had no idea how or where to start the process. And now, this almost stranger, offers us an opportunity to adopt a baby. Rod joined us and she explained that a young woman patient had a sister who wanted to offer her baby up for private adoption.
After thought and prayer, we decided to say yes to the adoption. But soon, due to circumstances around the birth mother, that option fell through and we faced the facts that another chance was slim. That fall, after lunch and the adoption discussion; I answered the clinic phone and recognized the voice on the other end of the line. The familiar voice of a local physician asked to speak to my husband. It was the husband of the lady who offered the first baby. My heart raced as I ran back to Rod’s office, “It’s him, and he’s calling with another baby. I just know it!”
Rod tried to calm me down, “Cheryl, he could be calling about any number of other issues. Don’t get too excited.”
“I know, it’s a baby. I know it!”
As Rod picked up the receiver, I sat on the edge of his desk and tried to hear the conversation.
I watched him smile and say, “I’ll talk it over with Cheryl and call you back soon.”
“It’s a baby, isn’t it? What did he say?”
“Yes, it’s a baby, due later this month. Do you want to say yes?”
“Is it the same one or a different baby?”
“It’s a different one and after meeting the mother to be, he said she looks enough like you to be your sister and she’s also Cajun, like you. He saw a picture of the father and he thinks this is a perfect fit for us. Do you want to say yes?”
“Of course I do! Hurry call him back.”
On October 20th she arrived, five long days later we brought her home with us, forever to live in our hearts.