Sharing My Faith in Memoir
Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“Faith is walking to the edge of all the light you have and taking one more step.” Author Unknown
Some Thoughts On Writing About My Faith…
A few weeks ago Memoir Authors and teachers, Annette Gendler and Shirley Showalter posted a discussion on their blogs about sharing faith in writing. It made me stop and think about how little I have shared about my own faith despite the fact that a main theme in my own memoir-in-progress has to do with my spiritual journey,the awakening of and growth in my faith in God through my life challenges.
Although this post was written before the tragic events in Newtown, CT, it has taken on an even deeper meaning for me as l grapple with the devastating events. In my mind, I feel God will find a way to turn our sorrows into blessings if only to draw us all closer to each other and to Him.
For as long as I have been blogging (2009), I have been talking about my memoir-in-progress being a story of the power of hope through my faith in God. You are probably wondering what all that means. I haven’t really spoken about it in any great detail. But, the deeper I get into my own story, the more I feel the need to share my faith with you so as to disclose a main theme in my memoir.
Shirley had this great suggestion, “when writing about our faith, we should imagine ourselves on a plane ride, falling into conversation with the person sitting next to us.”
Thank you, Shirley and Annette for your prompt.
So here goes…
As a” cradle Catholic”, I was born into and brought up with all the traditions and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith. I have, by conscious choice and deepening desire, remained true to these beliefs and teachings,except for a period in my twenties when I questioned and even rejected them.
As is often the case,my faith did not deepen until I had to face several life-altering as well as life-threatening events. It was then that my religion became my faith and my spirituality, the source of comfort and meaning in my life.
Therein lies my story.
In the course of having Memoir Writer’s Journey, I have met many wonderful people, including you. When Memoir Author Pam Ritchards emailed me requesting an interview about my faith on her blog, Candle to the Sun, I initially felt a little uncertain.
Faith is such a deeply personal topic and my biggest fear was others might feel like I was trying to preach or convert them when I really just wanted to share the influence these thoughts and beliefs had on my story.
No matter which way I look at it, my faith is a big part of the story I need to tell.
I’m a true believer that modeling Christian behavior has more impact than just saying the words.
Show me, Don’t tell me.
I’m glad I said yes to Pam’s request because as soon as I started answering her questions, I felt connected to the beauty of my faith, and free to share it.
No strings attached.
Here is the original interview on Pam’s blog, Seeds Born to Light:
Miracles in Memoirs
Pam to Kathleen: What unique contribution to faith do you see women making today?
Kathleen to Pam: In my experience, women are the nurturers in the family and are often the ones to plant the seeds of faith. My Great-Grandma Rose did that for me. Widowed at the age of thirty-three with seven children to support, she lived in poverty. Somehow, she made do with her strong belief that God would provide. As a Roman Catholic, I have a devotion to The Blessed Mother that was instilled in me by Grandma Rose. She was always praying the Rosary and asking me, “Katarina (my name in Italian) you wanna be a nun or you wanna get-a married.” It made me nervous as I figured she had some pull but my Mom reassured me that if God wanted me to be a nun, I would feel the call. I was relieved as I knew I could serve God in other ways.
But the vision of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my entire life as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I pray the daily Rosary.
Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Grandma Rose.
Pam to Kathleen: How has your faith influenced you in your career?
Kathleen to Pam: I felt called by God to go into nursing when I was thirteen years old. I was sitting in my eighth grade classroom study hall, reading a book, Anne Snow, Mountain Nurse. My heart started pounding and I had a
feeling of excitement as I read about Anne Snow riding on horseback in the hills of Virginia to care for poor families as a Community Health Nurse. From that moment, I knew what I wanted to do. Of course, I didn’t realize it was a calling until many years later. At the time, I just knew it felt right.
My faith in God has guided me throughout my entire career as a nurse and nurse practitioner. Every morning on my way to work, I prayed that I would remain open to being God’s servant in caring for the ill or in carrying out whatever role I happened to be in at the time- clinician,educator, administrator. I often prayed with or over patients with their permission. I said many silent prayers for those who were not comfortable. I also prayed for the strength to deal with whatever I had to face- a dying patient, a difficult family/coworker/physician.
Jesus is the Divine healer and if Jesus is in me then I am a vehicle for carrying out His work.
Pam to Kathleen: How do you see miracles working today?
Kathleen to Pam: A miracle is something beyond human explanation. On December 19, 1996, worsening shortness of breath and a dry cough had precipitated an early morning trip to the emergency room. As I was pacing near my stretcher, waiting for the results of a CT scan of my chest, realizing something serious was happening, I cried out in desperation, “Dear God, please give me the strength to do whatever it is I need to do for this is the battle of my life and for my life”. A peace beyond understanding flowed over me and stayed with me throughout my eventual diagnosis of Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my two-year treatment course which included chemotherapy, radiation and a peripheral stem cell transplant. I allowed myself to be open to accepting help from others-meals, gifts, prayers. God had answered my plea to “do whatever I need to do” to fight the battle.
Allowing myself to be vulnerable enabled me to accept God’s love, grace and healing. I believe He sent me many angels in the form of family, friends and caregivers on my healing journey.
Simultaneous to the cancer journey was my young adult son’s spiral downward into alcoholism. The cancer was easier to deal with than watching my son’s descent. At least I had options for treatment for the cancer and felt some sense of control. I had no control over my son’s choices and behavior. So I prayed and learned to lean on God. I learned to hand my son over to God and to let go of my need to control. And I never, ever gave up hope that God would heal me and my son.
Grandma Rose echoed in my ear “God will provide” and He did. That is the miracle of faith in my life.
Pam to Kathleen: What kinds of events or incidents have helped you understand God best?
Kathleen to Pam: Having walked through these challenges has deepened my faith. Having been through a life- threatening illness and the terrors of loving and letting go of an alcoholic son has forced me to dig deeper to find the treasures of my faith within. But now that I am on the other side of these challenges, I see God every day in the people I love, nature, all the little things in life that matter. All my challenges have given me the gift of perspective about what really counts in life. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
Pam to Kathleen: Hope is one of your favorite themes. How have you held on to hope in your own life?
Kathleen to Pam: My favorite quote is “Some things have to be believed to be seen” by Ralph Hodgson and two of my favorite scripture verses: “Three things last forever-faith, hope and love-and the greatest of these is love. Corinthians
13:13 and “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. They have guided me through my dark moments when I faced my own mortality and when I was filled with despair over my son’s life.
I also have a mantra that gets me through the tough times: “My faith is stronger than my fear.”
* Addendum: It was December 19, 1996- 16 years ago this week- when I was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkins’ Lymphoma.
How about you?
How do you feel about sharing your faith or spirituality, however you define it?
How do you feel about me sharing my faith on this post?
This Week: I’m also over at Susan Weidener’s blog Women’s Writing Circle with a guest post: A Journey of the Heart”
Next Week: Merry Christmas! “Christmas Hope: A Memoir Moment”