This room held all the splendor of the Taj Mahal for me. The year was 1966.

This room held all the splendor of the Taj Mahal for me. The year was 1966.

It’s been 50 years since I set sail for college!

Getting there had been a struggle.

My parents helped load my earthly possessions into the trunk of our ’57 Dodge.

I was breathless with excitement as we left the driveway of the family farm, stones crunching under the wheels.

My brother sent me this photo, one that we both agree looks like the one my father bought at Zartman's Garage.

This car looks very much like the one that almost took me to college. Thanks to my brother Henry for the photo.

The trouble began as we approached Martinsburg, West Virginia. On Route 11, of course.  I-81 had not been completed yet.

I said to my father, “What’s that funny noise the car’s making?”

“Hmm,” said my father. (He was a man of few words.)

The knocking sound got worse. We drove to a filling station with a garage and a mechanic who took a look and said, “It’s the rods. Not much to do about it. But I got a friend who sells used cars.”

Long story short, after about three hours, we were back on the road in a blue Mercury. And long about midnight, I arrived on the first floor of Northlawn Residence Hall for Women.

The car problems were actually the least of the effort it took to walk through those big double doors for the first time.

I am the tenth generation of Hersheys in America. No one in all the generations before me, and probably in many previous generations in Switzerland and Germany, had ever gone to college or university.

My parents would have been happy if I had followed my mother’s path, staying home after high school graduation, saving up money for a wedding, and getting married at age 20 to a farmer, who, like all the farmers before him, worked on land that had been passed from father to son for many generations.

All of which is to say that it took effort to convince my parents to let me come. They weren’t sure they would ever get me back once I left Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

And they never did.

I understand their fear better now than I did then. And I am grateful that they trusted me enough at age 18 to let me go. I’ve never returned to Pennsylvania to live, but I hope they know I am still theirs.

My memoir is my tribute to them.

Once safely arrived in Virginia, I assembled the things I brought with me the way all first-year students do, hoping to symbolize my identity in my room. Fortunately, one of my cherished possessions was a Polaroid camera, and I thought to take a picture. Let’s look at it more closely now.

There under the window is the bookcase my uncle made in shop class, my mother gave to me, and I filled up with books, some of which I had already read, some of which I had purchased from a list of “books all college students should read,” and some of which were aspirational — a book about opera, the first three (free?) books in the Harvard Classics series I had sent for by mail.

I had imagined a life of high culture there on the farm and wanted to be ready for it when it hit me.

The wooden tennis racket and hockey stick were there to remind me and others that I loved playing sports even though I I hadn’t been allowed to try out for them in high school. This would not be the last time I would bring unfulfilled dreams from the past with me, hopeful that I would find a creative way to adapt them.

“It’s never too late” is one of my favorite sayings.

And on the wall above my desk, I hung a picture of John F. Kennedy.

If you read my childhood memoir Blush, you know that my interest in politics began in the 1960 election when I chose to go against the tide to defend Kennedy in debate. His assassination had rocked my sheltered world, and I developed a keen interest in leadership.

Fifty Years Later

I am again packing possessions into a car, hopefully one that will not break down along the way. I’m heading to three destinations on my way to the campus of St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.

Books will take up even more space in the car than they did 50 years ago. Once again, I’ll take more than I will actually read, but they won’t be Harvard Classics or opera plots. I’m not trying to impress anyone. They will be books about vocation, aging, and death. Sounds grim, I know.

But I have that same fluttery anticipation I had fifty years ago.

After studying my dorm room photo above, I’ve decided to take my tennis racket. Will I use it more than I did in college? I doubt it. It will be there to remind me to live in my body and enjoy physical exercise and not to let dreams die.

On the wall? I have chosen another kind of leader to take with me. A woman. No, not Hillary (though you can discover what I think of her here),

This woman.

Mother Julian of Norwich (1342-1429)

Mother Julian of Norwich (1342-1429)

I chose this small icon to place somewhere in the space I can’t yet envision in Minnesota. We leave tomorrow. I expect to arrive Sept. 6.

The icon comes from the Julian Centre next to the ancient church where Julian lived in her cell. My trip to the Collegeville Institute is taking me to a long-anticipated visit with my pilgrim sisters who are forever in my heart, like the one Julian holds above.

With Anne and Janet at the Norwich Cathedral, July, 2012. Just before purchasing the icon above

With Anne and Janet at the Norwich Cathedral, July, 2012. Just before purchasing the icon above.

I’m on pilgrimage again.

The leader above my desk this time will be there to remind me.

“All shall be well.

And all shall be well.

All manner of thing shall be well.”

Mother Julian and the tennis racket, wrapped in each others arms.

Mother Julian and the tennis racket, wrapped in each others arms, ready to be tucked inside.

Well, I’m off to do final packing now. It will be delightful to read your comments as we traverse the country in the days ahead. Lexington, KY; Indianapolis, IN; Urbana, IL; Minocqua, WI, and finally Collegeville, MN.

Do you have material objects that hold the continuing power to inspire you? Are you anticipating any journeys? What are you “moving in” to next? What is “never too late” in your life?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard A Kauffman on August 31, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Say hi to Don Ottenhof for me. But for your own sake, don’t mention John Yoder to Don if you can help it. I hope you have a wonderful time in this, another thin place.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 11:36 am

      Thanks, Richard. I look forward to meeting Don. And John H.Yoder has never hung on my wall. Have a good trip yourself! I think you are writing from Heathrow?

  2. Kathleen Pooler on August 31, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Shirley, I am traveling with you vicariously as you take yet another soul-nurturing adventure. I love how you tie in past memories with current events. The more things change, the more they stay the same! Have wonderful time. I look forward to your takeaways.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Thanks, Kathy. One of the things I look forward to is getting to know the daily life practices of the Benedictines. I’ll think of you and my other Roman Catholic friends when I enter and leave the Abbey.

  3. Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Thanks, Richard. I look forward to meeting Don. And John H.Yoder has never hung on my wall. Have a good trip yourself! I think you are writing from Heathrow?

  4. Marian Beaman on August 31, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    You are living the “life of high culture” and what a life it is. I remember Route 11 well, traversing the same highways from PA to VA. You are lucky to have a picture of your dorm room at EMC. My only dorm room photo comes from Lancaster Mennonite where I lived as a new teacher for one excruciating year. You’ve seen it on my blog – ha!

    Your excitement is palpable in your post today. I wonder whether your art materials will make the journey with you.

    May you have many “Showings” and “Revelations” in this exciting adventure as did the heart-holding Julian of Norwich.

    I can answer all of your questions in one sentence: We just moved into a new house, new books (one in the mail) will continue to inspire me, it’s never too late to finish my memoir, and I will journey soon to PA to say goodbye to dear Aunt Ruthie 🙁 .

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Ah, your last words pierced me, Marian. May your good-byes be filled with grace and blessing and much music and favorite scripture. I’m so glad I got to meet Aunt Ruthie and your mother before they made the Great Crossing.

      And yes, your books are resting beautifully in your new place. Mine are in boxes in the library ready for one last major sorting. I don’t want to take ones I can get easily in the library. On the other hand, I’m a marker-upper and want copies of my own with me.

      And here’s a blog post idea for us. Advice to photographers. Make sure you take interior shots of spaces your children are growing up in. The material culture you take for granted now is the stuff of great nostalgia and joy later one.

  5. Merril Smith on August 31, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    How wonderful to have that dorm room photo and all that it encompasses.
    I love your Julian of Norwich icon. Unlike her, your ancestry is well-known, as is your name.
    But holding the heart–it makes me think of e.e. cummings’ wonderful poem, “i carry your heart with me.”
    Wish you a safe trip, and a wonderful journey in all its meanings–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual–this year. I know I will be eagerly waiting to hear all about it.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Merril, I looked up the complete poem here, having read it so long ago.

      Thank you for the reminder. It is the perfect poem to go with that icon.

      Thank you for such a supportive blessing. It really helps to know that others are helping to speed us on our journey — especially since we are now in that pre-packed panic stage! A mess, you would call it. 🙂

      • Merril Smith on August 31, 2016 at 1:51 pm

        You are very welcome, Shirley!
        “Pre-packed panic stage!” That’s great. Well, the phrase is great, not the feeling. 🙂

        All best!

  6. Laurie Buchanan on August 31, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Shirley — My toes are tingling with anticipatory excitement for you and your next grand adventure! I know the Mother Julian of Norwich print will serve you well as she cheers you on silently in the dorm room, and reminds you that all will be well.

    I, too, have book-related journeys coming down the pike. I typically travel with three pieces of technology: iPhone, Kindle, MacBook Pro. That and a small wheeled suitcase with some clothes and shoes. My one nod to something for inspiration is a tea light holder and tea lights. The flame serves as my “contract” to stay put and write until the flame goes out of its own accord.

    Have a fantabulous time!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Laurie, I can see your minimalist approach to travel. It fits you to a T. I need to pack winter gear and all those books. Otherwise, I am in good shape. Even with several boxes of books and Stuart’s box of work-related items, we can fit everything in the car nicely.

      I love the idea of tea lights. I will take some in honor of you and think of you when I light them!

  7. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on August 31, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I remember so well the Kennedy/Nixon debate, and how I was strangely attracted to Kennedy, even though he was :Catholic”. I also recall how shocked we all were at Kennedy’s assassination. Years later, my husband and I watched Nixon’s demise after Watergate, as he waved good-bye from an airplane.
    I have a picture of my dorm room at CMBC (Winnipeg). On the bookshelf is a vase of flowers, the first Of many I received from my true love!
    I wish you all the best in your latest endeavour, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 31, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Even in Canada you felt Kennedy’s charisma and questioned the Protestant prejudices about him. Me too. My parents were quite upset and so were most people around me in very Republican Lancaster County.
      It still surprises me that I was willing to challenge the majority at such a young age.

      I’m so glad you have a dorm picture photo, Elfrieda, and that it includes a vase of flowers from your true love. You might try taking a picture of it and then looking at it on a smart phone if you have one. One of the neatest features of digital images on iPhones is that you can expand them. I discovered that the picture on the wall was of Kennedy not because I remember it hanging there, but because I expanded it and recognized it as soon as it was blown up. Gave me one of those little electric thrills to see it again.

      Thank you for your good wishes, Elfrieda. I’m down to the last 10 hours now.

  8. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on August 31, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    As I saw the icon, I tried to guess who it would be…I landed on Mary, surely, it’s Mary. But, Julian of Norwich is wonderful, and, especially, because you visited her home/cell as anchoress.

    I’m remembering my first dorm room, and, honestly, I didn’t put up pictures…because I grew up somewhat without them, because we were ‘plain.’

    Blessings on your journey west and into the new month and with all those books.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 6:40 am

      I like that you tried to guess the name of the woman, Dolores. I wonder if all women icons, at least in the west, partake in the spirit of Mary. She’s the archetype of all mothers.

      How do you feel about plain walls now? Did you have calendars? Bible verses on your childhood home walls?

      • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on September 1, 2016 at 11:37 am

        I still enjoy plain walls and solid colors. I also enjoy the ‘prayer cards’ I’ve made of my dearly departed parents and grandparents and photographs from our son, Ansel, and even some paintings done by yours truly. And, I am happy to be surrounded by books. In our small house, it means there aren’t a lot of plain walls.

        • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 11:50 am

          I remember your lovingly curated space! And I continue to think Ansel is one of the best names to give a child! You imprinted him with beauty and nature from day one!

  9. Melodie Davis on September 1, 2016 at 6:14 am

    What caught my eye in the dorm room photo (my room was Northlawn 242, I’m pretty sure) was those standard issue desks. So memorable, so inadequate by today’s desk terms, yet so exciting for me to have my own desk, something I had to wait for at home until my family moved my senior year of high school and I bargained for a desk in my new room there. Funny how important that space was to me.

    I also liked your comment to Marian:
    “Advice to photographers. Make sure you take interior shots of spaces your children are growing up in.” I’ve also tried to take shots of most of my office spaces (same building, a host of different suites). Funny how for some, the places where we spend the bulk of our waking hours are not preserved in photos. We have no photos of my husband in his work environment for 30 years, for instance.

    Looking forward to your inspiring environment for the next months!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Melodie, you remind me that I need to make a visit to my old room. I don’t have as good a memory as you. Can’t remember the number, but I’m pretty sure it was on the right just inside the door.

      Yes, you nailed it on how we photograph the novelties of our lives but not the routine. I love “material culture” and am glad for all the photos that document the daily in the past.

      • Marilyn Nolt on September 2, 2016 at 8:58 am

        We have a couple of those desks. Picked them up at an EMU auction decades ago. They never made it back to a dorm but lived in our children’s rooms and now a granddaughter has claimed one as her own.

        • on September 11, 2016 at 2:25 pm

          Marilyn! I see that your note slipped by without comment, although I meant to write as soon as I saw that your granddaughter has claimed a desk like the one above, may she get as much pleasure sitting there, arranging her materials on and under the shelf as I did long ago. Dream big!

  10. Linda Gartz on September 1, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Sounds like another great adventure ahead of you, Shirley. Always moving on with a new goal in mind. I’m inspired, still, by the discipline (and just plain compulsiveness) that allowed my parents and grandparents to save every letter, document, note, photo, etc. so that now I have a 20th C. treasure desired by Chicago’s premier research library, The Newberry. I’m nearly finished with the book based on the decades of my saved family history, but I’ve also taken away something else. My parents and immigrant grandparents were compelled by nature and nurture to work non-stop–at first for financial security,and later–just because. They forgot that life is finite.

    I have a different take on “It’s never too late.” Someday it WILL be too late, so go for your desires and dreams NOW. Don’t wait. Life’s vagaries, vicissitudes, and unpredictability can undermine our best laid plans, and aging & its gradual diminishings will happen to us all. Go for it! Hope that’s not a bummer. Just reality. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Oh how wonderful that all YOUR hard work will be rewarded with archival space on the prestigious Newberry Library, Linda. I did some research there long ago. It’s a national treasure and so is your family archive.

      It’s interesting to muse on the difference between never too late and don’t count on it! I think I want to take a combination of both into my elder years. Transmuting old dreams into new ones and enjoying to the full the gifts of health, family, and friends. While I have them. While knowing I have to leave them all. That is a bummer, but that’s where Mother Julian’s words offer deep comfort: “all will be well.”

  11. Audrey Denecke on September 1, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Yes, all shall be well! Carol Lee Flinders,author of Enduring Grace, wrote contemporary protraits of seven women mystics, among them Julian. Amazingly, each of the seven have left their writings (inspired writings). Amazing they wrote despite the constraints of their time. May you be graced with their support and with inspiration.
    I went back to college after my activist years. So, I never had the opportunity for the stay away experience or dorm life. However, my desire for a degree and thirst for learning was great so I took a non-traditional approach. I went through Mundelein College of Chicago’s weekend program for working students (still a woman’s college at the time). And then on to Loyola University, evening classes, for my Masters in Org.Development. I took with me a heavy briefcase loaded with books!

    • Shirley Hershey Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      What a fascinating journey to college you took, Audrey. You were like a turtle carrying your house on your back all those years.

      I have read the Carol Flinders book. Very inspiring. Thanks for your good wishes. Hope we can connect.

  12. Susan Scott on September 1, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Shirley, I enjoyed this pilgrimage to the past and how you’ve tied it into your current pilgrimage! Safe and happy travels and happy landings. I so admire Julian of Norwich and her saying ‘All shall be be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’ is a mantra that has guided me through many disturbances. Re: any icons that inspire me? I have a Celtic Cross that my husband brought back for me from Ireland many years ago … on the back it speaks of union. What am I moving into next? I’m not sure – hoping to have the confidence to finish my mss which needs formatting and with which my son who is visiting from elsewhere will help me. It’s on ‘Reflections ~ Aging & Becoming’. In collaboration with another Susan from Phoenix Az., who is a Jungian Analyst. What is never too late? It is never too late to become who one is, is my short answer …

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Susan, you get a gold star for answering all the questions. ?

      So you have a book manuscript in the works. And a co-author in the states. Sounds like we have many common interests and themes. I know how much work a book is, so congrats for getting this far! My project in Collegeville is called Jubilación: Vocation in the Third Act of Life.

      I love your answer to the it’s never too late question! Hope my other readers will discover your blog if they don’t know it already.

  13. Marlene Kropf on September 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I immediately recognized the dorm room, Shirley, since I attended Eastern Mennonite College for one year as a freshman. Somewhere in my packed boxes is a photo of that room. You inspire me to find it and see what I might discover on and around my desk.

    I have four icons of Julian of Norwich in my home — two in my study and two in our living room. I surely won’t forget her! If I were going away to write, as you are, I’d take at least one of them along, plus one of Saint Brigid of Kildare.

    May all the saints and angels guard your coming and going! When you meet Abbot John Klassen, Bro. Aelred and Fr. William at Saint John’s, please give them my warm greetings. They are good Bridgefolk friends (as well as many other monks there).

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      I’ll be delighted and honored to carry your greetings to your friends at Collegeville, Marlene. I’m hoping to learn more about Bridgefolks when I’m there.

      And I hope you find some great surprises in old dorm room photos. Glad you took a picture. As the conversation above reveals, many of us forget to photograph the mundane. But then, like I said, this was my Taj Mahal. 🙂

      St. Brigid. I’ll have to look her up. Thanks.

  14. Audrey Denecke on September 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Your turtle metaphor made me chuckle! Very true. I studied with many women who also persevered. There was a sense of solidarity through our struggle to obtain the prize, our diploma! I shed many tears on graduation day.
    Yes, I will be back in contact soon about setting up an opportunity to connect.

  15. Clif Hostetler on September 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Your advance in tennis rackets mirrors my own.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Ha! Was your old one a Wilson?

  16. June Alspaugh on September 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    It is not so much the destination, it is the journey to get there. May you sojourn there safely, with God’s angels to watch over you.
    I hope you place the racket in the car before you depart on your trip. May the words of this song sung by ‘Stompin’ Tom Connors inspire you along your journey.
    I’ve been everywhere man
    I’ve been everywhere man
    Cross the deserts bare man
    I’ve breathed the mountain air man
    I’ve travelled, I’ve done my share man,
    I’ve been everywhere

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      The racket and a tube of balls is in the car, June. We made it all the way from Harrisonburg to Indianapolis and are now enjoying hotel rest. I wish we were close to a farm. Maybe I could practice tennis by bouncing the balls against the door for a few hours like I used to do.:-)

      I remember the song. Good road trip song!

  17. Marylin Warner on September 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Oh, Shirley, you could write a book about this dorm room, especially the symbols of unfulfilled dreams. This was a wonderful post, and I especially enjoyed the “gone rods” of one car, and then three hours later your family drove the rest of the way to get you to college in a different car.
    My father owned new and used car dealerships, and matching the right car with a family’s needs, budget and safety was his top priority. I was in sixth grade when he was notified that a family’s car was stranded off the side of the highway. Their tires were nearly bald and two had gone flat as the family drove to Pittsburg, KS where the father had a job waiting to be a custodian at the college. My dad had their car towed to his dealership while Mom drove the family to our house for a meal and rest for the little children.
    Dad had on hand four nearly new tires that were traded by a car buyer who wanted special tires on his new car, so Dad put those four on the family’s car. He believed in their earnest efforts and didn’t charge them for the tires or balancing. He told them he was sure that somewhere down the line they’d find a poor student or a struggling beginning professor at the college, and they would help that person out. College was a financial hardship for many, and my dad did his best to help those who worked hard but still had times when they needed help. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Marylin, this story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it.
      How kind your father was. I hope that story was told often by the custodian as he helped others in need.

      I don’t know how my father did on price, but the car he bought on the spot served us well for many years. It was a blue Mercury, I believe. We would have been sitting ducks for a sleazy used car salesmen, but fortunately the one we ran into had some of your father’s integrity if not his generosity.

  18. Sherrey Meyer on September 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Shirley, I too packed along a tennis racket to my dorm room in 1964. I still don’t know why. Perhaps I hoped to attract the attention of a handsome tennis player. Hmmmm.

    Books are my compass, and I took as many as would fit in the family car. Far more than I needed to take, but they were writings which had made an impression on me. The kind of books you might need to read again. I still have some of them. My Bible was tucked in safely as it was truly my faith guidepost and still is.

    Wishing you safe and delightful journeys on your way to your next soulful adventure!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 1, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Sherrey, you made me chuckle. I suppose you didn’t attract a tennis player or we would have heard that story. 🙂 But we know that all along you were waiting for Bob.

      I might have one or two of those books also, but, alas, I gave away thousands of books, many of them well-worn and well-loved when we moved the last time. Alas again, we now have to give away more. Our four bookcases are stuffed.

      I too took my Bible and still have the first one my parents gave me. They splurged on genuine leather and gold edges. It still has a distinctive smell that gives me pleasure just to hold. My faith guidepost also.

  19. Elaine Mansfield on September 4, 2016 at 10:12 am

    A great story with an open ending. Thank you for taking me along with you, Shirley. I can’t remember how long you’ll be in Minnesota. Remind me if you have time to respond.

    John Kennedy was assassinated my freshman year at Cornell. It broke my heart and changed my worlds. I don’t have a photo of my room, but remember it well–on the 6th floor of a new dorm for girls. It was a year of angst and transformation. By the time I graduated four years later, I was in love and had become a Chinese and Southeast Asian government major and a political activist. I was drawn to Chinese philosophy and the new murmurings of Eastern spirituality and to the writings of Carl Jung.

    I was drawn to Catholicism as a girl, partly because of those women saints. Julian of Norwich is a favorite. As an adult, I fell in love with St. Francis. Visiting Assisi, and especially his tomb, was a life-changing pilgrimage for me.

    My first book was published just after my 69th birthday, so I guess it’s never too late. I hope the second will be ready before I turn 72, but it has a mind of its own and reshapes itself as I write. I’m focusing on the spiritual experiences of the last 50 years, especially those luminous ones that shaped and reshaped my spiritual perspective. From a philosophic bookstore in Ithaca, NY to a Catholic monastery 30 miles from me (where David Stiendl-Rast was a monk) to a Ramakrishna ashram in Massachusetts to South India to Taiwan to North India to Hawaii to Assisi to Switzerland to London, Ontario, my local meditation center, and the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Ithaca. Moving from the jnana or intellectual path of my root teacher to a heart-centered focus as I grew and learned.

    • Shirley on September 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Elaine, happy birthday! Thanks for this post-view and pre-view of your own major life transitions. I know I’ll love your next book just as I loved your last one. You’ve been both eclectic and remarkably consistent in your spiritual quest, staring in college.

      Your message arrived while we were enjoying friend visits in Urbana. Now we are traversing the prairie on our way to Minocqua, WI.

      Wishing you a wonderful day and a visit from the green man in your dreams!

  20. Lisa Enqvist on September 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    My favorite song as a child of eleven was a Pilgrim song – maybe because of all that moving throughout my childhood.
    As your present pilgrimage has taken you to Minnesota, I had to check that address on a map. I had my first birthday in Duluth, not too far from where you are. My second birthday was in Manchuria, third and fourth in Kunming and so on. Too many moves to count.

    I’m in the middle of your book “Blush” and recognize certain similarities from my childhood. My childhood was rootless in a way that yours was not, but strongly influential in matters of faith. Some of the things you mentioned about what was accepted or not accepted as Christians rang several bells. In your story, you wrote about sports – and that inspired me to check out your blog again and write a few lines. My parents were not happy about me taking part in sports.

    I’m struggling with the question Where do I start my memoir? Some say “take a slice of life.” You chose to write through your childhood, school and further. I’m thinking of the “slice” where I surrender to God’s leading and the excitement of seeing the bits of the puzzle fall into place. But will a reader see the missing pieces?

    I also do not know how long I will be able to write as I have two debilitating illnesses. I mean to write as long as my crooked fingers and joints allow.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 6, 2016 at 10:47 pm


      Is this the version of the hymn you remember? It is indeed beautiful.

      Thanks for reading Blush.

      It’s hard to say how someone else should begin their memoir. If you want to start with the “slice” that inspires you most and tells the story you most want your reader to have, you will then have a draft. After that is written, you might want to have some friends read it to see if they miss any pieces.

      Bless you as you write with debilitating illnesses. Writing is hard work even without them. So my prayer for you is that you will experience enough healing to write the story that is on your heart.

  21. Lisa Enqvist on September 7, 2016 at 1:58 am


    Thanks for your quick reply. I want to write more than just the “slice” suggested by many memoirists. I’m not known, so an autobiography seems too advanced, but your style inspires me to explore and try to find what led me to my choices in life.
    The melody of “my song” is this:
    The name of the tune is EBENEZER, the same name as my father’s gospel ship. We sang another song “O the deep, deep love of Jesus” with that same melody when we traveled on the gospel ship from Finland to Ceylon in 1955. I recently discovered a newer setting of that (love)song on Youtube – and can see myself among those singing kids – though I never was able to express my feelings openly as they do.

    If you are interested you could have a look at

    • Shirley Showalter on September 7, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Lisa, I know the Ebeneezer tune well. So many hymns have used it.

      The other youtube gives me an idea of what your gospel ship days might have been like.

      And your website questions are perfect set ups for telling us a story of determination that got redirected by God!

      Follow your instinct to tell the larger story of your life if that’s what you want to do. Don’t listen to advice. Listen to your heart.

      • Lisa Enqvist on September 7, 2016 at 9:33 am


        THANKYOU! I will. I wrote about my MISSIONARY MOTHER last year and thought I could never write about my father. After finishing your book “Blush” I know that too is possible.

  22. […] senses are ready and attuned. St. Julian has moved with […]

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