When we travel, we multiply the chances that we encounter a “once in a lifetime” event that defies all odds, seemingly flying to us on wings from the universe. I like to think of these times as God moments. Or, as my sister Doris says, “God’s poetry.”

On our BookTourAnniversaryPalooza, on Amtrak, July 1-28, 2014, we had hundreds of such moments, large and small. Here’s a sampling as told through pictures and Facebook Updates:

A gobsmacker at the very end of the trip.

A gobsmacker at the very end of the trip.

In Vancouver, mid-way through our travels, one of Stuart’s former advisees at Goshen College, noticed that we were headed her direction and invited us to visit her. We found an open spot in our schedule and stood on her doorstep a few days later. She was able to express her thanks to Stuart for his essential help years ago when she felt very vulnerable as a new student in a strange culture. What a lovely evening we had as she cooked, we all conversed — and then ate. Yum!

Karen and the special meal in Vancouver

Karen and the special meal in Vancouver

I found writer Patricia Grace King because her novella Small Country (Kindle Single, 1.99) showed up in the Mennonite Bestsellers list next to Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. We got acquainted online and met in Chicago while I was on my trip. We discovered many Mennonite family and institutional connections, though we had never met each other before.

Patricia Grace King, the one with the pink hair :-)

Patricia Grace King, the one with the pink hair 🙂

As you read these words, Patricia is preparing for a double mastectomy operation. Chemotherapy was successful, but the operation is still necessary. I’ve been touched by Patricia’s honesty, courage, and spirit. She needs all the love and prayers she can get just now. Won’t you join me in this moment of God’s poetry and pray for Patricia as she fights for her health and wholeness?

2016 update: Patricia has been declared cancer free, is writing joyfully full time and is living in Durham, England. We had another lunch together in her new city just a few weeks ago!


Patricia in center. Friends Ted and Sue Swartz beside her.

I’m also interested in your own stories of God’s Poetry. What moments amazed you recently? Or in your travels from anytime in your life?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Joan on August 13, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Healing light and prayers are on their way.

    • shirleyhs on August 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you, Joan! And I hope you have found new strength for that hardest of the hard stages of writing — the final edit!

  2. Kathleen on August 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Prayers for hope, healing, and strength are winging their way toward Patricia.

    I call “God poetry” moments, “encounters with grace.” I try to watch for them every day because … life is good, especially today … and I am grateful.


    • shirleyhs on August 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      Kathleen, you are a wonderful example of one living with grace every day. I wish Patricia could meet you. I know you can be a healing presence even from afar. And that the desire for another person’s wellness can in fact be part of our own healing. Funny how that works. Thank you.

  3. Melanie on August 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Prayers for your friend, Shirley. I’ve discovered God’s Poetry in a new friendship this spring that came from what seems like out of the blue, when I was least expecting it and, probably, most needing it; a weightlifting instructor at my gym emailed me in February, wondering if I wanted to go for a run. That email took a lot of risk on her part, but I’m so thankful she decided to be vulnerable. I’m incredibly grateful for this friendship, for what I’m learning, and for the chance to talk with someone who resonates with me on many levels.

    • shirleyhs on August 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      That sounds so wonderful, Melanie. A new friend is a precious gift. So glad for you.

      I’d encourage you to read Small Country (the link above will take you right there). It’s a very well-written story and it has a delightful third-culture Mennonite protagonist. You might even find a way to use it in a class. It’s more short story-length than novella.

  4. Jane Pinel on August 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Heartfelt wishes for your friend, Shirley. May she have a full recovery.

    Because my husband was incapacitated with back problems I had all to do for our big event last weekend, hanging all the paintings in the gallery for several artists and cleaning and vacuuming. On Sunday night, just as we closed and I was exhausted, good friends arrived with dinner and we sat on the porch with candlelight, a delicious meal and friendship.

    Friends hold the world together.

    • shirleyhs on August 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm


      You nailed it when you said friends hold the world together. And when they seem to know just the right offering at the right time it seems like we’ve been visited by Love itself. And we have!

      I hope your husband is feeling better and that you have many chances to give and receive these loving touches. They hold the world together.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on August 13, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Shirley – How COOL that the Ramer sisters were reading BLUSH on the train. They must have been blown out of their seats when the AUTHOR HERSELF comes over and autographs it for them!

    A foodie, I would have literally gobbled up Karen Chin’s hospitality. Oh me, oh my — the photos look scrumptious!

    Thank you for honoring us with the opportunity to pray for Patricia. I’ve got her zipped in the pod (http://wp.me/pP1C5-wD).

    I love your sister’s term: “God’s Poetry.”

    • shirleyhs on August 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. One of the reasons I love following you on social media is that you keep discovering God’s poetry in unusual places. You are so aware of awareness that you help the rest of us who follow you to do and be the same.

      Zipped in the pod! Love the metaphor and am heading toward that link right now.

  6. Marian Beaman on August 13, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Your sister’s epithet “God’s poetry” is choice. In our family we call it serendipity, an idea I am trying to teach the grand-kids to be on the lookout for. A favorite recent example is a young father with car parked on the shoulder of a busy highway waiting for his son outside a Port-O-Let stationed strategically.

    You mention Stuart’s serendipitous moment in Vancouver with a former student. Kudos to him on this occasion and on his solid support throughout this bold expedition. Just guessing, but I imagine you regard him as “the wind beneath your wings” in all of your shared endeavors.

    And what a flourish to end with in West Virginia, God’s poetry becoming God’s benediction!

    • shirleyhs on August 14, 2014 at 11:42 am

      I have seen God’s poetry all over your posts, Marian, by any other name.

      Stuart is indeed the wind beneath my wings in many ways, places, and times! I am so grateful for his rock-solid dependability and loving kindnesses.

      I love your phrase “God’s poetry becoming God’s benediction.” Thanks for deepening the moment for me and all the readers here.

  7. MIRIAMKING on August 13, 2014 at 9:35 pm


    • shirleyhs on August 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Miriam, thanks for the comment. I know you’re in prayer right now for your daughter Patricia Grace. I have held her and you in mind all morning. Blessings.

  8. melodie davis on August 14, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Love the gobsmacker moment–my mother had one of those on Amtrak too–after they inadvertently did NOT have room for her on the first level so she wouldn’t have to go up and down stairs. So she coped as best she could on 2nd level, but was shocked when a nurse she did not know, recognized her from Greencroft in Goshen, and offered to help navigate the stairs as needed (and the nurse did.) Her angel. And I hope Patricia feels the support of extra prayers …

    • shirleyhs on August 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      Thanks, Melodie. We are all upheld by the kindness of strangers and will continue to be, especially if we are open to hearing the call to BE one of those kind strangers ourselves. I imagine your mother was an angel to many in her day — and that she still finds time to encourage others. She even wrote a letter to the author of BLUSH. 🙂

  9. Tracy Lee Karner on August 18, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Praying for Patricia. I love this post, and the name of those instances when grace surprises us.

    Here’s just one of our recent amazements: Ken said to me numerous times in the past year (he’s retired, looking for something to do, but definitely doesn’t want to go back into business) “What I’d really like is to do some construction consulting for about 10 hours a week, for (he named a specific price) per hour.”

    Last Saturday, he found on Craig’s List, a posting asking for a construction manager consultant for 10 hours a week for the exact price Ken had in mind. When he showed it to me, I thought he had figured out a way to play a practical joke on me!! He’s already on the job, and the building is 2 miles from our place. (And there’s so much more evidence of the hand of God, but the story is too long for this little comment field.)

    • shirleyhs on August 20, 2014 at 8:08 am

      I love that story, Tracy. And I’m happy for Ken. Retirement brings with it many new ways to work and serve. It seems serendipity or God’s poetry thrives in the kind of time when we start to envision new possibilities. Another name — Kairos: God’s time. When we are totally focused on Kronos, linear time, we sometimes limit these possibilities.

      Thanks for sharing. You may help someone else begin to dream . . .

  10. Elfrieda Schroeder on August 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    It was a hot July day in 2005 when my dad passed away and we stood at his graveside weeping, knowing that one of God’s best would never come to put his arm around us again, or smile that special loving smile, when he saw us. There were a lot of dragon flies, and they kept bumping into me. Later, every time I saw one it felt as if my dad came to be with me. I told this to my children and grandchildren and even had a dragonfly necklace made. My brother, who lives in Australia came for a visit last week and it was the first time I saw him since dad’s funeral. I told him about this experience. As we walked along the beach in the evening I took a picture of the sunset with my ipad. When I looked at the picture later, in the top left hand corner is a dragon fly that must have just passed by as I took the picture. My brother and I just looked at each other and we knew! Dad was passing by! A God moment just happened!

  11. shirleyhs on August 20, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I love this story! And I know someone else who would love it too. I worked with a woman who identified with the dragonfly and made beautiful art with that image. I have one copy hanging on my wall in the kitchen. The dragonfly is associated with transformation in the native community from which my friend is descended. I think the “special loving smile” of your father has passed on to you and that you are sharing it with those in your own loving care, Elfrieda. Thanks for landing here today and lighting up this post.

  12. shirleyhs on August 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Report on Patricia Grace King. Her surgery went well, and she has been declared Cancer Free! Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers on her behalf.

    • Laurie Buchanan on August 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      That is FANTASTIC news! THANK YOU so much for the follow up!

      • shirleyhs on August 20, 2014 at 9:41 pm

        Thank YOU, Laurie, for caring deeply for a perfect stranger. Isn’t that a lovely phrase?

  13. […] My husband and I chose to celebrate by traveling 7000 miles during the month of July, taking what we called a BookTourAnniversaryPalooza. […]

  14. […] and I are on the road again. This time we are driving instead of taking Amtrak. The prairie is our playground and this Sunday October 19 2-3 p.m.  Prairie Lights Bookstore in […]

  15. Audrey Denecke on June 23, 2016 at 11:02 am

    What amazing moments Shirley, thank you for sharing them. I particularly love the one of the sisters on the train reading your book. How glorious.
    Oh the synchronistic moments in life, yes they are God moments or signals that the universe is smiling on us. Perhaps we can look at them as affirmations of our life.
    When I was a young woman, I went to visit a new friend at her apartment. I didn’t have a car at that time. Crazy things happened, starting with me walking into her apartment only to find out she was being evicted. Two men were there with her (one turned out to be her boyfriend). We were walking around all night. I was afraid to call my father (why I don’t recall). The story goes on. At one point I found myself alone with this stranger, a man I found out during the course of the night just was released from the Navy brigg (jail), then I noticed he was wearing a cross. A wave of peace came over me. We spoke more openly and it turns out he was very upset with the situation himself. He was a perfect gentleman the whole time. The next morning I called a longtime girlfriend who came to pick me up and went home. I always felt that cross was my guardian angel telling me he/she was protecting me.
    Perhaps the story above is not the strict definition of a synchronistic moment. But I do believe it was a sign to me, in the words of the 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich, “all will be well.” I know I was very fortunate that weekend.
    This is the first time I’ve publically told that story, albeit in sketch form.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Audrey, your response illustrates perfectly why I decided to do Magical Memoir Moments. One story sparks another sparks another — not always with any linear connection. Thanks for sharing yours. If you ever want to use it in your own memoir, you can just google yourself and some key words.

      The words you quote from Julian are embedded in a work of art next to our front door. I come back to them again and again. All SHALL be well!

      • Audrey Denecke on June 23, 2016 at 1:30 pm

        Thank you Shirley!

  16. Lucinda Miller on June 23, 2016 at 11:21 am

    How very cool to meet your book unexpectedly on a train! And unexpected connections with old friends and new friends are serendipitous indeed. My favorite moments of “God’s Poetry” lately are maybe from a place you wouldn’t expect: our local jail. Talking with some of the women there and hearing their trust in God has inspired me down deep.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 23, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I can certainly believe you find “God’s poetry” in the local jail, Lucinda. Our church in Goshen had a very active women to women ministry in our local jail. The stories were powerful. Please give my greetings to your friends in the jail. Sending them hope and love.

  17. Elaine Mansfield on July 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Great stories, Shirley. Traveling can be illuminating or difficult. I’ve never met someone reading my book on a plane or train, although a friend occasionally reports a siting of my book out in the big world. So glad to get the update about your friend Patricia. She deserves our prayers. She’s been through a lot.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 13, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Thanks, Elaine. It’s so wonderful to see Patricia thriving now and to witness her creative energy. The trip across the country was exactly two years ago, and I continue to remember it and all the lovely encounters with great fondness. I am sure your book has been carried into many trains and planes. Its message is universal.

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