Review by Sarah Hoggatt of Freedom Friends Church, in Western Friend

HELD IN LOVE: LIFE STORIES TO INSPIRE US THROUGH TIMES OF CHANGE

Edited by Molly Young Brown and Carolyn Treadway

Many of us go through times of deep transformation throughout our lives, times when our spirituality, physicality, thoughts, and emotions are not what they once were and we feel as if we are in new terrain as we try to find our bearings. Even in good change, it can feel disorienting. Reading Held in Love; Life Stories to Inspire Us Through Times of Change while going through this kind of change myself helped me become more aware of God’s presence in a precious new way.

A compilation of stories, poems, and artwork from 72 writers and artists, many of them Quakers, each of the authors share with us their connections with the Loving Source, finding the Divine in nature, the people around them, and within themselves. They tell us it is precisely during these times of deep change and transformation, of heightened awareness while we’re trying to find our way on new ground, that we are particularly sensitive to the touch of God.

Each story, poem, and piece of art, beautifully blended together, made me want to cry and laugh in turn, sometimes at the very same time. The beauty of such moments as helping a woman birth her baby or having to say a grief-filled goodbye filled me with worship and wonder. It’s one of those books you dip into again and again whenever you need to be reminded of the beauty we breathe and the love we know. It teaches us to go deep within ourselves and to take courage and strength from the stories of others facing those same “great turnings.”

Savor those stories, take them in. Digest each one for it is a book to be gone through slowly, even meditatively. More than anything else, I believe these artists of pictures and words teach us to not only find God in the challenges, but to love the challenges themselves. As Barbara Darling writes in the poem “Siblings”, “Held in Love is/seeing the yellow flower/seeing the mountain rough edge against the sky, clearly/ I can love the mountain edge/ I can love the mountain back.” It is a truth from this book I will take with me.