Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Strange Trajectory of One of My Favorite Books

I  first met my friend and writing teacher, Ann Kroeker, through her book, The Contemplative Mom - Restoring Rich Relationships with God in the Midst of Motherhood - published in 2000.

Ann's book is a helpful guide to navigating and nurturing intimacy with God while juggling the responsibilities of being a mother. The book was my favorite gift for many years to give friends or mothers-to-be when I attended a baby shower.

Several months ago, I was perusing through the Carmel Library used bookstore after my writing class with Ann. I noticed her book on one of the shelves. Pulling out the paperback copy, I could tell it had not been read because there was no crease on the cover. I opened the book to discover the following inscription:

          Jennifer (not her real name), Remember always to seek God as you raise your new baby. Love, Jacquie

I wrote the words eleven years ago to a friend's daughter who occasionally cared for Sarah and Anna when we lived in Vincennes. The daughter moved to Indianapolis after her marriage and when I was invited to her baby shower, I gave a copy of The Contemplative Mom.

I purchased the book from the library bookstore, sharing with Ann my discovery via email when I returned home.

Looking and the book and reading the inscription eleven years later left me disappointed. I chose with care and thoughtfulness a gift to nurture a young mother's faith as she adjusted to the shift in daily routine life with a newborn brings. I wanted so much to share Ann's suggestions in a book that is packed with easy ways to cultivate awareness of God's presence in the chaos of raising children. To find that new book, unused on the used shelf in the library bookstore was disheartening.

A few weeks later, I went to pick strawberries at Spencer's Farm near Noblesville. I look forward to these few weeks when I can rest on a straw-covered path and weave my hands in and out of plants, choosing the ripest berries. Picking can become meditative especially with a blue sky overhead and a cool breeze. I was clearly centered in God's presence that day as I went up and down my assigned row.

When my large cardboard tray was heaped to a peak, I paused one more time to inhale the experience before getting up. I heard two women talking to each other and to their children who were picking three rows over. One voice was familiar and I quickly realized it was Jennifer, the one to whom I gifted Ann's book. I last saw her a few years ago when I visited her following a death in her family.

I hardly knew what to do, especially since I had the copy of the book I gave her in my car.

Do I re-gift?

Do I say nothing"

Do I trust God to be at work in her life?

I didn't know if she would recognize me, although I thought with a few cues she probably would. I didn't want to embarrass her with a re-gift.. So I prayed that God would keep her close as she cared for her expanded family, knowing that perhaps there was another book guiding her walk with God.

Prayer: God, there are many ways we come to you, sometimes through gifts from others. We  develop our own style to increase familiarity and intimacy with you who created all often independently of books or readings. Guide all who love you and desire to serve in your name. Amen.


  1. The convergences, circumstances and coincidences in this story make for a strange trajectory indeed! I cannot believe how that book went from me (writing it) to you (buying it) to the new mom (given as a gift from you) to the library years later (donated by the mom to used book sales at the library where we began meeting a couple of years ago) back to you (when you purchased a nice, used copy not realizing until a few seconds later it was the same book you'd purchased years earlier) to me, sort of (because the used purchase happened on the very same day you and I were meeting at that library) and actually run into the mom (at the strawberry patch). Wow. That is just amazing to me.

    I hope she did find helpful books to encourage her in the complicated challenges of motherhood in the 21st Century. And I hope that copy of the book sets off on a new journey sometime, a new adventure, perhaps this time to be read by someone who needs its message. :)

  2. I remember exactly what you got us when Grace was born,a small wooden cross that hung in her room, then in Michael's room. When we had the fire, it was taken off the wall and a clear outline of the cross was left in the soot. It was a very powerful image for us.