Monday, October 6, 2008

Contest: Have You Ever Had to Start Over?

Our special guests this week, Sharon Knudson and Mary Fran Heitzman, have written a book that really resonated with me personally. Starting from Scratch When You're Single Again is for anyone who has gone through a divorce or death of a spouse, or even perhaps the death of a parent.

We'll have an interview with these ladies shortly, but first, I'll give you the contest details. The winner will receive an autographed copy of this resourceful book.

CONTEST THEME: Have you ever started over? Describe for us, in 250 words or less, one aspect of that experience. How you dealt with reactions, or how you accomplished your goals, or how you got through the pain - these are just some ideas you might explore. Share with us.

CONTEST DETAILS: Send your entry to me by clicking here. Deadline is Friday, midnight. I'll post the entries as they arrive, and a winner will be announced over the weekend.

Now, let's learn more about the authors and Starting from Scratch:

About the Authors:

Sharon M. Knudson is a full-time freelance writer with five book collaborations and hundreds of published articles. She speaks at Christian events and retreats, and also teaches writing courses on the craft of writing and getting published. Sharon served for four years as president of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild and holds BME and MM degrees from Michigan State University. She lives with her husband in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mary Fran Heitzman writes essays, poetry, and magazine articles and is current president of the 130-member Minnesota Christian Writers Guild. She is a certified member of Toastmasters International and co-facilitates a Faith Interaction group in her church. When she isn’t writing, she works with her husband at Heitzman Financial Group in Bloomington, Minnesota.

About the Book:

Sharon M. Knudson and Mary Fran Heitzman know how utterly lost and alone a woman can feel after experiencing the devastation of death or divorce. They know because they’ve been there themselves.

In Starting From Scratch When You’re Single Again, the authors serve up true, poignant stories from widowed and divorced women in their early tto late seventies who survived a horrific death-blow to their dreams for a happy, secure future. With white-knuckle faith, each one found enough strength toonly survive – but thrive.

Each woman’s story and the lessons learned provide encouragement and spiritual refreshment. And as a bonus, her favorite recipe is included. (Appropriate for individuals or use with small groups.) Visit their Web site and blog.

An Interview with Sharon and Mary Fran:

Mary, why did you write this book?

Mary: I’m neither divorced nor widowed, but I, too, have a heart for those who are starting from scratch. My father died when I was 16, and although she was never aware of the impression she made, my mother was an inspiration to me. While my faith in God faltered, hers remained intact. I watched how she made decisions—how she continued to put one foot in front of the other—how she guided my younger brother and me.

Today I work with my husband in the financial services business. We meet many women who, because of the loss or absence of their spouse, are faced with decisions that were once shared.

I wanted to offer all of these women hope and encouragement so they wouldn’t feel alone or overwhelmed. I want them to know that others have survived and that they will, too. I also want them to know—if they are young mothers—that their children are learning how to cope through the example they set. Children are not harsh judges, but will admire them for their willingness to learn new skills, and for listening to, talking with, and leading them even when the road is strewn with uncertainty.

Do you think widows and divorced women are treated differently? In what way?

Sharon: When my marriage failed after thirty years, I was filled with tremendous guilt and shame. I had been a devout believer in Christ, an active leader in my church, the parent of two beautiful daughters, and the kind of person who loved both my own and my husband’s extended family. It was as if I had received a ten-foot tall letter “F” on my imaginary “Report Card of Life.” Widows don’t carry that kind of shame around, although they are consumed with grief, as was I. Friends and relatives know what to say to a widow—they offer counsel and comfort.

The first story in the book is from Sharon’s personal experience and is titled "Telling." Why is talking to others – even friends -- about your situation so hard?

Sharon: When I suddenly got divorced, no one knew what to think or say. It was a complete shock to everyone (including me), and it felt like a bomb had gone off in the night. People want an explanation, and if one is not readily apparent, they make their own guesses as to what probably happened. Some gossip and take sides. Some get very angry and feel betrayed: in a way, their own security is threatened and they wonder, “If that could happen to her, could it happen to me?” “Telling”came right out of my journal. It was written as I grappled with how to tell people what had happened just a few months after the divorce. We have included this as a book excerpt on our blog.

How can a friend reach out to someone who is single again?

Mary: Be discerning. Does your friend need to talk? Or does she need a day’s respite? If she needs to talk, she won’t be willing to “pour it all out” if she detects that you’re uncomfortable with listening. Ask questions and initiate conversation about how she is feeling beyond “Oh, I’m fine.” Dig a little, but don’t pry. If the loss was through death, spend some time with your friend looking through a photo album and reminiscing. Tell some stories or share poignant memories of the person who died. Don’t be afraid to tell a funny story. Laughter feels really good when you haven’t done much of it in a long time.

If your friend is newly single due to divorce, she might prefer a day of respite when she can put aside the cares of what is past and what lies ahead. Take a day trip together—just the two of you--or pull together a small group of close friends to do something fun or new. But be sensitive to financial limitations.

What are some of the things we should NOT say to a woman who finds herself single again?

(Sharon) Every marriage is unique, and whether a person is single due to a death or a divorce, the most important thing to convey is love and understanding. That means not probing for explanations and answers that are designed to satisfy our curiosity. In the case of divorce, a question not to ask is, “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” It sounds accusatory, and is an invasion of the person’s privacy. In some cases, there are some very good reasons why they kept silent, and if we’re being sensitive and gracious, we will be discreet. Instead of being judgmental, the best solution is to pray for the person and their entire family. Even if we don’t know all the details, God does.

What are some actions we can take INSIDE the church to reach out and minister to the divorced and widowed that we might not be doing now?

(Mary) Certainly supplying self-help brochures on the many aspects of single-again are a small first step. The basics of finances, initial steps in coping with grief and advice on single-parent child-rearing are all at the forefront of need. But most importantly an attitude of acceptance and welcoming are crucial. Who wants to walk around feeling like they have a big “D” (for divorce) or a “W” (for widow) emblazoned on their forehead? A phone call from a staff member can alleviate that feeling of aloneness. The following questions can be very meaningful: “What do you need in the short term? Or long term? Can we as a church play a part in helping you to heal?”

Thanks, Ladies, for such an informative interview, and for being our guests.

Pixels - get your entries in soon, and share with us how YOU started over.

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