Beauty for Ashes

You Have Something to Offer this World

Beauty for Ashes

For years, my older sister Rosemary had talked about wanting to write a book. It was a familiar sounding dream. A beautiful desire. I’ve heard it from many well-meaning people. I recently read that 80% of people who wish to write a book; only 1% will actually do so. If you want to write a book, you need a strong and compelling reason. And if you really want to be a writer, you might as well take up less risky endeavors like base-jumping, Everest expeditions, hedge fund investing or learning Swahili.

That 80%/1% figure is pretty accurate. Over the years I’ve met with dozens of people who wanted to sit down for coffee and “pick my brain” about writing a book. Picking my brain about wanting to write a book is always a yellow flag because, aside from picking fruit, I’ve always heard that picking is a bad habit. In most cases, picking my brain means “I haven’t written anything yet… I’d much rather have coffee with you as I safely entertain the notion.”

Real work vs. imagined work.

Turkish coffee vs. decaf Sanka.

Writing a book (or screenplay, essay, article, etc.) is a serious endeavor requiring stamina, perseverance, creativity, self-discipline, the ability to say ‘no’ to other pursuits, copious cups of coffee, enduring distractions, the ability to focus, turning off everything around you, strapping on the scuba tanks and going for a deep dive into the unknown abyss of the dreaded blank page. It’s being able to write for hours on end with little reward other than the simple joy of creating.

What is music to my ears? When someone calls me and says, “I am writing a book. Can you take a look at what I’ve written so far?”

Ahh, a writer beckons.

Real, tangible work is what separates the dreamers versus the doers. In the early stages, the quality of the writing is not what matters. It’s the commitment to write. The practice of craft and improvement of craft follow. A writer is someone who writes. Publishing is a whole other matter.

Back to Rosemary.

She had a very strong and compelling reason to write. For many years as a young mother in a struggling marriage, she turned to alcohol for comfort, relief and distraction—all the reasons and more everyone one of us turn to our favorite comforters for pain relief. When her husband and her became estranged, then separated, the addiction drove its nails deeper into her heart, mind and soul. After many years of struggle, Rosemary finally hit her bottom, realizing that if she didn’t get sober, she could lose the three children she loved and adored.

And so, in a courageous act of self-respect and love for her family, she joined AA and stepped into the life-giving gift of recovery. That was fifteen years ago and Rosemary has been a changed person ever since. Not only did she navigate the challenging wilds of recovery, Rosemary began working for addiction treatment centers and became a life coach to help others pursue their deepest dreams. She even founded ROC Recovery Services for Women.

And she wanted to write a book.

For years, she scribbled notes. Wrote in her journal. Noted poignant stories she learned along the way. All with the desire to get her thoughts and heart down on paper to help other struggling moms. Rosemary also imagined, “What if there was a book out there for other struggling and addicted moms who want to break free? What if someone else like me went first and told their story? What if I had had a book like this when I was a struggling scared mom of three kids? What if there was a book with real, authentic stories—the good, the bad, the ugly—that helped other moms see themselves through my story, but also gave practical ideas, encouragement and the strength to stay sober one more day? What if?”

What if?

If you want to write, you need a strong and compelling reason to say what you want to say. And you need to be convinced that you do, indeed, have a voice. You, yes you, have something to offer this world.

You are not content to stand on the sidelines with dreamers, wishers, or wannabes. You refuse to be an excuse-laden ‘woe is me’ sorry soul that never risks for fear of failure, critique or ridicule. You are willing to offer a gift of beauty, no matter how flawed or tarnished, but polished to the very best of your ability. That’s how books get written.

By my loving sister’s authentic admission, her life almost ended up in the ash heap of addiction. By God’s grace and a lot of hard work, she traded beauty for ashes and she’s now helping other woman sift through the ash heaps of their lives looking for the glints of gold. A necklace of forgiveness. An earring or two of grace. Scattered rings of acceptance, courage and compassion. There’s so much beauty to be found in the ashes. Like writing, trading beauty for ashes takes a lot of effort, but each day, there’s always serendipitous surprises discovered along the way. Despite the tears, pain and regret, there’s beauty among the ashes.

Gold has always looked good against black.


PS: If you want to pick up a copy of Rosemary O’Connor’s new book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids, it’s an awesome read and I’m not just saying that because she’s my sista. Rosemary is a great storyteller and her book is filled with practical, inspirational stories, humor and ideas to help recovering moms. (Hazelden Publishing, 2015) Buy one for yourself, a friend struggling with addiction, your church, local AA group or recovery center. There is something for everyone (men included) in this beautiful little book. It’s available here on Amazon.

Question: Name a season in your life when you experienced beauty for ashes. How did this develop compassion for other people going through similar circumstances?

I’d love your thoughts and comments.

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