I was buying her book when we saw each other at the book tent.

Circling Faith

Continuing my reflections on the Southern Festival of Books . . .

The third panel I went to at the festival was called Circling Faith, which involved the editors and a couple of the writers published in a book called (you guessed it) Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality.

I like the term “circling faith.” I think I do that sometimes: I walk around the edges of faith, I look at it, I ponder it, but I don’t always dive into it. The book is a collection of essays on all different types of faith, and how Southern culture interacts with that faith. It’s a great book, and the panel was a superb discussion about the pressures put on women to dress and act and believe a certain way.

My new friend, Susan Cushman, is published in this book! Susan is a writer, Tennesseean, and Orthodox Christian like me! Susan and I have been Facebook friends for a little while, but we finally got to meet in person at the SFB. Here we are by the Parnassus Book tent:

I was buying her book when we saw each other at the book tent.

Her chapter in Circling Faith is about her journey to and within Orthodoxy. Susan talks about finding a spiritual mother in Mother Gabriella, the abbess of an Orthodox monastery. When Susan asked Mother Gabriella about going to therapy for “lifelong wounds,” she answered, “It’s fine to seek healing, but we also have to learn to live with brokenness.” That’s a powerful idea right there.

Susan also talks about learning about iconography and how to write icons (we say “write,” not “paint.”). She muses, “Iconography opened the door for me to find my way back to art – especially to writing. Or maybe I should say it was a way for  me to come in the back door to art.” She quotes Madeleine L’Engle (You had me at L’Engle, Susan, you had me at L’Engle!): “Until we have been healed, we do not know what wholeness is: the discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, or write, is an effort towards wholeness.” Susan understands this well. She writes, “Learning to serve the gift through writing and painting is bringing wondrous newness into my life every day . . . sometimes I feel its presence during the sacrament of confession, when I’ve been up all night facing down my demons as I write . . . maybe my brokenness, like the egg yolks that I use to make tempera paint for my icons – themselves a form of life interrupted – is part of my offering to God.”

I love the authenticity here! I love the admittance of brokenness, and the fact that creating art is both a healing power and an offering to God and the world.


One comment

  1. I am honored by your kind words, Karissa. And I’m so glad that my essay and the others in Circling Faith struck such a good chord with you. But mostly, I’m so happy to have met you and found a new Orthodox friend who shares my love for writing and for spirituality. Keep writing… I look forward to reading more of your work some day. Thanks so much for your support.

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