© Orlando Florin Rosu | Dreamstime.com

© Orlando Florin Rosu | Dreamstime.com

Five days before my 48th birthday, my life took a 90 degree turn.  I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and received a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.  (With CHF, the heart still pumps, but not efficiently.  It is often fatal.  Without medical treatment and lifestyle changes, it is always fatal.)

Really?  Me? I felt totally healthy, worked full-time, was married, had two sons in college and an intense, active life.  Heart failure was a total surprise.

I knew enough about heart disease to realize this was serious.  Doctors, family and friends would do their part to help, but there was much that only I could do.  I reduced my stress, changed my diet, brought my life into a healthier balance.  I altered my priorities and my definition of success.  As the Hebrew Bible says, I “chose life.”

It made a difference.  Even though my heart was too damaged to recover fully, it responded well enough to medication and the lifestyle changes that I kept working for another four years.

Eventually, my cardiologist said I had to make another set of choices:  “You can keep doing what you’re doing and shorten your life or resign from your position and maybe live longer.”  If the heart diagnosis had turned my life direction 90 degrees, this news turned my life upside down.

Life Overturned

Life Overturned

I had been a Presbyterian pastor for twenty-six years and loved it.  Having chosen life every day since my diagnosis, I chose life again and stepped into the void.  I resigned my pastorate and applied for disability from The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United States government.  Five years later, that sentence is still hard to see in print.

Now I do short-term projects, volunteer in the community, write, teach, learn new skills, and practice not feeling a need to be productive 24/7.  That last one is the hardest.

Through it all, I am grateful for life.  For husband, family, and friends who love me.  For gardens and mountains, good food and books.  For faith and communities of faith.  For ways to use my experience, gifts, time and energy for good in the world and in common life.

k-and-b-in-play-thing-oz-e1380990308710[1]Changing Direction grows from my desire to live a good life no matter what life brings.  I write about my life.  I write about values, respond to issues in the world, and give tips for living mindfully.  I write about my challenges and what keeps me going, my frustrations and joy, and the places I find beauty.   My Christian faith undergirds what I write and how I live, even when I don’t mention it explicitly.

As Inspector Armand Gamache says in The Long Way Home, “What’s the use of healing, if the life that’s saved is callow and selfish and ruled by fear?” (The Long Way Home, Louise Penny).  In contrast, living well flows from a spring of gratitude.  It carries the fragrance of kindness and grace.  It vibrates–sometimes boldly and sometimes quietly–with courage, resilience, mindfulness, and hope.  That is the life I want to keep living.


3 thoughts on “About

  1. OGValGal

    I am inspired by your About page. I find much encouragement and hope in your words in spite of the challenges life has given you. I look forward to reading your posts!


  2. Reinhild Traitler

    Dear Barbara,
    I just read your blog. Thank you for sharing the story of your journey with us. It is very uplifting in a way. And it reminded me that I got my cancer diagnosis at about the same age as you got your diagnosis of CHF. I survived it and since then I have tried to change priorities. I was not always successful, because, in a way, our weaknesses are also our strengths, and like you, I loved my work, my family and the commitment to issues important to me. But I keep trying, making space available to rest, to regenerate and not to abuse myself… By the way, since we met in Zürich last September, I have also published a little book of spiritual texts (only available in German). And I am deep in preparing the new interreligious study course for Christian and Muslim women.
    Your writing is wonderful and encouraging, please keep at it, I think you are in the place where you are meant to be – a writer of spiritual literature! I’ll spend New Year with my brother Helmut in LA – so I hope to see you then!
    Meanwhile God bless you and “dwell in possibility”.
    Greetings from Zürich!



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