Author Melinda Worth Popham left home for Yale Divinity School at age fifty-six after a barrage of painful life events—above all, the nightmare of her teenage daughter’s life-threatening depression. These events brought her to her knees, and a monastic method of meditation became her mainstay as well as her portal to the holy.
This memoir, Grace Period, tells the story of one mother’s experience of a daughter’s intractable illness and the discovery that pain is the Miracle Gro of spiritual growth. The radical, mystical experience that ultimately propelled Popham to Yale Divinity School at a pivotal juncture in her life did not lead to the pursuit of late-call ordination to the ministry, but quite simply to her study of God.
What she discovered, though, in the course of her two years there, was that, for her, encountering God happened beyond the study of theology at an Ivy League seminary. It came from her extra-curricular encounters with off-leash dogs, a shining meadow, bad neighbors, and fierce loneliness. Grace Period is not only about Popham’s study of God, but about God’s education of her.
The story of Popham’s becoming both street-smart and book-smart about God unfolds in chapters such as:
Grace Period will appeal to seekers, sojourners, and contemplatives from any and every faith tradition…or none at all. Grace Period reminds us that an eloquent and unsparingly insightful memoir is a generous and loving gift.
When I first set out to write about my two years at Yale Divinity School, I was determined to reveal as little as possible about why I went. The readers of that early version were unanimous in telling me what I already knew: You can’t write a memoir and pull your punch.
“More you, less Yale,” was how one of them put it.
But it was the very one I wanted most of all to shield who freed me to tell about that anxious, fraught, turbulent time.
“Don’t be self-censoring,” she said. “Go for it, Mom!”
So I did, and that is how I’ve come to see that this book never was about my study of God at Yale Divinity School. It’s always been about God’s ongoing education of me.
—M. W. P.
2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Finalist, Memoir Category
Known as the “Sundance” of the book publishing world, the Next Generation Indie is the world’s largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors.
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