Sr. Edith Elder
After her retirement from teaching and full-time ministry, Sister Edith Elder facilitated monthly retreats in her home. Yet she sought something more to do with her extra time.
Then, in 2007 her health deteriorated to where she was near death. As she recuperated, she started discerning what God was asking of her and why God had spared her life.
"It took me about a year to discern that I should really share my story and the story of others who touched my life. All of it taught me that life is a journey, not a destination," said Elder, a member of the religious community, Companions of Angela and Francis (Koinonia Association).
The result of her discernment is a recently published book, Embracing the Spirit Within, in which she describes her life as a journey of discovery and revelation.
Her experiences as a young woman, teacher and nun are shared in the book, available through Friesen Press. Readers learn of her time with family and friends at her home in Whitehorse to her adventures in Brazil where she worked with children and the poor for five years.
An aim of her book is the simple message that "the more we trust our inner light, the greater our contribution to the world." Writing the book was also prompted by her desire to inspire others.
"People have similar stories. We have stories that fill us with gratitude, other stories that help us walk through the darkness of the night, and stories where other people touch our lives in a meaningful way," said Elder.
For the past 29 years she has lived in Whitehorse, a much different place from her childhood on the Prairies, under the vast open skies of Saskatchewan.
"I remember as a child being so intrigued by this openness," Elder recalled. "When we were on the farm, I used to try running into the horizon because I thought that I could meet God there. Of course, I never got to the horizon, but as a child that was always a deep desire of mine because I wanted to see the face of God, and I wanted to see what heaven looked like."
Sharing certain poignant stories about her past, including anecdotes about former students and Yukon pioneers proved difficult. Writing the book unearthed buried emotions.
"What stories I found most difficult to write are those about death. But I learned over time, and especially from my own mother's death and being at her deathbed, that death is really going home," she said.
Her book, beautifully written and spiritually insightful, is a mingling of different elements, including personal anecdotes, biblical passages and meditative reflections.
Elder said most people go through life, especially the early years, looking for a higher purpose. For her, that purpose is to create a kinder and a gentler world.
She approached the book with a tenet that says God created all people, and everyone is created good and beautiful.
"That's why one whole part of the book is about celebrating our original blessing. Then, of course, we all mess up. Sometimes we come clean, and sometimes we need a nudge to come clean," she said.
She recommends her book for anyone who recognizes that they have faith. Everyone has a spiritual side, she said, and everyone is in search of a "greater power." They might refer to this greater power in various ways or by different names, but she prefers to call this greater power "God."
Over the years, several people, especially women, have contacted Elder because they were searching for something more in their lives, yet they didn't know what that meant.
"They were not necessarily people of Christian faith. Some of them had a Hindu background or Buddhist background, and some of them had no religious background of any kind. I found them searching."
When she set out to write the book, she was convinced that if it touched the life of one person, then it would have fulfilled its purpose. In that regard, she has succeeded. The feedback to her book has been overwhelmingly favourable, she said. Readers enjoy her positive approach, as well as the practical stories to which they can relate. A non-Christian woman recently purchased her book, and two days later returned, and said, "I need to buy this book for my dad."
Posters in bookstores, schools and churches around Whitehorse advertise the book. The book launch was Sept. 21.
Her website, EmbracingTheSpiritWithin.com, offers free downloads of a reflection guide as well as a group discussion guide. The book can be ordered through the website in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats.