Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Poet...And a Saint?

Friends, meet Wilda Morris, a writer soulmate who will join me as staff at 2010 Green Lake Writers Conference (http://www.glcc.org/glcc/files/conferences/Writers%202010.) Wilda answered the call to share her gift with us today! Here's a poem from a saint--her mother--that just might change your life:

When I was a child, Mother, my sister Dorinda and I lived with my grandparents in a home where faith was highly valued, everyone active in the First Baptist Church.

I’m thankful that poetry was also valued. Zam, as my sister and I called our grandmother, had memorized a number of poems in school, and often recited them to us and our cousins. Three of the poems she often recited were “The Blue and the Grey,” a poem about Confederate women putting flowers on the graves of soldiers of both armies after the Civil War; “Lasca,” a dramatic (and tragic) narrative of the old West; and “Abou Ben Adhem,” a poem in which service to others is reckoned as service to God.

Mother didn’t often recite poetry from memory, but she sometimes wrote poems. She also read to us from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and other books. As we grew, she read poems appropriate to our age. The one poem I most associate with Mother is “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” by Myra B. Welsh, a poem about the grace of God, and the change it can make in a person’s life.

(Wilda's mother)

When my grandfather was dying, Sister Rosemary, a Roman Catholic and member of the Sisters of Mercy, visited his hospital room regularly and prayed for him. She and Mother became friends. In addition to her ministry at the Hospital, Sister Rosemary had a weekly ministry at the County Jail. She invited Mother to assist her in that ministry.

Mother had had many experiences of grace in her life, but she also had difficult memories to deal with. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get involved with people who were incarcerated. After much prayer, though—and with much trepidation—Mother agreed to give it a try. In jail ministry, Mother not only extended God’s love to the inmates; she also felt “the touch of the Master’s hand.” I tell part of the story in a poem first published in the Summer-Fall 2008 issue of Rockford Review.

(Wilda's mother)
Woodye Kessler at the County Jail

She tried to hold fear
in her hands but it spread
like melted butter
from her white hair
to the soles of her arthritic feet.
Even the Bible she carried
trembled as the sheriff
locked her in with Sister Rosemary
and a dozen inmates.

She shuddered when Eddie
opened his vile mouth,
cursing her, Sister Rosemary,
God and his cellmate.
But she came again each week,
studying scripture with the men,
sitting as close as she could
to the locked door,
as if it might provide escape,

till the day Eddie asked,
Why do you come here?
Without thinking, she replied,
Because I love you.
At that moment her fear
took flight and she knew
she did love him, knew
he was a child of God

and Eddie began a long journey
back toward the self
he’d abandoned in the pain
of abuse, disrespect,

My friends, have you been resisting a call to share God’s love and grace? God has promised to be with you!
Wilda Morris, sharing her life journey at wildamorris.blogspot.com


  1. An inspiring story Patti. Wilda and her mother sound like amazing people. Attendees of the Green Lakes Writing Conference will have a great opportunity to meet Wilda!

    Thanks for bringing her to our attention.

    Wilda, if you have a chance to stop in, we'd like to introduce you to our own resident poet.

  2. By the way ---

    Patti has a book signing today at Border's in Normal Illinois and Wednesday at Barnes and Noble in Bloomington IL.

  3. Ohh, I loved that poem. It was so beautiful and touching. Is Woodye still with us here on earth? Please send her my highest regards. Thank you Patti and Wilda for sharing this with us.

  4. Wilda, I am just SO THRILLED to have you at the well!!!

    Your mother's poem has stayed with me since last summer--and I've "clocked" a lotta words since then.

    Blessings, my friend!!!

  5. It made me cry, too. I have no words. Wilda, that was a beautiful poem and your mother is a beautiful soul. Thank you for visiting and for sharing with us. My day has just gotten off to a very inspirational start!

  6. Inspiring. Thanks for sharing it, Patti!

  7. What an inspiration!
    Blessings, andrea

  8. What a powerful poem! I, too, had tears in my eyes.

  9. Oh, that's truly an inspiring poem.

    Thank you, Patti for bringing Wilda here today and letting us ge to know her.

    And Wilda, thank you for sharing your mother's poem.



  10. What a blessing to me today. Wilda, this is a powerful testimony. I am grateful for your words today; they are helping me focus on serving my Lord today in the tasks He's handed me.

    Thanks for sharing Wilda with us, Patti. I hope your book signing goes extremely well!

  11. What an amazing testimony! What a blessing to have a godly heritage. God's love IS meant to share with others and what a better place to share it than with those who have no hope. Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem! God bless!

  12. Just returned from a FANTASTIC book signing and am so glad to hear of the many reading Wilda's mom's work.

    What's cool is lots of the Green Lake volunteers have stopped by, though they don't know how to leave a message! But God knows!!!

    Wilda should drop in later, when she's off!


  13. What a lot of courage it took to go to that cell, to accept the inmates, and to say with sincerity, "I love you." It made all the difference.

  14. Wilda and Patti ... what an inspirational story and poem! I am thrilled to know that I will get to meet Wilda at Green Lake this summer!!

    And I just noticed Jill's good news about WordServe Literary Agency -- you go, girl! Whoo-hoo!!!


  15. Thank you all for your comments!

    Dina asked if Mother (Woodye) is still with us in this world. The answer is yes. She is in a nursing home in Indiana, where she has been an encouragement to other residents. The poem is focused on one incident, and doesn't tell the whole story - that she continued the ministry for many years after Sister Rosemary retired, she often wrote 100 or more letters to inmates in a single month, and she (and Dad) went to state prisons to continue their relationship with some of those who had been incarcerated in the county jail until trial. She always had a Christmas party for the inmates, and each one received a small gift.

    If you find yourself fearful about doing what God calls you to do, remember her story!

    Blessings to all,

  16. Patti and Wilda, thanks for sharing Woodye's amazing story and beautiful poem. Very inspiring :-)

  17. Devra, I wish I could have stopped in at the book signing. I've read Patti's book, THE IRISH WOMAN'S TALE - it's interesting, intriguing and inspiring!

    Thank you, Patti, for this opportunity to share a bit of Mother's amazing story - which is really a story about the grace of God.



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