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Monday, July 18, 2016

Shield of Life

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women's Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul.

In 1994 I attended a William Glasser Conference in Dublin, Ireland. There I met colleagues from the Balkans. The Balkan War was raging and their once peaceful lives were in chaos. When asked what The William Glasser Institute could do, they said they needed support.

Funds were donated and used to purchase diapers and formula and other necessities like soap and shampoo that were in short supply.

A group of us went a step further and organized a small conference on the shores of the Adriatic Sea in Rijeka, Croatia. We paid our own way and raised additional monies to put on the conference for those who could come. In addition we volunteered to lead workshops and provide whatever counseling services were needed. Our group was received by the Mayor of Rijeka, one of our members was interviewed on a national radio program. A highlight was the evening the government minister for prisoners of war and torture victims spoke to us.

Shield of Life
I had a chance conversation with a professor at the local University. He invited me to speak to one of his classes. I also led a group discussion with a small group of women who’d braved Serbian fire as they drove from their homes in Dubrovnik (that had been bombed that morning) up the Dalmatian Coast to the conference. What an honor that was!

When Zagreb, the capitol of Croatia, was bombed (we were about 50 miles away), I went to breakfast and found colleagues I’d had dinner with were missing. No one talked about where they were. They’d just vanished—called back to the war.

That morning we were also ordered to leave the country. That was difficult but knowing that our being there actually put them at more risk than if we left. We were an easy target and to kill ten US, Canadian, Irish citizens along with Croatians who were leaders in their country was tempting.

The Mayor sent his van and driver to take us across the border into Slovenia and on to Bled. Traveling through border check points where the guards were armed was an event I’ll never forget. We were in Bled for a couple of days waiting until our flights back home left.

Sitting in an airport waiting for a flight with military tanks on the runway, armed soldiers carrying automatic rifles patrolling the concourse—I’d never had any of those experiences.

When I reached my home I was compelled to do something more.

Shield of Life with added feathers
Because of that trip I’m very aware of how quickly deep and abiding relationships can form in times of trial. I still hold in my heart many of the people I met over two decades ago. I still feel an instant connection when I see any of them at conferences. One of my favorite experiences was at the Edinburgh, Scotland conference when most of the women I’d met in Croatia were there. Tears of joy, of gratitude on both sides—they’d rebuilt those lives that had been so traumatically disrupted.


This is my Circle or Shield of Life. While the flowers are silk, everything else is natural (well, actually the silk flowers are made from the spinning of silk worms). Feathers do not always survive and so I've added two feathers before taking this picture. The black feather in the upper right quadrant is one I picked up in Scotland in 2008. What's magical is that when I got home, there was the exact same feather by my driveway. In fact this might even be that feather instead of the one from Scotland!

What life altering event have you undergone?

How has it changed who you are?

What have you done to honor that experience and that transformation?

You can learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series on my website.


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© 2016 Judith Ashley

2 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

When I was thirteen, I watched a special news report on tv about child abuse in America. I had no real concept that such a thing happened until that night. I cried. I prayed. I wanted to do something to protect children, but I felt helpless.

During the years that followed, I became involved in children's issues. I met my husband working as a volunteer for the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation. I served on our son's Headstart Program Board of Directors.

After 20 years, I had the opportunity to work as a child advocate in a domestic violence shelter and later to help develop and implement a respite care child abuse prevention program in Linn county, Iowa. I feel blessed that I was able to fulfill that dream of helping to protect children.I was awarded the Governor's Volunteer Award. The program reduced incidence of child abuse in the county by 7%.

I have not really done anything to honor that experience and that transformation from a place of perceived helplessness to one of empowerment.

Tell us more about your Shield of Life. How did you decide what to include?

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for commenting, Sarah.

I'm not surprised you were awarded the Governor's Volunteer Award! And as creative as you are, I'm sure you can and will come up with something to manifest your transformation.

I knew I wanted to honor the four directions and at that time I collected cones and nuts and shells and rocks and even feathers whenever I was out walking (I was making wreathes with these finds also).

To honor the four directions and using the Lakota Sioux colors gave me the main section (the four large cones and the silk flowers). The center needed something and a neighbors tree drops the 'rosette'. Another neighbors tree is a chestnut and then I added polished rocks in the appropriate colors to bring the design out to the border.

It's one of those times when the creation comes through me instead of my being the creator. In many ways it's like how I write the first draft of my books.