What does ‘living well’ mean?

At a one-day writers’ conference last spring, I had a 15-minute meeting with a literary agent. She asked me to tell her about my book proposal, and then provided excellent feedback from someone inside the publishing industry.

“I like a phrase you used: ‘How to live well through adversity.’ What do you mean by living well?” she asked.


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“Your writing is about cancer and death and adoption, which is a broad array of topics,” the literary agent continued as I scribbled furiously. “Make sure it flows. There needs to be one golden thread that runs throughout.”

It’s true I’m attempting to cover a wide array of topics: cancer diagnosis, financial setbacks, death, widowhood.

Yes, and adoption. While our daughter Summer stood watch as her father was dying of cancer, the adoption agency called: Three Ugandan brothers need a forever family. Josh and Summer hadn’t signed up for three more children.

The golden thread that loops through my book is this: Love won’t always be practical. Or convenient. Or financially feasible. If we keep our hearts wide open, it will surely involve shatters of hope and moments of brimming pain.

Love anyway.

The literary agent also said the working title for my book proposal was too long. “Reduce it to a finer point,” she said.

Back at home, I transcribed my scrawled notes, and then took a stab at defining living well. I suppose I mean living forward; understanding there will be grief with any kind of loss—a cancer diagnosis, loss of a job or a way of life, financial setbacks, loss of a loved one—but there can also be hope and joy and a new purpose.

So, with the definition of living well in mind, and with the advice of a tighter heading, here’s my working title and subtitle: “Inconvenient Love: Living forward through every beautiful and broken moment.”

This thought from Wilferd A. Peterson:

Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.

I have very large plans. I’d love to have a barn-turned-house in the country for day-long retreats to encourage women toward living forward through life’s unexpected – widowhood, a cancer diagnosis, adopting more children than planned.

And even though my dreams are way too big for me to bring about through my own resources, I will continue planning and working in the direction of those goals. Because I want to help make my corner of the world a better place for others.

And that’s what I mean by living well.

I’d love to hear your definition of living well, and what you’re doing toward that end.

P.S. If you found this post helpful or inspirational, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Mary Forgey

    I believe. Living well is taking care of yourself always have time to listen or help when you can knowing NO matter how hard it is. Your not alone.

  2. I love how you are working through the input you received!

  3. So interesting to read about the process. I think it’s wonderful that you have found a way to help others through your pain.
    Best of luck with the book proposal! I look forward to reading it!

  4. Nora Weed

    Hi Marlys, my thoughts on living well revolve around my new volunteer project. I just finished my training and in October I will start leading my first Living Well with Chronic Illness class with a wonderful co-leader. You are so right about keeping our love alive and being brave enough to face the hard times. You are a very good example of someone who is leaning into the light. Stay bright and happy.

  5. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Dear Marlys & readers,
    I’ve come back to this weeks blog several times because of ‘Wilfred’s quote’ – so meaningful. Also many other areas of your blog (i.e. your writing/ amending/tweaking of the book) and so much more for which I thank you, for reminding, renewing my/our thoughts. I say this because ‘my book – Across USA cycle challenge’ is in the tweaking/finalising stage and the memories flood back. I’d said to John who I did the challenge with that ‘I’d always had a Pipedream about going to America and to cycle across, it would be that dream come true’ and so it was. Just that little ‘something else’, I was asked recently to write a piece for our Christian Police Association monthly issue (I will send you a copy). My piece was edited accordingly, however what was/is missing is the comment I made regarding my ‘communion with God’, I had said in my prayers, ‘Father God, I pray that I do not return to You unopened, thank You Father God, please help me’. These things are just a few which YOU brought to mind with this weeks blog. Thank you so much, we all appreciate your reaching out to us. God Bless, Barbara & Peter.

    • I look forward to reading your article, and eventually your book, Peter. Good for you for capturing your epic across-America-cycling-trip in words!

  6. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Much appreciated for your encouragement and enthusiasm. For my part, when edged and persuaded by quite a number who attended my talks, plus a dear friend who has helped me to write my diary up, I got to thinking, ‘Why not’ & with funds for Laura’s cause then ‘why not’. Apprehensively I wait, but it is nearly done, so no turning back now & hopefully no regrets. God Bless, B & P

  7. Jolita McDaniel

    My thoughts on living well: I live alone in the back of beyond, a transplanted California resident of 80 years, I am settling in this past year and a half plus to Central Montana’s four-season climate and cowboy mindset of the 5000 population and am housebound. I am a modern pioneer who misses her husband (he died over seven years ago of cancer also) and friends and my old home daily and so mightily, but at the same time, am so extremely grateful for being cared for so lovingly. How do I live well? First, I am never alone, for my Lord and Savior was here before me preparing my life long before I arrived. Hand in hand, we walk together here in Montana just as we did in California. Am wheelchair bound, so am curtailed and things are awkward but so what! – am not stopped yet. I am a prodigious knitter, love old movies, watch God’s artistry right outside my window, and am just finishing up a third book – my second one at the publisher now – a book about joy and living a long life with Christ alongside. I know from what the doctor tells me I am living on the brink, and that knowledge just makes me work harder to accomplish what I think He wants me to do. I am ready, oh so ready for Heaven, but reluctant to leave until I finish what I started. I have the most loving daughter and son-in-law who spoil me much like my beloved Prince did before he died, and I have Facebook interaction with its updates and humor and pathos. I barely have time for naps anymore! And to me, that’s a rich life, and that’s living well. Thank you, Marlys for your sharing. You have a gift and are using it well. God bless you!

    • Jolita – You’re my hero. A modern pioneer, recently relocated, wheelchair bound, missing friends and a previous way of life … and yet. Yet you’re writing books, and creative beautiful knitted items, and watching fun old movies, and not complaining, and you barely have time for naps! You are, indeed, living well and an inspiration to so many of us.

  8. Jolita McDaniel

    Actually, I’ve only read maybe a quarter of your writings, and I think YOU are the hero!! God gave you resilience, and you are using it to the nth degree. Blessings on you, Marlys, dear Marlys. Don’t know you, but I KNOW you! Thank you for saying so much of what is still in my heart and on my mind. Thank you for traveling and going and doing, for I am vicariously right there with you! Angels around you, dear one, and many thanks to that beautiful Cheryl for putting me in touch with you. Jolita P.S. I am entranced with the Porch Fairy!

    • Jolita – The Porch Fairy was so incredibly, over-the-top gracious and kind to us as Gary was slipping away from me, and doing this Challenge every year to honor her and Gary is so much fun! In fact, I have a little something ready to put on someone’s front porch this morning, but I have to wait because it’s still dark out (also, I’m still in my pajamas)!

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