A few years ago I was asked to submit a speaker bio for a talk I was giving at a local church. My theme for the evening was our true identity in Christ, and I had entitled the message, "Who am I?"
I simply couldn't write a bio for myself. I tried and tried, but nothing rang true. As the deadline for submitting the information drew near, I became more and more agitated about writing a few simple sentences. "I don't want it to sound like a resume," I said to my husband, Jack. "And I'm not interested in promoting myself."
Concerned about my stress level, Jack said, "I'll write it for you." The irony of someone else having to write my bio for a talk called, Who am I? was delicious. Maybe it also says something profound. When we struggle to see and name who we are, God gives us the gift of each other.
So, who am I? First and foremost, I am a beloved child of God. That's the identity you and I share. But here are some more specific details of my journey:
I was born in Arcadia, California, and graduated from Smith College, receiving my B.A. in English Language and Literature. I then went on to Princeton Theological Seminary, where I met Jack while walking to a reception for new students. Our first date was in his candlelit dorm room. We feasted on microwave lasagna with music from "Lady and the Tramp" playing in the background. We got married two years to the day of that very first date.
Since our graduation from seminary, Jack and I have served on the pastoral staff of churches in Scotland (where our only son, David, was born), Oklahoma, England, and West Michigan. I left pastoral ministry early in 2016 in order to devote myself more fully to the ministry of writing, leading retreats, and offering spiritual direction.
I love all things British--especially tea. I love to read. I love to travel. I love watching movies with my family. And I love to write. Especially with a cup of tea.
I love speaking at churches and have traveled worldwide to lead retreats and other special events. Please use the contact page if you'd like to explore possibilities. My favorite theme to speak about is how we grow in knowing ourselves as God's beloved through the practice of spiritual disciplines.
In September of 2008 I began leading a weekly women's spiritual formation group at the church where my husband, Jack, and I co-pastored. My intent was to introduce women to spiritual disciplines that had deeply impacted my own life with God: prayerfully reading the Word (lectio divina), the prayer of examen, journaling, spiritual direction, and other ways of prayer. Our time together became sacred space where we encountered the living God. The women grew to trust one another deeply, confessing sins and heartaches in order to receive God's healing love, forgiveness, and power.
In one of our first meetings together, one of the women in the group looked around the circle and commented, "Everyone here is wearing really cute, but sensible shoes!" The phrase stuck, and we began to refer to ourselves as the "Sensible Shoes Club." God was leading us through the unpredictable and sometimes treacherous terrain of the inner life, and we needed sensible shoes for the journey. We also needed one another.
As we walked together, we witnessed stunning and breathtakingly beautiful transformation. The Lord healed old wounds, opened blind eyes, and set captives free. After being together a couple of months, I sensed that God was inviting me to share the story of the group by creating characters who were also learning to walk closely with God. None of the characters represent actual people. But they do struggle and wrestle with universal issues: letting go of control, trusting God, people-pleasing, perfectionism, hiding behind roles and busyness, fear, regret, guilt, and shame. In this way their stories are our stories of hope and healing. I pray you'll discover glimpses of your own story reflected in the lives of the characters as well.
There are four books in the series. But the characters do make cameo appearances in "Shades of Light," which takes place in Kingsbury, nine years after "An Extra Mile."
For me, writing is a way of prayer. I listen for the direction the characters are moving, and then I respond to that movement. I don’t plot or plan the story out ahead of time. I prefer to watch it all unfold without trying to control the outcome. In that way, the stories feel more “received” than “created.”
Michelangelo believed that a form already existed within a block of marble, and he just needed to chip away the excess until the sculpture emerged. I feel that way about my characters--like they already exist, and I just need to ask the right questions in order for them to emerge and be true to themselves. It’s a process of discovery rather than inventing. I ask them lots of questions, and I don’t assume I know what they’ll reveal. Sometimes what emerges shocks me or brings me to tears. I know it sounds strange, but that’s how it works for me.
I remember one particular moment when I was writing Sensible Shoes. Our son, then thirteen, was in the room with me while I was crying over something a character had just disclosed in a scene. Puzzled, he said, “Mom, I don’t get this! You’re in charge of the story!” Still crying, I replied, “No, I’m not.” That’s part of the joy for me—giving the characters freedom to walk on and off the page. They truly have a life of their own.
My hope when I wrote the Sensible Shoes series was that readers would encounter God in the pages and long for deeper life with Him. I especially hoped that readers would take the journey with others in community. I'm delighted to hear from many groups that are using the study guides to walk together. I've even heard from groups that have used the guides multiple times, discovering new insights with each reading.
As for other resources, there are some wonderful non-fiction books about spiritual formation. I'm a fan of Adele Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Jan Johnson's Invitation to the Jesus Life, Juliet Benner's Contemplative Vision, Alan Fadling's An Unhurried Life, and just about anything by Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster. Check out Renovare and InterVarsity Press's Formatio line for more ideas.
And if you're interested in hosting a retreat, use the contact page to drop me a line. I love leading others in "sacred journeys" deep into the heart of God.