My Parents and Me in Seattle
Me and Some of the Deaf Kids I Served at Summer Camp
My Partner and I
Around the Time Our Engagement
Got Me Kicked Out of Church
Me, About to Go to College
for the First Time
Table Set for an Outdoor Session
with a Client
Born in Seattle, Washington in 1980, I was raised in the middle of America, in the middle of the woods where I was beautifully home educated and spent innumerable happy hours amidst the wonderland of trees that is an Ozark forest, creating stories to be played by my siblings, my friends and myself. My parents were late-generation hippies who met on a back to the land commune and taught me to love simple beauty and always question authority.
Evangelized by a babysitter at the age of four, I asked Jesus into my heart, begged forgiveness for my sins, and quickly became a little evangelist. I was baptized with my parents on Easter, the year I turned six, in a tiny Pentecostal church which was my second home for the first half of my life.
Becoming a Leader
At 16 I started a pro-abstinence and anti-abortion youth ministry that trained teenagers in public speaking, drama and conservative political views. We spent over five years traveling around the state, working to convince our peers to save sex until marriage, to avoid short-term dating relationships, to fight against abortion rights, and to passionately pursue their relationship with God.
Deaf Ministry and Disillusionment
In high school I taught myself American Sign Language, and at 21 I founded a youth ministry for deaf students in the town that housed our state Deaf school. I spent the next decade of my life fully dedicated to loving, caring for, teaching, supporting and evangelizing dozens of amazing deaf kids and teens, all while continuing to pursue the relationship ideals of Joshua Harris's popular book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
By the time I entered my third decade, I was growing increasingly troubled by the outcomes of the beliefs I had embraced my entire life. The strict Biblical literalism of the church which supported our Deaf ministry had caused severe emotional and mental harm to the deaf kids I loved and had cared for, who were also gay, lesbian, or bisexual (no one should ever ever be told that who they are is an abomination to God). Friends who had grown up practicing abstinence only until marriage, had avoided dating and were practicing courtship (this combination, I later learned, is called "purity culture") were either not getting married even though they wanted, were finding themselves in deeply unhappy marriages, or were already getting divorced. And meeting women who had made the devastating choice to abort a pregnancy they would have wanted and welcomed under different circumstances challenged everything I thought I knew about the pro-life movement. When my engagement to the man who would be my life partner, deepest love and constant support, who also happened to be from a religion my church found unacceptable, caused me to be stripped of leadership in the ministry I had dedicated more than a decade of my life to, I found myself deeply undone.
Being Undone and Re-Making Myself
When you have built your life around key identities and you lose them all at once, knowing who you are, what you believe, what you value and who you want to become can be hard. By the time I was 33 I was no longer a church leader, no longer a virgin (this had been a key part of my identity), no longer a Biblical literalist, or a Conservative or, according to the definition of the church that kicked me out, even a Christian. I was devastated by some of these losses, curious about others, unsure what to do with myself, and also in the odd place of finding Myself--who I am and what I want--to be fully accepted, embraced and even celebrated for the first time in my life. I cannot express how life-altering that was.
Learning and Becoming
One thing I knew was that I wanted to learn.
I started with Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation's Spiritual Guidance Program, becoming a Spiritual Director trained in their contemplative, ecumenical and faith-inclusive approach.
I became interested in the impact of traumatic experiences on a person's sense of self, physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health, and the healing of that trauma. I learned about Religious Trauma Syndrome and Complex PTSD, and began to understand how all the pieces of my life had interacted to create the amazing person that I have become.
I decided to go to college for the first time in my life, entering the classroom as a freshman 20 years after I graduated from my high school homeschool program. Pursuing a college education was discouraged in the culture I grew up in, especially for women who were expected to become wives, mothers and stay-at-home moms and thus "wouldn't need college." I have spent my whole life educating myself, in or out of school, but being in a formal educational setting has offered me opportunities beyond my imagining.
Who I am Now
I'm currently a practicing spiritual director, using deep listening and careful questions, to help folks with a spiritual orientation learn to recognize the sacred in the pieces of their own story and to respond to Creator with deepening relationship, growing freedom, peace and love.
I offer coaching for those who wish to address issues of religious or identity trauma, relationship challenges, or other life struggles from a more academic, psychological, evidence-based perspective.
I'm finishing up my Bachelors' Degree at the University of Missouri, majoring in Religious Studies and Women's and Gender Studies with a minor in Psychology. My emphasis is on the experience of trauma at the intersection of religion and sexuality, and the healing of that trauma. I expect to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology with a specialization on religious and sexual trauma. I'm currently running a research project on the outcomes of Purity Culture (you can find more here), which is a topic I expect to be pursuing for years to come.
Want to meet with me?
If you're interested in meeting with me for spiritual direction or coaching, or if you're interested in inviting me to speak or lead a workshop for you, please reach out! Initial sessions are always free, I offer all services in American Sign Language or in English, and I meet both in person and virtually.
May you have peace, love and beauty in your journey.