“When we share our stories, what it does is it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.” Janine Shepherd, author and speaker, former athlete
It takes a lot of courage to share your story. I don’t take it for granted when someone decides that they trust me enough to let me into their world. Their pain, their suffering, their joys and the dreams they have for their lives are precious. These are the gems that I get to hear from the people who come to Where Grace Abounds. It truly is a privilege.
Part of my role at WGA is to speak publically. When I do this, bits and pieces of my story are woven into every topic. Story connects with people. When I speak in a Sunday School class or in front of a group of pastors, the content is just words unless there is a personal anecdote or experience to connect it to. Some of the topics and the pieces of my life I choose to share can feel more vulnerable than others. When I share my testimony, the parts of my story from 10 or more years ago are helpful to include. Yet, they do not necessarily feel vulnerable, because they are not current.
For me, the emotional presence and vulnerability are at their highest when I am sharing what I am currently facing in life, the parts of my story that are still being written. Messy Journey is such a story, one that is still “in the middle of it.” Lori Wildenberg and her daughter Courtney have opened up the pages of their diaries to let us see their hearts’ turmoil. And it isn’t the diary from 10 years ago. Even though there is some history shared, it reads like it was yesterday’s journal entry.
Several years ago when Courtney officially came out, Lori, her husband Tom, and Courtney came to Where Grace Abounds. They came to learn more about the issues they were facing individually and as a family. And they came to connect with others facing similar issues within their families. It was (and continues to be) a privilege to walk with them. In Messy Journey, we get to read about some of the lessons they learned along the way, while at WGA and from other resources as well.
The tagline to the book’s title is “How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home.” A mistake that many parents in Tom and Lori’s situation often make is to say and do things that shut down relationship with their child who is gay. This book addresses some ways to maintain a loving/caring relationship without compromising your belief system. This is a two-way street. At times, the child can be made to feel discounted and at other times, the parent can feel the same way. This family is working hard to stay together.
In addition to their personal experiences, the book is also filled with the stories of other families who have dealt with similar issues. Lori was gracious enough to include Scott Kingry’s (WGA’s Program Director) prodigal story as well. There are many perspectives throughout with which to connect.
Lori and Courtney’s story is still unfolding. I hope you will join them on their journey.