I grew up in southern California—one of those rare persons who actually was born there. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley (“in the Valley!”) but lived in Pasadena for five years. I love Pasadena—still—and consider those years a time of deep inner growth and clarifying my purpose, and learning to deeply love others.
I’m the oldest of five children and all of our first names begin with the letter “J” and our middle names begin with “A.” My mom, at times, likes to refer us to as the “Jam-Jam kids.” None of us have referred to ourselves this way without an eye-roll.
I graduated from California State University Northridge (CSUN) in Honors English. I also went to journalism school at American University in Washington, D.C. (M.A.) Many years later I moved to Elkhart, Indiana for seminary at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) to study Christian Spirituality (M.A.)
In the late 1980s I joined Pasadena Mennonite Church which gave me language for my heart’s desire for social justice and peace. I grew up in a conservative evangelical home—attended Baptist day school, middle and high school but was always restless for something more in my theology. At that time and in those circles, social justice was called the social gospel and considered very dangerous. In college I was reading Sojourners and The Other Side and I kept coming across the term “Mennonite.” I had no idea who or what Mennonites were—at that time in Southern California there were very few Mennonites around.
But a friend introduced me to Pasadena Mennonite Church and in my very first visit I felt at home. They were talking about peace and justice and missions. It also was the first time I received communion from a woman—a woman intern studying for ministry at Fuller Seminary. My life in that congregation is a keystone experience for me.
I joined the congregation and was re-baptized like the early Mennonites. Four years later I was asked to be part of the pastoral team for a year while the lead pastor was on sabbatical to finish his dissertation. When I was first asked, I laughed—my “Sarah laugh” (Genesis 18:12) and said, “Ummm … sure.” I thought to myself, “This won’t get very far.” Little did I know.
During that year I decided to move from Los Angeles to northern Indiana to study Christian spirituality, receive training to be a spiritual director, and move into ministry. I wrote my thesis on “Surrender? A feminist explores gelassenheit,” which focused on deepening one’s relationship with God and as a result, yielding and surrendering to God out of love. I am still learning how to live what I wrote.
And, I met Kevin, who lived next door to me in campus housing. He’s a lovely man from the Canadian prairies. We have a bi-national marriage.
I pastored in two different congregations for ten years and now edit Leader magazine from my home office, provide spiritual direction, lead retreats, and quilt. It is a good life.
Other things I’m avid about: Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn, NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and the original series of “Law and Order.” Oh, and all things fabric!