Today, Charlotte speaks to us about the gray, loneliness, discernment and her book that is being released this year!
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. I studied classical ballet and danced for 15-20 hours each week from around age 8-18. I also loved being with my friends and have very fond memories of sleepovers and trips to the lake and school dances. I went to church every Sunday, but I didn’t understand the gospel until I was in college. For so many years, I thought it was up to me to make myself righteous in my own eyes and in the eyes of others. When I finally understood the gospel of grace and how that plays out in our everyday lives, I felt a sort of freedom I had never known.
“When I finally understood the gospel of grace and how that plays out in our everyday lives, I felt a sort of freedom I had never known.”
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: Right now, I love these verses from John 14 where Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is in us: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
It’s easy for us to forget that we have access to the Spirit’s guidance and direction. Sometimes it seems easier to turn to our friends or famous Christians or popular books about faith to discern how to live our lives of faith and navigate difficult circumstances, but we literally have the Holy Spirit in us in ways that are intimate and relevant.
“Sometimes it seems easier to turn to our friends or famous Christians or popular books about faith to discern how to live our lives of faith and navigate difficult circumstances, but we literally have the Holy Spirit in us in ways that are intimate and relevant.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’m trying to be more curious about the things that don’t make sense. When I want to judge people with whom I disagree or when I want to respond to someone in anger or defensiveness, I’m asking God to show me the larger picture. I’m asking questions like: What is God up to in this situation? Why am I responding this way? What sins do I need to confess? What truths do I need to believe?
“I’m trying to be more curious about the things that don’t make sense.”
Profession: I’m an author, spiritual director, podcaster, and one-on-one writing instructor.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
I have a great idea for one, but I’m a writer who might actually write a memoir one day, so I don’t want to share the title yet. 🙂
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I first encountered God as a young child who knew everything wasn’t okay, who knew there were tornadoes, drunk drivers, and funerals. I believed in God, but I was confused for most of my childhood about the ways of God. I didn’t understand how a loving God could allow bad things to happen. I still don’t really understand that. But I know I’m a beloved child, that I’ve been rescued and redeemed. I know that God’s kingdom has come and is continuing to come.
How has your relationship with Him changed you? Over the 25+ years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve been brought into the gray spaces. I’ve been turned toward nuance and paradox and ambiguity. I believe more than ever the truths of the gospel, and I know more than ever that there are so many questions that I don’t have answers for.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Meeting with my spiritual director has been so important for my spiritual growth. I am also very grateful for contemplative practices like centering prayer and lectio divina.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I’m currently reading the novel Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman, and it’s teaching me to be open to new ways of writing and creating. Ellman is a brilliant writer, and Ducks, Newburyport is a delightful and strange book. I’m enjoying the story while also thinking through ways to apply what I’m learning from Ellman to my own writing.
Top three essentials: Medications for my bipolar disorder, the Book of Common Prayer, and at least one hour of time alone each day.
How did God speak to you recently? God has recently reminded me how it’s important for us to recognize that more than one thing can be true at the same time. We can be aware of the devastation around us and we can honor the beauty around us.
“We can be aware of the devastation around us and we can honor the beauty around us.”
Hobby: So many things I Iove to do are technically connected to my work and vocation. If watching my son’s basketball games counts as a hobby, I’ll go with that. I also love listening to all kinds of music. And I enjoy having discussions with my daughter about what to order from Sephora. That’s probably a hobby, too.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Having a strong theology of grace. Making space for silence and solitude. Being connected to a local congregation for consistent opportunities to worship and enjoy relationships with other Christians.
Favorite person in scripture? All of the sinners. They make me feel less alone.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I want people to have a greater understanding of the gospel of grace and how we are loved unconditionally.
How do you engage with your community? I try to love God and love my neighbors. I try to notice who my neighbors are and recognize that my neighbors might not always be who I think they are.
Favorite holiday? Eastertide. All 50 days.
A goal you have? Publish more books and grow my spiritual direction practice.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: We decided four or five years ago to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of visiting family. My husband and two teenage children and I go out to a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant on Thanksgiving Eve to celebrate the holiday and have a lovely conversation about all that we’re thankful for.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? Was all of that really necessary?
Thing you want to raise awareness about: One topic I’m really passionate about is the loneliness epidemic. My first book, The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, will be published on November 10, 2020. In this book, I explore many different angles of loneliness and belonging and offer various ways we can belong to ourselves, each other, and God.
What does your morning routine consist of? Coffee, prayers, meds.
What is on your nightstand? So many books, prayer beads, a sound machine, and empty La Croix cans.
Define Christianity in a sentence: What the Christian hopes and prays for is that at the end he or she will be brought by the grace of God’s Spirit to see the glory of God as it is shown in the face of Jesus, and to be so united with his prayer to the Father that we never fall away as we seek to let the life that was alive in Jesus Son of Mary be alive in each one of us through the gift of God’s Spirit and as we pray that this life will, through us, bring healing and peace to all the world. –This long sentence was formed by connecting three sentences written by Rowan Williams that I found here.
For more Charlotte:
Until next time, keep witnessing!