Where to begin? I hit a wall in 2001. I was leaving a ‘hair-on-fire’ job that left little space for myself, let alone God. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts, let alone God. After some very long naps and some extended time of solitude, I decided that I needed to make a plan for the next season of my life. I knew that my schedule would fill with things, but maybe not the things that would be most important, or life-giving, if I was not careful.
I came across a resource called, “The Personal Compass: A Workbook for Visioning and Goal Setting,” from the Grove Consultants. I was familiar with the graphic nature of the pages, since I often used these types of formats when facilitating large groups. I was excited to jump in! I found the story of my life pouring out on the pages, and God nudging me along, helping me to notice what was most important. The workbook was a life planning tool, but it left God out of the picture. However, I was being intentional about inviting God into the process, and He was transforming me.
I knew Sibyl Towner, Director of Spiritual Mentoring at Willow Creek Community Church, would find the format of the book interesting, so I introduced her to materials and I shared some of my story with her.
When Sharon brought “The Personal Compass” to me, I thought that this could be a great tool, but it would need to have a Christian perspective added. I personally worked my way through the book, and in the fall of 2003, Sharon and I invited about six others to join us in the process. We added spiritual questions to go along with the maps.
The combination of the maps, the spiritual questions, life story, God’s story and sharing with one another was an amazing experience. The maps brought to the group’s attention things that they hadn’t seen before, and their eyes were opened spiritually. They were given space to think and time to share, and it gave them courage to take some hard next steps.
Their courage to take steps gave Sharon and me courage to continue to pursue writing a new version of The Personal Compass with a Christian perspective. Grove Consultants, the creators of “The Personal Compass,” gave us permission to do just that! We started updating the content and asked Dawn Haecker if she could do the text layout. Jennifer Landau came on board to do the artwork for the visual maps.
In 2005, I got an email from Rebecca Madden asking to meet with me. After one meeting, I told Sharon, “I think I’ve found a person who could help us move this project forward.”
It was 2003, and I heard Dan Allender speak at a conference at Willow Creek. He said, “Your whole story matters to God.” All of my story matters to God – the good, bad and ugly? I had never heard anything like that before, and something inside my soul shifted that day. I began to write down and process my story and wrestle with it for months.
By 2005, I had been living in the Chicago area for about two years, and I was overwhelmed with my new life and new relationships and all of their needs and my family’s needs. My husband said, “You are investing in all these people’s lives. Now, you need someone to invest in you.” So he suggested that I meet with Sibyl Towner, Director of Spiritual Mentoring at Willow Creek. I emailed her, and we met a week or so later.
I spent an hour just telling her about my life, my situation, and how overwhelmed I felt. After the conversation, she said that she would be glad to meet with me monthly. Shortly after that, I received an email from her asking if I would be willing to meet with Sharon Swing and her about a project they were working on. A project?!?!?!?! Did she not listen to me? I said that I was overwhelmed with life, and she thinks that I have time for a project?
I agreed to meet with them anyway. When I heard them describe the ideas about developing materials that would help people to work through and process their story, I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to help others realize that “their whole story matters to God,” so I said YES!
In 2005, I took a class with Sibyl about authentic listening and I was hooked. I had always considered myself a good listener but this was different. I have never experienced anything like this and walked away challenged to document my own story so I could listen to others stories. I procrastinated until about a year later when Sibyl challenged me to get it done. It was a life changing moment as so many pieces of the puzzle of my life came together.
I started volunteering with Sibyl on Spiritual Mentoing and then met Rebecca as we worked on a women’s retreat. God was setting in place relationships I would need. He allowed me to process my own story so when life took another turn, the foundation would be strong. I’m glad I obeyed, because a challenging season of my life began with the winter of 2008 and peaked in 2009 when my son was diagnosed with cancer.
God has used the work I did a few years ago on my story to minister to my soul, to strengthen my faith and to help me continue to seek out ways to find and use “His story” in the midst of my story. So when I was asked in the middle of this season, if I would want to use my “spare time” to help the facilitators, I said yes to what I think God had planned for me all along.
In 2006, I became a part of the first Listen to My Life neighborhood group lead by Rebecca. A couple of years later, our group was still gathering together for bible study and community, and Rebecca mentioned that she was exhausted from all that she was doing with Listen to My Life. When she mentioned shipping and administration, I told her that I LOVED that kind of stuff. That day, I followed her home, gathered all the material and boxes, and I have been shipping Listen to My Life materials all over the country since then! I also love to host people and setup for retreats, so I get to use those gifts too when we have Listen to My Life events.
When I am not processing orders, I love to hang out with my husband, Monte, and my first grandchild, Daniel.
Sibyl began to use My Life Story maps in her spiritual mentoring classes, and and then in the Fall 2005, we began to rollout all of the maps and materials to a class at Willow Creek. So over the past five years, we’ve been working to produce the Listen to My Life materials, workshops, retreats, website and this blog. We’ve had the pleasure of having a front-row seat to amazing stories of God’s faithful and loving movement through people’s lives.
The five of us have had the pleasure of hearing and being present in one another’s stories for a while now. Sibyl brings years of experience in doing her life story & inner journey work personally and guiding others through it. She also has a great foundation in the scriptures through her training in the Bethel Bible series. So Sibyl is our spiritual guide for our Listen to My Life work.
Sharon has an organizational and strategic bent. She is great with the collaboration of ideas, and she asks excellent questions, and she brings her writing and artistic abilities too. So Sharon is our executive and creative guide for our work.
Rebecca sees the big picture of what needs to be done and then has the capacity to break it down into more manageable chunks. She is good at collaborating with others to get the job done, so Rebecca is the organization guide that helps it all happen.
Joan has an engineering bent, but she also has a huge heart for God and others. She is the perfect fit to help with detailed facilitation planning as well as to help listen and advise all of the Listen to My Life facilitators.
Connie is the behind the scenes administrator extraordinaire. She gets Listen to My Life orders day in and day out, attends to every detail, counts inventory constantly, and she has a sweet, sweet spirit all the time!
We’re pleased that God has put us in this little community and that He has added many others along the path to make this project a reality. Thanks for joining us for the journey. It is an honor and pleasure to have our path’s cross.
Sharon Swing, Sibyl Towner, Rebecca Madden, Joan Kelley & Connie Skeels