Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you live? About your family?
I will be 55 this year. I was born in Brooklyn NY (my parents are Italian) and I live near Washington DC with my husband of 30 years. We moved here to enter Prison Ministry with Prison Fellowship International. Even though I have been living here 17 years–I still say I am from New York. Those New York sensibilities run deep.
My kids are grown but I still attempt to (s)mother them. Paris is 25 and graduating from New York Law School this month (May). She aspires to sing ballads and torch songs at nice hotels. We think she will be a very good lounge singer if she puts her mind to it. She loves the love songs from the 1940’s American Songbook. Jordan (23) has just completed his first year of law school in Boston. He is handsome, hairy and intense. Capri (20) is the baby of the family and half way through a Christian college named Belmont University in Nashville. She studies Social Work and hopes to run a home for teen girls at risk.
Coming from a religious background did you battle to let go of religious traditions that perhaps kept you from a living relationship with God?
I honor my Catholic tradition and am grateful to have been taught at a tender age all that was good, right and true about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. I studied with the Jesuits at Boston College and there is much that is rich and meaningful there. That said–I had such a deep hunger to study the Word and that was not readily available at most at parishes in the early 1970’s. I ended up in a non-denominational church and have enjoyed the journey with God immensely. On Judgement Day–I do not believe we will be asked which church we attended. Anyone can board a cruise ship. Few are interested in riding the disciple-ship.
What advice would you offer to Christians wanting to reach their religious families that are closed to the truth of the Word, and rely rather on traditional habits?
Spend time with them. Love them without an agenda. Pray for them. Do not make them feel like “projects” or that you pity them. Genuine, unconditional love is irresistible. And if they do resist–it is Jesus that are rejecting; a sad reality that is written about many times in the scriptures.
As a native New Yorker, do you find it’s people and the city hard to reach with the gospel?
Actually, I find that “people are people” no matter where I go. We may have some different issues and concerns and some entire people groups suffer far more than others. Whether in a palace or a third world hut; people yearn to have something to do, (purpose) somewhere yo go, (mission) and someone to love, (passion). Only Jesus meets each of those needs, and He does so more than we can ever ask or imagine.
Having been a committed Christian since the age of 15 how have you stayed in love with Jesus?
I “met” the living God in 1972 during the Jesus Movement in the US. I had a perfect afro, wore dashikis and bell bottom blue jeans and mentioned Jesus to anyone and everyone I met. I also treated people like checklists and often told them where they would be spending eternity. (Not many were saved in those early years of my ministry.) My approach has softened and my understanding of this road called life has deepened –but the greatest transformation has been my slow but steady realization (and bewilderment) that God could love me completely and without hesitation. That He accepted me before I was acceptable. I am awed, humbled, unworthy and sometimes embarrassed by this. How have I stayed in love with Jesus? The inexplicable reality is that Almighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth has stayed in love with me. WOW.
You are an author, speaker, wife and mother. How do you balance the demands of family with the tug of your calling?
We do what we do. And God gives the strength, grace, resolve and peace to handle what comes our way. My life sounds complex to some but I look at single moms and wonder how in the world they face each day. The Lord is faithful to give us what we need to run the race and finish well.
What message do you feel women most need to hear?
The Lord sees us as Princesses, not Paupers. Satan has confused things. Women need to hear that they matter. That nothing done for the Lord is in vain. That God hears them, sees them, loves them. That He is not mad at them, but mad about them. That he calls each one “beautiful.” That He wants an eternal love affair with each of us. That we are daughters of the King, that we all have a promised inheritance (Genesis 12:1-2 and Ephesians 1) –and that the castle is safe. The name of the Lord is a strong tower!
You minister all over the world and recently returned from a trip to China. What travel experiences can you share with us that have impacted you?
I am highly impacted by the extreme circumstances I have witnessed in countries such as Haiti and Cuba. I could speak for six hours about this but suffice it to say that wealth is not about material surplus and poverty is not about material lack. There are financially wealthy people I have known who are spiritually and morally bankrupt. Conversely, I have encountered some precious pilgrims with little means and whose generosity has brought me to tears. Many surprises await in heaven.
You are known for your humour and infectious positivity. Can you offer our readers some helpful tips on happy living and learning to embrace the lighter side of life?
Take naps. Read for pleasure. Laugh out loud on purpose. Cut mean and difficult people out of you life (unless they are related to you!). Eat chocolate whenever possible. Recent studies show it is very good for you on four important. I cannot remember what those are–but it was accurate. Don’t exercise too much. Many women have gotten seriously injured doing some of those hard core workouts. Nobody ever pulled a hamstring laying on the couch! Happy living is way overrated. Skip “happy” and go for the genuine joy promised in Philippians. Paul wrote that “epistle of joy” from a non-ventilated dark damp dismal hole. If he sang in his deepest hours of despair–then so can I.
You are coming to South Africa in May. Is this your first trip to our country? What message do your have on your heart for us?
I am so excited to come! Aldyth invited me to speak at the BFA Conference 4 years ago but I was still immersed in motherhood. The nest is now empty and I am able to fly the coup. Many Moms are upset when their kids leave home but I thinks it’s fabulous. The fridge is full, the floor is clean and my things are right where I put them. For many years, I thought I was losing my stuff (and my mind) but I now realize my kids were robbing me. Two years ago, my daughter Paris (the aspiring lounge singer) spent a couple of months in the Jo’burg area volunteering at Baby Haven. David and Caroline Webb are precious friends from the DC area and they are doing amazing work there with the orphans. I flew here to accompany my daughter and fell in love with the people, the beauty, and the powerful story of resilience and reconciliation that drives South Africa toward such a promising future.
Finally, from a lady who seems to “have it all” what advice can you offer our readers who may be lonely, depressed or going through a particularly challenging situation?
A wise white haired “senior saint” once told me, “Honey, you can have it all….but you can’t have it all at once!” Solomon taught us that we need to be mindful of the ever changing seasons. It has become popular to “Carpe Diem” (seize the day) but we would do well to also seize the season. Singleness, loneliness, sickness, motherhood. marriage woes, problems at work, health issues. None of these last forever and we need to hear what the Lord is teaching us in and through each one.
If life is terrible; wait. A change is coming.
If life is wonderful; wait. A change is coming.
If life is over; the wait will also be over.
We must be comfortable in the valley as well as the mountaintop. The Holy Spirit (our paraclete) is right alongside to guide and deliver us to the place where there are no sins, sorrows or sicknesses.
“Oh Lord, I want to be in that number!”