Today’s author interview is with Lauren Whitman. She is the author of the new book in our 31-Day Devotionals for Life series, A Painful Past: Healing and Moving Forward.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in south Florida with my parents and older sister. I went to college in Florida and met my husband, Chad, soon after college. After we got married in 2006, we were both looking at different graduate schools in various places throughout the country. We knew we didn’t want to stay in Florida long term, so we decided to continue our graduate school search from New York City. We both love big cities, and we had an incredibly fun adventure living in Manhattan for 15 months. During that time, I was researching counseling programs and the women’s ministry coordinator at my church introduced me to biblical counseling. I decided to pursue my master’s degree from the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) through Westminster Theological Seminary’s program and Chad and I moved to Pennsylvania in 2009. We never left! I did a counseling internship at CCEF and they hired me as a counselor after I graduated. At CCEF, I have a job that suits me well because I get to counsel, which is my first love, and I also get to play with words, which is my second love. In addition to counseling, I also serve as an editor for the Journal of Biblical Counseling (JBC). I get to think deeply with authors about counseling theory and methodology, and this work invigorates my counseling. And my counseling informs how I edit and my own writing for the JBC, so it’s a very nice feedback loop.
Chad and I have two children, and in our spare time we like to get outside with them and explore trails and creeks. Pennsylvania has a lovely landscape. We also love to cook and grill, and we have people over for meals as often as we can. My children and I also love to tend to our rain garden and do a daily check-in to monitor and marvel at all the different flowers in their various stages of growth.
- When did you first want to write a book?
My desire to write a book grew as I gained more and more experience as a counselor. I very much love the counseling space and the opportunity to go to the deepest and most important matters of people’s lives and hearts. And as a Christian, I love to think about how God meets us in those places and how I can represent him well by how I connect with people. So my writing is an extension of my counseling in that it is another way to connect people with the Lord. I aim for my writing to be like my counseling—creative and engaging in ways that reflect who God is and how he comes close to us in the tender places of our lives.
- Have you always enjoyed writing?
I have! I don’t remember dreading it as a student. And now writing as an adult, I have almost always found the writing experience to be satisfying because as content unfolds it usually lands in ways that are surprising and delightful. That is the Spirit’s grace! When we are writing about Scripture, it is an exploratory journey that the Spirit guides.
- What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?
Nobody can live in this world and not encounter various kinds of sad, grievous effects of the fall. We all have a personal, particular story of sin and suffering. And some people have had such hard events in their past experience that it can make living well today difficult. It can make having hope for the future seem futile. These are the kinds of people on my heart for this devotional book. I write to them because I want them to know God’s comfort and to experience the form and shape his comfort takes. The people who feel shattered in life are on his heart and he has so much good news for them today, tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives. Though his healing usually isn’t instantaneous, he does invite us into a process of healing, and the book guides the reader through aspects of that healing process.
- What book are you reading now?
I am reading the seventh Harry Potter book. Since I read so much non-fiction in my work for the JBC, I try to read fiction in my free time. This year I have been re-reading the Harry Potter series and am now on the last one. I have a lot of admiration for how Rowling created these characters that are so easy to attach to and a world that is so easy to immerse yourself in, and I find the books to be such a fun respite.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First, don’t skip steps of pre-writing! It’s a mistake to just sit down and write. If you plan through an outline, then you are forced to see if there is a logical progression of your thoughts and give yourself chances to map out a flow that makes the most sense for your topic. Second, once you start writing, don’t be unwilling to delete portions of what you wrote. It’s easy to get attached to what we have put on paper because it took time, energy, and effort. But sometimes you have to just let it go, and growing in discernment as to when those times are will help you become a stronger writer. Finally, when you have a solid draft, read it out loud. The cadence and diction will stick out to you and give you the chance to make your written prose sing.
- At what time of day do you write most?
As a working mother, I have had to learn to be flexible and take opportunities to write when I get them! Thankfully, I can come in and out of a writing project in spurts and don’t need large chunks of time at once.
- Favorite sport to watch?
I don’t follow any sports, but I certainly don’t mind watching basketball. I appreciate the gracefulness and agility of basketball players. I also like that it is not a contact sport and so it’s less likely that someone will get hurt!
- Favorite food?
My married name conceals my heritage, but I come from an Italian family and from a long line of excellent cooks. So I most love the Italian dishes I grew up with and now cook for my own family (though there are still a couple of recipes that I still just wait for my mom to cook!).
- Favorite flavor of ice cream?
I will always pick a Ben and Jerry’s flavor. Six months ago, I would’ve said Phish Food because I love the marshmallow swirl. But I recently discovered The Tonight Dough, which has peanut butter cookie dough, and I haven’t bought Phish Food since then!
- Tea or coffee?
Coffee. I didn’t drink coffee until I lived in Amsterdam for a year when I was 22 years old. In Amsterdam, going for a coffee meant that you’d be sitting down with another person to have a meaningful conversation. So I made myself start to drink it then as part of that experience of connecting with others. And then of course I fell in love with it, because coffee is delicious and the most wonderful drink in the world. I start to look forward to my morning coffee the night before!
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
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