Adriel Booker is a writer, speaker, and curator exploring middle things—like how change and transition, crisis or liminal spaces shape our lives in good and meaningful ways if we stay in the tension long enough to meet God (and ourselves) there. She’s become a trusted voice both inside and outside of the church, most often writing into themes of faith and doubt, grief and loss, relationships, identity, the generosity storytelling, creativity, and what it means to be found and loved. Adriel has been in vocational ministry for more than twenty years and yet believes the best and truest spiritual formation and life happen when we gather around the table. She’s the author of Grace Like Scarlett and her next book, Tethered to Hope, is due to release in 2024 with Baker Publishing Group. Adriel lives with her husband and three sons among the gum trees and sea breezes of a small town in the Fleurieu Peninsula, Australia on Ramindjeri and Ngarrindjeri Land. She writes regularly at The Foundry and can also be found at @adrielbooker or www.adrielbooker.com/.
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Learn more here: Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss
Get to know Adriel a bit more:
In Between Who I Was and Who I’m Becoming
There was a time in my life when I wore power suits to work and then drove home in my 1963 Dynamic 88 Holiday to change into oversized jeans, thrifted cardigans, and low top Chucks to swig beers in the local pub with deadbeat skater boys. I straddled two worlds—my communications job with an expense account in my corner office and dive bar punk shows. Neither of these Adriel’s were more me than the other; I just hadn’t yet learned how to integrate my first born, ambitious, overachieving, list-making self with my creative, spontaneous, cynical, line-towing self. (Truthfully, I’m still learning.)
On the Road to Damascus
While I grew up safe within the loving arms of small town church family, I excused myself from Christianity at sixteen when I couldn’t get a boyfriend or find answers about Noah’s ark or the creation account that satisfied my questions. I went “off the rails” as some like to say and it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It opened my eyes and my imagination to a big wide world tucked away in the cobblestone streets of Bucharest, the snowy villages of Kirchberg, rooftops dinners in Santorini, and the hook of cheap instant coffee and cigarettes in a share house in Albion Park. I met Gandhi and Mandela, The Smiths and Kerouac. No doubt it was terrifying for my parents to have their 18 year old daughter vagabonding around Europe in the days before internet, but I survived and came back with a heart more open to spirituality and truth and beauty than it ever had been—as long as it didn’t include the Sunday school version of “Jesus in my heart” stuff I had emphatically rejected.
And then one day in the back of a coffee shop in a little Oregon mountain town I heard God (audibly) speak to me and I couldn’t not decide to follow the Jesus Way. (Yes, it was audible. Yes, I’m sure it was the Jesus-God I had learned of as a kid. No, I can’t explain it. Yes, I’m convinced it was real.) My life changed in that moment—my own Damascus experience—but it still took me a long time to realize that following Jesus didn’t mean completely unfollowing the patchwork of ideas and dreams that made me, me. I had a lot of learning to do, but this “conversion” changed things for me. God became my lived experience. I started to know what it meant to be known.
Now in my forties, I’ve realized that some of the most transformative seasons of my life were the ones I found myself in liminal spaces—neither here nor there—becoming but not quite yet become. To be frank, I’m living through one of these seasons now. Or maybe it’s not just a “season.” Maybe this is life. We’re always on our way to somewhere.
While my teenage faith crisis has come and gone, and my transition back into faith in my twenties was another sort of radical turning point, I spent a good portion of my thirties navigating another spiritual and identity crisis of sorts while also working in full time ministry. A lot of my questions still hang open-ended, but I’ve (mostly) made peace with knowing God has space for my wildest doubts, my most misguided certainty, and the few profound truths I believe at the core of my being (God is Love). I’m still amazed at the way my whole self is invited to God’s table, and that the invitation still stands every. single. day.
These days there’s a lot of buzz about faith deconstruction in Christian circles. I empathize with how disorienting it feels when you didn’t see the unraveling coming. But I don’t think faith transitions need to be a complete undoing; I just wish we did a better job supporting one another through them. I think coming a little undone can be really healthy, but so is being held together by those who understand. We need both. To be honest, I’m glad to have a bit more company in the “complicated faith” category. It’s hard for me to think of a time when I haven’t felt like I was peeling back layers on my own beliefs—deconstructing, constructing, deconstructing, reconstructing. I always assumed I was just wired this way. And to be honest, I don’t love the construction metaphor. Faith was never meant to be our project to build or dismantle. I understand why so many of us use it, but the metaphor is flawed.
Living in the Tension
As uncomfortable it is to live with an evolving faith, I’ve also come to believe it means my faith is alive. Like me, it’s growing and changing and adjusting and deepening. And maybe it’s not actually complicated but rather quite simple. My head often feels teenage-y and angsty, but my heart feels pretty childlike: I love Jesus. And I believe he loves me. That part is simple.
After twenty years in vocational ministry I’ve now hit the middle years of my life. They are both awkward and comfortable in many of the same ways my twenties were. Just when I thought I knew who I was I changed again. This is terrifying and liberating, both. I’m learning to live in the tension. These days I’m less interested in formulas and prescriptions and more interested in the creative process of tending to our spiritual gardens with open eyes and plenty of water so we can best nurture a place for faith to grow—within our own selves but also within our communities.
On Gadigal Land
I’m now married to my closest friend, and we’ve just entered the teen years of our marriage. Together we’re knee-deep in raising three beautiful sons on Gadigal Land (Sydney, Australia). Our ministry life is focused on our local community, discipleship, and life around the table. I’ve lived overseas for more than twenty years but will always have Oregonian tree-hugger mixed into my blood.
I’m a writer. I used to say I was a speaker and a preacher, but the truth is the last few years most of my words get caught on paper not microphones. Covid has changed things, sure, but I think they were already changing before the world turned inside out.
I’ve lived in community my entire adult life since becoming a Christian. At times it’s felt like a burden; other times a blessing. This is real life and I am grateful. We grow better together (if we’re willing). We certainly experience God as more true together.
A few years ago I published my first book called Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss between our first three miscarriages and our fourth. It’s a mix of memoir, grief support, and narrative theology. I wrote it because a few of the books I read after my first miscarriage had such terrible theology that I found myself fantasizing about throwing them against the wall, disgusted that other hurting women might read them too. (I never did end up throwing them, but only because I didn’t want to break my kindle.)
In my early days of writing, I never would have imagined writing about things like pregnancy loss or grief, but I could never unsee those once I had experienced them and felt compelled to write about discovering God there, too. To me, writing Grace Like Scarlett was a way to contribute to the conversation about who we are, who God is, and how we fit in the world. I wanted to offer something that didn’t shame women or villainize God or exploit our lack of good theology surrounding suffering or misrepresent the people of God (the “Church”) who are deeply flawed and deeply loved, both.
Grace Like Scarlett is the book I wish someone had handed to me after our first loss. Writing it came at a cost but I’m proud of what I now get to offer others. It’s helping a lot of women and their families to find God on the underside of their pain. I’m convinced you can’t grieve well or heal without the power of God’s grace and the kind companionship of community. I hope Grace Like Scarlett will point people to both.
During the last decade I’ve been shaped by grief and loss in ways that give me a great deal of gratitude. But I’ve also been challenged in ways I’m still finding words for. And sometimes I’m still sad. (‘Sad’ feels like a small word but we all know it isn’t.) Honestly, I’m relieved those excruciating years of childbearing are over so that I’ll never have that same particular kind of loss repeated. But it would be foolish of me to assume we’ve moved on from loss all together. Life doesn’t work that way.
Since learning how to name and dignify my experiences with loss, grief, and pain, I’ve come to more clearly see the pattern of birth and death and rebirth as what it means to be human. (And being human is, of course, an incredible gift.) I have no doubt each of us will keep finding ourselves in need of this resurrection—following in the Jesus Way, doing our best to keep focused on goodness and mercy and love all the days of our lives, hoping to become more alive as we learn how to live and trust again and again. To me, this is what it means to call myself “Christian”—realizing my own need and desire for God, and learning to walk in humility and sacrificial, others-focused love as Jesus modeled for us so well.
Tethered to Hope
In the weirdness of 2021 I’m working on my second book (yet to be titled). It’s an exploration of the crisis after the crisis—you know, the identity crisis or the spiritual crisis that comes after the more easily identifiable crisis event (death, divorce, job loss, etc.). I’m studying what it means to be changed by the liminal spaces we find ourselves in—the in-between—the space between who we were before the crisis and who we’re becoming because of (not in spite of) it. I’m not writing as an expert, but as a cartographer—charting the map with what I find as I move through my own in-between. I’m discovering these liminal spaces can be a transforming mercy if we’re willing to embrace them. (I hope you’ll discover this along with me.)
My desire is that what I offer—whether here on my website, in articles, on instagram, on podcasts, in our community, or through my books—will be fuel to help fellow sojourners stay tethered to hope, too. I believe it takes our whole beings—body, soul, spirit, mind, relationships, and community to really know and experience the transformative power of Christ in our lack and in our longing, in our formation and in our abundance.
Light and Shade
Of course all of this might sound a bit ‘heavy’ and I admit I can often be found deep in a book or entrenched in a conversation about faith or culture or politics or women’s issues (or some other Big Idea), but I’m also learning to be my whole self, which includes plenty of ‘lighter’ things, too. I still love thrift store finds. I still listen to jazz and folk records. I still love throwing parties. I still prefer chips and salsa to ice cream. I still have the Pixies on my bucket list. I still rescue furniture from the side of the road. I still flirt with my husband by rolling my eyes at his dad jokes and then giggling anyway. I still MC living room dance parties for my kids. I still stay up way too late and struggle to get up every single morning. I still grit my teeth while trying to politely smile my way through small talk. And I still can’t sleep the night before Christmas.
A Generous Life
Thanks for taking the time to get to know me more. I hope my words and my faith will help you find your own—I can think of no greater achievement for a writer or a believer.
Eugene Peterson said it best, paraphrasing Jesus of course: “Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (From Matthew chapter 5.)
I hope you’ll find the space I cultivate to be a generous, welcoming, soft place to land. I’m so glad you’re here.
Adriel and Ryan Booker with their children (L-R): Levi, Micah, and Judah (2018).