First, I must tell you that am nothing apart from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; it is He Who gave His last breath to breathe life into my suffocating soul. For this, I will eternally worship and praise His Name.
He had been watching over me long before I knew Him – even in my mother’s womb as my parents wrestled with an unplanned pregnancy. I praise God for their courage to choose life. Tragically, I would make a different choice when faced with a similar crisis barely 16 years later, which you can read about in my book, Nameless No More.
Scripture teaches that it is God Who determines the time and place each of us is born (Acts 17:26). For reasons known only to the mind of God, I was born in the ethnic melting pot of Manhattan’s Lower East Side – the first child of my immigrant parents. In time, I came to have three parents (step-dad makes three) and they could not have made a more diverse religious mix, coming from Lutheran, Muslim, and Jewish homes. Adding to that mix came friends from Catholic, Buddhist, and New Age backgrounds. Looking back, I suppose this early assortment of cultures and beliefs planted a seed that would one day ignite a passion in me to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people from all kinds of backgrounds.
Growing up, I never imagined I’d become a writer, but I was certainly a bookworm, to which a stack of ‘reader of the year awards’ in a shoe box my mother saved can attest. I’ve always loved to read … and still do. But there was one Book I never opened until the age of 30. Because I was not raised in the church, nor grew up in a family that talked much about God, I had never read the Bible. As a matter of fact, I would not hear the gospel until I was 30.
In the meantime, my life was filled with both good and bad choices – triumphs and tragedies. My parents divorced when I was twelve, birthing an early fear of abandonment, which surely contributed to many poor choices from then on. Abortion, date rape, substance abuse, marital abuse, and divorce left me with many wounds and scars. Yet over time, God would gently use each one to open my eyes to the only One Who never left my side. I share several of these stories in my new Bible study, Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me.
Combined with a passion for issues of justice and a heart for the hurting, I completed my bachelors in Psychology and masters in Criminal Justice at the State University of New York. Soon afterward, I married and eventually moved to northern California, where I heard the gospel for the first time. In less than a year, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, but when divorce papers arrived, I found myself alone … but it wasn’t true. It was then that I realized I would I never be alone again.
Years later, when I was at a career crossroads, I made an appointment to talk with my pastor. He prayed and God used his prayer to plant the seed in my heart to attend seminary. Several years later, I graduated with honors from Western Seminary, having completed my masters in Biblical and Theological Studies. I was invited to give the graduation speech on behalf of my fellow classmates and it was a day I will always treasure.
Later that year, I published my first Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, a story-driven study based on my book Nameless No More. Worthy of Love is recommended by Pastor Chip and Theresa Ingram, as well as Brian Fisher, President of Human Coalition, among many others.
While each assignment God lays on my heart is both a great joy and difficult journey, I can hardly contain my excitement for my current project: a series of Bible studies called Behind the Seen: Exploring the Bible’s Unsung Heroes. The first study, based on the story of Hagar, will be published by Leafwood Publishers and is scheduled for release October 2017.
In addition to writing books, I’ve had the honor of writing articles for Bible Advocate magazine, Christian Voice magazine, The Secret Place, The Upper Room, and the Christian Broadcast Network. In His kindness, God has also opened doors for me to speak at churches, women’s events, fundraisers and on the radio.
For the past 19 years, I’ve lived in northern California, where I enjoy serving at Venture Christian Church and on the Board of Directors for RealOptions Pregnancy Centers. I love living near the ocean and those who know me well have come to realize that I fiercely guard my weekly “date with Jesus” at the beach. Whenever someone tries to convince me to surrender that slot on my calendar, I simply consider if what he or she needs trumps what God says I need. Needless to say, I seldom miss my weekly “date with Jesus.”
Now you know my bio and a little of my story. If you’d like to know me a bit more personally, keep reading!
Ten fun facts you probably don’t know about Shadia:
1. I suppose first things first. My name, in case you are curious, is pronounced Shah-dee-uh Her-ee-she. It’s Arabic and Shadia means “Singing Birds,” which always makes me laugh since I can’t sing to save my life. However, not many years ago I learned that my name also means “Beautiful Voice,” which, as a writer, I decided makes it okay after all.
2. I am the firstborn child of parents who both immigrated to the United States. My Dad immigrated from Morocco and Mom is from Latvia. Perhaps only in New York could two people from two entirely different hemispheres come together.
3. Just before I turned two, my little brother entered the world. Had I known he would one day graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and open his own restaurant, I probably would have been more generous with my candy.
4. One of my favorite things to do as a child, in addition to reading, was a puzzle. Whenever my mom would buy me a puzzle, no sooner did she turn around that she would discover I finished it, and have to go buy me the next one. Though I do not have as much leisure time as I used to, I still enjoy puzzles whenever I get the chance.
5. When I was between the ages of four and fourteen, my family moved more times than I can remember – across states, across the country, even across the ocean! From New York to Las Vegas, to Morocco, back to New York, to Queens, and then upstate New York, where I spent the better part of my young adult years before eventually moving to northern California.
6. You’d think with all of that traveling, I’d have some sense of direction. I don’t. As a matter of fact, I get lost … a lot. Since the Bible teaches that God determines the time and place that each of us are born, I wonder if He waited until the invention of GPS before sending me into the world (just to give me a fighting chance).
7. Though I have no natural musical ability, I’ve always loved the piano. If my family visited someone’s home that had a piano, I just had to touch the keys. When I was fourteen, my mom, then a single parent, managed to scrape enough money together to buy me a piano and lessons. Though I didn’t improve much, I will always remember her sacrifice.
8. Perhaps because of years spreading out puzzles across the living room floor, my favorite place to work on my writing, especially in the early stages of a new Bible study, is … on the living room floor (which always invites a scolding from my chiropractor). I spread out my notes, research papers, Bible, pens, highlighters, and banner paper, and get to work on figuring out how all the pieces fit together.
9. When I started seminary, I worked full-time at an Airport as a property manager while attending classes part-time in the evenings. About halfway through seminary, I was laid off from my job – not once, but three times. Every time they had funding, they called me and I would go running back … until I finally heard God asking me to let go, saying “Trust Me. I will take care of you.” After much prayer, I quit my job and entered seminary full-time … and God kept His promise.
10. Though I published my first book in 2010, it was not because I set out to write one. As a matter of fact, I wrestled with God as He sought to draw it out of me … after all, the story is messy. But whose life isn’t messy at times? (If yours is not, please email me). Perhaps that is why I am attracted to messy stories in the Bible – stories few people want to talk about. Following my Bible study on Hagar, the second study in the series is called Legion: A Divine Rescue, based on the story in the gospel of Mark of the demon-possessed man living in a graveyard (talk about messy!). You can read more about that study here.
P.S. Please don’t buy me a plant. It’s a death sentence. They say you should talk to your plants, so to the few that are still hanging on, I always whisper to them just before I leave on a trip, “good luck.” (Even my silk plants tremble when I walk by.)
If you’ve come this far and still want to know more (or are simply procrastinating to get back to whatever you really need to be doing), here’s a list of Shadia’s “favorites.”
1. After the Bible, my favorite books are “Knowledge of the Holy” (non-fiction) by A.W. Tozer and “Redeeming Love” (fiction) by Francine Rivers.
2. My favorite food is Calamata olives (from the grocery’s olive bar, not a jar). I’d run out of milk before I’d run out of olives. Exception: if I’m visiting NYC, I must stop to get a Sabrett hot dog. My father once told me that as a child, I could spot a Sabrett umbrella a mile away and, even if it was nine o’clock in the morning, I would beg and plead until be bought me one.
3. My favorite compliment I ever received was after I gave a short presentation at a speakers conference, a fellow attendee said, “You make me want to read God’s Word more.” It just can’t get any better than that!
4. My favorite sound (ok, I actually have two) is birds singing in the morning and the pure silence before the thunderous crash of ocean waves.
5. Favorite leisure activity is strolling through street fairs (tasty food, arts, crafts … as long as there is food.)
6. Favorite musical instrument (I think you can guess this one). The majority of worship songs in my preferred music playlist include the distinct sound of a piano in the background. I’m hoping I get to play the piano in Heaven. Since I’ll be there a long time, I figure I’ll have to get good at it eventually.
7. My favorite nighttime snack is popcorn (with real melted butter) and a big glass of orange juice (preferably with lots of pulp).
8. I love cartoons. Although I do not own a TV, when I am in the mood for some silliness, I’ll turn on my laptop and watch some of my favorite cartoons: VeggieTales and Penguins of Madagascar. My favorite line is when Larry the Cucumber said, “I heard they made a real mess o’ Potamia.”
9. I could easily list 10 “favorite” worship songs, but my most recent additions to my playlist include “O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship and “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong.
10. My favorite Bible verse is one I have treasured from the very first year I met Jesus, which is Psalm 126:6. “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” (NIV)