Catherine Parks is an author and Bible teacher who loves to see people build friendships around Scripture and prayer. She’s the author of Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships, a co-author of A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day, and she lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, two children, and a cute dog named Ollie.
Catherine’s latest book is Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women’s Lives (And Can Shape Yours Too). Through the inspiring stories of eleven faithful women, Empowered will show girls that God is the true source of their power, strength, and purpose in life. In the pages of this book, girls will encounter women they may never have heard of and will learn some of the character traits that go along with the Christian walk. But they will also encounter a God who is faithful to complete the work He has begun in them.
We had a chance to talk with Catherine about her new book and how she hopes God uses it in the life of young women…
What prompted you to write Empowered? Who do you hope picks this book up?
I had a conversation with a friend one day about the pressure we’re putting on the next generation of young women, and how all our talk of empowerment may actually be saddling them with expectations they can never live up to. Then, as I walked through the girls’ department at Target one day, I noticed the messages on t-shirts: “Girl Power,” “Girls Have No Limits,” “Girls Never Give Up,” “Do More of What Makes You Happy” and “Future Role Model.”
While these messages may be well-intentioned, I wanted my own daughter and other girls to see their value not in what they do, but in Who is living in and working through them. I want them to know what it truly looks like to “be brave” and “change the world.” Rather than relying on their inner strength, I want them to see that weakness is true strength, humility is true power and service is true happiness. “Empowered” takes this popular idea of what it means to be a strong girl and flips it on its head, using the stories of real women to show that real power comes from our loving Father through his Son.
How did you go about choosing the 11 women and their stories? Who is your personal favorite out of the 11?
I was familiar with some of these women, having read their stories previously. But I also asked for help in identifying women from diverse backgrounds and with a variety of stories. It was a dream come true to get to sit and read biographies for months to prepare to write each chapter.
The Hiding Place is my favorite book, so I’m partial to Corrie and Betsie ten Boom. And we named our daughter after Sophie Scholl, so it’s a joy to share her story with readers, many of whom have probably never heard of her.
But I also feel like choosing a favorite chapter is like choosing a favorite child. I grew to love each of these women as I spent time with their stories. The journal of Charlotte Forten Grimke was incredible to read. I couldn’t put down Esther Ahn Kim’s story of God’s deliverance. I could go on and on.
What do you hope girls learn about God and about their own lives by reading these stories?
As a child, I remember reading about women of the faith—missionaries who had done great things and sacrificed everything for the cause of Christ. I was inspired by these stories, but I always felt somewhat detached. These were older women from a different time. Not wanting to be a medical missionary or a translator, I felt I could appreciate their stories, but I could never truly relate.
Yet the God who was faithful to give Corrie ten Boom the love she needed in order to forgive her prison guard is the same God who can help my daughter love the unlovable bully at school. The love for Jesus that compelled Sophie Scholl to sacrifice her life for a higher cause can empower a young girl who sees injustice in the world around her.
I hope girls come away with the knowledge that they don’t have to do the things these women have done to live a life of purpose. But by making a direct connection to their daily lives, my prayer is that readers will have a bigger and a more personal view of their Father and his love for them, and the ways in which he is working in their lives right now.
How do you hope girls will grow from reading this book?
I hope girls will come away with a bigger view of the world and the work God is doing in it. And at the same time, I hope they will see that their lives have purpose and meaning; hat they have a role to play, not just some time in the future, but right now, wherever God has placed them.
But I also hope they know that it’s not up to them to “change the world” or “have no limits.” I want them to see that the accomplishments of the women in this book were not by their own might or strength, but by God’s power—the same God living in and working in girls who have trusted Christ.
Is there anything that you learned that stood out to you while you were researching these women?
The common thread that linked these women together was this: they truly knew God. When they were tested by suffering and trials, they had the tools they needed to stand up under pressure because they had hidden God’s Word in their hearts and they were already accustomed to speaking with him in prayer. They didn’t just know about him; they knew him personally.
It was also an encouragement any time I read about the sin struggles of these women. We tend to put people like this on a pedestal, thinking they are somehow immune to sin and temptation. But reading about struggles in relationships, the desire for popularity, fear and selfishness helped me relate to them in a deeper way, and it helped me see God as the true hero of each of our stories.