Michelle’s Story

CAPTUS-22I was introduced to Jon DeWaal and Liminal Space when I took a Vocation class at The Seattle School. I loved the class and the way Jon and his associate helped me think about the potential to create a career that included my personal dreams and goals (like incorporating food and cooking into group therapy). I was in the middle of a divorce after being married almost 32 years. I hadn’t worked since I’d had my first child when I was 24. I was taking one step at a time, one class at at time, and my confidence was shaky. My career had been raising my four children and I was now in my mid-50’s with no real work experience, needing to support myself. At the end of the quarter, we were given the opportunity to apply for a scholarship for ten sessions with Jon at Liminal Space. I applied for and won a scholarship.

Jon encouraged me in our early sessions to think about my goals for business growth, professional growth, and personal growth. I was so full of doubt that I spent a lot of time telling him my fears and insecurities, not just about school and work, but also in my personal life. After each session I left feeling more hopeful and confident. I was seeing a therapist at the time but found that Jon was helping me far more to become the person I wanted to be. I talked with him many sessions about what I was going through in the divorce process, or with my kids, or in my internship, and there were lots of tears. He helped me realize this was all a part of building my vocation – knowing myself at a deeper level and being able to name my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

One of the most impactful sessions was when Jon loaned me The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. He asked me to read a section about a character named Puddleglum who was not a very confident person but who exhibited immense courage to fight an evil spell, even though it was painful for him to do. It was exactly what I needed to read and to embrace, as I had begun to realize my focus as a therapist was going to be on domestic violence and trauma. I didn’t feel brave or confident, but Jon helped me see myself as I was – someone who did have courage and who was willing to put myself out to help my clients recognize the subtle and not so subtle dimensions of domestic violence, abuse, and trauma. I gained confidence as I volunteered at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, teaching Domestic Violence 101 and 102 and meeting one on one with incarcerated women who had experienced domestic violence. I also spoke at a fundraiser for Northwest Family Life in front of 200 people. I never in a million years thought I would speak publicly!

After graduation, my desire was to start my own private practice. Jon was instrumental in helping me decide what my website should include, how to find office space to rent, how to advertise and build connections and how much to charge. I had so much self-doubt, but he changed that. For example, he convinced me that my age was actually an asset, not a detriment. He helped me identify my strengths and gain self confidence. He connected me with a wonderful person who helped create my website and design my intake forms. Having him support me each step of the way was instrumental in my success.

I started out thinking I might have 3 or 4 clients per week, but very quickly I was seeing 12 to 20 clients per week. I had a hard time charging enough for my services, but Jon helped me think like a business person, not just a compassionate therapist. He asked me to name what I wanted and needed to make financially my first year. I gave him a number and laughed because I thought it would never happen, but it not only happened – I made more my first year than the goal I had set for myself. Most importantly, I love my career and I have “grown up” into the person I never thought I could be. An added bonus is that I have been able to encourage others who are just starting out as therapists, or who are in the middle of an unexpected life event like divorce. I love that my story can give others hope.

I would encourage anyone who is feeling stuck or hopeless in the middle of a life transition they never thought they’d go through to not try and figure it out alone. Don’t limit yourself – transitions are a time to discover things about yourself you never imagined. I highly recommend Liminal Space as part of your journey!


Ethan’s Story: Capacity to Engage

Family PhotoI got tricked into counseling. First by my wife, then by a God ordained meeting. My wife politely forced me to join a marriage class at the City Church in Seattle, WA focused on relationships, communication and attachment theory. I began learning about self-awareness and EQ. During 2013, my work life began to suffer as other colleagues and I began suffering from frequent anxiety attacks and a loss of drive/passion/focus due to a debilitating and stifling organizational culture. I had moved my entire family from Montana out to Everett to pursue a new career in aerospace that was supposed to be incredibly exciting and lucrative.

My wife and I quickly realized that Seattle is expensive and it takes time to climb the ladder and we both began wondering what we were doing and why we were there. We had two young children and had just learned that my wife was pregnant. I began looking for new jobs but didn’t know how to marry my passions, skill set and experience. We were also concerned about our daughter changing schools, moving a third time and figuring out the logistics of life with a new job, house, three kids, etc. During this time, my wife briefly and very randomly met Jon DeWaal at a local park during a kids play date with one of her friends from church. While our kids played together, my wife and her friend chatted with Jon briefly and he told them about the work he did. My wife relayed this story to me later and I blew it off as counseling sounded too messy and embarrassing. A few months later, during a particularly hard week at work, my wife’s friend encouraged me to call Jon. However, I had lost his number and didnt know anything about where he worked. So I began using google to find pictures of counselors in the greater Edmonds area and I texted and emailed the photos to my wife and her friend. After 5-10 attempts, they identified Jon’s face and within a week I was sitting in his office for our first session.

The first memorable moment was when I realized that vulnerability and transparency could be the hallmark and legacy of a man of influence instead of pride and rugged individualism. The second moment was when I realized I had a deep yearning and desire for relational connection in marriage, friendship and in my career. I had spent most of my life pursuing masochistic solo adventures that left me feeling empty and alone and the more I engaged with others, asked questions and sought understanding, the more rich life became.
I discovered that I had a capacity to engage, connect and seek understanding that my family narrative had never taught me, shown me, or told me was appropriate. I discovered that the greatest attribute of a leader is not always their ability to strategize, plan a budget or give a speech, but to simply connect and seeking understanding from another human.
Advice…dive in, do the hard work, lean into the hard conversations, write as much down as you can along the way, stay organized and be patient with your progress. And no matter how much it costs, its worth it, I promise.

Bary’s Story: Weightless Moments


I first met Jon and the work of Liminal Space over two years ago at a conference in Chicago.  Jon courageously shared a story of transition and discovery.  His story of sliding off a roof and into a deeper story of trusting God intrigued me.  As Jon further detailed his story of risk and adventure he spoke of similar questions that I was wrestling with – What does it mean to take risk and live adventurously?  How do I live out this one, glorious life God has given me?  Is what I desire for impact in the world and the calling God’s placed on my life lessened due to existing commitments?  I was living with resignation and passivity in a lot of areas – work, family and relationships.  I had bought into the “American dream” – find a comfortable job, make a nice living and plan for retirement.  I was bored, life was too comfortable.  And I wanted more.

I connected with Jon after the conference and we began working together to unearth my story, desires and gifts along with a deeper sense of my calling in the world. .  While most of our sessions were over Skype, I would occasionally travel to Seattle on business.  These trips provided the unique opportunity to meet with Jon in person.  These sessions usually involved some form of physical activity.  One of the more significant experiences was going to a trapeze studio with Jon – not the conventional meeting!  I had never experienced a trapeze and have some fear of heights.  With trepidation, I entered into the adventure.  We engaged our bodies and moved into the fear of the unknown – fortunately, with a net below!  The primary metaphor our instructors utilized was to move in the “weightless moments”.  There is an ideal point in the swing of the trapeze when it is significantly easier to maneuver to change positions or to engage a trick.  If we move against the “weightless moments” we are fighting gravity, making the movements much more difficult.  Finding these ideal moments in our life is about patience, preparation, listening and practice.  Transitions are all about the “weightless moments” in life, and it is where the best potential exists for transformation, for joy, for redemption.

One of Jon’s quotes was particularly moving for me – “a person who lives in ignorance of their heart’s cry and the stories they’ve been formed by will always find themselves in a land that they never intended to reside in or inherit.”  Jon’s empathy, engagement and ability to ask probing questions were instrumental in my transformation toward a deeper understanding of my heart’s desires and the themes of my life.  Jon engaged my story with an intentional presence and guided my discoveries.  He is like a forensic detective sifting through the debris of both our joyful stories and our difficult stories.  Together, we discovered more of how I am to bring redemption to the world.

Subsequent to the work with Jon, I am working one-on-one with several men to engage their stories and to bring more clarity to their journey.  In addition, I have been taking risks to walk with clients in a deeper manner awakening their hearts to more sensitivity and vulnerability.  I am swinging into those “weightless moments” with more confidence and intentionality!




Anna’s Story: Rhythms of Reflection


Prior to working with Liminal Space, I was struggling with work/life balance at my job. Every day, I came home exhausted and was unable to fully engage in activities that were refreshing. It was difficult to imagine a different future. I found myself asking if there was a type of work that I could pursue that would allow me to exercise my creative side, while incorporating gifts of administration and leadership. I knew I had developed unhealthy patterns of serving others while neglecting my own needs and I deeply desired to carve a new legacy for myself. There were elements in my life that I needed help to discover a ‘way forward’. I had born witness to positive changes in a couple of my friend’s lives, as a result of walking through their own Liminal Space, and I knew that my next step was to reach out to Jon.

Knowing that I had some significant writing and reflecting to work on for a Liminal Space assignment, a friend of mine invited me to spend a rainy day on their cozy porch at their home in the country. The drive out there was symbolic of a part of my journey where I would leave some things behind.  As I was writing, the rain fell harder and harder. I was curled up in a heavy blanket. In the beauty of the silence, I came to the realization that there was a part of me that I hadn’t forgiven. That part told me I wasn’t worthy of love and manifested itself in a constant denial of my own needs, an incessant silencing of my desire, and a chronic quieting of my own voice.

I didn’t want to write those words because once I did, it felt like they were more real. And I didn’t want to acknowledge that a fairly positive person who is loved by many, didn’t love herself. Once I wrote those words I had to sit with the discomfort of the reality that I had been living a half-life. Not fully invested anywhere, but with a clever disguise of faithful loyalty and service.

‘I want to be someone who Loves Well’. This was my response to Jon’s question about how I wanted to live my life.  Little did I know that part of the journey to knowing a deeper love was experiencing a great weakness in the form of some health issues I would have never chosen, but continue to be grateful for.  My struggle with health invited me to ask loved ones for help, support and encouragement. This was a huge adjustment for a women who strove to be independent and self sufficient, so that she could help others. I had no idea how deeply I needed to know that ‘my people’ would rise to the occasion to meet my needs.

Despite encountering challenges with health during my Liminal Space Journey, I found encouragement, peace and comfort in the rhythm of reflection and writing Liminal Space invited me into.  I made the choice to consciously and intentionally invest in my future story, when my past and present seemed to be falling apart.

The hope that drove me forward was the belief, however frail at first, that my ‘ghosts’ could truly have less power over me. The more that I sought to identify and name the ghosts or barriers and patterns from my past, I was faced with the choice of whether or not I would continue to grant their voices power over my life.  I began to seek the voices that built me up, made me stronger, kinder and more able to receive love.

I have transitioned into a new career, embraced a praxis of sustainable leadership and, having experienced the vibrant joy to be gained from risking vulnerability, have learned that it’s possible to love myself without condition, and from that place, am able to love others more wholeheartedly. I now embrace a consistent practice of self-care and possess clarity regarding the strengths I bring to the table, with a deeper knowledge of the shadow sides of those strengths.

I have discovered that pride, fear and shame deserve no airtime in my life, except to point me back to the truth. I discovered that I am fiercely resilient and able to risk bold love.  My Liminal Space Journey afforded me the opportunity to narrow my focus on the few things I want to fight for during this one chance I get at life. It has given me the confidence to know when to say ‘no’ and has firmed up my ‘yes’.

Having been able to receive love and resurrect my voice, I have made space in my life for actively pursing my gifts of hospitality, administration, worship and encouragement.  I am now working at a job that encourages me to exercise my creative side, while incorporating gifts of administration and leadership. The work is challenging and rewarding.  And I have energy to invest in my personal life again!

My advice for someone engaging in a major life transition is to be selective with who you invite into your Liminal Space. I chose a few trusted loved ones. Let them know what you need. You might want them to simply sit with you in the tension of the in-between. You might need them as a sounding board. 
Go somewhere that reminds you that you are a part of a bigger story. I chose a location with an expansive view where I could see for miles.  Let yourself indulge in types of creativity that bring you joy and recognize that there is a special and unique purpose for your Liminal Space Journey. Give yourself a break!

As my Vocal Jazz Professor shared with me during college, ‘don’t be so proud that you won’t take a job cleaning toilets to put food on the table.’ This advice came in handy as I pursued a variety of part time jobs including a cleaning job that afforded me the mental head space to ponder my Liminal Space writing assignments.

Here are some questions that I regularly ask myself. Perhaps one will resonate with you as well.

– In what ways do I need to be poured into?

– What does rest look like for me?

For me, asking these questions honors the part of my soul that was created to wander and the part of my being that was designed for movement, the outdoors and fresh food.  You may be surprised by your answers to these questions. Or maybe you don’t know the answers yet, but just simply exercising the posture of humility it takes to ask these questions can prepare the seedbed of your heart to begin cultivating change.

Bruce’s Story: A Message to Share

At the age of 39, I left my comfortable and peaceful life in NC and moved with my wife and three young Children to pursue my Masters in Counseling Psychology at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a complete whirlwind; I completed a three-year program in two years.  Jon and I met as I was transitioning from a graduate student back into the non-academic world. I was drawn to Jon and Liminal Space because of our shared business background and his experience at The Seattle School. I was looking for a companion during a difficult period of my life, and had no idea what I wanted or where our time together would take us.

When we met I was struggling with my finances and my future. When I left NC and my comfortable commercial real estate business, my finances looked excellent, however, as graduation approached they were a disaster because of the economic collapse in the fall of 2008 (my first semester I graduate school). There were many days where fear paralyzed and consumed me regarding my uncertain my financial future.  Jon was a safe place for me to share my financial terror while also kindly pointing me to wonder and be curious about my future place in the world.  It was this combination of a safe harbor and his invitation to share my message with the world, which propelled me forward.

Jon helped me see that truth that my voice and story had power, validity and needed to be shared, which contrasted my prior life of hiding, shame and fear. I am eternally grateful for his patience and grace during those periods when I fled and hid my voice, and for his strength and courage to consistently invite me to offer my uniqueness to the world.  As a result of work together, I am passionate about alleviating and reducing psychological suffering and pain in the world to athletes, coaches and parents. I am a continual work in progress, refining my message (with Jon’s help) and offering hope, a safe place and kindness to a hurting world.

The one piece of advice I would give to someone who is in the middle of a life transition is to understand that they are not alone. Others have gone before them and experienced similar situations, emotions and tribulations. You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. Ever.

The words thank you fail to describe the gratitude I have for Jon’s role and continual presence in my life.

Greg’s Story: Purposeful Engagement


In 2013 I had just recently returned from a week long pilgrimage to Iona Scotland with my wife Janet. Iona is often described as a “thin place.” I personally wasn’t looking for nor expecting a spiritual encounter but by the time we had embarked on the ferry to leave the island I knew that the world I was returning would not be the same. The validation of a long career, the material attributes of an upper middleclass life had begun to loosen their grip on defining who I was.  I returned to home and work well rested and discontented. I could not undo whatever it was that changed in me. It was Janet who recommend that I chat with Jon.  She had taken a class from Jon at The Seattle School and thought his approach as a transition guide might be a good fit.

I walked in to Jon’s office both discontented with where I was and unable to describe where I wanted to go. The future was an opaque fog and I was carrying with me this sense that any prior success was “happenstance” – the luck at once being in the right place at the right time.  What was transformational for me was creating a new narrative out of my personal history and being able to own it. That new narrative was both redemptive and empowering. Life didn’t just happen to you, meaning was created by purposefully engaging the world with the talents and characteristic that were unique to you.  That changing narrative also embolden me to continue the conversation outside of Jon’s office. My wife and my friends became part of the journey and trusted advisors.

Late last summer I realized that I needed to leave my job of 18 years.  I also knew that I needed to take a sabbatical to rest and regroup.  After 6 months of preparation I gave my notice and took early retirement. I am currently using this time to rest, study, reflect and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. In August I had an opportunity to study Spanish for three weeks in Ecuador. Spanish proved so more difficult than I had imagined but I did succeed in pulling myself out of a world that I understood and enriching how I see myself and others. I am currently working pro bono with a non-profit to help steer them through a major leadership transition and researching graduate schools in preparation for my next career.


Quincy’s Story: The Art of Connection

quincyI had an internal sense of uneasiness with my previous job for a while, but I ignored it.  I felt that “it was time,” but I didn’t know what it was time to do.  So instead of seeing this as a call to cross a threshold into something new, I interpreted this nudge as a summons to double down on my current efforts and reinvent myself at my old job.  It wasn’t until I encountered external pressure from my boss that I was forced to act.  This prompted me to find help.  I decided to do a Google search on transition and liminality, a word that I was very familiar with as I had focused my dissertation on liminal times and spaces that college students face during their identity and faith development journeys, in hopes of finding some new resources to help me.  I had no idea that I would discover and connect with Jon DeWaal at Liminal Space.

I always looked forward to our Skype sessions together, and rarely missed one.  The experience of having someone to really see and hear me and affirm my experiences was extremely life giving and reassuring.  And though there were times that I didn’t see things as Jon saw them, such as the trapeze metaphor (I would joke that I needed something to keep me on the ground), I did trust and respect Jon enough that I would eventually step into unknown knowing that he was walking alongside me.

I experienced two job changes during my time with Jon.    I learned that I need to pay attention to and honor my feelings, and embrace my imagination.  I learned that it’s when I’m curious about something or someone, that I’m at my best.  I have to constantly work on moving through frustration towards formation.

One of the results of my work with Liminal Space is learning that leadership is about transition management.  As I’ve lived with this insight, I’ve become interested in coaching for what I’m calling innovative leadership: the art of connecting people and their stories with God’s mission and vision for the church and world.  I’m doing this in my current position as an Executive Pastor and investing in other ways to live out this call.  In the process of coaching for an innovative leadership model, I’ve embraced the Disc Jockey as a leadership metaphor.  I believe that music is a good metaphor for the environment of the church that helps people to connect to God, individuals, others and the community. The DJ must feel, intuit and sense the desires and needs of the party crowd and mix at least two sources of music together to create seamless transitions between recordings for dance and respond to.   This requires an understanding of culture and change management (process of transition), identifying the stories that shape and inform people, creating and communicating new narratives (mixing old narratives to create a new narrative) in a 123-ABC Sesame Street approach of call to action steps.

My advice to someone stepping into this work is to be patient with yourself.  Take care of yourself.  During any life transition, you will feel like you are losing your mind, and in a sense, you are, because your old mindsets and world views don’t work.  You have to lose or let go of your old way of thinking, but you are not going crazy.  Liminal Space is an excellent resource in navigating the difficult emotional, psychological and spiritual waters of transition.


Lori’s Story: Embracing Worth

LoriI thought my life was going according to plan.  I graduated from high school, was awarded a college athletic scholarship, met a nice Christian boy, graduated with Honors, married the nice Christian boy, had two beautiful children and strived to be the perfect mom, wife and church worker.  I looked pretty darn good and, it came at a cost.  My health suffered, both physically and mentally.  Everyone else seemed to be doing fine, what was wrong with me?  I told myself I just needed to try harder.  My attempts were futile and I lost my marriage of 27 years.  My story was not suppose to go this way.  What did I do wrong? Was I that bad? I tried so hard, so very, very hard to do everything “right.”

I knew I needed help.  I could not move forward alone.   During a workshop I met Jon DeWaal.  Jon spoke of coming alongside people who are in transition.   I was drowning in transitions!  At Liminal Space I found someone to navigate through the wilderness I found myself in.    I was invited to explore my story, and to look at how I dealt with transitions in my past and what moving forward might look like.   It was a sacred process of both grieving and celebrating.  I had done most of my work with Liminal Space via Skype, but I wanted more.

When I was ready to take the next step into discovering “my next” Jon invited me fly to Edmonds for an Intensive.    The treasures that were uncovered during those 4 days in Edmonds were priceless.  I had done weeks of pre-work to prepare for my time at Liminal Space. The ink was not even dry on the divorce papers when I landed in Seattle.  Jon put together a “team” of mentors  just for me.  My time was allocated between meeting with mentors and experiencing extravagant self care.  For a woman who was so good at caring for others, I was highly disrupted with the extent of care showered on me those four days in Edmonds.  I will never forget what those four days held for me.   It taught me how to receive, and how to humbly receive.  Was I worth such care?  “Yes”.  Not the answer I would have given just a few months before.  The work I did during my Intensive revealed my gifting of extravagant hospitality, and how at home I am offering it to others.  The time spent in the Intensive helped me believe that I could do so much more than I had ever given myself credit for,  and that even others could be impacted by what I had to give.   I still had something to offer in this world, and I could offer it unashamed.

I left with homework (labs are what they are called at Liminal Space); labs to teach me how my giftings could be implemented in my everyday world.   Despite my initial unbelief that these labs were going to be useful, I completed all of them.   Not only did those labs showcase my  giftings (to myself!) , but they led me to starting a  Airbnb in my home.   Much to my amazement, the Airbnb was so successful that my proceeds  financed a return trip to the land of my childhood, Hawaii.  While there I found the bright, free-spirited and playful Lori that was lost somewhere between college and empty-nesting.

My work with Liminal Space led me outside my comfort zone, encouraged me in taking risks and led me to discovering and honoring my worth.   My journey continues and it is in this next chapter that I want to share with others what I have gleaned.   The path has led me back to Edmonds to share in this amazing work of freedom and transformation as the Director of Care and Creativity at Liminal Space!