Sometimes in order to make sense out of your life,
you need a safe space to be curious.
Grace grew up in New Jersey to hard-working parents from Sicily, Italy. Tight-knit and devoted, Grace’s parents taught her the value of family and the importance of the kind of fierce togetherness that holds kin close so that roots can grow deep and bonds stronger still.
An Insatiable Curiosity
At the encouragement of her mother, Grace, a natural student and voracious learner, followed her passion for science to Trinity College in Washington, DC where she began a life long journey to understand the wonders of the universe through a relentless pursuit of truth. A fascination with physics and cosmology led Grace to deeper lifelong inquiry around the nature of the soul, the life of the spirit and the science of intuition.
Deep Dive into Service
During her college days, Grace, a lifelong Catholic, met and married Brian McLaren, an English major from the Brethren tradition. Brian’s interest in postmodernism and critical theory lead him to a bold new analysis of church and current day understanding of the Christian faith. Over the next twenty years as Brian’s philosophical influence grew as a pastor and spiritual leader, Grace worked tirelessly to host and feed strangers and seekers alike around their table while raising their four now grown children—Brett, Rachel, Trevor and Jodi.
Discovery of Hidden Strengths
Emboldened and terrified by a leukemia diagnosis for her 6-year old son, Trevor, Grace stepped back from her role as pastor’s wife, cut off her long hair in 1992 and took a corporate consulting job to pay hospital bills to ensure Trevor’s successful recovery. Using her knowledge of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Grace worked with executives and teams in the early nineties during the tech boom to facilitate greater understanding and collaboration in the workplace. After a long season of refining her skills as a logical systems thinker in the business world, Grace hit a wall in her late forties when her corporate counterparts leveraged their knowledge of Myers-Briggs to mastermind layoffs when the tech bubble burst. It was during this difficult time that Grace uncovered what was to become one of her most valuable gifts: a deep and visceral empathy for human suffering.
The Challenges of Mid-Life
Making sense from this experience with a flood of unexpected emotion activated an always present anxiety that now took on a life of its own for Grace. The years of stress from having a child fighting a terminal illness and an always open door policy as a pastor’s wife were beginning to take their toll, leading Grace directly into a mid-life season of struggling to make sense out of human suffering, spiritual responsibility and the role of the soul in personal development. Ever the curious thinker, Grace returned to her love of science, physics, astronomy and philosophy to ground her inquiries, reading countless books and spending years in quiet contemplation in her suburban house in Maryland. At this time, Grace also recalled with a renewed sense of comfort her earliest days when the nuns of her Catholic upbringing were the keepers of faith and guides in the work of spiritual seeking.
The Dark Wonder of the Soul
This dark night of the soul lead Grace to open up to new avenues of exploration including learning about the divine feminine and the intricacies of intuition as a guiding force in a woman’s life. Tentative wondering gave way to active desire to learn everything she could about these topics, and over time Grace found hope and encouragement in connections with like-minded women who also shared her curiosity. In the mid-2000’s, Grace became part of a movement of women struggling to make peace with traditional understandings of religion and faith. This work ignited Grace with a heart-felt desire to encourage women to find meaningful ways to examine their life stories and to allow in new ways of thinking about the past through the lens of the divine feminine, brain science and metaphysics.
Matriarchy as a Way to Lead and Love
In 2011, Grace and Brian moved to Marco Island in Florida where Grace discovered a love for palm trees and wide open sky. Her passage through mid-life had reaffirmed many of the values of her parents during her early years, solidifying her devotion to family and her desire to be a fierce and loving ally to her now adult children who are making families and lives of their own. Aware of a deepening desire to offer a place for her children and their growing families to have ample room to stay when they came to visit, Grace leveraged her new position as a realtor on Marco Island to secure Barfield House, one of the houses used in Insight Retreats. The Barfield House, which sits next door to Grace’s house, has become a loving expression of her identity as an Italian mother, grandmother and matriarch as it provides ample space for the family to gather for holidays and throughout the year.
How Insight Retreats Came to Be
A Mystical Invitation
In 2015, during a particularly moving trip to Ireland with Brian, Grace experienced a visceral call to allow the Barfield House to be a place where women could gather to contemplate the mysteries of the soul in a unique learning retreat environment. Moved by the possibility that years of struggle and inquiry might now have a greater purpose, Grace began in earnest to investigate how she might gather women at Barfield House and in other beautiful settings for meaningful conversations. In 2017, with the support of her best college friend Catholic teacher and guide Nancy Vericker and long-time friend Jen Lemen, Grace started Insight Retreats as an expression of her compassion and empathy for women who are looking for safe, supportive spaces to wrestle with deep questions about intuition, the meaning of our stories and the ways of the soul.
A Gathering of Like-minded Souls
Grace holds Insight Retreats at Barfield House on Marco Island and other beautiful locations where women can meet to explore spiritual questions in a relaxing setting designed for rest and meaningful conversation. During an Insight Retreat, every story is held with deep respect and unconditional positive regard. Aware of how often the demands on women’s lives limit the time and space desired for deep reflection, Grace seeks to create a safe place where women can talk freely and wonder widely about the mysteries of the human experience and the life of the soul. If you’re looking for a weekend away with women who share your interest in personal development, we’d love to have you. More information on our next Insight Retreat in Marco Island here.