Local Writer Explores God, Sex and Marriage in Latest Book
By Sydnee Bryant
From deviant to devout Christian, local author Nancy Fowler Christenson’s
transformation from a carefree, loner youth into an author, singer,
and mother of four is chronicled in her work. Christenson, who lives
at Cloverlawn, near Millet, has settled into married life after a wild-child
youth that included sex, drugs, dropping out of college, and working
as a camp cook at a ranch in the middle of nowhere. But even after Christenson
traded in her “bad” habits for devout Christian faith, the
path to marital bliss and self-acceptance wasn’t an easy one.
Christenson shares her story of fighting to re-discover the passion
in her then-new marriage in her latest book Made in Heaven, Fleshed
Out on Earth: One Woman’s Journey into Wholeness in Marital Intimacy
(Tate Publishing; 2009). Here’s the story of how Christenson gave
up her “wild” ways, turned her love of writing into a career,
and found God along the way.
The daughter of a homemaker and a doctor, Christenson grew up in Castlegar,
British Columbia. She began developing her musical gifts at an early
age, a talent she says she garnered from her father. “I believe
that I got a lot of my gifts from him,” Christenson said. “But
he was never really allowed to develop his [gift].” Her father’s
father believed that “foolishness like acting and singing and
writing were not real vocations,” Christenson said. Her father
never realized his dreams of becoming an actor and instead went on into
It is clear her father’s inability to pursue a career in the
arts has affected Christenson in many ways. She named her publishing
company Ogden Fish Publishing in honour of her dad, who used the pen
name Ogden Fish, because he loved the author Ogden Nash and he loved
to fish. Her father passed away a few years before she began to write.
She dedicated her first book, Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl (Ogden Fish;
1997), to him.
Despite his own experience, Christenson’s father never outwardly
encouraged his daughter to pursue a career in the arts. “I don’t
feel that [my parents] outwardly encouraged me, but I don’t think
they quite knew what to make of me,” Christenson said. “I
think there was something in their generation that you must not make
your children proud or vain.”
Still, Christenson’s mom encouraged her to take piano lessons.
Christenson also taught herself how to play guitar at age 11. But whenever
Christenson would play for her parents, they were “strangely silent”
about it, Christenson said. “I would play them a song and they
would listen and not make any comments. But after one [song] my mom
said ‘Did you write that?’ I think she was kind of saying
‘Wow,’ but she didn’t even say that it was good,”
Christenson said. “It wasn’t proper or something.”
Her mother began to support Christenson later in life after Christenson
began writing professionally. “My mom was very interested in my
coming back to our hometown [to do a performance] after I published
the [first] book,” Christenson said. “She didn’t say
she was proud of me, but I know she just basked in it.” Christenson
is going to dedicate her latest project, the accompanying music album
for Made in Heaven, Fleshed Out on Earth to her mom.
It seems that Christenson’s writing career is something that
happened to her, rather than something that was carefully planned out.
Christenson’s parents insisted that she attend university and
that sparked her devotion to writing. “I was sent off to university
duly when I graduated and I was expected to get an education,”
Christenson said. “I was kind of bewildered there and I dropped
out after two years.” Her university education helped contribute
to her future career by providing her an opportunity to write more.
She started to write every day, which helped her to hone her craft.
“One of the best ways to learn to write is just to write and write
and write,” Christenson said.
She left university in the “turbulent early seventies, when everything
moral was being questioned,” Christensen said. “I was so
bewildered my first year there, and then I began to conform to what
I saw there.” Christenson got caught up in the casual sex and
drug use that defines the historical period of the seventies. It is
this lifestyle, and her departure from it, that inspired her first (self-published)
book Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl. The book is about her time spent working
as a camp cook at a large cattle ranch. “I was alone most of the
day out there in the middle of nowhere, and I just loved that. All of
my emotions, both negative and positive, were poured into my guitar.”
Christenson thrived on being alone, with only her thoughts and her music.
“I was a loner at different times … I went off and was a
hermit in a cabin for a few months … I like to be alone,”
During her time as a camp cook at the ranch, her boyfriend died in
hang-gliding crash. This helped to spur her transition from a wild child
to a Christian. “That was probably the beginning for me, because
when he died I had never faced death before and I knew instinctively
that he was not gone,” Christenson said. “[His] body no
longer had life in it, but I had a very sure sense that the life that
he was could not be extinguished just because the body that it had been
in was dead. My focus up till that point had just been on life itself,
and now I had seen that death is kind of a frame around the outside
of a life,” Christenson said. “It just enlarged my perspective
greatly, and I began to question things, like, did I believe in reincarnation?”
After she was laid-off from the ranch, she decided to change vocations.
“I went off to be a barmaid in Fort McMurray, because it was something
I always felt a young woman should do if she wanted to be fully rounded.”
During her time as a barmaid, several women she knew who had recently
converted to Christianity told her they were praying for her. Up until
that point Christenson had hated Christians. “I had no use for
Christians. I was really antagonistic towards them,” Christenson
said. “Christians just gave me the creeps.”
Still, Christenson was intrigued and wrote to two of the ranchmen who
had been on her crew, and who had recently converted to Christianity,
and asked them to send her some books on Christianity. Christenson then
began going to Christian ladies’ meetings with some of her recently
converted friends. When she came home from the first meeting, she felt
that God was asking her if she wanted to open her life to Him. “And
my heart was saying ‘yes,’” Christenson said. “I
was a changed person overnight.” She became calmer, harder to
upset. The people around Christenson immediately noticed the change
in her. “God just kind of showed up—I don’t mean that
I saw Him—but He made Himself very real to me and made me aware
that He loved me,” Christenson said. “I suddenly found that
He was real and that He had a very personal interest in me. And I yielded
to that. And although I didn’t think there was anything wrong
with my life, I asked him to change me if there was anything that wasn’t
right. And that was when my heart began to turn away from a lot of the
things I had gotten into.”
A few years later, Christenson met the man who would become her husband.
They had a whirlwind six-month courtship, during which they abstained
from sex, Christenson said.
They asked God to give them the best that He could give in a marriage.
“He answered, but not in the way we expected. He answered by allowing
the bottom to drop out of the feeling end of the marriage,” Christenson
said. “Simply put, as soon as the vows were said, the passion,
at least on my side, went dead. And I couldn’t have been more
surprised or bewildered.” She felt her past was coming back to
haunt her, as the ghosts of lovers past began to fill their bedroom.
“And so began a more than 10-year journey to get those feelings
back—not that we had a map to get there. We didn’t know
how to fix it, but we believed that God intended to fix it,” Christenson
said. “I was desperately disappointed, especially for my husband’s
sake, because I loved him so much. We weren’t completely shut
down, because we did have four wonderful kids in those ten years, but
it was not the way I imagined it was going to be. It was in the 11th
year of our marriage that God sovereignly brought healing to my heart
and blessed us with the stuff that fairy tales are made of.”
Christenson has now been married to her husband Greg for 26 years.
The first 11 years of their marriage is the subject of her second book
Made in Heaven, Fleshed Out on Earth. Christenson hopes that her book
can help other people struggling in similar situations. “Every
day of my life, I am grateful for my marriage. It’s everything
I hoped it would be,” Christenson said. “I would dearly
love to help other people find the richness that I have in my marriage.”
Christenson’s marriage, her family, and her faith are clearly
priorities in her life, despite her busy schedule as a writer. Christenson
doesn’t attend a conventional church but instead is a part of
a group called Lifegate. “It’s very non-religious. There
is a sense of reality [there],” Christenson said. “Many
churches feel stiff.”
Christenson’s oldest son, Ben, shares his mother’s love
of music. He currently plays piano on cruise ships. Christenson is proud
her son has followed in her musical footsteps, and she encouraged his
gifts along the way. “I never wanted him to think that he had
to get a ‘real’ job,” Christenson said.
Christenson has allowed her four children to find their own way when
it comes to religion. “I thought that because God was real to
me, they would naturally catch that too, but they all in their own ways
came towards God at different times,” Christenson said. “But
it’s not as simple as that, because each person walks their own
Christenson’s latest project is recording a CD of the original
songs that are woven throughout her second book. Twelve of the songs
will be included with the audio version, which is an abridged version
of the original book. She hopes to complete a full two-disc CD of all
of the songs in the book by Christmas. Christenson is also working on
a sequel to her latest book, because the publishers said the original
draft of Made in Heaven, Fleshed Out on Earth was too long for one book.
Christenson also plans on recording the 26 original songs that are sprinkled
throughout her first book, Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl.
Nancy Fowler Christenson’s latest book Made in Heaven, Fleshed
Out on Earth: One Woman’s Journey into Wholeness in Marital Intimacy
(Tate Publishing; 2009) is available at Wisemen’s Way Bookstore
in Camrose and Caelin Artworks in Wetaskiwin. For more information on
Christenson visit her website at www.ogdenfish.com.