As she strolled down an elementary school hallway in Nashville, Catherine Strode
Parks (Class of 2001), stopped to read a display of fourth grade essays about what
they hoped to be when they grew up. Some of the most common aspirations
included superheroes, professional athletes, movie stars, and a number of
students wanted to become You-Tube stars. Catherine couldn’t help but notice
the common thread in the majority of the entries – a focus on the worldview of
She knew she shouldn’t be surprised. Students are bombarded with messages of
the world’s version of heroes. However, when Catherine reflected on her days at
FCS, a completely different type of hero came to mind.
Catherine enrolled at FCS for her freshman year of high school after being
homeschooled. A member of the volleyball and basketball teams, she developed
close friendships with both the teams and the coaches. Coach Jeff Shaeffer, who
doubled as her Bible teacher, stretched her beliefs and encouraged her to defend
those beliefs. “We would pop into his classroom and ask him theological
questions,” said Catherine, and he would provide answers and challenges. She
fondly remembers the bond her team built with Coach Shaeffer and his wife,
Julie. Remembering when Julie went into labor during one of their games,
Catherine said, “Our whole team responded as if we were related to their baby.”
Another FCS teacher who impacted her was Howie Holmes. When Catherine or a
classmate was anxious about a situation, Mr. Holmes would ask, “In light of
eternity, what does this matter?” “His words would just stop all the drama and
give me a new perspective,” Catherine explained.
During the summer before her senior year at FCS, Catherine also experienced
great spiritual growth. “I attended a Biblical Worldview conference with Summit
Ministries, and it changed my life. I realized the Lord was calling me to be set
apart. He showed me that as a follower of Christ, I could use my mind, my heart
and my emotions.” After graduation, Catherine attended Bryan College in
Tennessee and majored in English Literature and Writing.
While at Bryan College, Catherine met her future husband, Erik, and married
shortly after graduation in 2005. Erik, a filmmaker, was offered a job in Nashville
and the couple and their two children currently reside there.
One day a conversation with her mom changed the course of her life. Her mom,
Linda Strode, a librarian at FCS for many years, was visiting her in Nashville. They
were reminiscing about Catherine’s wedding and began talking about weddings
they had attended where the message of Jesus Christ had been shared in
different ways. As they talked, they realized that other engaged couples may want
to hear ideas on how to incorporate the gospel more intentionally in their
Not long after, Catherine spoke with a literary agent at her church and was given
the go-ahead to write a book on the subject. Catherine and her mom got to work
and in 2014, A Christ-Centered Wedding was released.
In 2018, Catherine published another book entitled, Real: The Surprising Secret to
Deeper Relationships which details how a life of repentance can lead to authentic
friendships that honor Christ.
She thought that might be the end of her writing career, but the fourth-grade
essays at the Nashville elementary school sparked an idea. Catherine began to
delve in and research heroes of the faith. She believed they had powerful lessons
to share. She wanted her own children to see how God used these ordinary
people to tell about God’s faithfulness.
In 2019, Catherine published two more books: Empowered: How God Shaped 11
Women’s Lives (And Can Shape Yours Too) and Strong: How God Equipped 11
ordinary Men with Extra Power (and Can Do the Same for You). The books include
numerous real-life stories about heroes of the faith, such as how Corrie ten Boom
learned to forgive and how Jackie Robinson’s strong faith saw him through
adversity. “These are the real heroes I want my children to know about and
emulate.” It’s a powerful message for adults to share with their children.
As for more books ahead, she is in no hurry. Catherine is busy raising her children
and teaching Bible studies at her church. She knows that someday the Lord may
impress upon her another message to share, and if that comes, she will answer