Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne Louh had always played with the idea of writing a book together, but they knew it would be a huge undertaking. Fr. Nick is the priest of St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and Dr. Roxanne is a psychologist in private practice. The couple are parents of two young children and active in the Greek Orthodox community, often leading retreats. They also host two call-in radio shows, one on Ancient Faith Radio and the other on NYC’s 77 Talk Radio WABC. This Orthodox Christian power couple was busy enough. Adding a book to the mix was a dream of theirs, but they didn’t know how they’d fit it in.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Louhs found themselves with a little more spare time on their hands. The kids’ soccer activities stopped, school events were suspended, and normal day-to-day activities were shut down. While the world around them focused on healing an aggressive virus, Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne used the small amount of extra time they had to move forward on writing their book together. Though they had started it, recent heartbreak stalled their progress. Both of them lost their fathers to cancer within eight months of each other. The couple was still grieving but found strength in their journey. When COVID-19 hit the world, they used the extra quiet time to start again.
“The book was born out of a dark season in our lives,” Dr. Roxanne said. “There was this beautiful synergy of everything coming together, every problem we saw people facing. It all came to fruition as something we began to experience ourselves.”
They chose the title Renewing You because the book is packed with tools for stagnant spirituality and finding new purpose. Eight key topics were selected from their combined perspective as a priest and a psychologist.
“We wanted to give people some practical, life-giving principles they could apply in their walk of faith, no matter what they were going through,” Dr. Roxanne explained.
The idea for the framework of the book was born out of their combined education and background, their own journey through hardship, and the common themes they kept hearing from people who called in to their Ancient Faith podcast and radio show.
The couple also felt a strong urge to use their experience to showcase a less commonly seen form of spirituality—practical Orthodoxy.
As a Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. Nick never forgot an experience from his late teens. Since then, he has used that situation to provide a window to the often unintentionally closed door of the ancient Christian faith.
After attending a Protestant retreat as a teen, he proudly announced to the pastor that he was a Greek Orthodox Christian and asked him if he’d heard of the “true” church. The pastor responded by saying he’d heard of the Orthodox Church—the problem was, he’d never seen it.
“It cut me like a knife,” Fr. Nick remembered. “Here’s a church that projects this amazing truth and tradition, and yet we’re struggling to share that message in a way that people can understand and live out in their everyday life.”
Dr. Roxanne had a similar experience.
“I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, but most of what I heard wasn’t relevant to my life. It was about history. I remember as a teen thinking there wasn’t anything I heard in a sermon that helped me with what was going on in my life; with my friends and the challenges I was going through as a young adult,” she said. “That was something I wanted to help change.”
After his experience with the youth pastor, Fr. Nick began searching for solutions to making his faith more far-reaching and easy to apply. Right around that time, he started listening to Billy Graham on the radio. After completing his education at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Fr. Nick enrolled in Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, one of the largest Protestant seminaries in the country.
One experience at Gordon Conwell changed his life.
“We were instructed to write a sermon in 15 minutes and then read it to the entire student body, “ Fr. Nick explained. “I thought, oh—I got this in the bag. It’s going to be easy.”
After 30 seconds of reading his sermon, Fr. Nick’s professor told him to sit down.
“You’re boring me,” he said.
“I was humiliated and humbled,” Fr. Nick remembered. “But it really shaped another piece of the puzzle of practical Christianity for me.
Fr. Nick regularly shares that experience in his interactions as a priest, radio host, and now, author.
On top of his Greek Orthodox spiritual education, he received a doctorate in urban ministry with an emphasis in pastoral counseling.
“I grew up in the Orthodox Church, but the reason I fell in love with it was because of the Protestant influence in my life,” he said. “It made me realize this amazing treasure I had, and I wanted to share the many ways our faith can come alive through renewal.”
From the time both their fathers were diagnosed with cancer (within eight days of each other), Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne amped up the principles they had been teaching in their own lives. It was hard to lean on each other because each of them was going through a major struggle.
“It’s definitely a 911 moment when one family member is dealing with a shock, but when two leaders of the home are going through it at the same time, it’s totally different,” Fr. Nick explained.
Through their own grief and heartache, they realized they had to make a consistent effort to be intentional in how they cared for themselves, the people they loved, as well as their marriage.
“When we were going through those difficult and painful times, we kept asking ourselves, ‘how do we actually cope with this?’ That’s when we realized self-care wasn’t a luxury; it was a necessity,” Dr. Roxanne said.
As they worked through their own trials, Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne began to make plans for writing Renewing You together.
“Our purpose was not to write a self-help book, but a God-help-me book,” Fr. Nick pointed out. “Rather than something you read through quickly and forget, we wanted to provide material people could continually come back to for a deeper relationship with themselves and God.”
The couple gathered eight of the biggest topics from a priest perspective and a psychological background to give people practical, life-giving principles that they could apply in their walk of faith.
“Our relationship needed such intentionality—because, without that, whatever dark season you’re in, the relationship becomes a common pitfall and that becomes self-defeating for God’s purpose in your life,” Dr. Roxanne explained.
While taking turns writing and sharing the manuscript with each other as they progressed in the book, the couple found it strengthened their relationship with both God and each other. It also opened their eyes to things they hadn’t seen before writing the book together.
“The strange thing is, even in the most painful precious few days we had as our fathers were dying, we’re able to look back now and see the tremendous grace and blessing God gave us,” Dr. Roxanne shared.
Sitting in the doctor’s office during her dad’s cancer diagnosis, Dr. Roxanne prayed that God would let her dad, an author himself, finish his last book before his death.
“He died literally days after signing copies for his colleagues,” she said.
“Looking back, you can see God’s design and God’s plan. As you’re going through it, you don’t understand any of that, but now I know God was with us literally every step of the way.”
As a special way to commemorate them, Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne’s fathers are each memorialized on the cover of the book. The design of the key includes their initials—a G for George and an A for Andre.
Now that their book has launched, it’s receiving praise from the likes of Michael Hyatt, New York Times bestselling author and former CEO of Thomas Nelson and New York Times bestselling author Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. It’s a book many in the Orthodox Church as well as the Protestant Church have been waiting for.
It was important to have a book about renewal not only for Orthodox Christians, but for Protestants as well. Both Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne wanted to share their message both inside and outside the dome of Orthodoxy.
As they continue to spread the message of Renewing You in their radio show, podcast, and ministries, Fr. Nick and Dr. Roxanne are open to the possibility of another book in the future.
Until then, they continually strive to apply the eight aspects of renewal in their own lives.
“It’s a constant evolution,” Dr. Roxanne shared. “Sometimes we pick up our own book to remind ourselves how to renew again. It’s a work in progress. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying.”
For more information on Renewing You and the Louhs’ retreats and events, visit their website.
About the author
Christy (Christina) Pessemier is award-winning freelance business and feature writer. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her family.
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