After graduating from Princeton Seminary in 1995, Margot Starbuck ’91 had a great idea for a book: “Five Easy Steps to Being Transformed.” “Then I had 14 hard years of transformation,” she says. Her first book, “The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail,” turned out to be something quite different: a spiritual memoir about her struggle to view God as a faithful father. Abandoned by her birth father, her adoptive father and her stepfather, she felt rejected by God. The book describes a journey that finally ends in her affirmation, “God is for us.”
Keeping a journal over the years helped Margot express what she didn’t want to voice out loud: her anger with God over the absence of her fathers. “My experience is that anger disrupts our relationships, and I realized that was also true with God,” she says. “That was the point where God and I were able to get to the bottom of it; I had to be honest about my anger. As I ministered in urban communities, I considered the poor, the weak and the marginalized worthy of God’s love, but I didn’t think I was.” The journals helped her recall her distress and served as the basis for her chronicle of transformation.
An art major at Westmont, Margot weaved words into all her works. She volunteered with a junior high youth group, reached out to the homeless, participated in Potter’s Clay and spent a summer doing ministry in South Africa. “Thinking of the ones God loves who are less fortunate and sometimes forgotten started in me at Westmont,” she says. “Montecito may be an insular community, but Westmont exposed me to the needs of the world.”
Despite her struggle to feel accepted by God, Margot never abandoned her faith. She did urban ministry and became an ordained Presbyterian minister. For six years, she worked with men and women with disabilities as director of spiritual development at Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat in Wyckoff, N.J. She preached for vacationing pastors and served as an interim pastor. When she became a mother, Margot stayed home and designed Christian greeting cards. Her husband, Peter Hausmann, spent 12 years as a pastor, and she joined him in his ministry. Once their three children reached school age, she began writing full time, contributing articles to magazines. She also leads women’s retreats on the weekends and speaks at colleges (www.MargotStarbuck.com).
Margot’s second book comes out next summer and addresses the issue of body image. The mother of a 10-year-old daughter, she has become more aware of women’s — and girls’ — perceptions of their bodies. “I invite women to stop experiencing their bodies as something to be viewed and see them as vessels made for relationship and loving God and others,” she says.
Full of ideas for future books, Margot poses a question she’d like to explore: “What does it look like to live a life of justice when you have children and a mortgage payment?” She works with teens who have disabilities as a volunteer for Reality Ministries, and she ponders what else she could be doing.
Meanwhile, she proclaims “God is for us” through the written and spoken word and manages the daily chores of family life in Durham, N.C. By demonstrating love for her children, Margot expresses the acceptance she finally found from God. Adopting a son from India has also helped her come to terms with her past. “Being adopted, I always wanted to adopt,” she says.