Sheila Walsh believes in angels.
The best-selling Christian author – and one of the featured speakers at the Women of Faith conference in Spokane next Friday and Saturday – knows that many people out there do not believe in them.
If she were to meet an angel skeptic, she wouldn’t hand the person her thick file of research, used in the writing of her latest book, “Angel Song.”
But Walsh would tell them her personal angel story.
“I would describe an encounter in my own life where an angel came to me in the middle of the night, when I felt at my absolute lowest point,” Walsh said in a recent phone interview from her home in Dallas.
“I spent a month in a psychiatric hospital when I was 34, diagnosed with severe clinical depression. My father had died in a psychiatric hospital when he was 34.
“In the middle of that first night in the hospital – when I didn’t even get into the bed, I simply sat in the corner of the room with my blanket – I believe I was visited by an angel about 3 in the morning.
“This angel said, ‘Sheila, the shepherd knows where to find you.’ It was deeply encouraging at a moment when I had lost all hope.”
The Women of Faith audience isn’t likely to be filled with skeptics. The conferences take place in 29 cities throughout the country and are generally packed to the heavens with, well, women of faith.
About 10,000 women are expected at the Spokane conference. They will arrive from all over the Inland Northwest for two days of song, prayer and inspirational talks.
Michelle Aguilar, winner of season six of “The Biggest Loser,” is another of the half-dozen featured speakers, along with Karen James, former TV journalist and the widow of mountain climber Kelly James, who died on Mount Hood in 2006.
Women of all ages attend, from all Christian denominations, Walsh said.
“When I was asked to join the team, I had this picture of women who had their ducks in the row, knew where to find every single thing in their Bible. And they would come away from the weekend with 10 things to do to be a stronger Christian woman,” she said.
“What I discovered was very different. We are simply women who tell how we have encountered Christ in the broken places in life. We’re not those with all our ducks in the row. Most of us can no longer locate our ducks.”
Walsh’s novel, written with Kathryn Cushman, is about Annie, a New York City career woman trying to cope with a downsized, struggling workplace and the recent death of her beloved sister.
She travels back and forth between New York and Charleston, S.C., grappling with intense grief. Angels help her out in many ways, and in many disguises, including Eleanor, a Charleston real-estate agent, and Uri, a homeless man who hangs out in front of Annie’s New York apartment.
Walsh isn’t surprised that there might be another “angel eruption” happening in popular culture now. For instance, the recently released novel “Angelology” by Danielle Trussoni is being touted as the next “The Da Vinci Code.”
And one of the main characters in “Drop Dead Diva,” a Lifetime TV hit, is an angel parading as a human.
Angels and hard times. Walsh sees the correlation.
“Think of the roles they play,” she said. “They protect. They rescue. They serve. They encourage. Think of the days we’re living in where so many people, for different reasons, are really in desperate times, crying our for help.
“I seem to know an unprecedented number of families who have a child sick with cancer. Perhaps it’s just the circles I’m moving in, but I seem to hear of more and more.
“I definitely believe in those times when we are so vulnerable, and afraid and alone, God sends angels to strengthen and encourage.”