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These women aren’t just heroines – they’re our sisters in the faith :: guest post by Michelle DeRusha + a giveaway

I was privileged to read an early copy of Michelle DeRusha’s new book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Beautifully written, accessible, inspiring, and relevant, this book is a welcome reminder and celebration of the every day women of valour who came before us. It is a gift to the whole Church.

But one of my favourite things about this book is this little story: do you remember the women of Joe’s Addiction? When I posted about their longing for books about women of faith, to build up their community of women who are rising up out of difficult circumstances, Baker Books contacted me and asked if they could donate 50 copies of this book to that community. What an amazing gift! 

And I’ll just go ahead and say it straight up: this book isn’t just for the women in your life. I’d love for more of our young men to hear the stories of their sisters and mothers in the faith, right along with their fathers and brothers. We all have something to learn from these women of valour.

I’m honoured to welcome Michelle here to share with us about why she did NOT want to write this book – and I have one copy to giveaway, too, so check out the end of the post for more info about that, too.

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The truth is, I didn’t want to write this book. I didn’t pitch the idea of 50 Women to a publisher. In fact, Baker Books came to me (or, more accurately, to my agent) looking for a writer to tackle this book, which they envisioned as a sequel of sorts to Warren Wiersbe’s 2009 release of 50 People Every Christian Should Know.

When my agent proposed this book to me, I was lukewarm. At best. I accepted the project mostly because I needed the work, but I assumed the research and writing would be mind-numbingly boring. I envisioned hours in the university library, slogging through biographies and facts about 50 women in Christian history. Snooze-o-rama.

I can also admit now that part of me was intimidated, too. Before I set out to write this book, I’d already set many of these women on a pedestal, in a place of highest honor and respect. After all, as the subtitle of the book states, the fifty women included are heroines of the Christian faith. I knew their names and many of their stories: Teresa of Avila, Florence Nightingale, Amy Carmichael, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa.

These women saved lives. They founded new movements. They advocated for the poor, the sick, the dying and the neglected. They were missionaries, teachers, preachers, writers, abolitionists, doctors and activists. Some even died for their faith.

I assumed I wouldn’t be able to relate to them. I figured they were “better Christians” than I, and that their stories, their lives, were far-removed from my own everyday, ordinary, twenty-first-century life.

Turns out, I was dead wrong about every one of my assumptions.

As I dug into the histories of each of these women, my preconceived assumptions were dismantled one by one. Not only were these women’s lives and stories fascinating, I discovered they were very much relevant to me.

I’d assumed these spiritual giants never struggled with the kind of spiritual doubts that plague me. But Lottie Moon, Mother Teresa, Madeleine L’Engle and several others assured me otherwise.

I’d assumed these women were never swayed by shallow, materialistic temptations like I am or wrestled with idols like I do. But Teresa of Avila and Elizabeth Fry set me straight.

I’d assumed these Christian heroines never questioned their God-given calling or felt confused by their path in life. But Hannah More, Ruth Bell Graham and Ida Scudder turned that notion on its head.

I’d assumed these leaders were all born and bred die-hard Christians from the start, but Edith Stein, Pandita Ramabai and Simone Weil demonstrated that age, history and environment are no match for God’s transformative power.

I’d assumed these courageous women never struggled with fear or feelings of inadequacy. But Corrie ten Boom, Catherine Booth and Jarena Lee illustrated that God works through, within and in spite of our fears.

I’d assumed each of these women was flawless and virtually sinless, yet every woman in this book turned out to be broken and fallible, just like me.

What I discovered in researching and writing this book is that the stories of these fifty women are our stories, too. True, many of them lived centuries ago, in places, times and circumstances far removed from our own. But their battles are our battles. Their grief is our grief. Their doubts and questions are our doubts and questions. We plunge into similar valleys, we scale similar mountains.

In the end I was surprised by how much these women’s stories resonated with me and how much I connected with them, despite the fact that our vocations and callings differ dramatically, despite the fact that we live decades or even centuries apart.

Behind their long list of accomplishments and contributions are real, relatable women with fears, challenges, distractions, sorrows and joys much like ours. In their stories I saw my own struggles, flaws, desires and delights. By the time I had finished writing this book, I understood something important:

These women are not only our heroines, they are also our sisters in faith.

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GIVEAWAY!

Leave a comment on this post telling me the name of your “heroine” of the faith – she could be someone you know in real life or even one of the women from this very book or just someone you’ve studied or read. I’ll draw a winner randomly on September 20 and notify you by email (so make sure you include an email address in your comment).

***

This post is an edited excerpt from the introduction to Michelle DeRusha’s recently released book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (Baker Books).

DeRushaheadshotMichelle is also the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and two young boys. You can connect with Michelle on her blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue Reading · book review, books · 103

What I’m Into :: Summer 2014 AKA The Summer of Novels

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what i read

This has been my summer of reading novels. I decided to just read for the fun of it this summer. I have so much book research I’ve been doing and the summer has been so heavy, filled with sorrow in so many ways for so much of the world, that I flat out ran for the escape route in my reading habits. And I loved every single second of it.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes :: Thanks to a recommendation from Shauna Niequist (who never steers me wrong on novels), I decided to pick up my first Jojo Moyes novel. And then I disappeared for 24-hours while I devoured it. DEVOURED. This book was devastating. It was definitely my favourite of hers – the heroine of the novel and her family were so dear. And the questions it brought up and the conversations it sparked were so interesting. It was a runner-up for my favourite novel of the year so far, for sure.

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes – Loved it. Another one I couldn’t put down. Such a fascinating dual story. So rare that I love both stories in a dual-story novel but this one worked beautifully. Fascinating period of history, too.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes – and the last Jojo Moyes novel I read was a hard one. I struggle with infidelity as a plot point to cheer for and so I appreciated the juxtaposition of an affair to “root for” and one to despise but even so, it was fascinating and un-put-down-able, too. Needless to say, I just did two-day shipping for her latest novel.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty :: I have loved Liane Morarity’s novels since “What Alice Forgot” (still one of my favourite novels to recommend to women in the tired thirties with me.) This was probably my favourite of hers since that one – and that’s saying something. Such a great story. The characters were beautiful and real and flawed, I love each one of them and actually missed them when the novel was over.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner :: I’ve liked some of this author’s novels but others….well, not so much. This one was a quick read but fascinating. Exploring the pull of prescription meds as addiction through the lens of an over-committed mom-blogger, you read it and think you know a million women that this could happen to. And the ending was so satisfying.

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles :: I loved Sara Miles’ last book Take This Bread so much that my expectations were probably too high. But it’s a good book, really interesting. I always end up feeling a bit left out when people write about God as present mostly in cities – after all, I live in a small town in western Canada. But it was fascinating.

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright :: Book research! And so worthwhile.

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning :: A re-read from years ago. It’s Brennan at a bit more raw and angry and I still love it. You can see his processes actually happening as you read through his work.

My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman :: Beautiful and devastating, a slow read but so good.

what i’m reading now

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce :: You know me and British novels….

The Complete Book of Baby Names :: BIG SMILE

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James :: I love novels about Jane Austen, they’re my guilty pleasure. She wrote a good one a few years ago and so when I saw she had a new one out, I snapped it in.

Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright :: More book research and more perfection.

television worth watching

Besides the obvious….

My Big Family Renovation on HGTV :: Jen Hatmaker is a dear friend and I cannot tell you how tickled I am to be watching her show on the television! It just started in Canada, it’s on Thursday nights at 7 Pacific on HGTV.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyessey :: I’m slowly working my way through this show and it is blowing my mind. Absolutely stunning. I never figured I’d be someone who was enraptured by astrophysics but DAMN this is good.

Good news! Downtown Abbey starts on September 21 in the UK (and for those of us who can watch UK shows). Here’s the trailer for the new season. All I know is that Anna and Bates better CATCH A BREAK.

movies worth seeing

I have not watched anything but kid movies at home all summer long. And I’m not even sorry about it.

music worth hearing

The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger :: This gal comes out of the Bethel movement but it’s less anthemic and more introspective. Really enjoying it.

Lullaby Hymns by Katy Kinard :: I grabbed this one for one of the tinies who likes to listen to music while drifting off to sleep. But I’ve fallen in love with it – just good old hymns done beautifully. The subtitle is “for the weary soul” and that has been so true. When my soul is weary, these are the songs I want to hear.

Waiting for Mr. Darcy instrumentals from Jane Austen movies – my favourite music for writing! And only $3.99 – probably because the titles are a bit mixed up for the music but whatevs. It’s good listening.

little things i’m enjoying

San Pellegrino limonata Italian sodas

I’ve kicked almost all of my other teas to the curb for Lady Jane Grey tea – it’s like a version of Earl Grey but much lighter with citrus undertones. So perfect in the mornings.

Roast beef dinners and mashed potatoes.

Knitting up this little owl tea cosy

And introducing my fall knitting project: right here, folks.

So, friends, what about you?

What’s on your nightstand? What television show or movie or music has captured your imagination? 

What I'm Into
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Continue Reading · books, What I'm Into · 40

In which “My Practices of Mothering” is now an ebook

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We had our three babies in four-and-a-half years. It was … rather life-changing. And right in the midst of it, I began to write through the stuff that I do (or tried to do) to enjoy day-to-day life with a houseful of tinies.

Three years later, it remains one of the most popular series of posts I’ve ever done at my blog. It’s a little bit practical and a little bit theological and a lot of conversational, non-expert “in-the-trenches” talk about what worked for me in that season of life. 

I call them Practices because that’s what us Christians have often called spiritual disciplines, but really they’re just things I do over and over again. Everyone has their own “practices.”  Most of mine come from my own parents but then I picked up a few others from books or friends or mentors.  And my practices may not work for you and your family.

As my tinies grow up, my practices have already shifted and changed and evolved, as they should. Life in our house looks differently now that our tinies are 7, 5, and 3 than it did when they were 4, 2, and newborn. I imagine that they will be completely different again when they are teenagers. Your own practices will do that, too.

The practices included in the ebook are:

  • speaking life,
  • attachment,
  • the big picture,
  • routine,
  • worth,
  • gentle discipline,
  • being a person,
  • play,
  • sleep,
  • abiding in the Vine,
  • community,
  • space on the margins,
  • realistic expectations, and
  • assigning positive intent.

Because it can be hard to click around a website searching for the right posts, I decided to edit the posts and put them into an ebook. My thanks to Dan King for his help with the tech side of things and to Andrea Levendusky for such a perfect cover. 

Check it out here: My Practices of Mothering for $2.99* on Amazon.

*It’s $2.99 in the US Amazon store. If you’re purchasing from Canada, the price may show up as $3.01. 

Continue Reading · books, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 4

In which I read my bad reviews

You know better. Of course, you do. You know better than to read blog posts about your book. You know better than to Google yourself. You know better than to troll a list of “best blogs” looking for your own absent name.

And you know better than to ignore the 5-star reviews and only read the 1- and 2-star reviews of your little yellow book. You know better than to measure your self-worth by the measuring sticks of another.

Of course you know this. But some days…. Well, some days, you forget or you violate your own boundaries and you do it anyway.

So this is what people think of me.

And then you sit in their thoughts. Deflated. Out of breath. Hot. Why does your face always get so hot when you feel exposed?

They’re right. Of course, they’re right.

Who do you think you are?

That hiss always comes on the heels of these moments. Who do you think you are? And in this moment, you can’t remember the answer or can’t muster the words aloud.

So this is what you do first: you walk away from the reviews, from the criticism, from the mockery, from the ways you’ve disappointed.

Then you call your sister and you call your husband. You call your friends. You get mad and dare to say it out loud. You admit that you’re hurt. You admit that you made a bad decision by choosing to read them and now you’re living with the consequences but they seem a bit too harsh in your soul.

You admit that you’re feeling vulnerable and exposed, ridiculous and small, worthless and foolish. You are trying to harden your heart so it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Somehow saying it out loud helps a bit.

But you don’t want to have a hard heart. You’d rather be hurt than impenetrable. This is the price of living without armour, of making art with your life and stories and faith: you are vulnerable.

Every attack feels personal because it’s your heart-and-soul-work. And that’s okay. You might need a bit of time before you can sort through the legit criticisms – the kind that will make you better – from the hurt. Maybe it will make you a better writer. Maybe. Reason and logic seem insufficient at the moment.

You go for a walk in the sunshine. You remember that it’s spring and so you take pictures of the pink and white trees. You hold hands with your littlest girl and stop often to look at the wonder: look, a ladybug! look, a rock! look, a cigarette butt! look, a dandelion! And you carry her treasures in your pockets (except for the cigarette butt). You tip your face to the sky and breathe deep. This is real, this is real, this is real.

You argue and defend yourself and justify to a closed computer. Then you pray and you find comfort. You keep praying like you always do, throughout your life.

You consider quitting writing but first you’d have to quit living, quit caring.

You go home and clean something. You make supper. You bath your children and quiz spelling words. You sweep the floors and put away laundry. Your life is achingly normal and today this comforts you.

Then in the night, when everyone is asleep, you run the bath and sink into the warmth. Your damp hands hold up a book you love, and the pages absorb the warmth. You read and soak until your hair is damp and curling around your neck.

You rise up out of the water and stand. You look in the mirror at your bare face and you say it out loud this time: I’m a beloved warrior

Then you go to bed and sleep.

In the morning, when you rise, you already know that you will pour a cup of tea, sit your bum in your chair, and write again. And someone will not like it. But you will write anyway and you will keep writing because this is where you find God most clearly and most profoundly, this is your sanctuary and this is your work.

Continue Reading · books, fearless, journey · 56