The Gentler, More Subtle Way: A Book Review & a Giveaway!!

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There are a whole lotta ways to write a ‘come to Jesus’ story. Strong stories of dramatic conversions are always around — usually quite popular, in fact. And they are often told in lurid detail, outlining the horrors of drug abuse, or alcoholism, of sexual misconduct or abuse, telling tales of wild living and rough edges. LOTS of very rough edges.

When I was an adolescent and young adult, I used to quietly envy anyone with such a story. Why? Because mine was so ordinary – my life was pretty much drama-free. I never got ‘saved’ from anything horrific, so I had no redemption story worth telling. As I got older, however, and began having and raising children, that envy just dissipated and was blown away by the sweet breeze of grace. In truth, that old envy morphed into a deep well of gratitude. I am grateful for the story that is uniquely mine to tell, uniquely mine to live.

As I lived into my own life, I began to realize that ordinary no longer looked so bad. In fact, ordinary began to take on all kinds of layers, colors, even edges. I slowly came to understand that God works in all kinds of ways, his children to redeem. All kinds of ways. For some, that may mean drama, and lots of it. For others of us, those grace-breezes are gentler and more subtle. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to redemption stories — everyone has a story worth telling, and ANY story of grace-at-work is a story I want to hear.

Or read.

And believe me when I tell you this, Michelle DeRusha has told us a corker. This is, hands down, one of the best spiritual memoirs I have ever read. It is honest, hysterically funny at points, gracious and gratifying and gorgeous. It took seven years for this beautiful gem to come to light and the wait has been so worth it. SO worth it.

Michelle tells us how her particular childhood experience of church did not lead her to an understanding of grace. So instead of looking to God for help, she focussed all her considerable energy and intelligence on taking charge of her own life, choosing to believe there was no God. She grew up and went to college in New England, working in NYC for a while. During graduate school, she met and married her husband, Brad, whose personal faith was strong and steady and whose heart welcomed Michelle exactly where she was. Together, they moved to the midwestern state of Nebraska, welcoming one little boy almost immediately and a second, several years later.

Their Nebraska adventure became Michelle’s faith adventure and the story is told in crackling prose, filled with descriptions that bring both belly laughs and tears of recognition. They began attending a Lutheran church because apparently, EVERYONE in Nebraska goes to church. Brad felt right at home and Michelle managed to ‘cough’ her way through the Nicene Creed for the first few years! Slowly, but surely, the beauty of the gospel began to seep into her spirit, however, and her big questions began to subtly change. Instead of, “Why believe in God?”, she began to ask, “Why not believe in God?” 

Michelle’s story is quite different from mine. I’ve known and believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember, and despite occasional bouts of what Madeleine L’Engle used to call ‘viral atheism,’ my faith has always been a part of my story. Michelle came to Jesus later in life, as a young mom in her 30s, carrying a long history of disbelief and disconnection from faith. And yet, I resonated so strongly with this book. Why?

Because I am a misfit, too. Not in the same ways that Michelle believes she is — after all, I know the lingo, right? I’m familiar with the Bible, I know a lot about church history, biblical studies — you know the drill. But Michelle puts her finger on something very, very important in this book: the truth that most of us don’t ‘fit’ in one way or another.

And also? The bigger truth that it doesn’t matter that we don’t fit. Because being a misfit — well, that’s what makes us who we are. And Michelle, misfit though she may be, speaks for all of us as she writes about doubt, flashes of insight, small gifts of grace in the middle of daily living.

Because this is our story, too. This story of not fitting in, not having all the answers, not getting it. What she — and we — come to realize is that all of that is okay. It is more than okay — it is the way in. The way in to a vibrant, day-to-day relationship with the living God, the way in which a spiritual misfit becomes God’s Beloved Misfit. “We are all walking around shining like the sun,” Thomas Merton says (and Michelle quotes on page 98). ALL of us, dear friends, beloved misfits, shining like the sun. Wow.

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FRIENDS! I have TWO copies of Michelle’s beautiful book to give away! All you have to do is tell me you’d like a chance to win one and, if your name is drawn, I’ll be delighted to send you your very own copy. Put a word in the comments and I’ll have my granddaughters draw a name on Easter Sunday. Winners announced next Monday!

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Comments

  1. Gwen Acres says:

    Wanting to know more about “shining like the sun”. Love to have my name in the hat. Fun for your granddaughters to pull the names . 🙂

    • So far, you’re a clear winner, Gwen! Maybe a few more will show up tomorrow, however. I think the girls will enjoy picking the winners. :>)

  2. I’d love to win Michelle’s book!

  3. I loved coming here to read your review. I, too, have had faith most my life, but it was so great to figure out how I’m a misfit, too. Ahh, yes, God used it to point some things out to me that I definitely needed to hear! I love being able to give one a way, too!

    • I’ll be over to your place later today, Jen – thanks so much for coming by here! (I’m assuming you don’t want to be in the drawing for the book(s)?)

  4. Would love to have my name in the hat. Sounds like a great book.

  5. Diana, I loved this review…and I think we have so darn much in common. I used to complain that my testimony wasn’t good enough, but wasn’t rebellious enough to do anything to change that. Ha! In spite of my good girl upbringing, I’ve often felt like a misfit, too. This book sounds great!

  6. Jim and Judy Halvorsen says:

    Judy and Jim relate to your review and these misfits would love to read this book.

  7. I’d love to win a copy of the book. It’s right up my alley. Is it available on kindle too?

  8. Diana , I am so thankful I found your blog. I have been touched & moved to tears by your precious stories & honest thoughts. I appreciate your book reviews & I would love a copy of this book. I am joyfully discovering that I am not on this spiritual journey alone. Thank you.

  9. Oh my word, Diana, this is like the best review EVER. I am in tears. Thank you for putting so much time and energy into capturing the essence of this book. I’m reading this thinking, “Wow – I wrote this book?!” And I laughed out loud at the sentence, “Michelle has told us a corker!” I’ve never heard that expression before!

    Truly, Diana. Thank you for this and for so, so much more. You have been a shining light through many years of this journey. Thank you for your encouragement, for your faith, for your openness and your willingness to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. You are the real deal, my friend, and I am so very grateful to know you.

    • Thank you so much, Michelle, first of all, for taking the time to read it in the midst of your frantic day. And what a great day it is! And secondly, thank you for your oh-so-kind words – I value your friendship more than I can say. You were one of the first bloggers I found when I stepped into retirement and I have always loved your words and your heart. Thirdly, thank you for writing this glorious book and for sticking with it through all those years of discouragement. It has been pure joy to watch this all unfold.

  10. Oh it is So good to know there are other misfits out there! Please toss my name in the hat(& even if I don’t win, I know I need to get my hands on this book)
    Been thinking about you lots lately, with your foot issue and all, just haven’t been up to commenting much lately.

  11. I would love to win this book! Blessings!

  12. I would love a chance to win a copy! Also, can I tell you, I am encouraged to know that’s it’s okay for a book to take 7 years. Wow, I feel some of the pressure sliding off already. That also tells me that her words have stood the test of time and that is a powerful thing. Thanks for the introduction to this book. 🙂

  13. I’m not sure how I didn’t see this post until now, but can my name go in the hat as well? I’ve pretty much felt like a misfit my whole life, and trying to adapt my fundamentalist/charismatic self to the Anglican church I’m currently attending has not changed that. As you might imagine! 🙂

  14. I sat in Michelle’s little class at Jumping Tandem and vowed I would read her book.

  15. I’d love to read this book. Our stories are important and this is one I’d like to hear.
    Blessings.

    • Your name has been added to this growing list, Anne. (And I’ve eliminated the extra comments – WordPress can be notoriously slow with comment posting sometimes.)

  16. Ro elliott says:

    I love Michelle … I have not gotten her book…but would love to read it…thanks Diana…happy Easter!!!!

  17. If Diana says it’s a good one, then I need to put my name in the hat too!

  18. I love all of the honesty coming out in words these days. I don’t think that this story is the same of mine, but I love finding glimmers of commonality. I’d love to win one!

  19. Hi Diana,
    This book has been the hot topic on social media for the past week and I’m thirsty to know why. Please place my name in the hat as I would love to own a copy!

  20. Count me in. I even think I missed one of your posts completely. We had a crazy week w dad. But as my friend says “better living w chemicals. ” going to catch up. Would love to read Michelle’s book.

    • So sorry it’s been a rough week, friend. And your name is going right into the Easter Hat – drawing tomorrow afternoon, posted tomorrow night.

  21. Sara Rudeen says:

    Sounds like a great book. Would love to be included!

Trackbacks

  1. […] funny thing happened to my dear friend, Michelle DeRusha, on the way to getting her fabulous memoir published earlier this year. She wrote another […]

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