I recently read — no, scratch that — I devoured Michele Cushatt’s first book, Undone. While I have never had a cancer diagnosis, I found myself strangely relating to her memoir. My “undone” was both different (recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility) and the same (loving and raising kids from hard places).
So even though I knew her story, I trusted her heart, and I delighted in her voice, I still came to her newest book, I Am, a little concerned that it might not be for me.
I AM: A gift of faith when easy answers aren’t enough
“I’m no theologian,” she claims. There are no degrees hanging from her walls from seminary. So who is she, she wonders, to be able to wrestle with the deeper truths of God’s Word and pair it with the brokenness of this world? To not only find God in this brokenness, but to discover her true self along the way? And help us find our own true selves through her experiences and God’s Word?
“It wasn’t a clean faith, a faith without questions. But it was a real faith …”
Michele Cushatt, I Am
From someone who has a Bible and theology degree hanging from my own proverbial walls, I have to say she is exactly the right person. I know a degree can be bought and paid for without it changing one’s heart. But to have suffered and to still have deep faith — that is a qualification no one pursues and yet it is priceless in value.
As someone who has also faced significant heartache, the last thing I desire to read is someone force-feeding me faith by way of easy answers. What I really need is someone who knows what it is to starve, has been to God’s lavish feast, and is able to invite me to the table to eat.
And Michele does exactly that.
No easy answers
She does not provide easy answers because every single conclusion to her faith is hard-won. And in the places she cannot give answers, she gives the next best gift: the gift of her wrestling.
“This wasn’t the disappointment of plans falling through. This was the crashing down of everything I’d once prayed for and dreamed of. Those who have endured a similar wrecking understand something of my deep confusion. I’d been faithful, followed Jesus my whole life. How could God allow me to end up broken and alone?”
Michele Cushatt, I Am
Is there any greater gift an author could offer her readers? To come forward and say, “Listen, I’m deep in this too. I have faced my greatest fears, I have questioned his goodness, I have walked away from my faith and then walked back. My perspective has shifted, my values remain, and in due course, my questions have not all been answered to my liking. And like you … I am wrestling. But we’re in this together. Not just you and me. We’re in this with God.”
And yet, she goes one step further beyond the questioning. She offers us the gift of faith. As a friend wise friend once told me, there can be no faith without doubt.
“Life without God was equally as painful as life with God. But life without God was absent of relief.”
Michele Cushatt, I Am
Acknowledging our doubts is not the antithesis of faith, but rather the doorway to it. Michele has walked through that door and is beckoning us to come:
- To believe that we are more than our sufferings. More than our failures. More than our aging bodies and fluctuating bank accounts.
- To believe that these struggles we face can be more than a maddening repercussion of sin, and can be a miraculous undertaking of God’s redemption if we let them.
- To believe that we have value, purpose, and security.
- To believe that while we may not be saved from every trial, we will be saved in it.
When I began Michele’s I Am, I believed I would be in for a good story to keep me reading, a few insights to boost my self-esteem, and a few words that would answer the questions about God I sometimes ache deep inside with. And I feared a book that might seek to placate my questions of faith in this hard life with platitudes and easy answers.
Instead, I found a fellow wanderer. A friend on this really demanding and sometimes outright painful journey called life. A friend who acknowledged the hurt, but also the hope, the joy, the safety of God. A friend who is ready to walk me back to God’s truth. A friend who knows what it’s like to starve, who has eaten from the feast of God’s table, and who has invited to come sit and satisfy my soul’s hunger.
And today I want to extend that invitation:
Come, sit. And eat to your fill.
Welcome to the Clutter Free Book Club, where I share the books I’ve been reading (and hopefully loving.) Each week I review a book I’ve read, and because I am living a Clutter Free life, I pass that book on to one of you. (This is a guest post)
To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post within 7 days and you’ll be entered to win. But there is one catch: if you win the book, you have to promise to pass it on to someone else when you’re done (keeping this book club Clutter Free.)
When you comment below, share either:
1. A book you’ve read that you think I should put on my list
2. The name of the person you will pass this book onto when you’re done reading it!
Book giveaway open only to U.S. readers.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. After a 5-year battle with secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, she now has three children in her arms and a foster son in her heart. She is passionate about helping women feel heard and understood when building their family gets a little bit complicated. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing about her journey as a mom at The Lewis Note. She is a regular contributor to Still Standing Magazine, Pregnancy After Loss Support, and The Mighty. You can get her free resource, “Your BFF Guide to Miscarriage: 5 Ways to Comfort a Friend Through Pregnancy Loss” here. Connect with Rachel on Facebook, or join her private Facebook group Brave Mamas — a support group for anyone who had to struggle to build their family.
Sometimes it can be hard to spend intentional time with our kids each day. Okay, make that all the time.
And when you do sit down for official family + God-time together, perhaps you get disheartened by the grunts and groans from your older kids? *Sigh*
Welcome to the world of parenting and trying to make God-time fun and easy for your kids.
Although I’m not sure what it’s like yet to have older children, I was already experiencing the difficulty of raising kids to know and love Jesus (without it being boring or feeling like a lecture) while getting my own much-needed soul care as well.
I subconsciously thought, how can I achieve both a time for me to de-stress and get still from the hustle and bustle of parenting life while nurturing the hearts of my children with God’s Word at the same time?
It was a pretty normal day. I sat coloring in a Disney character with my daughter when I noticed the therapeutic benefits of coloring that everyone was raving about. I was skeptical about it, until this moment when I noticed my heart slow to a normal rhythm as I sat across from my daughter soaking in this mommy time.
As much as I was enjoying the calming moment, it was missing something…
I flipped open my phone to a devotional app and began reading. Yes, I thought. This is what my soul is aching for. But with my eyes off the coloring at hand, not to mention my daughter as well, I knew this wasn’t going to work. Plus, I thought, how is this really helping her grow spiritually? It wasn’t.
I kept coloring, and slowly I began to hear a whisper in my head and heart. Is that you God? That’s when this idea began to form.
A year-and-a-half later, Big and Little Coloring Devotional was born! Let me tell you why it’s so good:
- There are devotionals for the “big” with de-stressing designs, and verses for the “little” to color-in, making it the perfect mix to nurture not only your heart but your child’s heart too.
- It can also be used for bigger siblings to read through with their little brother or sister.
- Even daddy’s, grandparents and caretakers are raving about this book!
- The images are neither too fanciful nor too masculine, thereby girls AND boys love it in equal measures.
- You experience face-to-face interaction which encourages conversation since the pages face opposite, also creating more room to color without elbow bumping.
There’s finally a way to achieve what we’ve been longing for: de-stressing and nurturing for our own hearts while making God-time fun and easy for your kids, no matter their age or stage.
It’s amazing how God can use my own desire for such a book in ways that now reaches the hearts of many.
It truly has become “so much more than a coloring book.”
Rachel C. Swanson is an author, speaker, and accredited life coach. Her best-selling book Big and Little Coloring Devotional was birthed by her own struggle as a busy mom to three children she lovingly calls “Twin 1”, “Twin 2” and “wannabe Twin 3.” Married to her husband for eleven years, they rear their tribe in an aspiring country town just outside Los Angeles, CA. Visit RachelCSwanson.com for more info! You can also find out about her Big and Little Coloring Book here.
Connect with Rachel on Facebook or Instagram.
Roger likes to tell people that my favorite genre of books is “Chicken Lit.” If the storyline includes an animal, I’m sold! Just shut up, take my money and let me read! Because of my fondness for, “Chicken Lit,” I’ve read my fair share of animal books. But this particular book, “A Street Cat Named Bob,” by James Bowen, has broken my list of the top five of my favorite, “Chicken Lit,” books I’ve ever read.
I picked this gem up at The Armchair Bookstore in Whistler, B.C. Canada and read it in the car while recovering from 57 mosquito bites (seriously). Sure, I probably should’ve been having a conversation with Roger or gazing out at the picturesque scenery, but after reading a few pages I was hooked. In fact, it was so good, I may have actually ignored Roger for a day of our trip just so I could finish it. (Sorry Roger!)
“A Street Cat Named Bob,” is about the author, James a recovering drug addict who becomes the accidental and unlikely owner of Bob, a stray cat. James soon finds out that he needs Bob as much as Bob needs him. What follows is an amazing transformation and a beautiful friendship between man and cat. This endearing story is compelling, entertaining and a must read that I highly recommend.
Win the Book
Win my copy of “A Street Cat Named Bob.” Leave a comment about your favorite animal story and one person who comments will randomly be selected to win!
Just a word on the books I read and review: I have a wide and varied sense of taste when it comes to books. I would love for you to enter and win one of my books – but if you are offended by book content, I would ask that you go online to read reviews to see if this book is for you before you enter to win.
Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.
I’m not a big fiction reader, but I love reading books about books. Most of us have dreamt of moving to a small quaint town and devouring books all day long while lounging on our wrap around porch. This is exactly what Sara from Sweden plans to do when she loses her bookselling job and decides to visit her pen pal Amy in the sleepy town of Broken Wheel, Iowa in Katrina Bivald’s novel, “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.”
Sara’s plans of lazy days of reading and catching up with her pen pal our disrupted as soon as she arrives. She soon discovers that small towns carry big drama and she finds herself smack dab in the middle of it all. Not all is as it seems as Sara is hit with more than a few surprises.
An Easy Read
I read this book on a trip to Chicago and Canada and got happily lost in the cast of delightful characters. I also enjoyed the references to other books, from Austen and Bridget Jones that are laced throughout the pages. “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend,” is an easy, enjoyable read from start to finish. It is the perfect book for book lovers!
Enter to Win!
I am sending one of my readers my copy of this book! Simply comment below on why you want to read this book and you’ll be entered to win.
*Just a word on the books I read and review: I have a wide and varied sense of taste when it comes to books. I would love for you to enter and win one of my books – but if you are offended by book content, I would ask that you go online to read reviews to see if this book is for you before you enter to win.
Kathi and co-host, Erin bring you a very special episode of Clutter Free Academy. Author Ellen Schuknecht, who is also Erin’s mom and co-author, discuss their new book, Put the Disciple into Discipline, Parenting with Love and Limits. Erin and Ellen wrote the book to give parents tools to deal with some of the most difficult challenges of parenting- also known as every single day.
The everyday ins and outs of parenting toddlers, to boundary pushing elementary schoolers, to moody pre-teens, to rebellious almost adults is trying and just plain hard. Erin and Ellen talk about dealing with our kids using not just using justice, but also mercy, and grace- the very ways God deals with us. They discuss why these options give us and our children a better foundation for living out the life God intended for them and help us to truly get to the heart of our kids.
Comment to win. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to the justice, mercy and grace of disciplining and raising your kids? Comment below for your chance to win a free book!
*US residents only.
At the beginning of 2017, I began what I like to call The Book Project. I challenged myself to reading a book a week for the entire year. You see, I’d grown pretty lazy when it came to reading. (Plopping down at the end of a long day to watch a Friend’s episode was so much easier…)
But I’m loving this challenge so much, and I thought that some of you would be interested in hearing some of the books I’ve been reading. Plus, I’d love your suggestions of additional books I should put on my list.
The Book Project
My list of books will be a jumble. There will be some writing and business books, and I’m leaning heavily on memoir at the moment. Some of the books I’m reading haven’t been released yet, and I’ve read those in order to offer endorsements for them. I’ll tell you more about those as the release dates get closer.
The ones in bold are the ones I’ve completed reading. Those not in bold I’m in the process of reading.
Just because the book is on the list, doesn’t mean that I recommend it. (I would love to get back the way too many hours I spend on The Cookbook Collector. Others loved it. Me? Not so much.) Rather, this is a list of what I’m reading and the challenge I am taking on.
Hillbilly Elegy is just stunning. An Invisible Thread was tremendous and touching, and Kitchen Confidential was a riot.
But the book I’m recommending right now is Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. This is possibly the best memoir I’ve read in my life. Trevor is the late-night host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Born in South Africa to a white dad and a black mom during the time of Apartheid, Trevor spends his formative years learning how to lie about who he was and who his parents were in order to stay on the right side of the law. An amazingly funny, touching and personal book. Loved it.
My current list of books
So here is where I’m at so far for my 2017 book challenge.
- Making Love Last: Divorce-Proofing Your Young Marriage Laura Taggart (Releasing July 4th, 2017)
- Hillbilly Elegy By J.D. Vance
- Doing Busy Better Glynnis Whitwer (Releasing July 4th, 2017)
- EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches Dave Ramsey
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
- An Invisible Thread Laura Schroff and Alex Trusniowski
- Kitchen Confidential By Anthony Bourdain
- How to Listen So People Will Talk Becky Harling (Releasing August 1, 2017)
- The Cookbook Collector Allegra Goodman
- Loving My Actual Christmas Alex Kuykendal (Releases Sept 5th, 2017)
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- Disrupted Dan Lyons
- Drinking: A Love Story Caroline Knapp
I’ll update you as I add more titles to the list on my year challenge, The Book Project.
So please, tell me what other books I should add to the list. Great memoirs, stunning fiction, helpful non-fiction? I want it all.3