Monday, February 8, 2010

What Are Your Thin Places?

Thin Places. I love the title and the meaning behind the words of Mary DeMuth's newest book, which is available now. A term borrowed from the Celts, a thin place is
a place where heaven and the physical world collide. Thin places are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity. [They] are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are aha moments, beautiful interruptions, when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh. (pp. 11-12)

While some might miss seeing the thin places of their lives, and others might try to ignore those thin places birthed of heartache, we all have them. Mary DeMuth believes that sharing her thin places might offer hope, help, and healing to someone else.

I met Mary last year at the Christian Book Expo and had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her (you can read my interview here. Her novels are gritty, messy, and sometimes difficult to read. I was impacted by her answer when I asked why she writes about such difficult themes:
Yes, you can go through the grittiest, darkest thing in your life, absolutely, but God is still bigger and still brighter and lighter than that tragedy. My moniker is Turning Trials to Triumph, so if I can show the darkest dark, it shows God’s lightest light even more spectacularly amidst that backdrop.

I haven't shared this next part of the interview yet, but we talked about how her life experiences impact her writing:
Some readers say “I just don’t want to read about bad things happening to kids.”

I know; that’s really hard. And I guess maybe part of that is that I was one of those kids. I was a kid that tremendously terrible things happened to me and I’m okay today. I have a memoir coming out in January that explores all of that and exposes the issues of growing up in a crazy, drug-infested home and the sexual abuse and all those kind of things that come alongside. So I have a really dark story, but God really intersected and healed me, so I love to show the contrast of the darkness with the redemption.

So how old were you when you became a believer and got out of that bad situation?

I didn’t get out of the bad situation until I was out of high school, but I met Jesus when I was 15 years old through a Young Life leader at a YL camp. Every time I heard the name Jesus I was so intrigued and I knew that He was the answer to my life. I’d never heard about Him before; I didn’t grow up in the South [Bible Belt]; I grew up in the Northwest. So from that point on, my whole life changed, turned upside down, and God started me on that journey of healing; all the healing from the first 15 years has taken me quite a few years to get through. But it has happened and God’s been really good.

It was with eager anticipation that I read Thin Places. Although to be honest, I had a little trepidation as well! It was hard to come out of my little cocoon and read about the depravity that exists in the world, and because I was once a little girl and I'm now a mom, it broke my heart to read what Mary went through. And if the book were just a tell-all, "woe is me" expose', I'd tell you to leave it on the shelf.

But God.

His grace, redemption, and transforming power shine through this book. The things that happened in Mary's young life were big. But God was bigger still. Mary shares the hope and healing she found in Christ so that others may find that same healing and realize that God's grace will shine on their darkened life.

* * * * *

Mary shares more of the story behind Thin Places and her purpose in writing it in this interview provided by the publicist:

What trials did you face as a child?

Childhood sexual abuse at five
Parents with addictions
Feelings of being unwanted
An unsafe home
Death of a parent
Suicidal thoughts
Three divorces

It’s hard to write all that out and not feel bad for little me. But even in the recounting, I’ve been able to see the thin places in my life, those snatches of moments where God came near. That’s the message and hope of Thin Places, being able to see the nearness of God amidst heartache.

What compelled you to write Thin Places?

I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.

But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.

While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.

“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.

“You’ve given a gift,” he said.

I sure hope so.

In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?

In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.

Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.

What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?

I hope they see hope.

I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is.

I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.

Some folks wait until grandparents and parents are deceased until they write a memoir, but you wrote yours with some still alive. Was that difficult?

Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.

It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.

Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

Thin Places is my answer to her quote.

But why go there? Why examine the past? Hasn’t the old passed away?

Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”

It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.

What encouragement or cautions do you have for those wanting to write their story?

First, prayerfully consider if this is something you need to do for therapy rather than publication. It’s very exposing to write a memoir. And sometimes we mistake the compelling feeling we have with publication. God sometimes calls us to write unpublished words, to get everything out on the page for the sake of our own personal healing.

Many of you have read memoirs that are self-indulgent or a poor-me fest. You need to evaluate whether you’re at a good place of healing before you embark on writing your story for everyone to read.

Do you worry that writing a memoir makes you out to be narcissistic?

Of course. Because I’m the main character! As I’ve edited, read and re-read the book, I’ve agonized over that. Now that the book’s released, I am resting. What’s done is done. And I honestly believe that the story isn’t about me. It’s about a rejuvenating God who stooped to rescue a needy, frail girl.

What fears have you battled as this book released?

Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!

I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.

I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.

* * * * *

I urge you to get to know Mary through her website and her personal blog. And if you and someone you know is struggling with family secrets from the past, you can share your story anonymously here. Links to her additional writing blogs and her Facebook and Twitter sites can be found here.

Author and speaker Mary DeMuth helps people turn their trials to triumph. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God; Building the Christian Family You Never Had; Watching the Tree Limbs; Wishing on Dandelions; Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture and the first two books in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy: Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn.

National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, Point of View and U.S.A. Radio Network and is frequently featured on Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint. She has published articles in In Touch, HomeLife, Writer’s Digest and The Writer.

Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas.

I highly recommend this book, which you can purchase here. To learn more, visit the other blogs participating in this tour by clicking here.

Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy of this book for my review.


View blog reactions


Joyful said...

I like your post. Esp. the `BUT GOD`.
That is so true `His grace, redemption, and transforming power shine through this book. The things that happened in Mary's young life were big. But God was bigger still.`

Kelly said...

Great review. I may have to get a copy!

sara said...

wow. this really sounds like a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the post and her awesome to see God work!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'll get her book. I love to read redemption stories; they are such hope to the many who suffer from their pasts (and presents). God bless her and you for sharing this.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

I loved Thin Places. It's a story of hope, healing and redemption. Thanks for your review, I hope Mary's book reaches the hearts yearning for this message most.

quilly said...

I am not putting this book on my TBR list. I probably should, but as a child who suffered abuse, every time I read someone else's story I relive my own and remember things I would have preferred remained forgotten. I read Dave Peltzer's books a few years ago. They were so compelling I could not stop, much like having to scratch an itch even though you're ripping away chunks of bloody flesh in the processes.

Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks so much, Linda for this honest review.

Quilly, may the Lord bring you to a new place of healing so you can have the wounds heal instead of bleed. Don't shortchange His path of healing by avoidance. Perhaps those emotions come up when you read a hard book because they haven't yet been healed. Take it as an indication that God's gracious healing journey is ahead of you. It's very hard to face your past, and I walked a painful road of healing, but I can honestly say that stuffing it hurt me more than facing it. Hang in there.

quilly said...

Mary, I have healed enough to talk to the woman who abused me without recriminations or anger. I have healed enough to intercede with others who still suffer her wounds. I have healed enough to forgive her.

God and I went over this issue 10 years ago and he lead me into children's ministry. Reliving the trauma serves me no purpose. I am, however, not discrediting your book or your story. It was a story much like yours that originally lead me to seek help.

Linda -- thank you for your kind words. Have you seen my "Not a Cinderella Story" post?

CeeCee said...

Wow, I'll have to get this book. Thanks for the interview (jealous you met Mary ;))

Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful interview. I want to read the book now. Thank you.


Kim said...

Loved this too, Linda! Mary sure has a powerful testimony! Her books are unforgettable!!