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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 22nd April 2014

#TellHisStory: What Cheez-Its Can Teach You About Grace (And a Giveaway)

Michelle DeRusha, Misfit

messiah misfits

I met Michelle DeRusha in 2010, on a spring day before I ran my first half-marathon on the streets of her city. She and Deidra Riggs stopped at my hotel for our first in-person meeting. And I’ve counted them as dear friends ever since. Even before we met, I was captivated by Michelle’s honesty, humor and writing.

Four years later, Michelle and I are walking side-by-side on this publishing journey, both of us having released our debut books in the past month.

Giveaways

I’m delighted to have Michelle on the blog today, and I’m giving away TWO COPIES of her amazing book, Spiritual Misfit! And Michelle is hosting me on her blog today, with a giveaway of Love Idol.

Today, you’ll find a hilarious excerpt from Michelle’s book — one of the finest faith memoirs I’ve ever read.

(Be sure to enter below for a chance to win Michelle’s book!)

What Cheez-Its can Teach You About Grace
By Michelle DeRusha

Spiritual Misfit_cvr_all_r1.indd Of all the theological concepts I learned about on my journey to faith, grace was the one that gave me the most trouble. I simply didn’t get it; I couldn’t comprehend it. I didn’t hear much about grace in my childhood church. In fact, for most of my life, I thought grace was the few words we uttered once a year over our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Suffice to say, coming to understand the notion of grace was a two-steps-forward-one-step back process for me.

The following story is one of my favorites in Spiritual Misfit. It’s about the day I tried really hard to be “just like Jesus.” Here’s what happened:

Joining a small group, getting more comfortable with prayer, and digging into the Bible with greater frequency were all practices that moved me along the faith continuum, but I was still stumped by a theological concept mentioned again and again in church and the Bible: grace.

I remember the Sunday my church launched a sermon and study series called CrossWalk. The initiative was designed to help us integrate worship into your everyday lives. I thought it sounded like a great spiritual growth opportunity. And it was…on paper. In reality, it nearly killed me.

Day one of the plan suggested we praise God throughout the course of our day. The first few hours were a snap, but the trouble was, the day was long. Not counting slumber, we’re talking sixteen hours or so. And who could praise God for sixteen hours straight?

By the time 7 p.m. rolled around, my nerves were frayed like an old hair elastic, and I’d resorted to Darth Vader deep-breathing. While I barked orders – “Finish your snack! Pick out a book!” – and tried to rein in the spiraling chaos, the kids got giddy as kids do when bedtime looms, wheeling around the living room like bumble bees on speed, ricocheting off furniture, bouncing on the couch like rubber superballs and throwing Cheez-Its at each other.

Before I realized what was happening, I morphed from a thinly disguised insane woman trying desperately to act like Jesus into a stark raving madwoman; Jesus cast aside like a rumpled Halloween costume, as Medusa with a head full of writhing snakes slid into his place.

In the span of thirty seconds, I grabbed a handful of Cheez-Its, crunched them in my fist, and threw them at Rowan, orange crumbs cascading like sprinkles off his carrot-top head. (Note: this is actually an effective strategy for summoning shocked silence and a total cessation of pre-bedtime lunacy, but I advise to use it sparingly). I rattled off a list of lost privileges rivaling a day at Guantanamo Bay – “No books! No snacks! No story! No snuggling! No prayers! (Yes, I took away prayers.) Then I dropped each boy howling and sniveling into his respective bed. And I burst into tears myself.

cheezits

Yes, this was how I launched CrossWalk. This was how I integrated worship into my everyday life. This was how I glorified God with my thoughts and actions. It went really well.

Oh, and I should mention, it was also my husband’s birthday. Happy birthday, honey, from your raving lunatic Medusa wife.

I’m guessing Jesus probably would not have hurled snacks at his disciples, no matter how exasperated he was with their constant vying for position and their proclivity for sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also probably would not have forbidden prayer as a disciplinary measure.

While I wept on Brad’s shoulder, complaining pitifully that my CrossWalk was a bust, he assured me with compassion and genuine affection that I could try again: “Honey, it’s okay, really. You can start again tomorrow; you did really well during the first part of the day, didn’t you? It’s not a complete loss.” (Of course he managed to be like Jesus with no problem).

I did pick up one pointer from my abysmal one-day CrossWalk experiment. I learned to take a mulligan, as they say in golf. I don’t play golf, but Brad does, and he’s explained the concept of a mulligan to me, which is essentially this: a do-over. If your drive goes awry and your ball plunks into the pond, you can take a mulligan.

Grace, it turned out, was like a mulligan, the chance to take another shot, to start over again. I had received a mulligan, grace, from God (and my husband and children) when I morphed into Medusa and threw Cheez-Its at Rowan. I received the chance to start over the next day and the day after that.

DeRushaheadshot A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at MichelleDeRusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, was recently released by Convergent.

Giveaway Details
(Winner will be notified Friday afternoon)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to stop by Michelle’s place for a chance to win Love Idol! 

Have you come by to tell your story? Details here. Link-up below!  

 


  • This was hilarious! And so easy to relate to. Haven’t we all been there? Admitting it is so liberating! Knowing I am not alone in my failures is a blessing…and a comfort. Thanks for sharing, and God bless your new book!

    • Thanks, Cheryl – glad to know i’m not the only one who succumbs to insanity in these moments.

  • Love this story from your book and really want my own copy! 🙂

    • My son Rowan told me last night the Cheez-It incident is his first memory. Perfect. But I think he might just be *thinking* it’s his first memory, since he’s heard the story so much lately (I’m hoping anyway!).

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Oh no! First memory! What a hoot!

  • soulstops

    Enjoying Michelle’s book and if I won, I have friends I would give her book to…Thanks, Jennifer…and to answer your question, your book did bless me 🙂

  • Oh, Michelle, you have no idea how much comfort there is in knowing I’m not the only “raving lunatic Medusa wife”! 😉 Rough day. I needed this. Thank you! And I laughed when I read the title of this post because it reminded me of one I recently wrote called, “How Fritos Helped Me Yield to God.” Here’s the link in case there is comfort in knowing that God uses salty snacks to speak deep spiritual truths to someone else, too. Hugs.
    http://beckykeife.blogspot.com/2014/03/how-fritos-helped-me-yield-to-god.html

    • Posts about God and snacks = always a good combination! Glad this one could offer you some comfort and laughter today, Becky. Breathe in, breathe out, friend – this too shall pass.

  • Oh how I remember the frantic days of trying to get everyone to march in the same direction! I may not have thrown Cheez-Its but it’s only because they weren’t within my grasp. So thankful for the mulligans available in the forgiveness of the Father! Can’t wait to read Michelle’s book!

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  • When younger… when I would hear people say… His mercies are new every morning… I just thought…well everyone but me…I hated the thought of a get out of jail card… a mulligan… it seemed so cheap… but oh how upside-down my thinking was about grace… it wasn’t cheap at all…but it truly does come and cover all… so thankful for my mulligans now… for His amazing Grace!!! and I think I will now always smile when I see cheez-its… thanks 🙂

    • It IS a hard concept to accept and wrap your mind around, isn’t it? Some days I still struggle…a lot. Love you, Ro!

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  • DeanneMoore

    Loving hearing all these wonderful reviews on Michelle’s book. Looking forward to reading it soon regardless if it is free or if I get Amazon to send it to me!

  • Honesty is so refreshing and grace-giving- thank you!

  • Sierra

    I am so excited to read this book. I have struggled a lot with the concept of Grace and have often felt like a bad christaian because of it. Thanks for writing this book. I know that I am not alone.

  • Michelle and Jennifer,
    Thanks for sharing the Cheez-It story… since we all have them we can re-learn Grace everyday. Praise God for that!

  • Oh. My. Goodness. Thank you for making me feel normal! Love the Cheez-It Story. I would love to read your book, sounds amazing!

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  • Pattie

    Grace is like a mulligan. I love it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lori Tintes Hartmann

    I would love to be entered to win Spiritual Misfit! I love this post because it’s so real and relatable. I love the concept of grace being a mulligan. A do over. It’s so true! Grace is amazing and I, for one would not be alive and living the life I am living without it!

    • Hi Lori, it’s lovely to meet you here today. I love what you say about grace- so true, friend, so true.

  • KristinHillTaylor

    Pretty sure I’ll never look at Cheez-Its the same again. Perhaps that means I won’t see grace the same either. I’ve been hearing so many good things about your book, Michelle!

    • That’s so nice of you to say, Kristin! And yeah, Cheez-Its. We still love to eat them around here…less crunching and tossing now that the boys are older. 🙂

  • Susan Hawkins

    I would like to be entered to win the “Spiritual Misfit” book please. What a great story! I’m a gramma now, but I remember those Medusa “moments” – even as a gramma 🙁 Grace is the absolute most astounding gift from the most Incredible Love Giver! It must be true – no one could make up such Love beyond comprehension. Thank you for being vulnerable and candidly sharing your “failure”. It is such a comfort to know I’m not the only one…

    • I have heard the Medusa Moments get a bit fewer and farther between as a grandmother, so that’s something to look forward to, right Susan? Thanks for your kind words today – it’s lovely to meet you here at Jennifer’s place.

  • Cindy K

    Oh My I have TOTALLY been there.. 5 kids and trying to “do” bible study life.. Doesn’t always work to our expectations. Have never been able to do that. Praising God that I get “do overs” all the time. That HIS grace is sufficient for me. We all need that reminder daily sometimes hourly for me!! Blessings.
    Cindy

  • Lynn Mosher

    Awesome! A chance at both books! Woo-hoo! You two are the Dynamic Duo! May both your books fly off the shelves! 😀

    • Love that, Lynn: “the Dynamic Duo.” What do you think, Jennifer Lee?!

  • Jennifer

    So sounds like something I would do! Looking forward to reading the book–I had downloaded a sample earlier:)

  • Oh my word! This story had me laughing. I may have had one of those days yesterdays (okay… I have had a lot of those days in general). So glad to read an excerpt from your book 🙂

    • Thanks, Amanda – glad to give you a good laugh. Recently someone asked how I write funny stories and I had to say, “Well the stories weren’t actually funny when they happened in real time!” Thankfully a little distance from the event gives me some much-needed perspective!

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Oh my gosh, Michelle! I didn’t allow Sheridan to eat fake-orange Cheez- Its! What kind of Mean-old-Medusa-Stepmother does that make me?! Of course, after reading here, I realize I didn’t know what Cheez-Its were really for! Now that I do, there is the danger that I will not even wait to crush them, but hurl them whole! Oh my! I recall when I came home full-time (from what I considered to be an exciting career) to raise Sheridan. On our first day alone, we just sat on her floor and cried. Yes, WE did! the poor kid. What kind of mother was I going to be? But God gave me a mother’s mulligan, and He has you. I love this story and your outright honesty! I love that I can fit right in with a misfit like you!
    Love
    Lynn

    • Oh I can so relate to both mother and child crying at the same time, Lynn! I love what you said here: “God gave me a mother’s mulligan” — that is perfect and so, so true.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Gotta admit, though Mike plays golf, he doesn’t tell me much about it. So I loved learning this new defintion from you and Brad. Tx! It sounds Irish, too. All I ever heard of was Mulligan stew!

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  • Thanks for making me laugh today! It is good to know I’m not the only Medusa! Even better to be reminded that we get to have do-overs…every morning is a mulligan I suppose!

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Sounds like you are a “soul sister”! OH MY! Today has been one of those days, and while not throwing cheez-its, I was Medusa in all her glory! Would LOVE to have a copy! Thanks so much for the giveaway! 🙂

    • I feel your pain, fellow Medusa-Mama – hang in there, Brooke!

  • Oh my word Michelle. This is the first post of yours I have seen, as I have lived in a wormhole of disassociation to any kind comprehension for the written word while serving as a foster mom to many.

    Grace and faith are on the forefront of my mind lately. Finishing up Tullian Tchividjian’s book “One Way Love” on grace. It is helping me to see my own need for receiving & giving grace at a deeper level.

    What a joy to read your post here! I have enjoyed meeting Jennifer Dukes Lee (unofficially & simply virtually of course) & now I am blessed to “meet” you and your writing. Looking forward to reading BOTH of your books! Perhaps someday you’ll read mine, whatever it is. 😉

    Seriously…I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for your honesty & for sharing.

  • Robin Shaw

    You are living in my head! I needed that laugh tonight, and the reminder that I’m not alone in my Medusa moments!

    • Jillie

      Michelle is in my head too! Voraciously reading her funny remembrances of her walk toward the Lord. What a grea book, yes?

  • pastordt

    Perhaps my favorite of all your wonderful stories in your wonderful book, Michelle. (Did you see that I somehow managed to win not one, but TWO drawings for a giveaway of Spiritual Misfit? SO embarrassing! I already have one, a very dog-eared and underlined copy. But this is rather typical for me. I never win anything – and twice in two days, I won something I already have. Maybe that’s a lot like grace, come to think of it.) Love to both of you as you continue down this crazy-making trail of book-launching.

  • What a wonderful story! Grace, a mulligan, the beauty of the Christ-life. I’d love to be entered for the giveaway.

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  • Jillie

    I loved this story in your book, Michelle. Been there, done that. I recall that I was all serious about the CrossWalk when I first rededicated my life to Jesus. My family did not always cooperate in MY plan to be holy. One day, my husband and I were busy washing walls in the livingroom. My toddler daughter was bouncing on the sofa, and her big brother was tickling her and generally being a boy. Next thing I know, my daughter has gone off the end of the sofa, head-first into my bucket of water. Screaming ensued. I started to cry, bashed my way out of the room heading for the back door, yelling, “I can’t DO this!. I just can’t DO this!” (They had no idea what I was referring to. They just thought I’d finally lost it!) Thank God Above for mulligans. Thank God He IS the God of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, amen?

  • I so love, love that the two of you are featuring each other! Seriously. Two wonderful books. They will both honestly be the best books I read this year. They each have such powerful & life changing messages. Grateful to have read both & taken the journey with each of you! Blessings!

  • Melissa R

    Please count me in for the giveaway.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Michelle, and thanks Jennifer for hosting Michelle. I love the description of children “wheeling around the living room like bumble bees on speed,” and I’ll have to remember the Cheez-Its idea (just for fun, not to try it!). Thanks for sharing your story of grace!

  • Alyssa Santos

    Oh, my gosh! Since my book is on order, I’ve been hearing about the cheese-it story and yay!, today I read it! My book’s on order through amazon and I’m looking forward to reading and sharing! I have taken so many mulligans in my life as a Christian, I’m sure I’ve exceeded the norm. I am constantly like the person trying to take twenty items through the 12 item or less line — I need grace! Thanks for this real story of the generous grace of our God. What would we do without it?

  • Pam Cason

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy!

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  • Marie Bride

    Oh Goodness Gracious Jennifer,
    Michelle has such a gift of sharing God’s sense of humor!
    I can actually see the Bible story come to life of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple and Jesus embracing Michelle His Beloved Spiritual Misfit as she is stretched to her human limits so that Jesus is able to fill her with His Grace for it is in our weaknesses that He is truly able to shine!
    Thank You for the opportunity I would love to win a copy for a gift.

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