Emily Wierenga is an artist, a poet, a thinker, a dreamer. And she is a dear friend. Her artwork hangs on our living room wall, and her words always linger long in my soul.
I have long been a fan of Emily Wierenga’s writing. I’ve read all of her books, and many of her blog posts over the years. But her latest book, Atlas Girl, is the shiny gem of them all. I read her book slowly, savoring both her story and her writing. I would read many passages twice — first for the joy of her prose, and then for the value of her story. It’s exquisitely written, and I found myself marveling at her use of chronology. It’s beautifully layered.
And then, of course, comes the message … about the inward and outward journeys that we take during our years here on earth. Her journey? It’s like this compass, pointing us always toward home, always toward the heart of God.
She’s joining us today, with a story, and a giveaway of Atlas Girl.
By Emily T. Wierenga
“So, I lied,” my husband says, poking his head into the bathroom where I’m showering.
And I’m thinking five minutes honey, just five minutes without the kids or anyone, just five.
“I said we had 15 minutes until we have to leave for church,” he says, “but actually, we have three.”
This happens every Sunday. Somehow, without fail, I’m always behind and shoving boys into pants they grew out of overnight and trying to find an outfit that I didn’t wear last week only I know those things shouldn’t matter, so then I repent and that makes me even later, and then there’s makeup. Because you can’t go to church without makeup–someone might see who you really are, and some weeks we’re so tired we opt for BedSide Sabbath.
Which means, stay at home in our pajamas and eat popcorn and watch “Cheese Guys” as my boys call them, or Despicable Me, because God has called us to rest.
And maybe I’m a church-rebel because I’m a pastor’s daughter and was never allowed to be. Maybe I skip sometimes because I had to be on my death bed to skip it as a kid, and maybe I’ve realized that no amount of feeling tired will earn me any rewards in heaven.
But entering rest will.
And this is something Mum taught me when I took care of her for three years. Mum, who had brain cancer, and I moved home from Korea where my husband and I were teaching English. I moved home to live in my parents’ basement and make art on large pieces of canvas. I moved home because Mum was dying and she needed me and in spite of traveling the globe trying to find the God I said I believed in at eight, when my dad sprinkled water on me; the same God who saved me from anorexia at thirteen and then again at twenty-six, I didn’t really find him until I entered her room.
Mum’s bedroom, where she slept for hours on end, the crimson blanket across the window, the sheets smelling of urine, and when I sang to her in that room, songs like Blessed Be the Name and Better Is One Day and Amazing Grace, she would always sing with me, from somewhere deep. Her eyes closed. Her feet, moving.
After twenty years of being a pastor’s wife my Mum had finally found rest and when she awoke, no matter what day it was, she always thought it was Sunday. Her blue bag packed and ready by the door, filled with her Bible and her notebook and when Sunday would actually arrive, she’d often sleep right through it. We’d push her to the front of the church in her wheelchair, and she’d droop over and I’d cry because all she wanted was to be awake in time for church.
Mum’s better now. After eight years of brain cancer, she’s better.
I’m no longer anorexic either, and the doctors were wrong. I’ve had two babies, and they said I wouldn’t be able to have any, and that’s because God is bigger than all of our Sundays.
He’s bigger than our wildest mistakes, he’s bigger than our theologies and our hypocrisies, and he’s bigger than our church buildings. Big enough to chill with us in our pajamas while we watch Cheese Guys and eat popcorn.
I used to hate church, because I had to go. I love it now, because I choose to go. And that day Mum called Sunday, it’s a day of rest for me. A day when I find myself by her bed again, singing hymns with her and holding her hand.
A day of broken hallelujahs.
My memoir, ATLAS GIRL, is releasing this month, and I am excited to give away TWO copies today. Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win!
From the back cover:
“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.
“Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.”
Click HERE for a free excerpt.
I’m also giving away a FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Just order HERE, and send a receipt to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir — an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by myself and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.
ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards my non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
So, what’s your Story?
A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.
Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.
Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.
Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?
For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Share the love of story by visiting someone else in the community!