#TellHisStory: When You Need to Know How Big God Is (And a Memoir Giveaway)

July 9, 2014 | 52 comments

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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: [email protected], 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!

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by | July 9, 2014 | 52 comments


  1. Cheryl Smith

    This sounds like a wonderful book…it hit a nerve to read of someone else who has made the journey out of organized religion to gain a more intimate knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ.

  2. Barbie

    Wow, this drew me right in. I must read this book. If I don’t win, I will definitely buy it. Blessings to you!

  3. Sandra Black

    So much of what has been shared in this post today just related to years I have been through as well. Wish I could write like that. Thank you.

  4. Holly Solomon Barrett

    Oh, I’m a preacher’s kid too and can so relate to what Emily has shared here. Cannot wait to read her book!! Thanks for sharing it with us, Jennifer.

  5. Achama U

    Emily this snippet makes me want to read your book even more. I can’t relate to being a Preacher’s kid but I can totally relate to that soul searching journey. It’s taken me many years to come home and ironically finding God just where I left Him, in my heart ‘an always present help in times of trouble’.

    So good to know that rest isn’t dependent on a day of the week but on the relationship with the Father through His Son.

    Blessings sweet Emily and what a beautiful blog I have discovered here.

    Shalom x

  6. Jen Mullen

    Excited about this book!

  7. Sharon Piatt

    Such a beautifully written post! I can’t wait to read the book! I was a PK and now a PW, this book will do my heart some good, and my daughter’s heart too.

  8. KristinHillTaylor

    Emily, I’ve been reading such good things about your book. So excited to read more!

  9. Sara

    So looking forward to reading your book!!

  10. Sybil Brun

    What a beautiful introduction to a beautiful book! Thank you for the blessing that you are, ladies!

  11. Lisa Coleman

    My mom just read this book and said it was AWESOME. Thanks for the chance to win!

  12. Kate

    I just adore Emily’s writing, and was reminded once again by this post. Thanks, Jennifer, for featuring her here on your site! And whoever wins Atlas Girl .. enjoy it!

  13. Elise

    I love everything about this post, this giveaway, and the compassion to help those in need! Absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Emily, for opening your heart in so many ways and giving the gift of a window into God’s movement through your life. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing these good words from your good friend so that someone like me (who hadn’t heard of Emily before — I have 4 littles, so I don’t get around much, even on the ‘net) has the opportunity to get to know her, about The Lulu Tree and this amazing book. May God bless you both with a long hug today!

  14. Kay

    Such an important reminder. I resonate with her saying, “I used to hate going to church because I had to, now I love going because I choose to.”

  15. Amber Kemp

    So beautiful & full of truth. Thankful that we serve a God who doesn’t and cannot, fit into the box that is our problems. He is so much greater than out circumstances. Clinging to that truth.

  16. Nannette Elkins

    I have never read any of Emily’s writings…until today. I loved so much about this post!! Especially the “I CHOOSE to go to church”…now. This was so me! The feeling guilty if I needed to rest, but I got over worrying about what others thought. If my body needed rest, even if it was a Sunday, I took it. Kudos.

  17. Lisa notes...

    As always, this is so beautiful from Emily. And so true. The older I get, the bigger God gets. I’m so thankful.

  18. E

    love emily’s writing; thanks for hosting her here!

  19. Shelly Hendricks

    Beautiful. I’m always touched by Emily and her writing. Thank you for this chance! Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

  20. Julie Keefer

    So beautiful! Can’t wait to read the book!

  21. Jessica Hanneman

    As a former pastor’s daughter I can feel deep calling to deep. Can not wait to read.

  22. SimplySaidMom

    I’m so excited about this book, Emily’s words, her(HIS)story. The words I’ve been chasing seem to be hidden within the pages and pictures and are ripe for the picking. Emily speaks my language and for that I am truly happy!

  23. soulstops

    I already have Emily’s book but if I won, I would give it away to a friend….Thanks, Jennifer and Emily 🙂

  24. Michele

    I so desperately want to read this!

  25. Lynn D. Morrisseyw

    I have never read any of Emily’s writing except at her lovely blog. Actually, dear Emily, I had never even heard of you before the JT retreat. =[ Now, having met you (what a sweet, humble lady), having read some of your blog, and seeing Jennifer’s recommendation, I know I must. read. this. book! =] Isn’t it amazing how we find God where we least expect Him? I have just lost a precious friend, a prolific poet, to brain cancer. I so miss him, but what a legacy he left in writing–especially because he was a Jew who came to Jesus. He found Him in the midst of brain cancer. I don’t know your story, but I love reading here how you came home to care for your mother. There is such beauty and generosity in that. I’m so glad she is okay now! I truly look forward to knowing the whole story and hope to read your book.
    God bless you, Miss Emily. Keep shining your light around the atlas.

  26. Leslie McNeil

    it sounds like this will be a summer must-read, and add on to my growing list of wonder books. nice to hear about her here, as i’d hadn’t until now. i love the “layered” sound of the writing, and the stories. thanks for the review!

  27. Mindy Whipple

    Such precious words here – would love to read more! Thanks for sharing Emily with us.

  28. Marni Gallerneault

    What a needed reminder, that we can’t perform for God. Resting in Him is the only thing we truly need!

  29. Leslie H from Alberta

    This book looks so interesting, and since I’m from Alberta too…another connection made. Thank you for sharing and the giveaway

  30. June

    Thank you for hosting this giveaway, Jennifer! I’ve read about Atlas Girl on a couple of other blogs and looking forward to reading this memoir – whether or not I win 🙂

  31. Kelly

    Excited to read this book. Thankful for God’s Grace!

  32. paulajean

    This: “He’s bigger than our wildest mistakes, he’s bigger than our theologies and our hypocrisies, and he’s bigger than our church buildings.” This is resonating for me big time. Thank you.

  33. Marci

    Definitely adding this to my list of books to read! Enjoyed reading this.

  34. Kristen

    This book keeps pooping up on things I’m reading. Thanks for hosting the giveaway.

  35. Kristen

    Oops popping! I should get double entries! 🙂

  36. me

    Had this on my wish list here in Mozambique, so excited for this opportunity to maybe be able to get it!

  37. Lori Tintes Hartmann

    I needed to read this tonight. I have been struggling with going to church and feel disconnected. Thank you!

  38. Elizabeth Stewart

    I love you, Em and am so very proud of you and honored to call you friend.

  39. Jennifer

    Would love to read this book!

  40. Leah Adams

    Wow! Sounds like a book that takes over your heart. I would love to win this book.

  41. JViola79

    It was such a wonderful book. I so did not want to put it down & close its covers.

  42. Jillie

    Oh Emily…Your words, your words…How they stir my heart. Such a quiet and peaceful spirit you exude, yet with such powerful words. You are a master of the craft. I cannot wait to read ‘Atlas Girl’. I’m searching for God myself, outside of the Church. Sadly, I’m finding Him more outside. than inside.
    All the very best to you, you lovely girl. I love your heart.

  43. Jone

    This sounds like a great book.

  44. Stacey

    This just hit my must read list! Thank you from one PK to another.

  45. susie

    I appreciate so much the heart open comments and honest struggle with doing church. Sometimes I feel guilty because the Bible says “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” Often it is a choice between much needed solitude with guilt, or wearily “assembling” without guilt. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with this.

  46. LeeAnn Taylor

    I also never missed church as a kid and now as an adult, I’m realizing God made us more to rest than to drag ourselves harried to church no matter what. It’s a paradigm shift for sure but now I also love to go. Thank you for introducing your community to this book!

  47. Marie Bride


    What a precious pouring out of the heart, mind and soul!

    Talking about going back living in your parent’s basement to take care of
    mom with cancer I have been taking care of my parents for a few years since the
    market crashed where I worked Up North in Mutual Funds and financial vehicles.

    The stories I am sure are different but bleeding of the heart is an emotion
    when I cannot see the end in sight it is comforting to hear someone else share
    their story.

    Thank You and Bless You and Yours!!!

  48. Emily

    You are so inspirational, Emily! As I recover from anorexia as well as try and battle this whole crazy growing up ordeal, reading through your blog posts gives me hope, and a new perspective. I cannot tell you how much of an inspiration you have been to me! I cannot wait to read your book.

  49. Angie

    I have heard so much about this book. I am now very interested in reading.

  50. saltshakmk@msn.com

    Blessings, Jennifer! So many great reads out of late – my reading table is piled high. This may go in the queue – but I am thinking I may be ready to read your Love Idol. I’ve put it off long enough – partly for time and partly to be brave enough to face the message. Oh – to be strengthened to be okay with enough in God alone!

  51. Mary Caldwell

    This is a beautiful description of God. That he is bigger than our Sundays is a marvelous thought!



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