While I was researching Finding Heaven, I read a lot of books. Some of them were books meant to help those who have suffered abuse. And some of them were testimonials or memoirs by people who had.
One such book was Thin Places by Mary DeMuth. As I read it, I was like, “If this woman and I were in the same town, we could be friends.” I tweeted about the book, and Mary and I started up a virtual acquaintance.
Thanks! I'm reading your story and see we have walked some similar paths, too. Was thinking we could have a good talk over tea.— Talena Winters (@TalenaWinters) July 20, 2016
But new truths are being imparted. Love it when I read a book for research and God uses it to teach me for myself.— Talena Winters (@TalenaWinters) July 20, 2016
(I previously mentioned this book in a post about achieving dreams.)
In her book, Mary was incredibly vulnerable about her background in an unsafe broken home with prevalent drugs and partying, the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of some neighbourhood boys when she was five years old, her struggle with addictions and suicidal thoughts, and the ways that God has used all of these wounds as “thin places” to reach into her life.
On the first page of the book, she defines “thin places” as “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.”
As I read the book, I was like, “Yes. That.” Over and over again, I recognized that God had used Mary’s wounds to teach her many of the same lessons he was in the process of teaching me—some of which became much clearer because I read the book.
The more I got to know Mary, the more I wished we could have that tea. She is such a beautiful example of how God can take the most broken of us and create something extremely beautiful. His love shines through her like light through a stained glass window.
Her biography on Facebook begins, “If you met Mary today, her joy would confuse you.” I love that. After all that Mary has been through, the fact that she is known by her joy (not surprising if you read even one article she has written) is a testimony to the healing power of Christ.
As she says in her book, “He redeems my messes. Cleans them up. Polishes them until they shine so bright the reflection of Jesus smiles back.”
I was hoping to interview Mary as part of this “people who inspire me” series, but unfortunately, her very busy schedule did not allow it. However, she gave me permission to introduce her to you using work she has already published. As I’ve pondered how to do this, I realized that I was not sure how—when I write features on people for Move Up magazine, I always have the raw material of an interview to work from. In this case, I have to draw primarily on Mary’s articles that I’ve read or the one book (of the more than thirty she’s written).
So, I beg your forgiveness for frequently injecting my own experience into an article about someone else. But after all, the reason I’m writing it is because Mary’s words changed me. God used them as a mirror to show me parts of myself I had always chosen to overlook before, but about which he said, “We need to deal with these now.”
For instance, in Thin Places, Mary tells the story of the time a friend told her how her constant industry had inspired the friend to maintain more activity in her own life (such as greater efficiency in housework). Mary received the complement with mixed feelings.
“I am not so sure I’m happy with her words,” Mary said. “She means them kindly, but they echo in my head like truth. I cannot stop. I must always work. I must always prove that I am worthy to take up space on earth.”
Those words hit me hard. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I had a difficult time sitting and doing nothing. That is, in large part, why I took up fibre crafts—I took up crocheting while dating a guy whose parents were a three-hour drive away in order to stay awake on the trip. Inactivity put me to sleep. I even had difficulty with the activity of only driving— for so many years, it seemed like a completely unproductive waste of time.
I soon discovered that I didn’t care much for crocheting, but knitting grabbed hold and I loved it. And so, for the next sixteen years, I would rarely sit and watch TV or even visit someone without yarn and needles in my hand.
… Until this year, when we took a week-long family vacation and I didn’t knit a stitch.
It’s not that I don’t like knitting anymore. I do. But over the last two years, God has been bringing me to a place where I’m okay with stillness. I’m okay with doing only one thing, and I’m okay that sometimes that one thing is nothing. For the first time in my life, I’m no longer driven to achieve something every moment of the day. And it’s because I recognized myself in Mary’s words.
My activity wasn’t a fear of boredom. It was an effort to prove my own value to those around me—and myself. When I recognized that, and (through a different book I read) realized who I was trying to impress, God brought me to a place where I no longer needed to prove my worth in the eyes of others. He is the one whose approval I need, and I have it—not because of anything I did or could do, but because I am his daughter through the redemptive work of Christ.
I am now much more content to just be.
Mary’s history is one rife with tragedy—being a child of three divorces, having a father who died when she was young, and having her personal worth stolen by two teenage boys through the neglect of a babysitter who didn’t really care, to name only a few. Yet God took her life and restored it in such a way that every word she writes shows others how much he loves them—which is exactly the way she wants it.
Mary is now a speaker and writer. She hosts The Restory Show, a podcast that interviews people whose brokenness has been used by God in one way or another (and on which, I’m thrilled to say, I will be a guest at some point this month). She spends her life encouraging people to see beyond the shame of their brokenness and see the beauty that God can make of it.
Mary already knows what the loss of my son (and more) taught me—that it is through our woundedness that we can most easily change to become more like Christ. Loss makes us pliable, shakes our foundations deeply enough that he can reform us into something new, someone more like him. And it is the profound insights she has gained through her many losses that she bleeds onto the pages of Thin Places.
“I live in the midst of holy moments, yet only in retrospect do I really see them,” she says in the book. “I claw at the seams of life, questioning God’s ways, seldom realizing that if I’d stop clawing, I would capture new glimpses of him through the thin places. God woos me from behind the veil through tragedies, beauties, surprises, simplicities, and snatches of my life I might overlook.”
I encourage you to check out her website (www.marydemuth.com), listen to her podcast, and by all means, read her book. I pray that you will be as blessed by her words as I was.
(This song, "Beautiful Things" by Gungor, is part of the soundtrack playlist for Finding Heaven. See the whole list on the book page.)
Speaking of Finding Heaven, I have exciting news--the launch date is set for November 14.
At the moment, the book has been edited and is with the formatter. Also, the digital version is available for ARC readers--for free!
What does that mean? It means that I will give you a free digital copy to read as long as you promise to leave a review on Amazon.com on the day of the launch, or shortly thereafter. Interested?
Happy Tuesday, friend! May you find beauty in the thin places of your life today.