This book is salve to my broken heart. Thank you, Elisa Morgan, for your brutal honesty and your transparency in telling your story and mine. But, thank you even more for helping me understand that "training up my children in the ways of the Lord..." was not a guarantee that they would live perfectly and untouched by sin's stain. Just like me, they needed to experience God's grace, even though I would like to have spared them the hardships of bad choices. My love and protection would have crippled them, made them useless to God and unable to understand and help others. And, instead of being a humbled, grace seeking parent, I would be an arrogant, finger pointing stone thrower.
When I was eight years-old, my mother took me to a luncheon at the local Baptist Church. I was dressed up in taffeta, wore little white gloves, and black patent leather shoes. At the end of the meal, our speaker stepped up to the stage.
She was beautiful, with smooth short hair and red lipstick. A blue silk suit fit her slim figure, shiny nylon stockings and beige heels - a color mother preferred to call "bone" - completed the outfit. She sang with the voice of an angel - high and clear like a Disney princess - and gave an encouraging talk about God's faithfulness to those who obey him. Then and there I decided I wanted to be her - a Christian speaker and writer - beautiful, kind and likeable. Perfect.
Well Joyce Landorf later on in life became divorced, depressed, and after My Blue Blanket, a washout as a writer and leader. I read that book in college and wept for her, her lost ministry, her forgotten beauty.
The myth of the pretty and perfect Christian woman persisted into the 1980's, when my mother suggested that I join Campus Crusade for Christ because "they have grooming classes and teach you how to wear nice clothes." In some areas of the country that value persists to this day.
Elisa Morgan lived up to that external image for decades as the president of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) helping young mothers cope with the overwhelming task of raising tiny children in a world with expectations of perfection. She provided guidance, wrote books, spoke to hundreds of women each year and brought understanding and reality to millions of women in this country and in several additional countries around the globe.
Her latest book, The Beauty of Broken: My Story and Likely Yours Too, (Thomas Nelson, 2013) reveals a deep crack in such a porcelain-doll faÃ§ade. For the first time, Morgan lets loose with the truth about her broken family, biological and adoptive, her drive to fix them, and her need to create the perfect family of her own, hand-picked adopted children. Little by little, she shows how God drove home the truth that he loves the broken, including her pregnant teen daughter and her son's struggle with addiction, her alcoholic mother, and her father who abandoned them all. God loves sinners. We all know that, but it's so much easier to think of sinners as someone else. The realization that his love includes you because of your identity as a sinner can come as a shock.
"I wasn't "enough" after all. I was never intended to be enough: good enough, all-powerful enouht, special enough. "Enoughness" wasn't within my grasp, nor was it God's goal for my life. God so desires that we embrace and accept our not-enoughnessâ€”because then we see our need for him."
Chapter by chapter, Morgan describes God showing up and intervening at the same time he reveals his plan of brokenness and reconciliation. Don't expect a neatly packaged "how-to" book or a simple 1-2-3 formula for getting through brokenness. The shared pain is real, the shards cannot be repaired or smoothed over. Bit by bit, Elisa goes over the details of her life again and then again until the full extent of the damage is laid bare. We see her reality - powerless to fix any of it and surrendered to the plan of her father.
Maybe you know some women who think they are supposed to be "perfect" Christian women. Maybe you're still trying to hide the cracks and keep the pieces intact. Maybe some of your Christian friends expect you to try harder. Don't. Stop trying at all.
Let go, let the pieces scatter in fragments across the floor. Elisa Morgan did and shared the path to authenticity in this remarkable and moving book. Let the doll break and let God put the pieces back together in the order that he wants them to fit. The result may not be perfect, but it will be beautiful.
"Gradually God grew in me a new acceptance of my true need for him. I began to understand that when I embrace forgiveness...then I'm actually more useful for God's kingdom purposes. How many of us judge ourselves as disqualified for ministry due to what we have endured! When really, our messiness, handed to God for redemption, actually qualifies us for further use."
Elisa Morgan carried a heavy title for years. She was the CEO of MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) for several years; she embraced everything about motherhood with her God-given desire to connect with young moms everywhere. She also carried heavy burdens as a mother during this time. The Beauty of Broken is a ministry in and of itself, as Elisa shares her family's story as she paints a very raw picture of her thoughts and her journey as a mother through some dark times in the lives of her children. She leads us down her path of brokenness, not with the promise of a perfect ending, rather a promise of a perfect God whose anchor is a permanent fixture in our lives regardless of our circumstances.
Elisa Morgan boldly asserts "there are many who are desperately in need of being set free from the guilt and confusion of the myth of the perfect family that pervades our Christian culture." She tells story after story, describes disappointment after disappointment, and many moments in which relinquishment of her children to God was the only option available. She also admits there were days when she didn't open her Bible as she waited for God to redeem her children.
In The Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan gives us hope. However, it's a hope that is counter-cultural to what has been engrained in our minds. She encourages her readers to cling to the promise that God knows our loved ones far more than we ever could, and He knows each and ever step of their journey on this broken Earth.
This book is a must read for moms of all seasons, and anyone who has experienced heartbreaking circumstance with loved ones.
"...people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never-ever-without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves."
Elisa Morgan was named by Christianity Today as one of the top 50 women influencing today's church and is one of today's most sought-after speakers, leaders, and authors. For twenty years, Elisa Morgan served as the CEO of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). And under her leadership, MOPS grew from 350 to over 4,000 groups throughout the United States. Morgan has authored over fifteen books on mothering, spiritual formation, and evangelism, including her latest book; The Beauty of Broken; my story and likely yours to.
Personally I think the church is making a shift towards openness and transparency and I think Elisa Morgan would agree. In her book she shares the raw deep personal "seasons" of her life and her families lives. Through reading Beauty of the Broken I think the reader will see that in a lot of ways, our stories are more connected than we first might think. We are all striving for "perfect" but perfect is always out of reach. The wonderful thing about God is - He doesn't ask us to be perfect, or to come with our act "all together" rather God takes our beautiful mess and "makes us perfect."
Elisa's book is a bare and open memoir of how we're all in need of some repair. But that God uses as we are to fulfill his Kingdom work. I think that it's this kind of open and courageous story that the world is needing right now. I think this book will help others who perhaps are in this same (or similar) situation to take courage that they're not in this alone.
Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a free review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
am so excited that this years MOPS theme is A Beautiful Mess. I feel like this book would be a great supplement to the MOPS theme book this year. This book is one of the best and most honest christian books I've read it in a while. In fact I barely put it down when I was reading it. This book explores the fact that no matter how perfect that we want our family to be there is no perfect family and that everybody is broken. God actually prefers broken people because he take our mess and turn it into something beautiful, even if we think we are a broken ugly mess. We strive to be perfect and not a mess but everyone is even if we don't realize this. This book is so incredibly honest and so eye opening that a CEO of a Christian organization isn't perfect either.
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