with a book on a snowy day…a review of Michele Cushatt’s memoir Undone

The first time I read John 10:10, I thought I’d hit the lottery:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Yes, please. I’ll take two.

Like pulling up to a Starbucks drive-through, I gave God my order and expected him to fill it. I wasn’t asking for much. I could’ve prayed for millions of dollars, shiny new toys, and expensive, beautiful houses. Instead, I prayed noble and worthy prayers, churchy ones.

For a faithful husband.

For a houseful of children who adored me.

For a solid church family, and years of rewarding service.

What kind of God wouldn’t want to make those dreams come true?

My prayers received unexpected answers. My ministry-loving husband turned out to love addiction more than me. Adoring children turned adolescents, making our home a place of conflict. Our “solid” church family split right down the middle. And cancer proved impossible to predict or avoid.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s what he said, those exact words. But a full life doesn’t mean an easy life. In many cases, it means just the opposite. (Undone, pgs 226-227).

It can be a tad-bit uncomfortable when you see yourself in someone else’s writing. A bit more so, when you read someone’s memoir and you truly wonder how they know so much about you. . . not necessarily events in your life, but rather, the state of your heart. To say, I felt a little undone while reading Michele Cushatt’s memoir Undone: A Memoir. A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life is an understatement.

With the gift of words, a witty sense of humor, and the ability to be open and vulnerable, Michele Cushatt shares her life’s story. The irony, says she, “is that life keeps happening even as you write about it. It’s like trying to work on a moving desk. The plot changes faster than you can pen it” (Undone, pg 233).

As I read Undone, I felt as though Michele was sharing her story with me over a cup of coffee on a snowy afternoon. With my feet tucked under me, I held her words, bound in a beautiful book, as she shared her journey of reconciling the life she dreamed she would have with the one she lived day to day. In her words, “The long hard work of learning how to let go of what was lost and grab onto what was gained.” (Undone, pg 100)

So often I have found myself lamenting that my life doesn’t look much like I imagined it would be. For the longest time, I assumed I was alone (isn’t that just like Satan to plant those thoughts?) in my pile of shambles. I assumed everyone else was living the life they set out to live and I simply could not get my act together. Then, along came Michele. On that wintery day we met over the pages of her new book and she shared her triumphs and failures. I realized I was not alone. I found hope in Michele’s words, “. . . in my pursuit of personal perfection and the ideal life, I’d neglected to take into account a powerful and undeniable factor: humanness. Somehow I tricked myself into believing I could rise above my fallibility with enough effort, control, and good intention” (Undone, pg 234)

Quite honestly, my life looks nothing like Michele Cushatt’s. I haven’t endured divorce, cancer, or a church split. I haven’t graduated two, anticipated the empty nest, and then embraced the parenting of three wounded little people. My life looks different with my own hills and my own valleys. Yet, her words span the distance and speak to my own disappointments, hurts, and fears. Maybe I needed to step back and see my life through the lens of someone else’s to realize that though my life looks nothing like the one I ordered, God has given me an abundant life rich in His love, grace, and mercy to me His child.

I’m so grateful Michele wrote her memoir and gave me a chance to curl up with it on a northern Indiana snowy day in February. Her words are timeless and true to this fellow sojourner’s heart. . . “I’m undone. Hungry, questioning, searching, struggling. Not even close to polished and pristine. But I’m breathing. And believing. And loving this crazy, unexpected, and imperfect life” (Undone, pg 238).

Michele’s book will be available on March 10, 2015. However, Amazon is offering a pre-order now. I highly recommend treating yourself to a mid-winter treat!

I imagine if Michele and I really met over coffee on a snowy day, she would have me doubled over in laughter with her wit and humor. Seriousy, she is funny!! I leave you with this. Honestly, how does she see right into my heart?

Now, there was a time I thought empty nest a barren wasteland for washed-up parents. I loved being a mother more than anything else, couldn’t imagine my days without the noise and activity of my boys. Did life exist postparenting? No longer of any use, parents of grown children were relegated to assisted-care facilities, bridge-playing collectives, and Denny’s early-bird specials. Without children to feed, clothe, drive, and boss around, what in the world would I do with myself?

Then adolescence hit. One, two, three boys, one right after the other. Ka-pow! And suddenly Troy and I knew exactly what we’d do with ourselves postparenting.

Whatever we wanted.

So we gave “empty nest” a more appropriate title.

The Promised Land.

(Insert the “Hallelujah Chorus” here). (Undone, pg 106)

**I was given an advanced copy of Undone for my honest review. All views expressed in this post are my own. I was given no other compensation.


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