Book Look: Q&A with author Elisa Morgan, The Beauty of Broken

Welcome to a new feature on the blog. I'm planning to occasionally interview authors who are expressing their Christian faith and their theology through writing books.

The Beauty of Broken defies categories and breaks new ground as a raw account of a family that has been through everything—and in the process learned just how amazing grace is. -Philip Yancey, bestselling author, What's So Amazing About Grace?

149718_72bd21c05fa807bb11428e0e3b989d0a.jpg_srz_320_425_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzOur first interview features noted speaker, leader and author Elisa Morgan, as we talk about her new book The Beauty of Broken: My Story and Likely Yours, Too. After serving as President and CEO of MOPS International for 20 years, Elisa entered a new season in which she eventually felt compelled to share her broken background and how the brokenness of her family and her world ushered her in to a space of asking more questions rather than simply offering answers. Elisa now serves as the Publisher for fullfill.org, an organization dedicated to helping Christian women live out their influence. And she was recently named by Christianity Today as one of the top 50 women influencing church and culture. 

Elisa and I met years ago when I was working at Revell Books, marketing books for MOPS International. I have fond memories of how much fun she was at dinner parties, of her keen spiritual insights, and of the joy that splashes off her on to those she meets. In this, I'm a happily biased reviewer—though I bought my own copy of the book—as I consider her a friend and mentor. My own experience with the book was one of tremendous relief: it felt like it gave me permission to feel the weight of a failed adoption experience, to sit in the brokenness knowing that somehow, someday, it would be OK. Join us for a candid talk about Elisa's journey through brokenness and how she has discovered how to find beauty even in the most difficult brokenness, not in spite of it.

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Q: You include Frederick Buechner's quote about us living a highly-edited version of who we are. What made you decide to write this book and share what he called the "secret" of who you truly are? A: It's a powerful quote in the introduction. What made me write it is it's time to talk. It's time to bring out the rest of the story. In the 20 years I lived the story and served as the president of MOPS International for most of that time, it wasn't the time to talk. I couldn't tell parts of the story before because it wasn't just my story. It was also so many other people's stories.

But now the time has come. It's been freeing and it's also been terrifying, to be honest. In telling the whole story, I give up control about what the reader thinks of me. But the response has been beautiful because, guess what, everybody's broken, and everybody appreciates knowing that they're not alone.

Q: As the head of MOPS International for so many years, you held a public position even while you were dealing with great brokenness in your family. What have you learned about how a leader should handle and model brokenness? A: For me, I believe that vulnerability is believability. And when we fake it—we're going to fail as leaders. People can see through you and they want to know how you really are and how you are growing. I remember in one of my therapy sessions when I was processing all that was happening learning that there is a private person, and then some distance out from that private person and the public person. The degree of space between the two is really the degree of integrity that we have. And we need to narrow that gap to be the same person that we are in private as we are in public.

We can't tell every part of our story all the time, but we can be every part of that person. Rather than denying the reality of the painfulness of life even as we are bleeding. It's an expensive mistake not to allow our brokenness to be used—it withholds from God's use that vulnerable part of us that he intends to interact with the world and the people we are serving. The takeaway is that we don't always tell everything to the public, but we can always be a person and a leader who has been deeply impacted by the needy parts of who we are.

Q: As someone who grew up in a broken home, what truth or practice has brought the most significant healing in your spiritual journey? A: I actually felt incredibly inadequate to take on the position with MOPS International. I joke about how I was "mother inferior" not "mother superior." I thought it was preposterous of God to choose me—the daughter of divorce and alcoholism and all kinds of muck. As I prayerfully wrestled with this opportunity, God lifted my chin and said, "Look around at all the other moms. They have the same swiss cheese holes that you do. Let me make your deficits into your offering."

I think what gave me the courage to say yes to the MOPS opportunity was the gradual understanding that what happened in my first family wasn't my fault. And I was learning that God can use the broken us that comes out of those relationships.

Q: What one area of brokenness in your life is currently bringing forth more and more beauty? A: A lesson I began to learn about ten years ago or so is something I am still working on. And that is, "How do I live loved?" I mean, God loves me! Doesn't that just blow you away? He loves you, and anyone that's reading this. He loves you just as you are. He knows all about you, and he sees you the way you already are in Jesus. That's redemption. So why don't we see ourselves that way? If God says this stuff is true about us—that he loves us even if we're broken, that he uses us even if we're broken, then the most broken places we put in his hands can actually be our best offering.

I am currently trying to meditate and lean into Psalm 34:5: "Those who look to him are radiant; they will no longer cover their faces in shame." I'm understanding that it is God's radiance that gives me radiance. When I look to him, that's the radiance I receive. And that radiance removes shame. So I'm asking myself "How do I live that?" When my dog poops on the carpet, when somebody writes me an email that they don't like me, how do I live that when I lose my temper and get snarky with my husband? It's back to "How do I live loved?" I'm digging into the beauty of what God says about me, and I'm learning to believe it.

Visit the website or watch the video trailer:

Elisa Morgan - The Beauty of Broken from Scott Shek on Vimeo.

What about you? How wide is the gap between who you are in private and in public? How have you found beauty in great brokenness?