Oh friends, I am GIDDY as I type the introduction to today’s post, because you get to meet one of my dear friends, Alia Joy. Alia’s new book, Glorious Weakness, just released a couple of weeks ago, and if you don’t already know her, she’s a writer’s writer, a soul-barer, a Four on the Enneagram and someone who gives the rest of us permission to know we’re not alone in our pain. She’s been a mentor, an editor and an encourager to me, and I don’t doubt she’ll be the same to you somewhere, somehow along the way.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? The Cliff Notes version is I’m a woman who, during a hypomanic phase of undiagnosed bipolar disorder, decided to start a sewing/crafting/DIY blog to get free stuff and instead wound up spiraling into a deep depression and writing her way through it. Quite by accident, readers starting showing up and saying, “me too.” I used to write to know I wasn’t alone, now I write so others know they’re not either.
There’s a longer version, of course, but the gist of it is that I never planned on being someone who wrote her feelings on the internet or published a book about weakness and lack. But what we plan and what happens isn’t always (often) the same.
I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 as well as other concurrent mental health issues and I’ve struggled most of my life with various chronic illnesses that have given me a unique perspective on what it means to truly need, to truly be lacking, to find oneself insufficient and weak in a world that prides itself on self-reliance, success, and #blessings.
In my day to day life, I’m a wife to Josh, mom to our three kids and my dog, who also thinks he’s my kid, and daughter to my tiny Asian mother, who lives with us. We’ve set down roots in Central Oregon where my husband is a painter (houses not art) and I’m a writer.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Glorious Weakness is a deeply personal exploration of what it means to be poor in spirit and how that could be, in any way, glorious. The book is broken into four parts: weakness, hope, strength, and glory. It is my story of discovering God in all the places that were lacking and discovering Jesus is good even when life is anything but.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Pain. The honest answer is the beginning of this book started when I was in the Emergency Room in horrific pain and I looked around and saw so many people hurting right alongside me. I saw a woman enter with her son and she was so desperately needy and hurting that people looked away because it’s indecent to be so vulnerable and anguished.
We are a society that despises lack. In the church, we love the before and after stories, the testimonies that tie up neatly, we don’t like middle spaces. But the truth is so many of us live in the here but not yet of Kingdom Come and we need to know what hope, what glory remains for those who aren’t healed, who don’t have flush bank accounts, who don’t have the ability to fix themselves. What glory remains for those of us who continually struggle, who need permission to be honest with God and with each other about what it looks like to wait on the Lord when all the lights have gone out.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words, and also, how have you been changed by writing the book? Oof, I feel like I barely survived writing this book. In many ways, I feel like it cost me everything. I wasn’t well for most of it and we faced medical issues, financial obstacles, and personal stresses that made the process even more difficult. In retrospect, I don’t know that I could’ve written the book I wrote from the “mountaintop.” I told God I didn’t need any more material, I had plenty to say about weakness, poverty, and lack already but it was that place of dependence that produced the book I’ve now released into the world.
I hope readers feel permission to be honest with themselves, with others, and with God. I hope they come to know the absurd and ridiculous tenderness of God’s love, their identity as beloved, and their place in the body of Christ. They belong, they’re needed, they’re wanted.
I know my book is raw for some readers, I’ve been told it made some people squirm and have to reexamine their idols of comfort, safety, and success. They’ve had to interrogate their beliefs about their own strengths and how they’ve viewed those they consider weak or poor or lacking among them. I love that.
But as I was writing, the reader that was foremost on my mind was the one who’s hurting, who’s been wounded, who isn’t sure if their weakness disqualifies them from being loved by God. Who needs to know how much glory is revealed in desperation, how much the Kingdom of Heaven is reserved for those who know what it means to need.
We oftentimes talk about “coloring outside the lines” on this blog: so, how do you hope your book will help readers color outside the lines? I didn’t want to write a typical prescriptive Christian Living book. I wanted to lead with story because I strongly believe storytelling connects us and reveals our humanity in ways that almost nothing else does. Jesus was a storyteller. I also knew I wanted to be honest, not for the sake of shock value or to focus on suffering, but because we don’t talk about a lot of subjects in churchy books. We have a sterilized view of what redemption looks like. How I am abiding in Christ, full of faith, obedient and fluent in the language of hope and also sometimes struggle with suicidal ideation. Too many people are silent because they didn’t know they could tell the truth about ourselves and God. Too many people hurt in silence, in solitude, without knowing the Jesus that comes for us, no matter what we’re going through, no matter where or who we are.
How and where can we find you on the Internet? I’m usually goofing off on Twitter if I’m online. I’m reluctantly on Facebook and Instagram, and I have a sorely neglected blog and a column at Patheos called The Fluency of Hope.
One word: GOLD. Am I right? If you want to win a copy of Glorious Weakness, leave a comment on this post …and be sure to head over to Instagram in a couple of days for another chance to win. Contest ends Friday, April 26th. Good luck!
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