Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God

by Sarah Bessey


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A deeply moving and life-affirming account of wrestling with faith and God and finding miracles in the most unexpected places.

In the brief instant Sarah Bessey realized that her minivan was, inevitably, going to hit the car on the highway on the bright, clear day of the crash, she knew intuitively that it would have life-changing consequences. But as she navigated the winding path from her life before the accident—as a popular author, preacher, and loving wife and mother—to her new life after, inhabiting a body that no longer felt like her own, she found that the most unexpected result wasn’t the way this shook her body, but how it shook her deeply rooted faith, upending everything she thought she knew and held so dearly.

Weaving together theology and memoir in her trademark narrative style, Sarah tells us the story of the moment that changed her body and how it ultimately changed her life. The road of healing leads to Rome where she met the Pope (it’s complicated) and encountered the Holy Spirit in the last place she expected. She writes about her miraculous healing, learning to live with chronic pain, and the ways God makes us whole in the midst of suffering. She invites us to a path of knowing God that is filled with ordinary miracles, hope in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and other completely reasonable things.

Insightful, profound, and unexpected, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things is a wild, spirit-filled story of what it means to live with both grief and faith, suffering and joy, as we wrestle with God.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501155468
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 44,297
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sarah Bessey is the author of the popular and critically acclaimed books, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, Jesus Feminist, and Miracles and Other Reasonable Things. She is a sought-after speaker at churches, conferences, and universities all around the world. Sarah is also the cocurator and cohost of the annual Evolving Faith Conference and she serves as President of the Board for Heartline Ministries in Haiti. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, with her husband and their four children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Lucky

When I woke up in my minivan, the first thing to register was the smell of Tim Hortons coffee. At the moment of the crash, my coffee had exploded out of the cup holder, hitting the windshield and the roof, raining dark roast everywhere.

A panicked face appeared at my car door. He was frantically banging on the door, and a horn—my horn—was blaring. I lifted my head up off the exploded steering wheel airbag slowly, disoriented. Automatically I reached over and unlocked my door, which he swung wide open. I groaned at the small movement. I could move my arm, though—that was a good sign.

“You okay?” he shouted over the horn blaring. “Are you okay? Ma’am? Miss? Can you hear me? Are you okay?”

I had no idea how to answer that question. Was I okay? I had no idea.

My whole body began to shake. I couldn’t seem to move on purpose. Everything hurt right up close to me, everywhere, especially on my left side, but my brain was still far away, wondering indignantly why I smelled coffee and smoke, why the horn wouldn’t stop screaming.

“Don’t move,” he said. “Don’t move at all.” I could hear sirens in the distance. Another car was crumpled on the side of the road; I was horizontal across the highway, facing the west even though I had been driving north. The sun was still somehow shining. I could smell hot tires, see black tire skid marks everywhere. Who knew that crashed metal had such a horrible smell? The airbags were still burning against my body; there was grit in my teeth.

“I saw the whole thing,” the man at my window shouted. “I saw it all. Good God, you’re a lucky girl. Holy hell. I saw that whole thing. Don’t move now; just wait for the guys. The guys are coming. Those are my guys—I’m a volunteer firefighter, miss. Hang in there, now. Jesus.”

“Bri, could you wipe the tears out of my ears?” I was lying flat on my back, strapped to a metal board, encased in a neck brace in the hallway of our emergency room triage. It was an out-of-the-ordinary night at our regional hospital. Maybe there was a full moon; I don’t really know—after all, I wasn’t near a window, and I wouldn’t see the sky for many hours still. All of the rooms were full, the beds were scarce, the doctors were scurrying, the nurses were triage efficient, reinforcements were being called, and I was entirely focused on enduring.

I wasn’t actively crying. I was just weeping quietly without intention. The tears kept coming, pooling in my ears, leaving me feeling like I was swimming underwater. I waited until I could barely hear the noise of the hospital before I asked Brian to wipe my ears out.

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” he asked, sweeping a hospital-grade tissue into each of my ears.

“I didn’t want to be a bother,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“I think that ship has sailed,” he said. “This whole mess is super inconvenient for me—bad timing, Styles. Could’ve planned this better, eh?”

He has always called me by my maiden name when he’s feeling tender. He placed his hand gently on my forehead and moved my hair back from my face, tucking it behind the collar of the neck brace, holding my gaze.

“Honestly, woman,” he gently scolded, shaking his head slightly. “Where else would I be?”

A while later, he said, “You’re still shaking, Sar. Are you cold? I heard they have heated blankets down by the nurses’ station. I’ll be right back with one. The nurse told me where to go.”

“Not cold, no,” I chattered. “Just still can’t stop shaking. I’m sorry.”

“I hate the smell of hospitals,” I whispered when he returned with the heavy, warm blanket. “I’ve had enough of hospitals this year. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want to go home.”

“You sound like your dad,” he said. “We just finally got him home, and now here you are. We’ll get through this—you’ll see.”

“I’m just so tired. I want to go home.”

We fell silent. Eventually a woman sat down near us, wrapped in crude bandages up her arms. “Wow, what are you in for?” my husband asked her sympathetically.

For twenty years now, I’ve watched my husband make friends everywhere he goes. Once we were in the checkout line at a Walmart Supercenter in Texas when I realized we had forgotten the milk. He said hello to the cashier and began unloading the groceries while I turned to run back to the dairy case. By the time I returned with a jug of milk in my hands, the cashier was wiping her eyes with a tissue and he was nodding sympathetically as she said, “And, of course, that just brought up all the feelings of when my dad left us....”

Brian turned to me and said, “Babe, this is Susan; she was just telling me about her Thanksgiving.”

Of course she was. I wasn’t even surprised by then. People trust him almost immediately. It was part of why I fell in love with him: he was so earnestly and unapologetically interested in people; he liked almost everyone, and they loved him for his unfussy genuine interest, his warmth and steadiness.

Me? I rejoiced when the grocery stores installed self-checkout lanes so I wouldn’t have to ask the Susans about Thanksgiving. My husband thinks self-checkout lanes are an abomination, taking jobs from decent working people: another symptom of disconnection in our society. There is an old adage that married people start to look like each other as the years go by: this is certainly true in my capacity to make small talk with strangers. I have grown from a girl who just wanted to get her milk without making eye contact to someone who is on a first-name basis with the checkout ladies at my corner store.

I often joke that he was born the best kind of grown-up: capable and kind, never in doubt to what is The Right Thing to Do, the kind who makes you relax because someone good is in charge. He’s the sort of man who started saving for university when our babies were all still in diapers, who knows how to fix drywall and plant gardens, who renews insurance and files taxes early by himself, who sticks with the credit union out of principle, who coaches middle school basketball because he genuinely loves to be there. And so, of course, he is here with me.

Back at the hospital, it turned out the lady across the hall from us had been on the wrong end of a pressure cooker explosion earlier. “That’ll teach me to cook a meal,” she said with a good-natured chortle. “Carryout meals from the White Spot from now on, that’s what I told my husband! How about you two?”

“Car accident,” he replied. “My wife was in a crash. We’re just waiting for the CT scan to open up. Busy night here.”

“Poor girl,” she said sympathetically. “Drivers these days. I hope it goes well for you both.”

I couldn’t turn my head to look at her, but she sounded kind.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I said to the ceiling.

“Of course you will be,” she said. “You were lucky.”

They kept chatting as the clock above my head ticked steadily. I felt relief that they had found each other in the hallway, because I could be silent and awake yet distracted by their conversation. Each time the minute hand moved, it sprang forward with a click and wavered from its new position in time. It was the only thing other than ceiling tiles that I could see from my strict vantage point.

It seemed impossible that just hours before I was out for a drive. I had been enjoying the peace of the moment when alongside the back highway, in the fields at the base of the mountains, I had caught a glimpse of a heron, swooping across a low pond in a field. It had felt like a good omen for the day.

I often see a heron at key moments in my life. It began one day when I went for a walk at the lake in our town. It was late spring but a pleasant cold, the kind that wakes you up a bit after a winter of too much coziness and too many candles. I stuffed my hands into my mittens and tucked the gray hair at my temples behind my ears. I hadn’t gotten my hair colored in a while and it showed, I hadn’t slept well and it showed, I hadn’t felt like myself in a while and it showed. I was tired and so I needed to walk in the fresh air to wake up; I was looking for something like a deep breath.

The sun was already low in the sky, and the trees were asleep with early spring cold. I stood on the edge of our little community lake and watched the geese beginning to swoop in after winter, the clouds resting like a gauze scarf on the mountains rising dark in the deep light.

I turned toward the reeds and there, standing still, staring right at me, was a blue heron, slender and regal, neck relaxed, her long legs in the water among the reeds. I’ve always loved blue herons: their blue-gray wings are like twilight, their elegance rooted in their ubiquitous domesticity. I remember hearing once long ago that herons were considered a good omen: when the First Nations indigenous to my homeland would head out on a fishing expedition, the sighting of the heron meant it would be a worthwhile hunt because the bird embodied patience and wisdom, both necessary for survival. They can be seen as protectors and guardians, sentinels. A friend once told me that this is because a heron is equally at home in the water, upon the land, and in the air—she goes with the flow and works with the elements around her rather than against them.

I stood silently, watching the great blue-gray bird caught between mud and cold water and a darkening sky. Herons are a regular sort of bird, ordinary and unspectacular and yet beautiful.

Someone just up the path exclaimed and pointed to the sky: an eagle. There is a nest way up high above the pines at the other end of the lake. Eagles are spectacular when you see them out in the wild, stern and beautiful and awesome in the truest sense of the word. Their stark white helmets, their golden beaks, their black feathers swooping through the sky are arresting. Their wing strength is economic and thunderous. Around me I could hear other people gasp as the predator dipped lower over us before gliding higher and then disappearing into a horizon I couldn’t imagine. She lived so far above the rest of us. Everyone looked up, yearning for a glimpse of her again.

It took me time to learn to love the heron’s lesson. Perhaps that is because my father has always been an eagle sort of man. My life’s rock, he was grounded and assured in his way of seeing God. His certainty was safety for me as a girl: he prayed with such confidence and spoke with steady conviction about God and life. And my father loved eagles, loved the image of the eagle, loved the references to eagles in the Bible.

Whenever any of us became ill or grew weary, my father would speak and pray the words of Psalm 103, a constant source of prayer and promises to him, over us—not as a magical incantation but almost to remind or reorient all of us toward what he saw as the promise of a good God for us... “who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”I

My parents became Christians in their thirties, welcomed and baptized into a subcommunity of Christianity descended from the Pentecostals and charismatic renewal movements in cultural expression and mode of worship. Our origin movement is sometimes called the prosperity gospel, but in my experience it was more accurate to call our branch the Word of Faith movement. There were prosperity gospel influences, of course, but the excesses weren’t as strong or obvious back then—not to me anyway. No, the emphasis was on the Bible and on our particular interpretation of it. There was always a strong emphasis on supernatural provision and healing for our bodies, our minds, our finances, our relationships, all of the pain points of being human. The reason why we emphasized it is because we were the ones who were often broke and sick and miserable; the ones attracted to prosperity gospel are there for a reason, and it’s rarely greed. In my experience, it’s desperate need. And we found goodness there. We learned God was good and so all of the things that steal, kill, and destroy life are not of God, not ever. We believed in the power of our words, we revered the Bible, we were convinced that faith was a muscle we could work to consistent results. There are gifts of such a way of understanding God, but there are shadow sides to this as well.II

The image of eagles has seemed like my father’s faith to me. The way he spoke of their soaring as metaphors for renewal and strength, for overcoming, was always part of our encounters with suffering and sickness and pain. On that day, the eagle reminded me of my father: its solitary strength and dignity, its certainty in flight. I’ve heard that the eagle is “the master of skies” in some cultures because it is believed to be the creature with the closest relationship to Creator, moving easily between the physical world and the spiritual world.

I’ve wanted to be more like my dad almost every day of my life, but I am still me: unable to be too certain because of my uncanny ability to see eight sides to every issue and my yearning for peace above all else, unable to be much more than on the outside edge of the inside, with an eye on the ones for whom the truth is perhaps not true.

My father would turn toward the prophet Isaiah’s words at moments of faltering or failure or exhaustion: “He [God] gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”III

Many years ago, I walked away from the Word of Faith movement. I deconstructed my own faith, and I am still in that middle place of figuring out how to rebuild something that will be worth dwelling in for the years ahead, something worth giving to my children as a legacy of faith.

On that day, my gaze returned to the blue heron still standing patiently in the mud and water, and something in me looked between the eagle and the heron and then said to the bird in the water, All right, then I see.

Perhaps my father encountered God in the promises and strengths of soaring eagles. While I still believe, deep in the core of my being, in the goodness and abundance of God, I also believe God is as present in the darkness as in the light, in the valley as in the mountaintops, in my suffering as in my victory. As I watched the heron, she swept her wide wings open and lifted up from the reeds, taking to the sky, the tips of her wings touching the water as she rose, creating ripples.

Standing on the ground between a heron and an eagle, I suddenly knew where I belonged: in the mud among the reeds in the water as well as in the sky. I can see God most clearly in the particularities of mundane unnoticed miracles now—small children dancing, the way my son prays, my girls piled in our striped hammock with their neighborhood friends, one wide table filled with food for the lonely, the proclamation of good news, kids in school uniforms in the dust of a deforested Haiti, sponsor families waiting with winter coats at the airport for Syrian refugee families staggering out of civil war into a Canadian cold, rejected or marginalized Christians singing about the wideness in God’s mercy, holding the hand of a beloved friend till her last breath, and one more candle burning on a lampstand to light up a whole room. It is angels on a hillside with common shepherds and kings in stables and virgins having babies. It’s uneducated Galileans as ambassadors for God and the eunuch asking, “What is to stop me from being baptized?” and Mary Magdalene hearing Jesus speak her name in the garden.

I need—then and now—the God who sits in the mud and in the cold wind, in the laundry pile and in the city park, who is as present in homework and nightly baths and homemade meals and hospital rooms and standing by caskets. I need a God with teeth and hunger, who embodies grief and joy; wisdom and patience; renewal with simplicity and a good, deep breath; and who even now shows up in the unlikeliest and homeliest of lives too, as a sacrament and a blessing for the ordinary incarnation of feet on the ground and baptism of the water and wings wide in the sky. I have come to love the mud and the reeds, the water and the quiet day, just as much as the feel of the wind in my hair as I take flight and soar.

I was driving about ten under the posted speed limit, traveling at seventy km/hr. It was a nice day for a drive—the highway was wide and practically empty, the day was dry and bright, the mountains standing guard around me, and I was in no hurry. I was listening to CBC Radio 2’s classical program, sipping my double-double,IV living my best life. There was a sedan parked on the side of the road up ahead just past the small bridge over the creek. As I crossed over, that car hit the gas and swung out in front of me, attempting a U-turn to go back the other way. The driver, assuming that the highway was as empty in that moment as it had been all day, didn’t bother to shoulder check to see if anyone was there behind him before swerving into oncoming traffic for his U-turn.

But I was there, hurtling toward him.

He swung almost parallel across the highway, just as I came up on him. I slammed on my brakes, pulling hard to the left to try to avoid the crash. I couldn’t.

I have heard from other people who have been in traumatic car crashes that time can feel like it slows down in that moment, like your senses are heightened and you notice everything, see everything, hear everything—your mind kicks into another plane of awareness for what is happening in that moment and even for what has come before. I can’t say that it happened that way for me—I had no life-flashing-before-my-eyes slideshow kick into gear with operatic overtones.

No, I stomped my right foot on the brake with all of my might, swinging the minivan left and away to avoid the impact. I slammed my left foot into the floorboard, using my foot to brace for impact. I remember sucking air into my lungs, like I was about to jump into a cold lake, pulling as much breath in as I could and then holding it.

There was this sickening awareness of inevitability; I remember that. I couldn’t stop this, and I knew it already. I knew that we would crash, and the instant sweep of drowning powerlessness hit me long before our vehicles collided. This was no close call I could avoid; this was happening no matter what I did next. The inescapability of this, the impossibility of any other outcome, gave rise to the only conscious thought that I can remember of that moment even now: So this is how I die.

And then we crashed.

The next things I remember are the smell of coffee, the horn blaring, smoke billowing, and one man shouting at my window.

A different nurse checked on us every thirty minutes throughout the night. The woman with the burns had been moved to another area a while ago. It was just me and Brian again.

“I have never seen the hospital like this ever,” said one nurse. “You picked the worst night for this, luv. We are crazy in here. You should have picked a nice Tuesday morning. Saturdays are no good for crashes.”

One nurse brought a bolster pillow for my knees and lifted up my legs to place them gently on the pillow. “This will help with the back pain from the brace,” she said. “I know it feels like it’s making everything worse, but we have to keep your spine straight. Hang in there. This will help a bit. Now, when was the last time we gave you morphine? Are you crying because of pain or because you can’t stop crying?”

“Both?” I said. “I can’t stop. I’m trying, I promise.”

“Good girl,” she said, gently touching my shoulder. “It’s the shock wearing off. Keep warm, stay awake, let’s get more morphine going.”

“I miss the kids,” I whispered to Brian. He told me that my parents were at our house and everyone was already in bed, sound asleep. I wanted to be in their bedrooms, standing over their beds, watching them breathe under their blankets in the quiet of our home. I wanted to tuck them in, pick up their socks from the floor.

The lady reappeared with fresh bandages from her hands to her biceps.

“I’m all set and heading home,” she said cheerfully. “I just came by to say good luck to you both before I go. Have a good night.” We waved her off with good wishes.

“What was the name of the guy who was at my window?” I asked Brian. “I can’t remember his name. It was Doug or Gary.”

“Oh, that narrows it down.” He grinned. “Only every other white guy in Canada over the age of forty is named Doug or Gary. The only thing that would make this easier would be if his buddy’s name was Gord. No problem.”

I tried to make my face smile but failed. “He was a volunteer firefighter,” I said. “We could probably find him. I need to thank him. He was so nice to me. He saw everything, he said. He saw the whole thing and he knew just what to do.”

“We’ll find him,” he said gently, no longer teasing to try to make me smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll find him. Right now let’s just worry about getting you fixed up.”

“He said I’m lucky,” I said to the ceiling. “He’s seen similar accidents, and he said I’m really lucky.”

“I guess that’s relative,” Brian said.

After a few initial tests and conversations, along with many painkillers, I was resting with my eyes closed still strapped to my board and encased in a neck brace when another nurse’s face appeared in my peripheral vision. She peered down at me and said, “Well, you look a hot mess. What happened to you, dearie?”

“Car accident,” I croaked—I hadn’t used my voice in a while. I felt Brian sit up from his sprawl in the plastic chair beside me. He had been dozing.

“How fast were you going?” she asked while she opened my eyelids wider and examined me quickly. My eyes filled with tears again; they wouldn’t be stopped.

“Seventy,” I said. “I was on the highway. In my minivan.”

“Whose fault was it?”

“The other guy. He pulled a U-turn on a highway without checking to see if someone was behind him. I was there.”

“What a jerk,” she said without sentimentality. “Well, let’s get this show on the road, eh?”

She called for the porter, and he soon appeared to wheel me to an unending parade of X-rays and CT scans.

“Helluva night here,” he said to Brian as I rolled beneath the ceiling tiles. We moved through the now nearly empty hallways briskly, Brian holding my right hand gently as he walked beside the stretcher. “What happened to the other guy?” he asked.

“He seemed okay at the scene. His teenage daughter was with him. They were both shook up but walking around. He kept apologizing, but the police charged him with the accident, I heard. I don’t know if he went to the hospital.”

“Buddy’s lucky,” he said, shaking his head.

After a full CT scan and examination, we found ourselves in a curtained cubicle with the coveted doctor. “Let’s run through what I have here and make sure everything was covered,” she said. “In addition to the head injury and concussion, we have the spinal injury through the thoracic spine, the neck—looks like bad whiplash—your left wrist, the left hip, left knee, your left foot, seems to be soft tissue damage with all this bruising everywhere, plus these nasty seat belt lacerations on your neck. Right?”

“Right,” Brian said. “That sounds like everything.”

“You have a long road ahead of you, but you’ll walk it,” she said. “You’re lucky.”

“Yes, so I hear,” I said.

“I’ll refer you out everywhere for the healing process, but your family doctor will be your hub for the physio, the neurologist, the soft tissue damage, all of it. There will likely be other injuries that surface over time, so prepare yourself for a long road. The concussion will heal with time and rest—ice, stay awake, no screens, that sort of thing. Now, we’re a little worried about this—see here on the scan?” She pointed to a dark circle in the image of my brain.

“This spot on the scan? It looks like there is bleeding on the brain. That’s the big worry—it could spread or do something, but given everything I think we’ll watch it but not panic yet. We’ll be sending you to a neurologist tomorrow and doing a follow-up scan. You can either sleep here in the cubicle or you can go home. It’s been an insane night here, and we’re at capacity for beds, so your call.”

“I want to go home,” I said. “I just want to go home. I want my house and my kids and my life.”

“Home it is, then,” she said. She turned to Brian: “You need to watch out for her tonight. If she throws up, if she seems foggy, if her face sags, if her speech starts slurring, if you have any reason to think she’s not doing good, you call an ambulance. Got it?”

He looked at me and his eyes softened.

“Got it,” he said. “Let’s get you home, Styles.” He lifted me into a wheelchair and began to wheel me toward his car.

I. Psalm 103:4–5, NIV.

II. I write about this much more in my second book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith (New York: Howard Books, 2015).

III. Isaiah 40:29–31, NIV.

IV. For the non-Canadians: a double-double is a large coffee with two creams and two sugars, usually from our national coffee chain Tim Hortons.

Customer Reviews

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Russell-Priska Jordan More than 1 year ago
This book is unlike any other book in the Christian genre. It's about how to keep the faith when our miracles don't turn out the way we expected. It's about praying & listening to the Spirit leading you. It's about how to find God just as present in our brokenness as He is anywhere else. I've loved all of Sarah's books, but this one is particularly relatable for me in my present life station & faith journey. I would love to see this conversation continued in friendships, in homes, and in churches. This is a must-read for me, and I plan to gift it to family & friends as well! READ IT!
abobst More than 1 year ago
This book was balm to my weary soul. Sarah speaks so honestly and eloquently right into your heart. Her vulnerability about her own pain and wandering and her heartfelt, unwavering love for Jesus are things I so respect and admire about her. I felt like she was sitting right here with me talking with and praying over me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has wrestled and wandered in their faith and/or dealt with pain. When I turned to the last page, I wasn’t ready for it to be done. I think I’ll start reading it all over again. It’s worth every second you will spend reading it.
cgogis More than 1 year ago
Sarah's words are a balm for a wounded soul. She is a wonderful storyteller and the way she brings together thoughts on God, faith, miracles, struggles, life gave me a bit of hope to keep working out these things for myself as well. I've come to realize that there is no "figuring out" faith - that this is ongoing work that will continue throughout my lifetime. I'll leave you with this quote from the Introduction of the book as a taste of what you'll find in this wonderful book, which is also a good summary of what I've just begun to understand, "We have to be committed to unlearning the unhelpful, broken, unredemptive, false, or incomplete God if we want to have space to relearn the goodness, the wholeness, the joy of a loving God." Thank you Sarah for such a life giving book. I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. I'll be buying it anyway for gifting to others.
HopeForAllCLT More than 1 year ago
It's beautiful and raw and stirring and needed. Sarah's words give us permission to believe and to doubt at the same time. And still leaves us with a bigger, more majestic view of God.
April Hunt More than 1 year ago
I preordered this book back in February when I first learned it was coming. I was also given a copy from the publisher to read early and I was SO excited. I will be gifting my second copy. I knew the book was going to stir something in me the way that Sarah's writing always has. So many things she said and talked about were alive to me as if I were sitting in a therapy session being asked to feel things and think about things that can only change a person. It's a beautiful memoir/theological exploration of how God is continuing to weave Himself into all the parts of her life; the dark, the mundane, and the joy. She has such a way with sharing her heart, and being vulnerable and yet really challenging us to take as steps that we may only a little about, or haven't thought about, or maybe just were completely avoiding altogether.   When I was finished with the book I had to decompress for a couple of days for all the good reasons. I feel like this book is somewhat of a holy dance between loving ourselves, and allowing Jesus to love us and transform us in ways we may not understand and we may not expect.  And the benediction. OH the benediction. I sobbed. Twice. I read it by myself, and then read it out loud to my husband.  Sarah, thank you for sharing your heart and life with us. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In her latest release, Sarah Bessey writes beautifully about the holy space between pain and healing — and what happens when things don't go as planned. After a car accident changes everything, she must relearn who God is all over again and how to recognize him in the places she hadn't before. Whether it's a missive from her monthly Field Notes newsletter or from between the pages of one of her well-worn books, reading Sarah's words is like sitting over cups of tea with a dear friend. She's at once both wise and tender, fierce and soft. When I first read something by Sarah a few years ago it finally felt like there was someone else out there who just got it: someone who understood what it looked like to wrestle with God and still love him deeply. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit brought her into my life to shepherd me back to my faith. And I’ve never felt so grateful. This book is no exception. I read these pages from a doctor's office a few weeks ago, waiting for an ordinary miracle of my own. Her words about inviting God into our own pain and suffering were balm to my weary heart, and again, I find myself greatful for her shepherding. With this book, Sarah has reminded me that I'm not forgotten. I'm not unseen. That God sees all of us and answers our prayers, just perhaps not in the way we expect Him to. This book is for everyone: the doubters, the wounded, the people who long to see God in a new way, those that want to believe in miracles again but don’t have anything left in them, and even us happy-clappy Christians who want to raise our hands in the air and say YES, LORD!! I'll definitely be buying copy after copy for gifts as soon as it comes out. I hope you buy a copy for yourself, too. ** As a book reviewer, I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The publisher provided me with an advanced copy specifically so I could review this book. Miracles and Other Reasonable Things is a refreshingly honest take as Sarah Bessey shares the theological journey she’s walked, while simultaneously encourages readers to critically examine the path they're on. For Sarah’s theology, the rubber hit the road—and then the tire blew. Forced to reconcile unmet expectations, she details what that process looked like and the challenges (physical, spiritual, mental) she faced along the way. An amazing writer, she weaves it all together in a beautiful manner. I highly recommend this book for any Christian or person wrestling with their views on the Christian faith, but especially those who may be struggling through physical illness and/or God not showing up in their lives the way they anticipated.
Julianne Vandergrift More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was like sitting with a best friend on her couch and listening to her tell the story of her last few years and loving her more dearly at the end than at the beginning. Sarah shared her beautiful, heartfelt journey of pain and miracles, joy and suffering, hope and doubt. Sarah’s humanity and truth telling are extraordinary even as, or maybe especially as, she weaves in between miracles and unanswered prayers. Each book Sarah has written has profoundly affected me and the way I see myself, others and Jesus. In this book, I felt honored to know more about her life, struggles and faith than ever before. Sarah’s story brought me to tears, challenged my weaknesses, and inspired my faith. She brought hope into my hurting, my wondering, and my wandering. Her truth gave rise and liberation to my truth. She spoke my thoughts and asked my questions as she pointed me again and again to Jesus. I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks truth and understands that life with Jesus is not a recipe for happiness but rather an invitation to live in rich relationship with Him and others. Hearing this story will help set you free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I fell in love with this book right from the introduction. When Sarah describes how "this book persisted" the preacher in me knew it was going to persist in my heart and mind long after I first read the words. And then as I witnessed her beautiful vulnerable storytelling, the reader in me that simply loves story and words also fell in love with for the quality of writing and masterful storytelling. Finally, when I was just a bit sad to finish the book when I first read it, I slowly encountered the last chapter -- BENEDICTION -- and I knew I was experiencing something beyond mere words as here was Sarah's presence in pure intimate vulnerable blessing. While I've been returning to my favorite quotes the last few weeks, today as the book showed up in my audible account and I began listening, I realized that this book is not only for those deconstructing their faith or wondering how to live faithfully with chronic illness or those waiting for their miracle while witnessing others' miracles, and that this book is also for those that simply appreciate stunning storytelling and memoir that comes to life. With the audio I could hear even more acutely the rhythm that Sarah creates as she weaves together the pieces of her own story with the connection points to faith and culture. Her weaving in of personal vignettes along with telling the larger story arcs create an absolutely brilliant suspense and holiness as we wait in the hospital emergency room with Sarah and later are right there with her as she is visiting the Pope, and between and beyond these moments we are with her as she learns from her own children and embraces the holiness of a mothering God. And in Sarah's story many of us witness our own stories too, and this is what makes this so much more than a great book. As she begins her benediction Sarah is grateful for the reader's time, and I return the gratitude ten-fold for her time and vulnerability as an author. And I am grateful that others will also share in this communal story. May we rise together.
DMC2007 More than 1 year ago
Thank you to the publisher for my Advanced Reader Copy of this book! I completely devoured it, and underlined so much to return to. Memoir is my favorite genre, but add the Holy Spirit and miracles (and suffering and healing) and I am ALL IN. (Even if this book looks different than your faith, I believe you will not be sorry you read it. It is honest and real.) Sarah Bessey stretched my brain and comforted my soul. Her narrative flows so well that the book is a fast read, and yet I lingered on so many pages rereading paragraphs in an effort to soak it all up and not allow the story to end. Her vulnerability and realness in this book is refreshing in the world of masks. Her story is powerful and is a gift to the weary!
EdenG More than 1 year ago
Sarah Bessey always writes hard truths. She's challenging, brilliant, and a prophet. She does it with ease and directness. She hides behind nothing. I'm not sure what I expected with #reasonablemiracles, but as I read, I was there in her memoir; she's a gifted storyteller. Her questions have been and still are my questions. It's refreshing to experience an author willing to be vulnerable, willing to call out what isn't to what can be, and willing to help you figure out where you're at. If you have questions, read this book. If you have chronic issues, read this book. If you're tired and cranky, read this book. If you're restless and tired, read this book. She directs you back to God so many times, around every corner. I'm going to go reread it. This will definitely be one I'm picking up multiple times a year. I'd say her best book yet. It's brilliant. I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.
sandynewjersey More than 1 year ago
Miracles and Other Reasonable Things Sarah Bessey Oh, the benediction! Of course, that’s at the end of the book. You must start from the beginning but oh the benediction. In February 2017 Sarah Bessey was a speaker at Rise Up Sister, a conference I was attending in Chilliwack, BC, Canada. She left the conference intending to return, bought a double double at Tim Hortons and was immediately broadsided. Sarah’s life, as she knew it, was stopped cold. In Miracles and Other Reasonable Things, Sarah reaches deep inside and draws out the courage to face her most intimate fears. This is the story of Sarah crashing in pain, in disappointment, in loss, in denial, to come to a place where all she could say was Jesus Jesus. And then she slowly began to rise. Sarah’s faith had been changing, evolving for several years. She writes how she relearned and unlearned what to hold on to and what to let go of. She learned to live in the Both/And and not the Either/Or. She learned “to pay attention to the difference between self-care and self-comfort.” (page 169). She learned to choose life. I forced myself to read slowly, never more than a chapter at a time. I wanted to allow Sarah’s words to replay in my head. I am much older than most of Sarah’s readers, older than her mother. Yet I knew Miracles and Other Reasonable Things would disquiet my faith if I allowed it to and it did. And now the benediction. As with all of Sarah’s books and conferences, she ends with a benediction. These ALWAYS impact me to the point that I have to sit in silence for minutes afterwards. Then I read it again and again. Amen. (I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written. I think it is Sarah's best book yet. The storytelling is clear and bright with imagery, and laden with personal and vulnerable details. It is more hard hitting for it's simplicity and clarity. It is hard to write like this. Sarah is not selling pat answers. She is not expounding on the "whys" or explaining her experiences. She is simply sharing them. The beauty and the pain, the confusion and the chaos, and the mess in the middle of the holiness of life are all threaded through without a tone of preachy understanding. Sarah IS a preacher, so she will talk about Jesus, but she does so without ever making you feel that she is the One With All the Answers. That is a hard thing in a world that asks us to neatly tie up all of our questions in little bows and place them in boxes that have labels on them.
Heather78 More than 1 year ago
Every once in awhile, if you are lucky or blessed, a person will enter your life and, quite simply, change it. Sarah Bessey did it for me with Out of Sorts and, unexpectedly did it again with Miracles and Other Reasonable Things. I grew up in the church, the Souther Baptist church to be exact. I thought I had God all figured out. Pinned down. Boxed in. I KNEW HIM. Then, God reminded me I didn't. At all. Once I looked outside of myself and my 'learning' I realized I didn't know Him at all. That He is every changing and cannot be pinned down, boxed in. But he CAN be KNOWN. If we seek Him out. Miracles and Other Reasonable Things is Sarah Bessey's story of unlearning and learning God again, after a terrible car accident left her in immeasurable pain and confusion. Her body was changed, perhaps forever. Her road to healing is long, and twisty, and miraculous. God moves in strange ways, as they say, and can make us whole in unexpected way. Sarah's story of faith and healing moved me in countless ways. I laughed and cried and learned and felt God throughout her story. I pray you will too.
Amy Shaw More than 1 year ago
Full disclosure? I was never not going to love this book. I adored Sarah’s previous works, Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts. Every time either title appears in a flash sale on Amazon, I share the link to all my social connections. Whenever I encounter a friend who is feeling a little lost, I ship them a copy post-haste. When someone asks who has most influenced my faith, I point directly to Sarah. So, I was a sure-win for Bessey...I expected to love every word. I just didn’t expect it to mean so much to my personal journey. In Miracles and Other Reasonable Things, Sarah continues to explore the deconstruction of a traditional faith in favor of an open, authentic relationship with God. She uses personal experience with healing – both immaculate and traditional – to frame much of the book’s narrative, but the real gems hidden among her novel-worth prose are the moments when she relates action to attitude. She never asks her reader to consider something she has not lived and learned herself but somehow, she can always draw wisdom from the mundane and wrap it into a beautiful heart-whisper no reader can ignore. Sarah calls this her story of unlearning and relearning God saying, “Once upon a time, God was orderly and neat and black-and-white and logical. Then God became a gorgeous rainbow of color and surprise.” See? Beautiful, rich, and real. While I want to unpack all of the jaw-dropping “aha’s” I experienced in Miracles... I think the real magic of Sarah’s work is how there’s truly something for everyone. Some will take away an empowerment to lead in places women are not traditionally welcomed to stand, others will relate to her anecdotes about embracing a different sort of faith than her parents, and still more will find a direct connection to her unexpected shift in reality as injury and healing changed everything, then changed it again. As I noted earlier...this is a continuation of Sarah’s personal evolution. Though anyone can pick up Miracles and Other Reasonable Things without reading her earlier works, I believe the truths found in this piece are best-served as a second course to those first two books, so I highly encourage purchasing all! Whether you scoop up all three today, or dive in with Miracles and Other Reasonable Things you won’t be disappointed, you may experience life-altering invitation to a richer faith, and you’ll definitely become a sure-win for future Bessey missives, just like me.
N_n_Nikki More than 1 year ago
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book! It was what my soul needed. Sarah is so raw and vulnerable when talking about her faith and the miracles she has encountered. And they’re not all big, in your face miracles. She has taught me that being at home in your body can be a miracle. I laughed and I cried and did both some more. I’d highly recommend that everybody get their hands on this book ASAP.
The_Cynical_Idealist More than 1 year ago
Sarah Bessey is one of my favorite writers, and I am thrilled at the chance to be part of the launch team for Miracles. This chance includes a copy of the book in both print and electronic form provided prior to the publishing date of October 8, 2019, and I am grateful to the publisher for this. More memoir than theological discussion, Miracles falls in a different vein from Sarah's previous books, Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts. Out of Sorts is one of my favorite books, and I also enjoyed Jesus Feminist, so I was on the edge of my seat anticipating Miracles. When it finally arrived, I devoured it in two days (that pesky employment business may allow me to pay the bills, but it seriously impedes my reading time too). Sarah opens up in a more vulnerable way than ever before in Miracles, telling the full story of the car accident that permanently changed her and her family's lives for the first time. She describes how the excruciating injuries resulting from the crash forced her to change her lifestyle, altering every part of her life from her career to how she mothers to her faith. She discusses how conflicted she felt about the healing she experienced in Rome when she was invited to meet Pope Francis--a healing that could be described as nothing short of miraculous--and also about the injuries that were not included in that healing. Her own words when describing her father's protracted recovery after surgery describe it well: "the slow walk toward wholeness that doesn't skip over the suffering." Tied up in that experience was a new way of seeing God, she writes, and how S(h)e shows up and acts even in those places and traditions and faiths where we firmly believe (S)he isn't. (Yes, at times Sarah uses female pronouns and imagery in Miracles when referring to God and briefly discusses why. If that rocks your boat, well, buckle up and hold on to your hat. One of my favorite lines is: "Perhaps self-care is simply joining with God to care for ourselves as a mother would care for us.") Having grown up in a charismatic tradition, she was distrustful of the ritual and ornamentation of Catholicism. But as with all cliches, there is a seed of truth in the phrase "God works in mysterious ways," and God showed up in Rome for Sarah just as (S)he showed up in Canada and the US and Haiti. Just as important is Sarah's discussion of what she terms "choosing life," a reference to the terms of the covenant God made with ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 30:15-20. She has had to not only come to terms with her body's new limitations, but come to actively love her body as it is. In her own words: "Now matter what path I walked upon, healed or unhealed, miraculous or ordinary, the words that rose in my soul that morning--choose life--whispered that I may not have chosen this particular path, but I could, while walking it, choose to move toward life. I could choose to open myself to the possibilities of joy in it. I could choose to love and become reacquainted with my new body. I could be born again, all over again." This choice is not one she can decide on once and then she's good to go forever after. She must actively choose it and live it out every day, the "daily hard work of incremental healing." This leads to a meditation on the difference between self-comfort and self-care (see above quote on God as mother). She writes, "I had a natural bent toward indulging in self-comfort; what I needed now in this season of my life was radical self-care. S