Seven years ago we were looking for teachers for our vacation Bible school at church one summer and somehow Lucinda Miller’s name came up. I knew vaguely of her family from hearing about them from others, Mennonite-style. Dan grew up not far from her family in Wisconsin. So I sent her a facebook message asking if she’d consider coming to teach VBS at BayTree. She wrote back: “My life has been feeling just a bit purposeless and adventureless. So…my answer is yes, if you need me.” After that, the messages flew back and forth about tickets and timing and Bible school classes and the similarities in the small, out of the way churches we had both grown up in. I felt like I had found a friend with just a few exchanged words. A friend with my name.
Luci (as she is nicknamed) flew north and taught Bible school for a week at BayTree church. She was easy to talk to, fun, and adventuresome. She had an unassuming way that made you feel safe with her. I remember her glowing face and neat, pretty dress on program night at church. The children adored her and my neighbor lady said, “Who is the teacher of the youngest grade? She’s so gorgeous!” Some of our children were in a phase of taking dugout mud and creating clay bowls with it and Luci joined them, spending some of her days after class carefully forming an Alberta clay pot of her own, which she took home in her suitcase at the end of the week. When I drove her to the airport, we talked non-stop about ideas, family, church, and writing.
Since then, I have watched Luci’s vibrant and determined personality emerge in her blog at Properties of Light. So often I come away from reading one of her posts shaking my head at how much she got into it with her words. I also feel a little envious–because even though I like to write and aspire to write more, I can’t seem to find the time, the words, or the determination to write like she does.
Luci’s writing aspirations morphed into the publishing of a book this summer, but not without the shoe-leather hardness of simply writing.
Today it makes me so happy to host a giveaway of Anything But Simple, Luci’s endearing, authentic memoir. To me it is the story of her parents’ romance, which essentially brought her into being. It is the story of the struggles of the human heart and the desire to be seen, heard, loved, and accepted. It is the story of a peaceful, secure family, not without its gaps, problems, and stories that are hard to tell. It is the story of being Mennonite and flawed, of wanting badly to be seen as human, but wanting just as badly to be the voice and hands of Jesus. It is the story of a culture that many view as lifeless and legalistic and one woman’s search to make it her own, even though she has the freedom to choose otherwise.
Luci’s story and her family are very different from mine and yet very much the same. Her book is fresh and sweet in spots, hard and tearful in others. She is brave, honest, and lyrical. I fell in love with her parents. To be gentle and private people and to let your story be told in detail would take a lot of humility. In a recent interview with blogger Marian Beaman, Luci says, “When I asked my dad for permission to write about some of the things I wrote, he basically told me, ‘Write whatever you want; just get a book published.’ ” I was surprised at how forthright Luci was about the people and circumstances that made up her life. I kept thinking things like: What if ——‘s family reads this and gets offended? What if CLP’s Sunday school paper editors get a hold of this and discover how a lot of us feel about some of their stories? (Read the book to understand what I’m saying.) To put your voice out there is courage. You might wonder at the quirkiness of parts of this book and disagree vehemently with others. But I think you will enjoy the ride.
I felt sad when the book ended. In a way it felt like the loose ends were not tied up as neatly as they should have been. But isn’t that how life is? We are left dangling sometimes, the longings and dreams of our hearts never fully met in this life. I think Luci describes the search and the void well. Her story is also evidence that there is so much laughter and fulfillment along the way.
To enter the draw for this book, comment below with your name and email address and something you respect or disrespect about Mennonites. (I wrote down that idea within seconds of it entering my head and it was probably a cazy thought–but I’m going to do it anyway.) If you can’t come up with something, please at least comment with your name and email address so I can notify you if you are the winner. Luci is generously giving away this book, just as she gave me a copy to review and share with you. I plan to do the draw for Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite a week and a half from today, on Tuesday, October 10th. If you would like your name to be entered twice in the draw, please share this post on your facebook page and let me know in your comment that you have done so. You can also purchase Luci’s book on Amazon.
Edit: BE SURE TO COMMENT WITH YOUR FULL NAME IF YOU WANT TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAW!! I had questions about the risk of publicly posting email addresses. If this bothers you, I will still honour your name in the draw. Please check back on the 10th of October to see if you are the winner because I won’t be able to contact you by email.😊