About the Book
Book: She Seems So Normal
Author: Leigh Mackenzie
Genre: Nonfiction, documentary narrative on biblical trauma healing
Release date: November 15, 2022
In She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith (Brookstone Creative Group, 2022), author Leigh Mackenzie draws from scriptural expertise as a former Bible research assistant for megachurch preachers and personal experiences as a childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma and military rape assault survivor to speak openly and courageously about biblical trauma healing.
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About the Author
As a sermon research assistant at a multisite midwestern megachurch, Leigh Mackenzie shared her love and talent to delve deeply in Scripture and extract original perspectives on teaching and personal application for her preaching team.
Known as “The Church Girl Writes” (one of 2017’s Pureflix’s Top Christian Mommy Bloggers), her professional work regularly appeared in Christian Standard magazine on subjects ranging from child trafficking and church core values to thrift store ministry and the attributes of Hannah. Her Bible study questions for The Lookout magazine, one of the nation’s oldest Bible study guides for adults, and online communion meditations for Christian Standard equipped leaders for ministry. She also has written devotional material for The Upper Room.
Catch Leigh (rhymes with “bee”) narrating “She Seems So Normal” on her podcast, reflecting on her own trauma healing journey, shattering the plastic princess, and embracing authentic faith. Follow her on IG xoxo_leighmackenzie and FB @LeighMackenzie.
Loving audiobooks and sunshine, Leigh and husband Christopher passionately explore the world, eating ethnic food, and enjoying good wine together. With a son in computer sciences at UIC and an Ethiopian daughter attending high school, the Mackenzies delight to reside in Chicago, IL with rescue dogs, Scout Charles and Louie Vuitton.
Leigh’s Superpowers: Vulnerable Honesty, Biblical Knowledge, Trustworthiness
Ministry Goals: Embrace, Encourage, and Empower trauma survivors to heal biblically, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
More from Leigh
What inspired you to start a podcast and publish a book on biblical trauma healing? Why now?
I held my breath watching the Olympic gymnasts’ abuse testimony before Congress, bracing myself against a PTSD episode of my own in response.
Epstein, Cosby, McCarrick, R. Kelley… names representing mankind’s disturbing sin reverberated within me. Many survivor stories remain deeply hidden, scarring the souls of the abused and their abusers. Questions arise: How could this happen? Where was God? Is Jesus enough?
At the time, I felt like there weren’t a lot of hopeful, non-triggering stories containing solid answers from a biblical, medical, or community standpoint of healing. It was frustrating, so in December 2021, I began my indie-publishing odyssey.
She Seems So Normal: Shatter the Plastic Princess, Embrace Authentic Faith is a documentary narrative of a journey to unearth long-hidden, heinous childhood sexual abuse. As a megachurch biblical researcher for preachers, I was the picture of “put together, Plastic Princess” on the outside, but inside I was dying, believing the enemy’s lies, and wondering what’s wrong with my faith. When I stepped away from the grave of fearful rule-following legalism and into the gardens to embrace authentic faith, I found avenues of recovery and restoration for anxiety, trauma, and shame with Jesus, mentors, prayer warriors, therapists, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Can we start a church movement of welcoming messy stories and accepting transparent instead of perfect so you can feel free to #ShowYourCrown, too? I think we can.
Who supported you through your valley of trauma therapy?
There were so many who prayed and supported me in this process, giving me courage and hope and, at times, a swift kick in the fanny to keep me going. I can’t name them all, but you’ll see how Dr. Michele Novotni, my family, and Allison Harris rallied around me through the horrors of the cemetery to bring me into the gardens of God’s delight and rest.
Friend and mentor Dr. Michele Novotni was my “old ox” leading, encouraging, and energizing me throughout EMDR therapy, helping me process post-session, developing coping strategies, and grounding me in faith with prayerful intercession.
Then there was my unbelievable little family… my faithful husband, Christopher, and our incredible kids, who unreservedly offered pickle jars, lullaby songs, and cooking lessons on clarifying butter for baklava… but you’ll have to read the book to understand.
Another friend in church leadership, my magazine publisher’s wife, Allison Harris, told me to write through this season (this is all her fault!) and supported me through prayer as I courageously marched into the trauma therapy that helped resolve my underlying issues for long-term PTSD, panic attacks, nightmares, suicidal ideations, and eating disorders (all of which are common symptoms as a result of sexual abuse).
Wait, do you have a legit recipe for Baklava?
Yes, but you’d have to torture me to give up our friend’s family recipe! It’s SOOOO good. And I’ve suffered enough trying to make it… ha-ha.
Tell us about some cool extra features you included in She Seems So Normal.
Writing a sensitive book about sensitive subject matter, I passionately wanted to provide more multimedia resources for getting the help, support, or knowledge survivors, family, friends, or pastoral staff might need while reading. So I’ve sprinkled QR Codes throughout the book instantaneously linking people to online sites. You’ll also see little crowns with numbers corresponding to 60 podcast episodes where I’ve narrated and commentated my post-writing thoughts. BONUS: I included interviews with a couple key players you’ll not get inside the book because I wanted you to hear other voices of my champions, not just mine.
Isn’t it enough to just pray and have faith that Jesus will heal you? What role did the medical community play in your journey?
When I accepted Jesus Christ, I tried my best to clean up my act. Heck, I even stopped cussing and getting drunk! From Bible study and praying to leading small groups and serving funeral dinners, everything I saw other respectable Christians doing I began copying to act normal, becoming like a “Plastic Princess.” I served till the cows came home; I was just so thankful Jesus saved my soul from hell.
You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t make her a lady. For years I wondered what was wrong with me, why I didn’t always have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I begged Jesus to forgive me, to heal me, to rescue me from myself, wondering secretly, Was I even saved?
Severely traumatized and needing professional medical help, my therapist and other doctors helped me find peace with my past abuse by unravelling abusive grooming cycles to reveal my true identity in Jesus Christ. Along with the glorious work of the Holy Spirit, they played a valuable part in sweeping up the shattered pieces of Little Me, Middle Me, and Teen Me to make me whole and serve the Lord once again.
Who should listen to the podcast or read “She Seems So Normal”?
Many women silently endure the after-effects of trauma, so I am writing
for the 1 in 3 women in the U. S. who have experienced “sexual violence.”
for the suffering Christian who may question her salvation or be losing
hope that Jesus is big enough to heal her, who has limited outlets to begin exploring
these topics (mental health wellness, predatory grooming, suicidal ideation, sexual abuse) except between the covers of a book. She may look the picture of “put together”
on the outside but on the inside, she is dying, believing the enemy’s lies, and
wondering what’s wrong with her faith.
The podcast and book are also for FAMILY, FRIENDS, and CHURCH STAFF looking for ways to support and understand those in their lives who have been traumatized.
Are you working on other projects?
Yeah, I’m jazzed and honored to be co-authoring with the amazing Randy Petersen on two projects. The first, Stories Not Shared on Sundays (and Why We Feel Like Imposters In Church), will combine modern stories of Church people with many lesser-known, uncomfortable Bible stories (and their messy characters!) not normally preached in a 52-week sermon schedule to help churches create more authentic, transparent environments with a broader acceptance and understanding of those who aren’t “perfect” for them to encounter a Savior who is.
As an extension of his work for the American Bible Society’s State of the Bible in America, we are also in the beginning planning stages for The Five Major Cultural Shifts the Church Has To Make To Be Relevant based on research and statistics over the last ten years by ABS about the state of faith, the church, and Christian culture in America.
There are a few other books in the works, too, about parenting across two generations written with my Gen Z son; a few evangelistic death stories; and “The Rest of the 23rd” as well.
What role does God play in your writing career?
Holy Spirit always plays a huge role in my interaction with Scripture analysis and various personal application as a Bible study leader, biblical research assistant for megachurch preachers, and writer/author/podcaster. Years ago, an Ann Graham Lotz study on the Book of Revelation encouraged us to interact with the text, writing questions about what we were studying. Since then, I’ve constantly employed this practice as I research or write, asking, What happens next, God? Who are those people and where were they mentioned before now? Where is that place, and, has this situation happened there before or after? What are the parallels to the church, our nation, or my life in the present? I allow the Spirit to lead me to answer these questions, whether through cross-referencing Scripture, reading commentaries, researching in LOGOS, or finding credible secular sources.
The bigger picture, however, is to make the Lord Jesus Christ known, in all His goodness and greatness. This is my purpose from the beginning to the end of my writing and ministry! He is my shepherd; He leads me and my sheep-y job is to follow and be obedient (and I kinda dig Jesus a lot!).
What is the hardest aspect of writing?
A scientist by education, I struggle with various English technical skills like “dangling modifiers” and punctuation. However, those are mitigated with excellent editors whose skills I always admire.
Another aspect of writing, though, one that’s extremely challenging for me, is having too many ideas. Simply put, my brain goes in a thousand directions as I process projects and assignments. Spending eight solid hours researching and writing 6000 words about a single subject or aspect, yet narrowing it all down to 1500-1700 words in a final edit, is tough. Which direction do you go? Which one is best?
By teaching me how to narrow my ultimate aim for a book or audience, my magazine and book publishers, editors, and coaches have been enormously helpful maturing and simplifying my writing/speaking. I’m learning to conserve brain energy and creativity, making writing less strenuous or laborious. I have a long way to go, but like any unfinished manuscript, I’m a work in progress.
Do you have a team or do you manage all aspects of writing by yourself? How do you balance writing, marketing, social media, etc.?
Let’s be honest: scribing a book is hard work, but adding the pressures of marketing and social media makes it exceptionally challenging. In the past, I’ve loved marketing and promoting other authors and products on social media to let the world know about something amazing, but I stink at doing it for myself. Self-promotion rubs me weird and I struggle with the 30,000-foot bird’s eye promo across platforms and podcasts when I also have to do the 3-inch details of finishing written ideas.
As an indie author, you have to do it all or find people who can to remain in your sweet spot. With She Seems So Normal releasing this November, I hired people to help market the book launch and blog tour. However, I still have to hamster-wheel social media. My favorite sweet spot these days is in “think tanks” with my co-author for the next two books, spinning new worlds, sharing ideas on Wisdom or other podcasts, organizing/penning chapters, and submitting proposals.
What projects are you working on currently?
My Gen Z son and I have written 35,000 words of a parenting book together called Parenting Across Two Generations: A Semi-Dysfunctional Gen X Raises a Semi-Normal Gen Z, a ridiculously funny and slightly irreverent conversation about the cultural/social/digital divide between when this Gen X was raised and now.
Currently, I’m collecting stories for This Is What Happened When You Died from various pastors, preachers, funeral home directors, hospice care workers, and everyday people. It will be a grief-care book covering all the feels from funny to devastating to inspirational and many profound to ridiculous things that happened when people around them died.
Working with the fabulous Randy Petersen who has authored and ghostwritten tons of great books, we are currently putting together a publisher proposal for Stories Not Shared on Sundays (And Why We Feel Like Imposters in Church) which covers many Bible stories too messy or complicated to fit into a 52-week preaching year or the classic 3-point sermon and spin them simultaneously with modern (interviewed) stories of people longing for Jesus but afraid to be authentically real about their issues.
We’ve also been dangling the idea of another book next year based on Randy’s analysis of research for the American Bible Society on “The State of the Bible.” The working title is The Five Major Cultural Shifts the Church Needs To Make To Be Relevant. We hope to visioncast what church could ideally become based on various scriptural modalities and church history overlayed on the current faith trends in America.
Did I mention I have too many ideas? Haha!
Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you think that helps (or hinders) your writing?
I’m a high-functioning introvert which helps because I am happier than a clam to be alone and at home writing, but also thrilled coordinating and creating new book ideas.
What’s one fun thing you’d like your readers to know about you?
My favorite coffee drink is a venti sugarfree vanilla latte 2% with whipped cream. (*wink wink!)
What’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?
The love of Jesus Christ is the answer to every question.
Thanks for connecting today.
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Don’t forget to check out the other blog spots listed below for your convenience.
Texas Book-aholic, December 9
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 10
Locks, Hooks and Books, December 11
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 13
Inklings and notions, December 14
An Author’s Take, December 15
Cover Lover Book Review, December 16
Splashes of Joy , December 17 (Author Interview)
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 17
deb’s Book Review, December 18
Guild Master, December 19 (Author Interview)
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, December 20
Spoken from the Heart, December 21 (Author Interview)
For Him and My Family, December 21
Rebecca Tews, December 22
To celebrate her tour, Leigh is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card along with a “She Seems So Normal” #showyourcrown pin and sticker along with a signed copy of the book!!