Book Release Promo for One of My Clients!

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I am so delighted to share with you the promo video for a soon-to-be-released book I’ve had the honor of edit­ing. Author Bathsheba Smithen is only in her mid-20s, but she has wis­dom beyond her years. Watch the video (Bathsheba is the first indi­vid­ual in it)… and then read the book’s Fore­word, below, which she also gave me the priv­i­lege of writing:

Editor’s Fore­word

“All is van­ity and a chas­ing after wind. … So I turned to con­sider wis­dom and mad­ness and folly…” (Eccle­si­astes 1:14 and oth­ers; 2:12, NRSV)

When Bathsheba Smithen first invited me to write this Fore­word, I replied with a laugh, “You want a pasty white girl from small-town Min­nesota to intro­duce a book by an African Amer­i­can from Wash­ing­ton, D.C.?!” I am hon­ored that she con­firmed she did indeed.

But Sheba and I are not as dif­fer­ent as we might appear on the out­side. We are each rais­ing two young chil­dren and try­ing to do so intel­li­gently; we are both devoted to our hus­bands and extended fam­i­lies but deal with chal­lenges in those rela­tion­ships as well; we both strug­gle with money mat­ters, career choices, dreams presently on hold and oth­ers we are nur­tur­ing with all our might, and the ever-present quan­daries of iden­tity and life-purpose. My guess is that you—no mat­ter what your skin color or geo­graphic location—can relate to many of these mat­ters as well. In the end, we human beings have more in com­mon than not, and we don’t fit neatly into any pre-conceived cat­e­gory or assumption.

Like each one of us—Sheba, me, you—this book defies cat­e­go­riza­tion. We’ve racked our brains try­ing to define its genre: Non-fiction? Cer­tainly, but not the straight­for­ward infor­ma­tion impart­ing style you often find in the non-fiction sec­tion of libraries and book­stores. Mem­oir? Partly, yes, but not in a lin­ear, “story of
my life” sort of way. Commentary/Essay? Yes, def­i­nitely, yet most com­men­taries are the length of mag­a­zine arti­cles or news­pa­per columns, not eight-chapter books with pref­ace, intro­duc­tion, con­clu­sion,
and poetry scat­tered among the pages. Speak­ing of which, is it Poetry? The author’s orig­i­nal poems are an inte­gral part of this book, shed­ding light on her most inti­mate feel­ings and expe­ri­ences, but it is not pri­mar­ily a book of poetry you hold in your hands.

And here’s a toughie: Know­ing what we, as author and edi­tor, know about the final pages of the book (don’t peek!), we had to ask: Does it belong in the Spir­i­tu­al­ity or Chris­t­ian Books genre? For indeed, it does—but not on the shelves lined with warm-fuzzy Chris­t­ian fic­tion, gen­tle devo­tion­als, pleas­antly chal­leng­ing Bible
stud­ies. If any­thing, Who Cares What You Think… So What You Think? might belong on the Per­sonal Growth shelf, but, to not catch read­ers too ter­ri­bly much off-guard, it should come with a warn­ing label attached.

So the fol­low­ing serves as your warn­ing label:

Beyond the pref­ace, Sheba’s words are by no means gen­tle or warm-and-fuzzy. Through the course of this book, the author takes us along on her mind’s mean­der­ing jour­ney, back and forth among often con­flict­ing ideas about her­self, other peo­ple, the world, and, yes, the Ulti­mate Divine Source of our life and value as human beings. If we are as coura­geous as she has been in her self-revelations, we, too, will admit—if only to ourselves—that we have at least thought the same harsh judg­ments, rude put-downs, crude “four-letter
words,” goug­ing or snooty or des­per­ate ques­tions, irra­tional ideas, oppos­ing desires. And if we let our­selves go deep enough into our own hearts, we, too, find those keen­ing, yearn­ing “sighs too deep for words” that the Divine Spirit prays within us when we feel so lost we don’t even know how to pray (Romans 8:26).
Bathsheba bares her soul and puts every­thing out there for the whole world to see. Well, almost every­thing; that she stops short of expos­ing her great­est anguish—to the point, if we are hon­est, of leav­ing us read­ers a tad dis­ap­pointed even—speaks vol­umes about her inten­tions for this book: not as sen­sa­tion­al­ism or to win pub­lic pity, but to offer her own courage to grow as a model for oth­ers. My hum­ble response is: Could I ever be that brave? Sheba’s unspo­ken reply, no doubt, would be “Sure, you can!”

For when we are fully can­did, we dis­cover that, how­ever closely our life cir­cum­stances match the author’s, or don’t, this book is as much about us as it is her. Because, face it: Haven’t you, too, at times blurted, or wanted to blurt, “Who cares what you think?!”—all the while, des­per­ately long­ing for that other person’s
approval? Haven’t you some­times wanted to haul off and hit some­body… and in the next moment to pull them into your arms and never let go? Haven’t you ever wanted to yell obscen­i­ties at some­one who mis­judged you, but instead, you knuck­led under and buck­led down and chose not to rock the boat? Haven’t you ever felt clue­less about the value and pur­pose of your exis­tence, even as a tiny nudge some­where deep down inside whis­pered that you are pre­cious beyond words?—and then, you dared not believe even that,
so you shushed it, hid­ing your trem­bling uncer­tainty behind loud pre­tenses of self-sufficiency.

As Bathsheba Smithen writes in the pref­ace: “Out­wardly, we say we don’t care what oth­ers think, but is that really true? If we do care, why do we care, and should we?” And later: “We are so over­whelmed with the fact that we are lost that we do some of the dumb­est things in hopes of find­ing out who we are. Then we wind up in denial because we won’t face the truth about our­selves.” And far­ther along, an epiphany: “You remem­ber how I said I don’t care? Well, that was a lie.”

Now and then, Sheba implores—and I, too, plead, on her behalf: “Please, I ask that you take the time to think really hard and force your mind not to place me on the stand for pros­e­cu­tion.” By way of insight into why she has writ­ten as she has, Sheba offers: “My exis­tence was the prod­uct of a full-blown lie, and I was forced to prop it up with my own lying. That’s why I make a point to be so bru­tally hon­est now.” And: “Strug­gling peo­ple will do what they can to sur­vive, which is often to use some sort of cop­ing mech­a­nism.
… Me… my therapy’s this book.” And: “I am more than words and lines on a page.”

Along the way, Bathsheba tosses out such soul-prodding ques­tions as these: “Is there any­thing that has you so bound and tied that you can’t get a moment to think straight?” “What has been sit­ting on the throne of your heart? Is it money? Fash­ion? Edu­ca­tion? Your­self? What­ever it is for each of us, it has kept you and me from see­ing our true iden­ti­ties.” “How come we’re always work­ing to make our­selves bet­ter…?” “Why are we always wor­ried about impres­sions? Who are we try­ing to impress if we say we don’t care what
oth­ers think?”

As Sheba exam­ines these heart-wrenching quan­daries, she encour­ages us to do the same. It would be so much eas­ier to sim­ply, in her words, “get mad when we’re told about our­selves.” But one quickly grasps that this wasn’t an easy book for Sheba to write, and it isn’t intended to be an “easy read” either.

In the end, I trust you will feel as I do: hum­bled and hon­ored to have been allowed along on such a per­sonal jour­ney, strength­ened to acknowl­edge truths I’ve kept hid­den even from myself, and encour­aged to be more open to God, who is the Source of my own iden­tity and purpose.

You hold in your hands noth­ing less than a modern-day Book of Eccle­si­astes, with its ongo­ing search for the mean­ing of life. What is astound­ing is that this one was under­taken not by an indi­vid­ual late in life, by which time we typ­i­cally expect wis­dom to have accu­mu­lated, but rather by a twenty-something with wis­dom beyond her years.

We all strug­gle with ques­tions that swing from “Who cares what you think?” to “So, what you think?”—questions about the mean­ing of life and our own value in the world. In the end, Bathsheba Smithen urges us, in her own inim­itable style, to rest in the assur­ance that our iden­tity is found not in self, nor in oth­ers, nor in pos­ses­sions or achieve­ments, but in a Source and a Real­ity far greater.

—Heidi Mann

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