Sometimes there is a message that simply will not be silenced. Such is the case with a remarkable new book called Altogether You by my colleague and dear friend Jenna Riemersma. I was privileged to walk with Jenna through the journey of this book, and it is truly inspirational.
Altogether You released on Thursday, and it’s holding steady at #1 for new releases on Amazon in the Spiritual Self-Help category. That statistic makes it appear the author must be established with a gigantic following, along with a big push by the marketing department of a major publisher. Neither are true; in fact, exactly the opposite.
Rarely do I promote or lend Bethesda Workshops’ name to a particular book, and this one and its backstory are so important that I’m excited to join the tale and tell you about them.
For over a year, every morning during her quiet time Jenna heard God telling her to write a book. She sat with open hands and trepidation, explaining, “I never intended to be an author,” until finally the message was God’s invitation to speak a controversial message to the church. Jenna admits she was none too pleased with this calling and told God very clearly – “This is the ONE thing I absolutely, positively will not do.” You’ll see how that worked out.
Almost immediately, Jenna was introduced to Internal Family Systems (IFS) theory, which is a marvelous way of understanding self, woundedness, and coping developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz. This well-established, secular theory has helped countless people, including me, and Jenna realized that in different language, its premise is fully spiritual at its core: Existing within each of us is the Imago Dei, the God within each human being. What good news!
Jenna says the book that frames IFS within a Christian theology quickly wrote itself (in seven days!). Soon it was under contract with the largest publishing house in the world, which is beyond rare. After a year, when the proofs were about to be created, the publisher informed Jenna that its religious department had significant “theological concerns.” Without giving her a chance to address the issues, the deal was off.
Do you remember Jenna’s communication from God that she was to write about something controversial? How astonishing that the offending message is about humans’ deep goodness and the redemptive healing of self-compassion.
Of course, Jenna was devastated and discouraged. I’ll never forget how she sounded when she called with the sad news. She wasn’t angry though, which would have been my burning reaction. She was determined. She felt all her feelings, took some time to confirm with God that she was still supposed to deliver this message to the church, and went back to square one to publish the book herself.
I hope the result will soon be in your hands: Altogether You– Experiencing Personal and Spiritual Transformation with Internal Family Systems. Here is a section from the book’s description:
“Therapist and speaker Jenna Riemersma applies the groundbreaking insights of Internal Family Systems (IFS) for anyone who feels stuck in unwanted feelings and behaviors, with a special focus on personal transformation for readers of faith. In Altogether You, she explains why our parts are so often at war—parts of us wanting to please others and do things right while other parts seem bent on acting out, shutting down, or engaging in hurtful behaviors. Jenna explores the surprising IFS insight that our warring parts are actually trying to help us, even when what they’re doing or feeling is not helpful. By genuinely welcoming all our parts and learning how to access our God-created core Self, we can finally experience the change, integration, and wholeness we’ve been looking for.
“Altogether You delivers practical, life-affirming counsel from a leading therapist and speaker of deep personal faith. Jenna understands the unique discouragement that people of faith experience when their actions do not line up with their sincere beliefs. With genuine sensitivity to tradition and biblical teachings, she helps readers understand that God is not waiting in frustration on the other side of our ‘pile of sins’ until we ‘get our act together.’ Rather, the God of grace is with us right here, right now in our core Imago Dei — the always-accessible starting point for healing.
“Jenna’s book is packed with warm, personal stories and immediately applicable insights. She guides readers through paradigm-altering understandings with helpful definitions and summaries, self-inventories, action steps, and resources. “
Altogether You is a breath of fresh air that can soothe Christians and the church away from self-condemnation and shame. It provides a roadmap to discovering the presence of a loving God, the Imago Dei within. This may be the most important message you get this year. Don’t miss it.
Marnie C. Ferree