INTERVIEW WITH LEAH PERRAULT, AUTHOR OF MY HEART OF FLESH AND LIVING GENTLY THROUGH STRUGGLE

What inspired you to write My Heart of Flesh?

In 2011 and 2012, I struggled my way through postpartum depression toward recovery.  As I shared that story with others through speaking and writing, I was overwhelmed by the way that others responded by sharing their stories of heartache and suffering. While there are often no helpful responses to why these things happen, I wanted to write a spirituality for seasons of suffering that had emerged as a response to how we live through struggle.

As it turned out, I pitched the book in the fall of 2016, and began writing in early 2017, only to suffer a miscarriage and my partner’s job loss in February. Then, in April, my twin sister was murdered. I had to delay writing the book because I was living it at a new level. So the book had more practical research and a deeper and broader context by the time in came out in November of 2018.

What was your biggest goal for this book?

One of the central metaphors in the book is fire, and the title expressed my hope that I will be able to walk through flames and hold on to a heart of flesh, instead of giving into the temptation to harden my heart. God has been teaching me how to live through suffering, not with ideas so much as practices, and I wanted to share that learning with others.

At the same time, writing has always been a call and a source of healing for me. God gives me words and they press at my heart until I write them down and give them away. Writing requires me to reflect on my experience, make meaning, and put into action what I am learning. It is a miracle to me every single time that the words I need to write are also the words that someone else needs to read. I hope that reading the book softens readers’ hearts in the midst of their own challenges, the same way that writing it has softened mine.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

Time! I’ve been blessed with a call to family life and work in ministry, and writing books requires an extraordinary coordination of schedules and support to get the words out of my heart and onto pages. Our family, neighbours, and friends have been so essential in making my books a reality.

A second challenge with this book was walking on the line between the vulnerable story-telling that has become my style and the sensitivity to the parts of the stories of suffering that need to remain private, for now or forever. People earn the right to hear our stories by showing us that they can respect us as storytellers and the unfolding present and future stories as our own. In a world with information overload and a veracity for using people’s stories as entertainment, it took great care and courage to share my stories.

What has been the biggest reward as a result?

Connection. I believe that people are made to be connected to each other and the temptation in suffering is to withdraw in order to protect ourselves from further injury. While the inclination is understandable, it ultimately comes from a place of woundedness in my experience.

Making time to reflect on and share our stories with intention draws us back into the community that can help us to heal. Sharing my stories not only heals my own heart but seems to also allow others to do the same.

How do you hope your book will help people who are facing various life storms?

Books are like babies that you birth but then entrust to other people to find their life. Only rarely do I get the chance to hear how the book has touched, helped, or challenged them. So, every time someone tells me what the words have done in them, I am completely surprised at the way God uses my writing in ways I cannot anticipate.

Maybe I am dodging the question, but I think my answer is simply that I hope the book finds the people walking through storms whose hearts need what is in the pages, and that the book becomes their own as much as it is mine.  I think this is what I like most about reading too – the way that someone else’s words, ideas and experiences get tangled up with mine and change my life.

How does My Heart of Flesh differ from Living Gently Through Struggle?

Living Gently Through Struggle takes short excerpts from the longer text in My Heart of Flesh, turning it into a short devotional. I love the colour photographs in Living Gently, all of which were taken by friends of mine and which carry and inspire stories of their own. Living Gently is a great gift for people who like to read short pieces in hard copy, without worrying whether or not they read in order or finish the book…

Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?

Maybe just thank you. I consider it such a great privilege that you choose to spend moments of your precious time with my writing. I pray for you often, with gratitude.

Leah Perrault is a seasoned writer and speaker in faith and spirituality. She has a Master of Arts in theology from St. Michael’s College in Toronto and has served in diocesan and health care administration in Saskatoon, Canada since 2007. Leah is married to Marc and mom to Robyn, Eliot, Charlize and Atticus. Her publications can be found and purchased here.

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