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.
My thoughts: This book is a must for those who have faced sexual abuse or who are seeking to help someone who has been raped. Leigh Mackenzie does a wonderful job of sharing from the heart and articulating what she went through as a West Point cadet shortly after women were allowed into West Point. My heart broke for her and her experiences there. I so appreciate her ministry and how she has used her pain to minister to others who have been in a similar situation.
I received this book from Celebrate Lit. This is my honest review.
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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.
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!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.