Category Archives: Girl At the End of the World–my book

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in me; All day I feel its feathery turnings, its malignity.
Sylvia Plath

I know this fear intimately. Its shadow creeps through my nightmares: will I become what I hate? Will I repeat the cycle of abuse? Will the abused become the abuser?

Breaking the cycle requires constant vigilance, a determination to act and live differently. And even then, sometimes this Dark Me leaks out in a sudden flick of judgmental tongue, a harshly critical word, a callous dismissal. I was raised in condemnation. My greatest challenge is to receive grace–and to give it….READ MORE AT MICHA BOYETT’S BLOG (and enter for a chance to win a copy of my book).

Good morning, I have a book signing today. Also, I am a wreck.

Oh, hey. I have a book signing today at Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica. Woot-woot, am I right? Yeah. About that. I’m kinda a wreck. We had a biggish earthquake here last night, see, and earthquakes always bring up a lot of shitty feelings for me. Like, say: 1. The World is Ending, 2. Apocalypse Now and 3. Is my food stockpile current??? OMG-WHY-DIDN’T-I-BUY-A-PALLET-OF-BOTTLED-WATER-YESTERDAY??

Childhood home

The 5.3 earthquake hit around 9pm last night. I stayed put longer than usual. Which is to say, I didn’t run screaming through the house until TWO seconds had passed. Then–just as the earthquake was getting bigger–I went running down the hall (while books fell out of the bookcase next to me) and barreled down the stairs, out the door, into the front yard.

Because, I’m smart. Running wild during a big earthquake is dumb, we all know this. But my body has a mind of its own. It started running before I could tell it to stop and when I finally did stop, I was outside, in the dark, with car alarms going off and my heart about to explode out of my chest.

PTSD, I hate you.

By contrast, my kids were totally fine. The older kids thought it was “cool.” And the twins didn’t even wake up. Matt had to explain to the kids why Mom was having a panic episode–but hey, they are used to these things since they know all about How Mom Grew Up In That Weird Church Thing.

They got quite a kick out of it. I was crying and begging Matt to go to Wallgreens and pick up a huge crate of bottled water because OMG what if this was only the beginning and then–AFTERSHOCK! OMG! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIIE.

I mean, it was funny. I guess. I can sort of laugh about it this morning. *weak laugh* But all last night I had nightmares and kept jolting out of bed with every aftershock and screaming.

All this to say: FUNDAMENTALISM WORKED, YO. MY WRECKED PSYCHE IS LIVING PROOF.

Point is, when you see me today at the book signing, don’t be surprised if I’m trembling. Or weepy. Because THIS IS ME. This is what happens to me when earthquakes happen. In Fundamentalism, we believed this was a sign of the End and that fear is rooted deep in my core.

The only way I know to get it out is by being very honest. By verbally processing it. By crying. By pounding out a blog post like this. And then by showing up today—as my very real self.

I hope you’ll come give me a hug.

xo, EE.

p.s. look what’s on the “New in Paperback” table at Barnes & Noble? :)

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The Girl at the End of the World

 

Happy Reminder: Book Signing Today for #GirlatTheEndofTheWorld and p.s. I just became a bestselling author. Like, what?! YEAH.

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Just a happy reminder that I’m hosting a book release party tonight, March 22nd at The Lost Bean in Tustin. I’ll be reading a couple of selections from my book, having a Q&A session and signing copies of my book for YOU! :) There will be yummy Greek appetizers, champagne and wine! If you haven’t RSVP’d, no worries. Just show up! I would love to meet you. xoxo. EE. P.S. Yesterday, my book made the Amazon bestseller list in several categories: #1 in “Hot New Releases in Christian Faith” for Kindle,  #2 in “Hot New Releases” for Paperback, #3 Bestseller for Christian Faith, #64 in Top 100 Memoirs OVERALL and #40 in “Hot New Releases” in Biography OVERALL.

This is ALL you. YOU are doing this. I was simply the vessel that spoke the story, which is really YOUR story, too. I can’t thank you enough. I am humbled and so very, very grateful. Let’s keep spreading the love so all the world can hear our song of freedom.

p.p.s. if you’ve already finished the book, would you do me the honor of writing an Amazon review? It would mean so much to me. I’m receiving such beautiful letters and emails from people and I would LOVE for you to share your stories via review on Amazon. Thank you SO MUCH!

p.p.p.s If you can’t make tonight’s book signing, GUESS WHAT?! Barnes & Noble is hosting me for a book signing on MARCH 29th @ 2pm in Santa Monica, CA.  I would LOVE TO SEE YOU THERE!

And look at all your #GirlAtTheEndofTheWorld #SelfiEEs! Oh my goodness. I love YOU!!!

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Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of book release! It is the music of the #GirlAtTheEndOfTheWorld!!

The Girl at the End of the World

So, it’s here.
FINALLY.

I feel like I need to burst into a Broadway show-tune to commemorate this day.
Let’s go with Les Miserables, shall we?

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of book release?
It is the music of the people who will NOT be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start

When TODAAAAY comes!

Ok, now that THAT’S out of my system, Imma let YOU talk, k? :)

What people are saying about “Girl at The End of the World”:

“Esther’s descriptions of her claustrophobic childhood faith are clear and compelling..” 
Publishers Weekly

Witty, insightful, courageous and compelling–the sort of book you plan to read in a week but finish in a day. I cannot commend it enough.
Rachel Held Evans, NYT bestselling author

“Elizabeth Esther’s honest and vulnerable account of her childhood and the effects of her parents’ religious zeal is both fascinating and poignant. I couldn’t put this book down.”
–Kristen Howerton, author of RageAgainstTheMinivan.com

Elizabeth Esther’s story is a powerful account and she’s told it beautifully. This book is a reminder that God is good and that He can redeem any story for His beloved children.
Tsh Oxendreider, author of “Notes from a Blue Bike” and owner of TheArtofSimple.net

Even while Elizabeth tells the darker threads of her story, her innocence, wit and spiritual exuberance shine brightly.
Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched and Our Great Big American God

Girl at the End of the World adds to an important line of ex-fundamentalist survival stories…Most importantly, though, these memoirs amplify the once-voiceless among us, and no matter how painful, unbelievable, or bitter the accounts, they require us to listen.
Christianity Today

Elizabeth shares with candor, wit, and near flawless writing about the religion she was so deeply hurt by. Her story is heartbreaking, yet redemptive, and we would all do well to pay attention to how religion without the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ is an empty and destructive force.”
Sarah Mae, author of Desperate: hope for the mom who needs to breathe

I opened Esther’s book and began reading, not expecting to be simultaneously enthralled by her writing and terrified by her experiences. I finished the book in short order over the next few days. It’s that good. And, somewhat surprisingly given the intensity of her topic, Esther’s approach includes much needed humor that had me legitimately laughing out loud.
Blake Atwood, author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad and editor at FaithVillage.com

“Her story is raw. Her story is painful. But her story is also redemptive and beautiful and encouraging in the best ways, and you don’t need to have been raised in a cult to relate to Elizabeth’s trials and triumphs. Her situation might have been unique, but her damaged emotions, her often unhealthy coping mechanisms, and her determination to find physical and spiritual healing are more universal.”
Tamara Rice, author of hopefullyknown.com and editor of over 40 books

“…as I was reading Girl At The End Of The World, all I could think was “damn, her voice is so clear.” Every event unfolds and I can hear her telling these stories. I can hear her laughing at herself, I can hear her tender heartbreak and forgiveness as she talks about her parents, and I can hear her admiration and devotion when she talks about her husband, Matt.”
–Hannah Ettinger, author of WineandMarble.com

Once you get your book, I would love to see you post a selfie with my book–I wanna see YOUR face. It would be so much fun to see the wonderful collage of beautiful readers holding my book. Post it on Instagram or FB and tag me, k?
Instagram: @elizabethesther
Twitter: @elizabethesther with hashtag #GirlatTheEndofTheWorld
FB: post it to my FB wall “Elizabeth Esther’s Blog Friends”

Remember, I wanna see YOUR face. I already know what my book looks like!
I wanna see YOU!!! xoxox. EE.

i loooooove youuuuuuu!!!!!!

BUY MY BOOK HERE:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

How I left church and found God in rehab

God is big enough

The following is a “deleted scene” from my book “Girl at The End of the World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future” (available everywhere TOMORROW! March 18, 2014!). It is the story of my two-week stay at a retreat center specializing in emotional healing and codependency issues. I am sharing this story in the hopes that those who have suffered similarly will know they are not alone and those in positions of religious authority will understand the devastating, long-term impact of spiritual abuse. Comments are open. Be kind.

I.

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I’ve been out of an abusive church for years but I’m still making the same mistake: I still don’t take care of myself. I keep burning out. I survive on caffeine and adrenaline.

By all measures my life is far better than it used to be. I should feel healed.

But my skin is on fire, elbows and feet flaring with psoriasis scales. I want to unzip my skin and crawl out of it. My hands shake, full of fear and trembling.

I’m going to a two week retreat center because I’m depressed as hell and living hurts too much. There. That’s the honest truth.

I grip my boarding pass tightly, so tightly my knuckles might start sweating blood. I stare at the bar-code as if I can somehow decipher the meaning behind the lines, trace the trajectory that led me here—trembling in an airport, blindsided by one glaring, uncomfortable truth: fundamentalism worked; it successfully broke me.

In the very core of who I am, I still believe I’m not good enough. No matter how successfully we’ve rebuilt our lives, no matter how recovered we look—deep down, I’m still a frightened little girl.

Something is missing.

I get in line to board my flight because I need help, because I am serious about my recovery. I now understand that there is no quick-fix that will permanently cure me. Extricating myself from what I experienced is like sorting the wheat from the chaff—the good is sown in with the bad.

I am going into treatment because I am determined to get better.

II.

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“We don’t break our horses, we invite them into a partnership with us,” Alyssa says, her bright eyes sparkling beneath the broad brim of her cowboy hat.

It’s my third day at the retreat center. We’ve been standing on this windswept hill for what seems like an eternity doing nothing but watch horses. Horses standing. Horses grazing. Horses doing absolutely nothing. Alyssa tells us that being still and simply watching horses is an exercise in developing our inner observer.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be observing, here, other than my raging boredom.

Being still is damn uncomfortable.

“You’re on horse-time now,” Alyssa says. “For those of us accustomed to rushing around, being on horse-time is really difficult. When I first started working with horses I couldn’t sit still for more than five minutes.

I shift my weight from foot to foot, ball my hands into fists and push them into the pockets of my windbreaker. I don’t understand how you’re supposed to control a horse without breaking her and I certainly don’t understand how being on horse-time will improve my relationship with myself and with God.

Still, there is something about Alyssa’s way of being that intrigues me. She is loose and easeful. She walks gently, slowly and intentionally. She talks casually and easily to her horses as if they’re native English speakers. I have no idea how this is working but it’s obvious the horses understand her because they gently respond.

I am utterly baffled. This is a language I don’t understand. I am not accustomed to gentleness, partnership and relationships between equals. I am accustomed to harshness, black-and-white hierarchies and mutually destructive relationships. The language Alyssa shares with her horses is utterly foreign but I can clearly see the results: mutual respect and implicit trust. This is love.

Quite unexpectedly, I see the connection to my own life and it takes my breath away.

I learned to relate to God through punishment.

My first experience of God happened beneath a paddle. I was spanked until my will was broken.

I was spanked until the deepest belief I held was that love is punishment.

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In the treatment center, I have homework.

My program director has instructed me to create a timeline of my life, listing all major events and relationships in chronological order. “The point of this exercise,” she tells me, “is to discover your own, unique relational pattern.”

It takes me a several pages to complete the time line. Then, working from a list of signs and characteristics, I color-code each relationship with my most common behaviors.

When I’m done, an obvious pattern has emerged.

It is uncomfortably, devastatingly true: I have unrealistic expectations of others in relationships, I seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost, I mistake intensity for intimacy and most of all, I feel a deep sense of worthlessness and therefore use relationships to relieve emotional pain.

I’ve attached to friendships, correspondences, Facebook “friends,” blogging “friends,” attended conferences in hopes of finding that Perfect Best Friend, bounced around churches hoping to find The Perfect Church, emailed bloggers I adored, texted, weaseled and grasped for relationships to fill, fill, fill—fill what? A bottomless chasm of aching need.

I don’t have a drinking problem. I don’t have a substance abuse problem. I am hooked on relationships.

I stare at my timeline and I see the source of my relational pattern: lack of nurturing and attention while young triggered feelings of shame and inherent worthlessness. If I am ever to fully recover, I will need daily connection with a higher power Who loves me unconditionally. The key to my emotional healing and my spiritual future is letting God love me.

And there it is, the missing piece: I don’t know how to receive God’s love. I don’t know how to receive grace. The core of my spiritual struggle is with self-loathing.

IV.

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This is what I understand: there will never be one, final cure for my religiously wounded heart. I will always bear the scars. And there will even be times when I feel the pain anew. But each day, I can choose to take care of myself. I can choose to let God love me.

This is what I know: I can’t save the world from fundamentalism, but I can save myself.There are things I cannot change, but I ask God for the courage to help me change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is my story: God has given me a future and a hope.

This is my song: I am not afraid.

The Girl at the End of the World

 

Standing naked in front of strangers (and other occupational hazards of memoir writing)

photoThis morning I felt terrified. Reviews of my book are starting to come in and the words are laser-imprinted on my heart. The positive, the negative, the apathetic, the completely untrue (apparently, Publishers Weekly thinks I’m a mother of SEVEN!)–all of it pierces me. I can’t stop hearing the reviewers’ words in my head….

“Somewhat predictable…Clear and compelling.”

“Girl at The End of the World adds to an important line of ex-fundamentalist survival stories…Most importantly, though, these memoirs amplify the once-voiceless among us, and no matter how painful, unbelievable, or bitter the accounts, they require us to listen.” 

The reviews are only just beginning and already I’m freaking out.

Writing a memoir is like stripping naked, baring your most private secrets and hidden stretch marks. Reading the reviews is like having strangers walk by and comment on your nakedness. 

This morning I wanted to hide under the sheets and not come out until all the people stopped staring at me. Instead, I practiced something my 12-step sponsor calls “contrary action.”

I got out of bed, showered and brushed my teeth. I even flossed! I began feeling a little better so I did my hair–letting my natural, wild curls flow freely. I put on makeup. I smiled at myself while I applied red lipstick. Red lipstick always helps me feel strong and courageous.

And then I put flowers in my hair. Because I wanted to remember my true self–that wild, romantic, flowers-in-her-hair poet traipsing through the dewy grass with her arms full of books and her eyes full of stars.

By the time I was done placing flowers in my hair, I felt very myself. I felt very ME. And I loved my me.

I went in the backyard and walked barefoot in the grass still wet from morning dew. I read some poetry. I looked up at the blue, blue sky.

I felt happy. So, I took pictures to document the moment.

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I am becoming comfortable with my nakedness–both physically and through my writing. Yes, I am flawed–yes, I have cellulite and stretch marks and old scars from where my twenty-year-old self gouged angry gashes into her tender flesh. Yes, my nakedness is not magazine-pretty. It is not airbrushed. But it is very, very me.

And that is how I wrote the book.

I wrote my me. I let you see my pain, my scars, my flawed coping mechanisms.

The only way I could write this book was from a place of self-acceptance; loving myself as the scared little five year old, loving myself as the desperate and passionate fourteen year old, loving myself as I found the courage to leave the cult, loving myself pregnant and loving myself post-partum.

The only way I can stand naked in front of strangers and let them comment on my naked story is because I rest in the greatest Love. God found me and God’s love gave me the courage to love myself.

My childhood trained me in harsh self-rejection and self-abandonment. God’s gentle love  is helping me love the person He created me to be. And no matter whether the reviews are positive or negative or apathetic, *I* am proud of myself. I love what I wrote. I love the woman I’ve become.

I gave you my whole heart. How predictable of me! 

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EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Get your #GirlatTheEndofTheWorld goodie-bag TODAY!

The Girl at the End of the World My book releases in 20 days.

Twenty.

Or, as my middle school boy mumbles: “Twunny.”

Yeah, I got twunny days. Cue: EMOTIONAL MELTDOWN.

I wish I felt more excited. From the way people keep talking, I’m supposed to Be All Pumped Up.

“Are you excited?” they ask. And all I can think is: “Yeah, I’m excited like going to the guillotine is exciting.”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” they say.

“Fine. I’m excited like going to get a root canal is exciting.”

Honestly, all I wanna do is crawl under the covers and suck on Xanax lollipops–if there is such a thing.

I mean, I WROTE about the smarmy recruitment tactics of my childhood cult. I don’t wanna BECOME that. Cue smarmy, self-promoting author hawking her book on street corners: “TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION! BUY MY BOOK!”

So, I’m gonna keep it simple: Hi, I have a book. Please buy it.

There. Done. And now, let me sweeten the deal, K? (In the least smarmy-way-I-could-imagine-please-bear-with-me):

If you would like to be added to a list of people interested in posting Amazon reviews, blog reviews and/or receiving a Super Awesome “Girl at The End of the World” Goodie-Bag complete with Instagram-ready images, links and quotes from my book? Then please subscribe to my blog by inserting your email address IN THE FORM BELOW! 

You don’t have to be a Big Blogger. Or have a Big Online Platform. In fact, I WANT my everyday readers, casual Instagrammers, non-professional Facebookers to sign up! p.s. and in 10 days? THERE WILL BE MORE PRIZES! Be the first to know! SIGN UP! NOW! TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION! MWA-HA-HA! just kidding. xoxo. EE. :)

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In 2014, I resolve to fail more

I beeliieeeve I can fly! Or, at least, jump on this here trampoline.

I beeliieeeve I can fly! Or, at least, jump on this here trampoline.

I learn nothing from my successes except how disappointing they are and how they rarely live up to my expectations. I learn far more from my mistakes because they give me the opportunity to learn something about myself and about reality. Thing is, if I’m not learning anything, I’m not failing enough. Or failing big enough. This is why, in 2014, I resolve to Fail More, Fail Boldly and Fail Better.

Fail More

Reality doesn’t work the way I want it to work. My plans–mwah-ha-ha–MY PLANS–are futile attempts at pretending I have control over reality. I am Master of my Destiny! I haz the controoollllll! Yeah, no. I have no control. This is what failing more teaches me. Failing more gives me an opportunity to come face-to-face with my profound frailty, my inability to bend reality to my liking. As William Blake once wrote, “A fool who persists in his folly becomes wise.” I intend on failing so hard and so often this year that my only option is total dependence on grace.

Fail Boldly

Remember when i was gonna blog every day? HA HA HA. Remember my 31 Days of the Little Way that was more like A Few Days Before I Got Bored and Moved On? And then there were the failed drafts of my book. Honestly, I lost track of how many Final Drafts I turned in. Probably something like eight. Or ten. But all these failures taught me how to better manage my limitations. I have limitations and as much as I’d like to pretend I can Do All The Things, I really can’t. Failing boldly teaches me to slow down. It’s OK to take my time, apparently.

Fail Better

Failing better simply means failing differently. I don’t have to over-commit to blogging because I already failed at that last year. This whole Philosophy of Failing More means learning to fail in a different direction. PROGRESS! At least I’m failing in new ways and not repeating the insanity of failing in all the old ways.

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I’m kinda stoked about my book release (“Girl at The End of the World” releases March 18, 2014!) because I can’t wait to see how hugely it fails to sell. I wrote a real good book (if I do say so myself) and I’m very proud of it (it only took me about 80 billion failures to get it written). But even industry insiders don’t know how well my book will sell. Do you know why this doesn’t bother me? Because even if my book doesn’t sell, I did my absolute best and THAT counts as an Awesome Fail Better.

I call that progress. A life fail lived.

TA-DA!

photoGot a call from my editor this afternoon. I could hear him smiling through the phone. My book is d-o-n-e. His words: “It’s heartwarming, heartbreaking, funny, insightful and all the things we want a memoir to be.” My book is officially off to production. And I’m officially off to pop some champagne and celebrate!!!! I did it, you guys. It was impossibly IMPOSSIBLY difficult–did I mention I wrote THREE full drafts? :) But today, it’s all worth it. I’m really proud of the book I’ve written for you. “Girl at the End of the World” releases March 2014!!! p.s. I totally thanked YOU READERS in my Acknowledgments. Because OBVIOUSLY. Wouldn’t be here without you. I love you people. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox. EE. p.p.s. nothing says GLAMOROUS like a sparkly cocktail dressed with a plastic playground in the background (and my dog’s butt), AM I RIGHT?? ;-) Just keepin’ it classy, yo.