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Blessed Are the Nones: Mixed-Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community

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Can the Christian life be lived alone? When her husband left Christianity several years into their marriage, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook was left spiritually single--struggling to live the Christian life on her own, taking her kids to church by herself, and wrestling with her own questions and doubts. In this memoir, Kielsmeier-Cook tells the story of her mixed-faith marriage an Can the Christian life be lived alone? When her husband left Christianity several years into their marriage, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook was left spiritually single--struggling to live the Christian life on her own, taking her kids to church by herself, and wrestling with her own questions and doubts. In this memoir, Kielsmeier-Cook tells the story of her mixed-faith marriage and how she found community in an unexpected place: an order of Catholic nuns in her neighborhood. As she spent time with them and learned about female Catholic saints, she began to see that she was not spiritually single after all--and that no one really is.


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Can the Christian life be lived alone? When her husband left Christianity several years into their marriage, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook was left spiritually single--struggling to live the Christian life on her own, taking her kids to church by herself, and wrestling with her own questions and doubts. In this memoir, Kielsmeier-Cook tells the story of her mixed-faith marriage an Can the Christian life be lived alone? When her husband left Christianity several years into their marriage, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook was left spiritually single--struggling to live the Christian life on her own, taking her kids to church by herself, and wrestling with her own questions and doubts. In this memoir, Kielsmeier-Cook tells the story of her mixed-faith marriage and how she found community in an unexpected place: an order of Catholic nuns in her neighborhood. As she spent time with them and learned about female Catholic saints, she began to see that she was not spiritually single after all--and that no one really is.

30 review for Blessed Are the Nones: Mixed-Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stina

    Extremely relatable story -- it's like the author and I are living the same life or something. ;) Extremely relatable story -- it's like the author and I are living the same life or something. ;)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I've been waiting years for this book, and will be pressing it into the hands of so many people who are trying to figure out what faithfulness to God and each other looks like as their beliefs and relationships shift. Stina is a wise guide and a trustworthy companion in the dark woods of the mid-faith crisis, and this book is an absolute gift to the church. I've been waiting years for this book, and will be pressing it into the hands of so many people who are trying to figure out what faithfulness to God and each other looks like as their beliefs and relationships shift. Stina is a wise guide and a trustworthy companion in the dark woods of the mid-faith crisis, and this book is an absolute gift to the church.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Beautifully written, this spiritual memoir is one of the most brutally honest books on faith I've ever read. The author is of the millenial generation and has dabbled in many faith traditions - Mennonite, Baptist, Episcopal, Anglican, and Catholicism. She is serious about her faith and graduated from evangelical stronghold Wheaton College. So did her husband, until he lost his faith. The author struggles to hold on to her faith and gamely attempts church attendance by herself and with two small c Beautifully written, this spiritual memoir is one of the most brutally honest books on faith I've ever read. The author is of the millenial generation and has dabbled in many faith traditions - Mennonite, Baptist, Episcopal, Anglican, and Catholicism. She is serious about her faith and graduated from evangelical stronghold Wheaton College. So did her husband, until he lost his faith. The author struggles to hold on to her faith and gamely attempts church attendance by herself and with two small children in tow. It doesn't go well. I appreciated and identified with her struggles to even get the kids dressed on a Sunday morning, along with dealing with potty breaks and misbehavior during church services. She also attempts faith rituals at home, but everybody in the family tunes out. Finally finding a place for herself in a community of Catholic nuns, the author explores the concept of "spiritual singleness." This concept will likely resonate with many women who attend church alone or without support from their husbands or other family members. Many of us read to know that we are not alone, and this excellent book will reassure those of us standing around awkwardly at the church coffee hour, sitting in the pews distracted by our bored children, or torn between spending Sunday mornings with our husband or attending church. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about where the church is going in the twenty-first century.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book is written from the point of view of a Christian woman trying to understand her own spirituality and rescue her husband from what she calls "deconversion". It strikes me as being from a very narrow point of view. She starts from a Protestant background and discovers Catholicism and some of the positives of that particular religion. As always, it is hard to know what another person sees, knows, or believes. She discovers the saints. It seems she gets interested in the mystery of the Ca This book is written from the point of view of a Christian woman trying to understand her own spirituality and rescue her husband from what she calls "deconversion". It strikes me as being from a very narrow point of view. She starts from a Protestant background and discovers Catholicism and some of the positives of that particular religion. As always, it is hard to know what another person sees, knows, or believes. She discovers the saints. It seems she gets interested in the mystery of the Catholic Church and some of the superstition. The book leaves me wondering about cultural education for everyone. Who would we be if we were allowed to be free? Also, why she didn't let go of her husband's choice for religion. Why do we still need to force anyone else to think, act, and be just like ourselves when we know that isn't possible or a good thing for anyone.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I love this book. I am undoubtedly biased (the author is also my daughter) but I can tell you that this memoir is the real deal. Stina is completely honest and transparent in her struggle to navigate the new spiritual landscape of her marriage (one that was grounded in a shared Christian faith and worldview) after her husband loses his faith. The beauty and honesty of this story will be a gift to those who suddenly find their lives upended. But, God's faithfulness and grace emerge through unexpe I love this book. I am undoubtedly biased (the author is also my daughter) but I can tell you that this memoir is the real deal. Stina is completely honest and transparent in her struggle to navigate the new spiritual landscape of her marriage (one that was grounded in a shared Christian faith and worldview) after her husband loses his faith. The beauty and honesty of this story will be a gift to those who suddenly find their lives upended. But, God's faithfulness and grace emerge through unexpected spiritual companions and in unexpected ways. Read it. You will be blessed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Smith

    While sitting with this book and reading Stina’s words and part of her story, I sensed I was resting on sacred ground. I highly recommend setting aside a day to read this book in one setting, for I felt like I had curled up by a fire with a hot cup of coffee and a new, distanced friend as I attentively listened to her bravely share part of her story. Through her relational and personal style of writing, Stina feels like a kindred spirit; a long-lost friend who is sitting down to invite you into While sitting with this book and reading Stina’s words and part of her story, I sensed I was resting on sacred ground. I highly recommend setting aside a day to read this book in one setting, for I felt like I had curled up by a fire with a hot cup of coffee and a new, distanced friend as I attentively listened to her bravely share part of her story. Through her relational and personal style of writing, Stina feels like a kindred spirit; a long-lost friend who is sitting down to invite you into a part of her life. And I am so thankful she has done this. This book is a beautiful insight to this part of her life and, I imagine, a comfort to any person who has ever felt themselves to be placed, either by themselves or by the Church, in some form of “other” category within the Church. Though my story is different from Stina’s, as a single woman in the church I found myself relating to some of her experiences and feelings of being “spiritually single”, while also coming to realize in my own time that actually we are all a part of this beautiful, messy, glorious, eternal community that is the Church. We are all here together. I have wrestled intellectually with many points and concepts that Stina addresses in her book, and I found so much encouragement and comfort through her story, and was prompted into new areas of thought and intellectual spaces that I had temporarily abandoned. Regardless of where you find yourself in your relationship with the Church or with God; whether you are single, married, divorced, widowed, or also find yourself in a mixed-faith relationship, I genuinely believe Stina’s story can speak to us all. Her words ring with wisdom and compassion. I cannot recommend this book enough.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This is the most human, most endearing book on spiritual life I've ever read. It's profundity will be seeping into my soul for a long time. Stina's honesty is so refreshing and despite having never met her, I truly feel like she's a friend after reading her amazing book. This book offers no answers, but it offers grace and presence and peace and relinquishing of grips--the literary version of a fireside chapel. This is the most human, most endearing book on spiritual life I've ever read. It's profundity will be seeping into my soul for a long time. Stina's honesty is so refreshing and despite having never met her, I truly feel like she's a friend after reading her amazing book. This book offers no answers, but it offers grace and presence and peace and relinquishing of grips--the literary version of a fireside chapel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    George M.

    This may be the best spiritual memoir I have ever read. If you are a millennial who has gone through the evangelical bend and deconstruction like myself, it hits on so many levels. Not only that but the way that Stina writes about her journey is like you're watching it in real time. There is so much I want to say but I do not want to spoil any of it for you. Just get this book. This may be the best spiritual memoir I have ever read. If you are a millennial who has gone through the evangelical bend and deconstruction like myself, it hits on so many levels. Not only that but the way that Stina writes about her journey is like you're watching it in real time. There is so much I want to say but I do not want to spoil any of it for you. Just get this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I was moved by this book, about a marriage that seems as though it's about to fall apart... and somehow holds, after one spouse leave faith, belief, and Christianity behind while the other stays, trying to keep her children in tow. A memoir of anecdotes, vignettes, and her formation as a lay companion to a small house of nuns in her Minneapolis neighborhood. There were many times where I was sure Stina and her husband would have to divorce, but somehow they are able to stay connected and hold on I was moved by this book, about a marriage that seems as though it's about to fall apart... and somehow holds, after one spouse leave faith, belief, and Christianity behind while the other stays, trying to keep her children in tow. A memoir of anecdotes, vignettes, and her formation as a lay companion to a small house of nuns in her Minneapolis neighborhood. There were many times where I was sure Stina and her husband would have to divorce, but somehow they are able to stay connected and hold onto their integrity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    A bunch of nearby nuns + a mixed-faith marriage makes for quite the story. I really love how she weaved it all together.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bailey Coleman

    Stina’s writing reflects so much of what she learned from the Visitation nuns—warm hospitality, freedom in the constraints of tradition, trust in God—and yet none of her story feels fabricated or embellished, as some books in this genre can. Stina shares just as many moments of revelation as moments of true doubt and simple meandering through daily life in search of stable ground. Blessed are the Nones is a beautiful illustration of commitment, the likes of which, unfortunately, aren’t often bro Stina’s writing reflects so much of what she learned from the Visitation nuns—warm hospitality, freedom in the constraints of tradition, trust in God—and yet none of her story feels fabricated or embellished, as some books in this genre can. Stina shares just as many moments of revelation as moments of true doubt and simple meandering through daily life in search of stable ground. Blessed are the Nones is a beautiful illustration of commitment, the likes of which, unfortunately, aren’t often brought to light. I believe it’s simultaneously peace-giving and motivating for many of us wavering inside the Christian faith.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Josh Olds

    At the end of Blessed are the Nones, I was left trying to determine if my feelings of unmet expectations were legitimate. It’s always difficult to criticize someone else’s story. It’s not like fiction. You can’t say you wished the author had gone a different direction because there wasn’t another direction to go. A person’s story is, obviously, personal and as long as the narrative is reflective, well-told, and engaging, a reviewer has little space to question the overarching narrative. About fif At the end of Blessed are the Nones, I was left trying to determine if my feelings of unmet expectations were legitimate. It’s always difficult to criticize someone else’s story. It’s not like fiction. You can’t say you wished the author had gone a different direction because there wasn’t another direction to go. A person’s story is, obviously, personal and as long as the narrative is reflective, well-told, and engaging, a reviewer has little space to question the overarching narrative. About fifty pages into Blessed are the Nones, my wife asked what I was reading and if I enjoyed it. I said then that if the book didn’t change, I found it interesting and compelling—but not at all what I expected. At the time, I expected the book to shift thematically toward what I did expect, but it was a shift that never really came. So at the end, I was left wondering: Did I misunderstand what to expect (and did it matter if I enjoyed the result?) or did the book leave one of its stated goals unmet? After reflection, I think it’s a bit of both. Blessed are the Nones was billed to me as memoir about a woman—Stina Kielsmeier-Cook—coming to terms with her mixed-faith marriage. Her husband, Josh, had once been a strong Christian but since lapsed into agnosticism. Stina’s struggle is not only with her husband’s faith but the need to find a spiritual community. Despite the book’s subtitle, Mixed-Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community, Kielsmeier-Cook focuses nearly-exclusively on the latter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Her story of a Wheaton-grad evangelical finding spiritual community amid an order of Catholic nuns is an interesting story of spiritual movement that highlights the commonalities and differences of two very different strain of the same faith. It accurately highlights the positive elements of the communal and liturgical that are often missed in hyper-individualized evangelical culture. But the mixed-faith marriage aspect really only comes out as an aside or as a framing device. Josh seems like an unwilling participant in the story. I do wonder how much of his story is not including specifically because he preferred to not talk about his journey away from faith. It’s certainly his right, and if so, Kielsmeier-Cook does well in respecting that, but to talk about a mixed-faith marriage when there is so clearly only one viewpoint presented leaves a gaping hole in the story. When I think about what I wanted this memoir to discuss, it makes me feel almost voyeuristic. I want to know Josh’s motivations for leaving the faith. There’s some allusion that it was due to child loss—a loss with which I can empathize. I want to know if he feels that he simply can’t intellectually assent to Christianity any more, or if it is more emotional. I wanted a deeper look into their marriage and their parenting to see how they reconciled this major difference in their marriage. And I wanted more theological reflection on living in a mixed-faith marriage. Basically, my hope was a focus on the marriage aspect, but what I got was the community aspect. Some parts of the communal aspect touch on aspects of “spiritual singleness,” as Kielsmeier-Cook explores the faith of these Catholic nuns, many of whom are single. There is one nun who is married, as she married before taking vows, and her husband is also agnostic. I expected this conversation to be of great importance in the book, but the nun basically shrugs it off as “he’s got his life; I’ve got mine” and I find that a difficult thing to comprehend. So in the end, Blessed are the Nones didn’t answer the questions that I had, and so in that aspect was quite unsatisfactory. Yet, it never made the explicit claim that it would. I do think that it shouldn’t have given the mixed-faith aspect quite so high a billing—even using the areligious term “nones” in the title—yet it’s also hard to argue that aspect wasn’t integral to the type of community Kielsmeier-Cook found. I have to give it high marks for the story it told, even though I’m not convinced that it told the entire story it claimed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A memoir of a Christian woman coming to terms, with the help of some Catholic nuns, with her husband’s de-conversion. I was eavesdropping, of all things, when my husband’s deconversion first hit me. I was sitting on the floor of the guest bedroom in Josh’s childhood home in North Carolina, straining to make out the voices filtering through the hallway–the steady deep timbre of my father-in-law’s voice and the more volatile ups and downs of my husband’s as he explained that he no longer th Summary: A memoir of a Christian woman coming to terms, with the help of some Catholic nuns, with her husband’s de-conversion. I was eavesdropping, of all things, when my husband’s deconversion first hit me. I was sitting on the floor of the guest bedroom in Josh’s childhood home in North Carolina, straining to make out the voices filtering through the hallway–the steady deep timbre of my father-in-law’s voice and the more volatile ups and downs of my husband’s as he explained that he no longer thought God was real -STINA KIELSMEIER-COOK, p. 1. Imagine a young couple who met on a mission trip, growing in love, even as they share a deep vision for doing good in God’s word. Their shared faith and love leads them to marry and begin a family. And then one of them can no longer believe. What would you do when the faith that brought you together is no longer shared? When your spouse would prefer a long run or a hike in the woods to going to church? How do you raise your children? How do you explain your spouse’s absence when you go to church? How do you sustain your own faith when the person closest to you can no longer believe? How do you keep a marriage together when you no longer share what you believe most important in life? That is the situation Stina Kielsmeier-Cook faced when her husband stopped believing in God. He wished she had stopped believing as well. But she couldn’t, as much as she struggled with her own doubts. This memoir is her account of a journey that went from hoping and praying for Josh to return to faith to learning to live in an interfaith marriage “through which God can move.” Providentially, she discovers a group of Salesian nuns in her neighborhood and begins to learn what it means to live a life with God without a husband to share it. At first she thinks the answer is “spiritual singleness,” a phrase that comes to her on a nature walk. Turns out the nuns aren’t too crazy about that. There is the pesky thing of vows, theirs and hers. Hers have nothing about “as long as you both shall believe.” The memoir offers an account of a fifteen month period. As she prays with the sisters, she comes to the place of relinquishing her ideas of how things should work out with Josh, coming to a place of seeing her work as loving Josh. She proposes a “Nuns and Nones” group with the sisters, that takes off, though not with Josh, who prefers an informal group of interfaith couples who talk about their experiences over good food. There are the moments of hope, where Josh joins Stina for communion at her church that practiced an open table. At one point, he acknowledges that he loves God, by which he means “The Mystery.” She talks about the pain Josh experiences when Josh’s father speaks with deep love about being saddened that Josh would not share eternity with him. She comes to a place where she leaves such questions to God. As she becomes a Visitation Companion with the sisters, she not only learns of new practices, but of women saints who also become companions on the journey. This is a finely written memoir. It does not neatly tie off the loose ends of Josh’s deconversion. Josh still doesn’t believe. It’s honest about the differences, yet also moving in the embrace of love for the other both embrace. Josh goes on a picnic with the nuns, and Stina goes mushroom hunting with Josh’s grad school friends and takes the family to cheer him on his marathon race. One of the beautiful things about this book is how well Stina portrays Josh. I found myself at many points saying, “what a guy!” For those who find themselves in a similar situation, this is an honest yet hopeful book for how two people can continue to love each other even when they no longer share what they once thought the most important thing in life. ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Nordenson

    Stina Kielsmeier-Cook’s Blessed Are the Nones is the story of her marriage but it’s about so much more. It’s about spiritual singleness and spiritual community. It’s about the paths we take, alone and together. It’s about love. Just as a good spiritual memoir should, the story Stina tells is not just her story, and the gains and losses she describes are not only hers. Blessed Are the Nones speaks to the faith journey of so many of us. For some, the way seems to get more and more sure; for others Stina Kielsmeier-Cook’s Blessed Are the Nones is the story of her marriage but it’s about so much more. It’s about spiritual singleness and spiritual community. It’s about the paths we take, alone and together. It’s about love. Just as a good spiritual memoir should, the story Stina tells is not just her story, and the gains and losses she describes are not only hers. Blessed Are the Nones speaks to the faith journey of so many of us. For some, the way seems to get more and more sure; for others, the way veers in a different direction. For many, doubt visits, prompting a pause of short or long or unknown duration. Stina shares Bonhoeffer’s warning to love people more than our own visions of life. Blessed Are the Nones shows that deep love can transcend dissimilar faith journeys and that God offers community to sustain us on the way. Near the book’s end Stina writes, “I rest in Sister Theresa’s wisdom that everyone is on a journey with God, whether they know it or not.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Rusk

    Stina Kielsmeier-Cook writes a refreshing story about a young woman’s journey toward finding a spiritual community when her expectations of sharing a common spiritual life in marriage fail. The author not only honestly reveals her struggles to keep her faith, but shares how marriage can disappoint expectations. Stina Kielsmeier-Cook’s writing is eloquent, clear and honest. She explores how to turn feelings of loss into a search for self-identity and faith. As readers, we feel her doubts in her f Stina Kielsmeier-Cook writes a refreshing story about a young woman’s journey toward finding a spiritual community when her expectations of sharing a common spiritual life in marriage fail. The author not only honestly reveals her struggles to keep her faith, but shares how marriage can disappoint expectations. Stina Kielsmeier-Cook’s writing is eloquent, clear and honest. She explores how to turn feelings of loss into a search for self-identity and faith. As readers, we feel her doubts in her faith, but are inspired by her commitment to seek and find a spiritual community, to know that with determination and an open heart, we can overcome our doubts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christiana

    I got to read this beautiful book before it was released and from the very first words, I was drawn into Stina's gentle and gracious writing. Her story is both vulnerable and wise as she wrestles with saints, old and new, in her search for what it means to have a spiritual community in a mixed-faith marriage. This book will be a life-line for many readers in the same situation. But it also encourages all of us to look more deeply at our faith. A must read! I got to read this beautiful book before it was released and from the very first words, I was drawn into Stina's gentle and gracious writing. Her story is both vulnerable and wise as she wrestles with saints, old and new, in her search for what it means to have a spiritual community in a mixed-faith marriage. This book will be a life-line for many readers in the same situation. But it also encourages all of us to look more deeply at our faith. A must read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sonya Perez-Lauterbach

    This book desperately needed to be written for those in and those on their way out of the church. In an era of shifting faith this book will bless so many! It is a lovely companion along the bumpy road of faith and marriage. It is an easy read that is also deeply meaningful. An incredibly personal story which enables connection and empathy no matter where you stand in the faith journey when you pick it up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    4.5 stars. Full of small insightful chapters and stories of inspirational women, Blessed Are The Nones offers hope and companionship to those of us who love someone that does not share our same faith. This book may not be as relatable to other readers as it was to me, but I think there are pieces of this book that any reader could treasure and enjoy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan Salerno

    There has been a lot of attention paid to people who describe themselves as "nones." Usually, that's an indication of no religious affiliation. In the case of Stina Kielsmeier-Cook, BLESSED ARE THE NONES is a religious memoir, detailing her life with her husband Josh, who a few years ago quit believing in the traditional God of the evangelical religion he and Stina had belonged to before their marriage. [The couple met in Bible college and she describes them as being on fire for God]. Stina and Jos There has been a lot of attention paid to people who describe themselves as "nones." Usually, that's an indication of no religious affiliation. In the case of Stina Kielsmeier-Cook, BLESSED ARE THE NONES is a religious memoir, detailing her life with her husband Josh, who a few years ago quit believing in the traditional God of the evangelical religion he and Stina had belonged to before their marriage. [The couple met in Bible college and she describes them as being on fire for God]. Stina and Josh's dilemma is made all the more challenging because they are parents of two young children. In the beginning, Stina has a revelation that she is now spiritually single. Going to church, attending any church-related events, even deciding upon a home church are decisions that she navigates alone. She describes her situation as one in which "the older I get, the more Moscow [a city that has only six minutes of sunlight a day during December] seems like a metaphor for the spiritual life... For whatever reason, faith can become more distant as we travel through life, encountering disappointment and twisty turns." But at least the spiritually nomadic aren't alone. "Denominational wandering is not unusual for modern Christians, nor do I think it's necessarily a bad thing. For millennials, the schisms over finer theological points, such as child versus adult baptism, or what happens at Communion, matter less than the authenticity of the congregation and its activity on issues of social importance... Fewer and fewer of us are centered in just one denomination. We are spiritual explorers, and when the church shows its ugly underbelly, many of my generation are looking for God outside institutional religion's walls." As it turns out, Stina and her family live down the street from a small group of nuns operating a Visitation [Sisters of Holy Mary] Monastery, which includes a program for laypeople called Visitation Companions. It doesn't take long for Stina to become enamored with these [Catholic] nuns. "They are organized and persistent, having endured decades of common life in-community pre-and-post Vatican II. They are neither passive nor timid, remaining faithful to their vows. They are the hearty ones, who have stayed in the church amid decline, who have seen their traditions devalued and mocked, who devote their lives to singing the Psalms and embracing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience." Stina is very honest in describing both her journey in becoming a Visitation Companion and the struggle of living in an interfaith relationship. "The thing about blazing a new trail in your interfaith home is that it costs something. The path is arduous, and no one has cleared the downed trees. There are no obvious faith practices to mutually draw from; instead, you must decide on family rhythms as you go." It doesn't help that Stina and her family live within a "solution-oriented culture," that often seems to value the final result over respect for the process. It also doesn't help that faith is a gift that expresses itself in very personal and unique ways that continually evolve. "I once believed that a steady, certain faith in God and the Nicene Creed and the Bible was an absolute requirement for being a Christian. But in my own faith journey, the temperature keeps fluctuating and I can't seem to control the weather." She continues: "The evangelical tradition in which our faith was formed always hammered down the importance of right belief. All it took to be a Christian was believing that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, and that we must accept him into our hearts to achieve eternal life. Having all the right answers seemed so simple. "Is it any surprise that many former evangelicals, who took this emphasis of right belief so seriously, eventually walk away when their doubts begin to feel overwhelming? "Being part of any religion is less about how we feel or what we believe at any given instant, which changes moment by moment, and more about our commitment to wrestle with our faith." Stina spends considerable time examining the Visitation Sisters' way of life, partly because she begins to pray with them and enter into the process of becoming a Visitation Companion, a layperson affiliated with the Visitation Sisters, without taking vows. Speaking of which, Stina notes, "Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister [founder of Nuns on the Bus] has written extensively about the vows of religious life, criticizing their outdated framework. She wrote: 'What the world needs now, respects now, understands now is not poverty, chastity and obedience. It is generous justice, reckless love and limitless listening." Throughout BLESSED ARE THE NONES, Stina reaffirms her deep love for Josh and their family. She grieves over Josh's disengagement from the Christian faith, but she does not seek to impose her views on him. "As Josh stops to identify fungi growing on a downed log near our path, I remember [Deitrich] Bonhoeffer's warning to love people more than my visions for life - whether that vision is for Christian community or the perfect religious upbringing for my kids. It's a struggle. I wonder if the work of love begins when our ideals shatter, when we're forced to sort through the broken pieces together." In the middle of all of this, Stina realizes that she is not really 'spiritually single,' but very much immersed in community. Whether it is the connection to the Visitation Monastery or a monthly get-together with mutual friends of hers and Josh's. And her definition of the love she shares with her husband has deepened. "Loving each other doesn't mean giving up our distinct beliefs or practices. Loving each other means we each seek to understand and honor what the other holds sacred. "In another way, it's how I practice the [wedding] vows we made to mutually obey one another. Kathleen Norris writes that, at its root, 'The word obey means 'hear.' And listening in that sense as mutual obedience, is fundamental to marriage... Such intimacy is a great gift because it also contains the challenge of doing what is necessary, every single day, to maintain the relationship.'" I found BLESSED ARE THE NONES to be a refreshing piece of hard-won wisdom in the middle of a spiritually confusing time in our world's history. Personally, I can relate to what Stina is writing about, especially in regards to her husband's loss of interest in evangelicalism and Christianity. I grew up Roman Catholic, attending Mass for 30 years. Then, in my mid-30's I became 'born again,' and was a member of an evangelical church for another 30 years. Now I go to a Methodist church with a progressive focus, but I'm not a member. It's been quite a journey, but Stina Kielsmeier-Cook's book gives me hope. It should give you hope too!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I randomly stumbled across this book at a local Catholic book store during the Christmas season. I recognized the author's name from Twitter. I bought it to support another female writer. I thought because my husband and I have remained Christians despite multiple faith crises, that I would find it an interesting story to pass on to others, but not one that would apply to me. I was wrong. So very wrong. In some ways I felt like I was reading my own life story. It is the story of coming of age as I randomly stumbled across this book at a local Catholic book store during the Christmas season. I recognized the author's name from Twitter. I bought it to support another female writer. I thought because my husband and I have remained Christians despite multiple faith crises, that I would find it an interesting story to pass on to others, but not one that would apply to me. I was wrong. So very wrong. In some ways I felt like I was reading my own life story. It is the story of coming of age as a Christian Millennial. How do you make sense of a faith that has become so entwined with politics and culture that it no longer centers oneself, but causes more confusion? When the majority of the people you know are agnostic, how do you create a thoughtful sense of Christian community with others while not ostracizing those who don't have a faith? And, what I loved most about the book, how do you listen to those quiet tuggings of God on your heart, when there is so much else in the world telling you those tuggings are not God? I laughed out loud when she called Richard Rohr "the white man whisperer". I love that she focuses on the many narratives of faith outside of the "white man" spirituality - including female saints, nuns and male monastics who push against toxic masculinity toward gentleness and finding meaning in the ordinary. It's a beautiful book I recommend to anyone who grew up in Christian culture in the 1990s and have found a life on the other side of deconstruction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    CJ

    This was a touching spiritual memoir about a woman whose husband left Christianity several years into her marriage, and how she wrestled with her own faith and her children's faith in the aftermath. I hadn't read anything from this perspective before but I have some experience of what it's like to have someone close to you become distant from the Church, and it was refreshing to see someone honestly wrestle with how painful that can be. Keilsmeier-Cook handled her husband's deconversion and how This was a touching spiritual memoir about a woman whose husband left Christianity several years into her marriage, and how she wrestled with her own faith and her children's faith in the aftermath. I hadn't read anything from this perspective before but I have some experience of what it's like to have someone close to you become distant from the Church, and it was refreshing to see someone honestly wrestle with how painful that can be. Keilsmeier-Cook handled her husband's deconversion and how to live in a blended family with remarkable grace, and combined her own life story with insights she gained from spending time with a group of nuns who practiced Salesian values. I think a lot of people who feel "spiritually single" would benefit from this book, as well as those who feel like the odd ones out in the families for being atheist or agnostic and want more insight into the other side of the experience.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ross

    I couldn’t stop reading. I was intrigued by the title and synopsis and as a pastor wanted to read this book. I was drawn into Stina’s story as someone that has a wide variety of denominational backgrounds and went to a Christian school. The path that she walked during this book was one that I have not heard of before. She is unlike many by the way that she is open and transparent about how she wrestles. We need more stories like this in the Christian community. We are not perfect, we are all sea I couldn’t stop reading. I was intrigued by the title and synopsis and as a pastor wanted to read this book. I was drawn into Stina’s story as someone that has a wide variety of denominational backgrounds and went to a Christian school. The path that she walked during this book was one that I have not heard of before. She is unlike many by the way that she is open and transparent about how she wrestles. We need more stories like this in the Christian community. We are not perfect, we are all searching and wondering. I am glad that in the midst of her story she never gave up. I believe that it would have been easier for her, but because of her pressing in she developed relationships that will help her through all of the ups and downs of life. We are not made to walk this journey alone. I am thankful that Stina found the courage and strength to write this to give hope and be an example for others in the Christian community that we don’t need all the answers to be an example of Jesus to those around us.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Liz Berget

    In Blessed are the Nones, I had expected to read about the author's journey navigating her spouse's loss of faith and did indeed find myself drawn into Stina's journey of discovery about marriage, faith, and community, but I was also surprised at the deep compassion communicated through each chapter...both towards unbelieving "nones," and towards my own faith in its varying seasons of doubt and strength. As someone who grew up evangelical, I was drawn towards the tradition and wisdom of the sain In Blessed are the Nones, I had expected to read about the author's journey navigating her spouse's loss of faith and did indeed find myself drawn into Stina's journey of discovery about marriage, faith, and community, but I was also surprised at the deep compassion communicated through each chapter...both towards unbelieving "nones," and towards my own faith in its varying seasons of doubt and strength. As someone who grew up evangelical, I was drawn towards the tradition and wisdom of the saints that the book described, encouraged to push into the "The Little Virtues" of " humility, gentleness, and patience," to acknowledge the mundane as a chance to impart/convey the holy, to "stop wasting my energy hankering after a different sort of life" and loving the world as it actually is. This book speaks of hope when none seems visible, of the constant pull of God's love on us...and on everyone around us. I can't wait to share this book with friends. 

  24. 4 out of 5

    Madison Haneke

    This book is such a gift! As a Catholic trying to navigate my (sometimes shaky) faith in conversation with my wonderful, supportive, and atheist boyfriend, Stina and her book have generously and vulnerably offered an honest and loving account of sharing life with a spouse without sharing religion. This book is a beautiful testimony to the struggles and surprises of interfaith relationships, and also to the hard and deeply personal work of following your own faith journey. I can tell that this bo This book is such a gift! As a Catholic trying to navigate my (sometimes shaky) faith in conversation with my wonderful, supportive, and atheist boyfriend, Stina and her book have generously and vulnerably offered an honest and loving account of sharing life with a spouse without sharing religion. This book is a beautiful testimony to the struggles and surprises of interfaith relationships, and also to the hard and deeply personal work of following your own faith journey. I can tell that this book will be a companion to me for many years to come.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Mallery

    Stina's book is sharing thru a story that I am also learning to live in. The couples who grew up and married in the heydey of evangelical enthusiasm, and now one or the other is living a different faith than the one that seemed to connect them at first. I so appreciate the vulnerability she has shared with her story. It takes a lot to admit that all is not well in a marriage or in faith. The conclusion to the story shows that it is an ongoing journey that she and her family are one. I think that Stina's book is sharing thru a story that I am also learning to live in. The couples who grew up and married in the heydey of evangelical enthusiasm, and now one or the other is living a different faith than the one that seemed to connect them at first. I so appreciate the vulnerability she has shared with her story. It takes a lot to admit that all is not well in a marriage or in faith. The conclusion to the story shows that it is an ongoing journey that she and her family are one. I think that many of us want faith stories to be tied up with some sort of bow. Knowing the end and that all will be well. But that is not the story of anyone. No one knows the end. I hope that Stina's work will reached the churches of men and women who are fighting to fit into some kind of expectation that they have been told is acceptable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Oh man. I finished this in 2 days. It was that good. I appreciated her honesty in sharing her struggles and story, while respecting her husband's journey. It is a beautiful testimony to their mutual commitment to love each other and partnership in marriage and parenting, despite their different beliefs. I suspect that many couples find themselves at different points on their faith journey, and that's okay. Oh man. I finished this in 2 days. It was that good. I appreciated her honesty in sharing her struggles and story, while respecting her husband's journey. It is a beautiful testimony to their mutual commitment to love each other and partnership in marriage and parenting, despite their different beliefs. I suspect that many couples find themselves at different points on their faith journey, and that's okay.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Andrew

    At first I found BLESSED ARE THE NONES puzzling; I couldn't figure out why Stina Kielsmeier-Cook struggled so much when her Christian husband "deconverted." Belief in one faith or another isn't especially important to me, especially since my own belief is riddled with doubt and seems to recede the further I enter relationship with Mystery. Once I realized that Kielsmeier-Cook begins this narrative from a significantly different Christianity from my own, however--one where belief in God determine At first I found BLESSED ARE THE NONES puzzling; I couldn't figure out why Stina Kielsmeier-Cook struggled so much when her Christian husband "deconverted." Belief in one faith or another isn't especially important to me, especially since my own belief is riddled with doubt and seems to recede the further I enter relationship with Mystery. Once I realized that Kielsmeier-Cook begins this narrative from a significantly different Christianity from my own, however--one where belief in God determines your eternal destiny, and where being "spiritually single" is a novelty rather than a necessary first step toward intimacy with the divine--I thoroughly appreciated her story. Here a genuine seeker opens up her marriage and heart to readers. She traces those first painfully difficult steps away from a faith bounded by doctrine into a faith vibrant with relationality. I found Kielsmeier-Cook's forays into Catholic spirituality and her exploration of women mystics delightful. She keeps her feet on the ground throughout with scenes of family life, the messiness and comfort of church, and her honest questioning. We need many maps that steer us away from the belief systems of traditional, institutionalized Christianity onto the vibrant, generous, ever-unfolding path of living faith--and this is a good one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Breanna Randall

    I thought this book offered an intimate and vulnerable reflection on a mid-life crisis of sorts: the challenge of loving and remaining committed to a partner, and finding a supportive community, even in the midst of great change. This book is about mixed faith marriage, but I thought a lot of it connects really well to other relationships, offering reflections on what it means to love someone who sees the world differently than you do. (And don't we all have relationships like that?) My only wish I thought this book offered an intimate and vulnerable reflection on a mid-life crisis of sorts: the challenge of loving and remaining committed to a partner, and finding a supportive community, even in the midst of great change. This book is about mixed faith marriage, but I thought a lot of it connects really well to other relationships, offering reflections on what it means to love someone who sees the world differently than you do. (And don't we all have relationships like that?) My only wish for this book is that it didn't end in the middle of the story. I wish the book spanned more time, and that we could find out where the author and her husband find themselves and what they learn in the years to come. But that's impossible, since the author is still in the middle of the story. In fact, it feels like in many ways, this is just the beginning. Thanks to IVP and Netgalley for an ARC of this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Traci Rhoades

    My kind of book. I loved it. There are a number of profound lessons for the Church in Stina's stories. I hope we're listening. For women who go to church alone, I've written myself about how you have my heart. Stina has a lot to say about how we never go to church alone. The saints and the sisters taught her that. My kind of book. I loved it. There are a number of profound lessons for the Church in Stina's stories. I hope we're listening. For women who go to church alone, I've written myself about how you have my heart. Stina has a lot to say about how we never go to church alone. The saints and the sisters taught her that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lori Neff

    Such great writing. Loved the short chapters and great essential detail. Chapter 18 had me in a puddle of tears. Beautiful.

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