Today, Christy speaks to us about her podcast, stepping outside of her comfort zone, Blue Like Jazz, and her fascinating childhood.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I was raised in an old farmhouse in rural Michigan. My mother homeschooled us before homeschooling was a thing, and my dad was a public school teacher. Quirky, I know. My brother and sister and I grew up in an old-fashioned, somewhat sheltered, pretty idyllic way. My mother gardened, made bread, and taught us all to sew. We didn’t have a television, and my whole family was obsessed with books. My siblings and I reenacted stories we’d read, climbed trees, or swung on the tall rope swing in our hundred-year-old barn. We loved Legos, dress-up, and listening to Adventures in Odyssey.
Life took a stranger turn when I was twelve. We joined a cultic homeschool organization and left our local community church for one that was an hour and a half away. Our new church was filled with other conservative, homeschooling families who all followed the same leader. I spent the next ten years living by a strict set of rules and guidelines. Girls wore skirts, had long hair, learned homemaking skills, and prepared to marry young and have as many children as possible. Dating was prohibited, as was rock music, college, and blue jeans.
Being a people pleaser by nature, I jumped into the new lifestyle with enthusiasm. I desperately wanted people to think that I was godly and approve of me. Unexpectedly, in the midst of all the rules and outward performance, I came face to face with the Living Presence of Jesus Christ. If God was real and not just a concept from an old book, then I wanted to know Him. As I began to get to know Jesus over the next few years, it became evident that the god I’d been taught about in my organization was a fake. Eventually, the real Jesus led me out into freedom and truth.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: I love the prayer in Ephesians chapter three that Paul prays for the church in Ephesus. It’s found in verses fourteen through twenty-one.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
More than anything else, Paul wants them to experience the power, love, and presence of Jesus because he knows that only then will everything change. Our Christianity can’t just be knowledge that we believe. It must be a Person that we meet, Someone we know from personal experience.
“Our Christianity can’t just be knowledge that we believe. It must be a Person that we meet, Someone we know from personal experience.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’m in the process of learning to stop and examine my emotions. It’s easy to bypass them with a “spiritual” phrase or prayer. But I’m finding that true growth and healing comes from digging into what I’m feeling and the reasons that might be behind my emotions. I think of it as bringing Jesus into my mess and asking Him to sort through things with me. I’m discovering a lot of brokenness, but I am also receiving even more forgiveness and grace.
Profession: I’ve been working as a Shipt shopper for the past two years. Basically that means I’m a professional grocery shopper. I receive an order on my phone, shop it, and then deliver the order to the customer. It’s not exactly what I went to school for (I have a teaching degree), but I really love it. I’m able to have a flexible work schedule which is great for writing, speaking, and podcasting, and for being a wife and mother. I also know where absolutely everything is at my local Meijer. Can’t find something when you are grocery shopping? Ask a Shipt shopper.
How do you incorporate your connection with God into your daily, secular work? I do a lot of driving with Shipt, so it’s a great opportunity to pray and listen to Christian music or podcasts. Jesus and I have had many intense conversations in my car over the years. I also have a couple of Christian Shipt colleagues and we keep each other accountable for our attitudes and such.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? The working title for my memoir is Redefining Grace, and it’s something I’m actually starting to work on. I have another book I want to write first, but Redefining Grace will be second. I chose that title because the definition of grace that I learned growing up in my organization was, “Grace is the desire and power to do God’s will.” It was all about behavior, performance, and works. But real grace is something that God gives us even though we don’t deserve it. Grace is free, and beautiful, and “just because.” Discovering true grace was a huge part of my story of finding the real Jesus.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I love the word encounter. It means so much more than just knowing or learning about God. I first encountered Him in my bedroom as a fifteen year old.
Since we were homeschooling through this cultic Christian organization, many of my homeschool assignments were religious in nature. On this day, my mother had given me a list of God’s names to pray. I went up to my room and dutifully began to pray. It went something like this: God you are Jehovah Jireh; you always provide. You are El Roi; you see everything, etc. As I prayed, I was unexpectedly aware that I was not alone. There was a Living Presence in the room with me, just listening to and enjoying my praise. As this reality sank in, I leapt to my feet and ran downstairs yelling, “Mom! Mom! God showed up!”
I grew up in church and trusted Jesus as my Savior when I was seven. But until I encountered God as a fifteen year old, it was just two-dimensional knowledge. Suddenly, God was 3-D, a very real Being, and I just wanted to know Him more.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Safe people have been incredibly encouraging lately. People who accept me, listen to me, and ask questions to help me figure out what’s really going on. I have been very blessed the last two years to be in a wonderful small group at my church. These lovely friends have walked beside me as I learned to let go of hurt, accept myself for who God created me to be, and stretch towards the next steps of growth and healing.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I just finished Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. The way I found the book in the first place is a crazy God story, but let’s just say that Jesus wanted me to read it. I’m only sixteen years late to the party, but it was worth the wait. When Blue Like Jazz first came out in 2003, I was just getting out of my cultic mindset and definitely not ready for anything edgy or potentially progressive. Edgy for me at that point was wearing baggy jeans and listening to Chris Rice.
I devoured three quarters of Blue Like Jazz during a beach day at Lake Michigan. I sat there in my chair crying and laughing and hoping the people around me didn’t think I was nuts. I loved how Donald Miller was able to hold onto the orthodox truths of sin, Jesus, and what it means to be saved, while rejecting things that were just religious Christianese. He wrote with warmth and honesty about topics that I also write about. It made me feel like I’d found a kindred spirit.
Top three essentials: Lotion, lip balm, and my cell phone.
How did God speak to you recently? I’ve been working on writing a book for the past few years. However, it’s really hard to break into the publishing industry as a new author without a reasonably sized platform. They want you to already be known so they can guarantee book sales. I had some forward momentum with a publishing company, but then everything just completely ended. It was really disheartening. There is a lot of rejection that happens when you are trying to get published. As I prayed about what was next, I kept hearing a one word answer from God. Podcast.
This idea was way out of my comfort zone. But our pastor just happened to preach a sermon about worshiping comfort right about the same time. Thanks, Jesus. And ironically I’d already bought a microphone earlier in the year in a fit of enthusiasm. It sat unused in my desk for five months, but it was a start. Thanks to Google and some excellent, detailed blog posts, I shakily began getting out of my zone of comfort.
It took about six months, but I officially launched my podcast, Looking for the Real God, the end of August. Now that I’m on a roll, I actually really enjoy podcasting.
Hobby: I love refinishing old, junky looking furniture. Seeing and pulling out the potential in something is so fulfilling. I also enjoy creating new items from other things or old wood. My favorite project so far is a pair of bookshelves that used to be closet doors. I painted them, added some Plexiglass to the tops, and they are hanging on metal brackets in my living room.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Set aside a time every day for “Jesus time.” It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I just grab my coffee, Bible, and journal first thing every morning. Sometimes, I read a lot, sometimes a little, and sometimes I just journal. It helps me to center my mind on Jesus and truth rather than get caught up in stress, drama, and business.
Be in community with other believers. We need to know and be known deeply. Doing life with other people who love Jesus has been vital to my spiritual health.
Be aware of the lies in your head. Invite the Holy Spirit to sort through the things you believe about yourself, God, and others. Take time to analyze your thoughts and figure out if they are true or not. Speak truth to yourself even if you don’t believe it right away.
“Speak truth to yourself even if you don’t believe it right away.”
Favorite person in scripture? My favorite person is the Apostle Paul. His writing style used to really irritate me, but as I’ve read and re-read the epistles, I feel like I’ve caught a glimpse of his heart. Here is a man who excelled at religious behaviors and knowledge, yet he knew that all of that was worthless. Paul constantly called out legalism and false teachers who were preaching works. At the same time, he exhorted the churches to know and experience Jesus Christ. He knew that when we meet Jesus, everything on the inside of us will begin to change. And that inward change will transform our outward behavior as well. We won’t follow a religious checklist anymore, we will be a new creation.
“He knew that when we meet Jesus, everything on the inside of us will begin to change.”
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I want them to know that God exists, that He is close, and that He is on our side. I hope that people will be encouraged to seek for Him while recognizing that the god in their head might not actually be the Real God.
“I hope that people will be encouraged to seek for Him while recognizing that the god in their head might not actually be the Real God.”
Favorite holiday? I really love the Christmas season. It can get busy, but we try to fill it with simple traditions in our little family. I keep things minimal but special. It’s easy to go over the top and just be exhausted with all the effort so that it’s no longer fun. For example, we always take a night to drive around and look at Christmas lights. The kids put their pjs on and bring a special Christmas snack, and we drive through neighborhoods. We also cut down a live tree at a tree farm where they have horse drawn wagon rides to take you out and back. I love the smell of a live tree, and I put up with the needle mess.
A goal you have? I want to raise my kids to be compassionate and to see other people. Not only to see needs, but to be active in helping meet those needs. When I was a child, I was very shy. I told myself stories at night where I was the heroine, but in real life I would never do anything that might get me noticed. I was great at second guessing myself and as a result missed a lot of opportunities that I regretted. My goal is to encourage my children to act in love without a second guess.
“I want to raise my kids to be compassionate and to see other people. Not only to see needs, but to be active in helping meet those needs.”
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: We eat a lot of donuts. I love fresh donuts and am always happy for an excuse to stop at our local bakery. We celebrate the first day of school like this, and the last day, and many random days in between.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I’m really curious as to why God doesn’t get more involved with the injustice that happens on earth, specifically relating to the way people abuse Christianity and use religion to control others.
What does your morning routine consist of? Now that school is back in session, my alarm goes off at 5:45am so that I have a chance to enjoy some coffee and Jesus time before the crazy starts. Then, I shower, pack lunches, get the kids together, and we are all out the door by 7:20am. I usually remember to grab a piece of peanut butter toast as I’m leaving along with my thermos of coffee to wash it down.
What is on your nightstand? My lamp, a few pairs of earrings that I forgot to put away, my lip balm, a picture from one of my kids, and my worry-rock. It’s a super smooth rock that I found on Lake Superior and rubbing it helps to ground me if I’m feeling anxious and can’t sleep.
Define Christianity in a sentence: Christianity is a restoration of the relationship we were made to have with God and of the person we were created to be, all made possible by Jesus Christ.
For more Christy:
Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/looking_for_the_real_god My podcast is also available for listening and downloading from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LetMeBeFoolish/
Until next time, keep witnessing!