Today, I continue my ongoing series of conversations with published authors as I’m joined by Mary Katherine (MK) Backstrom, the animated and inspirational author of Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life. From a viral video to a book that helps all of us find God in our own personal messes, MK is the kind of person I’d love to have as a friend in real life! Enjoy! LMH
Mary Katherine, congratulations on the release of your delightful new book Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family.
I am wife to Ian, my college sweetheart, a mother of two, Holland (5) and Benjamin (6), and keeper of five animals and counting. We have a tendency of collecting creatures that need families. Hopefully, our circus of animals is complete with two cats (Chicken and Waffles), two dogs (Charlotte and Teddy Bear), and a horse named Milka. We reside in Sweet Home Alabama, where I was born and raised. Hopefully, this is where we settle down forever, but since I’m married to an adventurer, I try not to get to comfy.
I feel like I must start by asking about the video that went viral. Did you ever anticipate when you pulled out your phone and recorded this story what would happen next?
Lord have mercy, no. I was so hysterical with laughter that I could barely get the story out! I figured the only people who would enjoy that brand of crazy would be my family and closest friends. When I finished recording, I went to pick up my kids from school, and by the time I got home, there were several million views. Now, I had videos go viral before, but this was next level. Three days later, I got a call from Ellen’s people, who I promptly hung up on because I assumed it was as scam. Oopsie!
How would you describe the book to someone looking for wisdom in the complicated realm of family life?
I would say this book isn’t going to give you a path through life’s mess, but rather a friend who will journey into mess with you. This is more of an “I’ve been there, you aren’t alone” type of read than it is a prescriptive book of solutions. The reason for that, I think, is there isn’t any particular secret that will get rid of the brokenness in our lives. We are here on this planet, in these bodies, for the long haul, and mess isn’t going away. Which is kinda the purpose of grace. Thank God!
Your voice really shines through in your writing. Why this truly authentic approach – and is there anything you won’t share?
I have a few stories I keep guarded for the sake of others. Although I believe that anything I’ve experienced is my story to tell, there are people I love whose stories are intertwined with mine, and they aren’t quite ready for their trauma to be shared. I imagine with time some of those stories will make their way into a book, but I’ll leave the timing up to God.
If you could hand the book to a younger version of you and point her to one chapter, which one would you to tell her to read, and why?
Two Truths and a Lie, for sure. Young Me spent an awful lot of time believing the lies that Satan whispered into her ear. That she wasn’t lovable, that people didn’t care about her. I could have saved myself so much hurt and insecurity if I’d just listened to God’s voice, instead. But then, I wouldn’t have written a book. So, I guess that pain had a purpose after all.
How has accepting your own messiness helped you in your faith journey? What do you hope others might gain from hearing this unique perspective?
I am more secure in the fact that God loves me as I am. That I don’t have to make myself into a tidy, fake perfect person in order to deserve His grace. I don’t embrace mess in the sense that I want my sin to stick around forever, but I know that I’m broken and that I’m a work in progress, and that has lifted so much from my shoulders. I’m free to engage with the God who made me without guilt and shame. That’s been an incredible gift.
What’s been the most enjoyable or fulfilling part of this publication ride so far? What are your big dreams for what’s yet to come?
The best thing, by far, is hearing from my readers. The “I’ve been there” and “I thought I was alone” and “yes, omg–this is me!” Those affirmations are the most meaningful thing in the world to me. They tell me that my stories have purpose and that I am right where God wants me to be. My dreams? Honestly, I don’t know. I would never have dreamed up or imagined becoming an author, so I think I’ll leave the big ideas to God from now on. He always has better plans than I do. If I could gift myself something in the meantime, though…it would be contentment. Peace in the meantime. Trust that it’s all gonna work out. I think the idea of the American Dream has us all spinning our wheels, chasing more and more. I’ve already gotten more than I could have ever wanted. What I need is to be grateful with what I already have.