*Mary Katherine (MK) Backstrom is a blogger who became a viral sensation after her “Christmas magic” mess-up video was viewed 80 million times across social media and led to appearances on The Ellen Show, The Today Show, and New York Times.
Given her newfound notoriety, MK used her uplifting voice to become an inspiring award-winning author. Releasing on August 3rd, through her newest book “Holy Hot Mess,” she reveals her raw honesty and humor and her insightful perspectives on family, faith, mental illness, and other various topics that often plague the hearts of believers. Her mission is to allow readers to celebrate wherever they are in their journey with God and to rest in the assurance that He uses each “mess” in our lives to bring us closer to Him and shape us in His likeness.
EURweb.com caught up with MK Backstrom to talk about her new book and why it is essential to embrace our imperfect lives.
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EUR: You are a mommy blogger; what inspired you to start blogging? How did blogging lead you to write this book?
MK: The journey to publishing is always so interesting. I feel that every author that I have met has a different story. For me, “Mom Babble” (her first book) was published with Abingdon Press. I had an editor named Karen Longino, who I became good friends with, and I respected her work. She ended up moving to Hachette Book Group about the same time my Christmas spirit video went viral, and I ended up on Ellen. I became represented by a wonderful literary agency named Yates and Yates. So my career was on the upswing about the time this respected editor moved to a large publishing house. It all fell in place in a way that I just knew I wanted to work with them, and so we sent the book over to Hachette exclusively and asked if they wanted to work with us, we put a deal together, and the book was on its way.
EUR: What inspired the “Holy Hot Mess” title?
MK: The title represents my life. I am a southerner, and I say ‘hot mess’ a lot, and I wanted to reflect that even messy people have to work at our lives every day, and that was the message I wanted to drive home, and I felt very qualified to make it.
EUR: Why was it important to you to write this book to show Christians that they can still be a work in progress? Many Christians feel that they have to be perfect creatures in Christ, which is not a reality.
MK: Right, and it’s never going to be. I think the more honest we are about our rough edges and the more honest we are about our messes and mistakes, [if] having those conversations with one another, especially in the body of Christ, it’s going to create a more authentic and deep community, which is good for our spiritual growth. Having conversations about mistakes does not make them go away but having conversations about them enables us to do that whole iron versus iron, learning from one another and growing. I feel like anytime we’re withholding that authenticity from our community, we are robbing ourselves of a lot of growth and true friendship.
EUR: People think that if they are a mess that they can’t be holy? Why do you feel that is a misconception on how Jesus sees us?
MK: Right, because wherever the spirit of the Lord is, that’s holy, we are redeemed every day. I think it’s a lie that Satan’s tries to feed us because if he can convince us that we have to work to be close to God and that our messes keep us from Him, then he keeps us in this hamster wheel of trying to be perfect instead of trying to be close to God. That’s what I want to change the narrative about, and that’s ‘Hey, just because you’re messy, does not mean God is not [working in you].
EUR: Chapter six describing how you don’t always fit in with the church body, and as a result, many people suffer from church hurt. What advice would you give those people to encourage them to still try and be a part of the body of Christ despite experiencing church hurt?
MK: This might not be popular. I would redefine what church looks like biblically. A church is a body of believers that doesn’t have to be in a building, although I will admit that it is easier to find believers when we go to a building. But if you are recovering from trauma in the church and you still have that hurt, well find a group of believers you feel safe with and regularly meet with them because where two or more are gathered, that’s where the spirit of the Lord is and that is a church. I think there is wisdom and benefit from going to a regular corporate church, but baby steps will get you there. If that is meeting with your brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t give that up because they’re your lifeline.
EUR: You speak about postpartum depression and mental health, and you point out in your book that you are a survivor of sexual abuse. Many believers are conditioned to think that therapy is not needed if they go to church. Can people have Jesus and go to therapy?
MK: Yes, yes, I survive on three things, therapy, psych meds, and Jesus, and I make no qualms about that. I want to get this message out there and talk about it so candidly that mental illness is just as significant a disease as cancer, and I have had both. I survived cancer, and I know what that took. It took physicians, expertise, and it took a treatment plan. And if my mental illness is a chemical imbalance that is causing me to have maladaptive life problems, why would I not [seek out] healers those same gifted physicians for solutions. I believe God uses miracles through healers, and I don’t think that mental illness is not an effect of a lack of faith.
Paul talks about having lived with a thorn in his side his whole life. A lot of people believe that he struggled with depression and anxiety as well. Still, he leaned into God and knew that was just something he would have to rely on God because he would continue to struggle with; [God] never said he was going to be healed from it. Hence, as a cancer survivor and as somebody who lives with mental illness, I think it’s important for us to understand that faith will get you through, but sometimes God does miracles through physicians, and that’s not to discount what He is doing in your life.
EUR: You share how important it is for Christians not to shrink back. How can our vulnerabilities aid in helping to bring others to Christ?
MK: I will tell you, and I think most people will agree that when you bring your brokenness to the table, that’s when you understand the fullness of the gospel. When somebody appears to be perfect and has their life together, from the outside looking in, people wonder, ‘Of course Jesus loves that person’ look at them; they have their life together, but where do I belong? The truth of the matter is all of us are messy, we all working up the hill against [a sinful] nature, we all have struggles. But if we are honest, then we see our own lives reflected in one another, we see what God is doing in your life, and we’re encouraged He might do it in mine. Vulnerability is the key to deep relationships, and if the body of Christ is going to learn from each other, we have to start there.
EUR: What is the biggest takeaway you want people to have when they read your book?
MK: Thank you for asking me that because I think that is my favorite question. I want people to know that just because their lives do not look perfect and just because they’re messy, it doesn’t mean that God is absent from their lives. God is there, He is in the thick of it, and He’s at work right now. It’s hard to see when you are in the middle of your mess, but in time you can get perspective and look back and say, ‘Oh my gosh, His fingerprints are all over that, I can see what He was doing.’ The message is pretty simple, God is in the mess, and you are a messy person, and God is still with you in the mess. It’s just an encouragement, an affirmation that you don’t need to be perfect for God to be present.