Series 24: For The Love Of Faith Icons | Episode 03
Laughing Through Walls of Fear: Patsy Clairmont
It’s full steam ahead in For the Love of Faith Icons, and listen—grab your pens and your Kleenexes, because Jen’s dear friend Patsy Clairmont is equal parts wisdom and pure sunshine (and we want her to adopt us). A beloved speaker and author, Patsy is a founding member of the Women of Faith conferences, which Jen credits as changing the way she thought about women in ministry (Christian women can be *gasp* funny!). Patsy knows a thing or two about opening up and sharing from her own lived experiences to help someone else. Today she tells us about her dark days battling with agoraphobia and how, when she determined to change her mindset, she was able to step out of her house and onto dozens of stages a year to impact countless lives. And for those of us wondering how we can begin to make a difference in our world, Patsy gently pushes us to keep our eyes open, to flex our empathy muscles, and to be around people who are different from us—because what’s when we remember, as she says, “the pure thrill of being alive.”
Jen: Everybody, welcome, welcome. Jen Hatmaker here, your very happy host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show.
We’re in a series right now called For the Love of Faith Icons. We are talking to men and women who have served us and taught us and ministered to us and led us for decades. They’ve pioneered, and they’ve plowed up ground where there was no path that a bunch of us are now walking on.
Today is so special. It is so special. You lucky listeners, my guest today is someone that I had the immense privilege to get to know a few years ago in my work as a speaker. In I guess it would have been 2015, I got this phone call, and they said, “Jen, we want to know if you are interested in joining the last season, the farewell tour of Women of Faith.” Well, okay, if you have not been around Women of Faith, Women of Faith is iconic. Those women did something that had never been done. They opened up a whole new space that I now live and work in, so I was so overwhelmed and intimidated and incredibly flattered and just freaked out.
And that is when I met Patsy and Thelma and Luci and Marilyn and this whole incredible Women of Faith crew of all these women in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. I toured with them for a whole year, and it was honestly one of the highlights of my life. I can start talking about that and talk about it for twenty-five hours and never quit. Shenanigans! They’re so ornery, they’re so naughty and just hilarious and wild and oh, they loved me well and they served me well.
Okay, okay, I’m blathering because today we have one of them. Patsy Clairmont is on the show today, and talk about a master communicator. I’m serious. Like, I have sat in many arenas now with Patsy and listened to her talk, and it’s like being in a masterclass, like, This is how you do it, Jen. I was constantly learning from her. Golly, she’s been doing this for decades, speaking to crowds across the globe. She’s written almost forty books. She has reached millions of people during the course of her speaking and writing career. We’re going to talk about the things she overcame to be in that place. Like, she really suffered and is a testament to what it looks like to overcome. So she’ll talk really candidly about that today. I cannot wait for you to spend time with her.
If you have never heard Patsy, if you’ve never been in a room with her, if you’ve never sat in her teachings, you’re going to be delighted and charmed today, okay? Just mark my words. I told her after we finished recording, I’m like, “Patsy, that conversation was packed.” And it was. It was absolutely packed with instruction and counsel and advice and goodness. I mean, just buckle up, because you are lucky that you are here today.
She is so incredibly dear to me, so please enjoy my conversation with the wonderful, delightful Patsy Clairmont.
Well, it is my great delight to welcome you to the show, Patsy, I love so much. Hi, good morning.
Patsy: Good morning. I love you back, all over the place.
Jen: Oh, I just feel so lucky to be sitting here in my office talking to you this morning. You mean so much to me, and we’ll get into it, but I’m so grateful that you said yes to this. I really, really wanted you in the series.
I’ve told my listeners a lot about the arc of your work and your ministry. Of course, tons of us have followed you for so, so long. You’ve been such a bright spot for a long time, which is really saying that you have managed to serve all of us so well and for so long with encouragement and wisdom. We are grateful people.
I’m curious, right off the bat, before we dig into some other stuff I would love to hear, what are you doing right now? Like, talk about the season of life that you’re in this minute, and what is exciting for you, and what is inspiring you, and what field, where is the wind at your back right now?
Patsy: Well, first of all, thank you, Jen, for your warm and kind words. I have been around the block several times. I’ve been in ministry for forty years, so I’ve seen and met a lot of people along the way, which has really enriched my journey and helped me to personally develop and grow. So that’s been an exciting aspect of it.
Today I have the pure delight and privilege of being able to invest into other people as they move through their journey. So I’m doing quite a bit of cheerleading, some people call it coaching. I am not a credentialed coach, but I’m a very experienced journeyer.
Jen: Yes, you are.
Patsy: What I do is I try to help people get ahold of their story, and the reason I do that is it’s so important, first of all, for personal therapy. The more we’re able to take ahold of our own story, the more we’re able to be authentic and to enter each day with a sense of who we are in this now moment as we’re still developing. I believe there’s never a point, as long as there’s breath in your body and one brain cell that’s still hopping along, that we cannot continue to grow and to learn.
Jen: I love that. I’ve learned that from you for years. I’ve watched you open up whole new channels and start whole new projects and teach in completely new and innovative ways and it’s inspired me so much that there is really no such thing as a rut, or there’s no such thing as stuck, or there is no such thing as too late. You have modeled and mentored that for me and so many of us.
I’m curious what your coaching looks like. Like, what does that look like in practical terms? How are you coaching people, and what is the format for this piece of your work?
Patsy: Well, we’re doing it in sections of four online visits. We start with full interview pages that people fill out to give me a head start, so we don’t have to delay things by getting to know each other. But I can take what I’ve already figured out from what they’ve written and move forward from there. I think forward is such an important part of our journey.
Jen: So are people coming to you primarily to coach them as speakers and storytellers? Does it look like coaching toward writing and printing and publishing? I also know you have an entire branch of art. Does some of it look like art self-expression, or is it all the above?
Patsy: Well, it’s really all of the above, because what I encourage them to do is to identify their gifts, because there’s a reason that God gave [us our gifts] and it wasn’t to allow them to sit in a corner, packaged up. He wants us to unwrap the gift, because the gift is not only valuable now, but I believe it has an eternal legacy. I believe that gift will be operational when we step into the presence of Christ, so that gift is a powerful force, because it was designed by an eternal God who has our best interest in mind. When we function in it, it leaps our ability, it upgrades our internal dialogue, and it promotes in us the best we can offer.
Jen: That’s great. I cannot agree more. You’re beating a drum that I love to beat also, and there is such abundant life inside that realm, inside the realm of giftedness and empowered talent that everyone has. That’s not just for a few people. That’s all of us. We’re just endowed with so much, so many unique things to bring to earth, but man, to put that yes on the table and move into that space, it’s hard to put a price tag on it, because I can only speak personally. For me, that’s when I felt like I’ve sparked to life and I went, Oh this, this is what it feels like to do what I was made to do and to do it in God’s power.
Patsy: I love that idea, that’s where the spark is. And that’s where the affirmation comes, here in your gift, when that joy rises up in you and what you’re doing.
I tell people you can take a test for your gifts, but the best way to identify them is to look back over your life and ask yourself, What have other people told you consecutively, all your life, with one not knowing what the other one had said, about what you do well? Often, what we do well is so natural to us because it’s a gift. We didn’t earn it, we didn’t think it up. It was there, placed in us by the Lord, that we don’t always consider it a gift. We think, Oh, that I’ve always done that. Or, That old thing? When in actuality, when you understand that it’s your privilege to carry this gift, and that it’s more expansive than you can believe, that’s when it gives you the freedom to explore it and to own it.
Jen: I couldn’t possibly agree more.
So let’s go back just a hair, because well, you have written an astonishing amount of books, It’s almost forty, right? Am I right on that?
Patsy: Yes. Well, it’s definitely over thirty, and that’s all. I stopped counting because I [went], Surely I didn’t have them just to say…, but I did. I just go on and on.
Jen: So do I. I remember after my maybe eighth book, I said definitively—and I meant it, I was being genuine—”Well, that’s it. I’m done being a writer because I don’t know anything else. I’ve said everything I know, and there isn’t anything else to say.” And then somehow, a miracle, I found more words.
I want to ask you this, because you and I share this, we love words. We do. I’m curious how the love of words and reading and literature and books found you? Like, when did this start for you?
Patsy: It found me in desperation. It found me at the darkest hour, in the most difficult place, when I was hanging on by a thread emotionally and mentally. And it began to feed me, the reading of good literature, the taking in of words, the delight and privilege of dancing with the writers in the desperation of my life. I didn’t know I could find joy in words and the way that they were said that there were certain writers that spoke to my needs and spoke my language. And that was thrilling to me.
I loved books so much, I opened a little bookstore in my home, because I was unable to function outside in the real world at that point. I started a little bookstore in my home so I could read the books before anybody bought them.
Now, the limitation to that is you can’t eat peanut butter while you’re reading, it’ll get it on the pages and then eh, there goes your sales. But I was able to begin a journey with words through desperation for answers. Because when you get desperate enough, you listen better.
Jen: That’s right.
I wonder if I could ask you—you’ve been really open about that, with your life and with your story and what you’ve wrestled through. I’ve heard you speak about it with such candor and sincerity, and it meant a lot to me to hear you tell the truth.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that to my listeners who maybe haven’t heard it, the really difficult season of your life, particularly—as you just alluded to—as you grappled with agoraphobia. Because it’s hard for us to connect the Patsy that we know and love now with that Patsy who couldn’t even go to the grocery store.
I wonder if you could talk about that time in your life, just a little bit. Maybe what brought you into that place and then ultimately what started bringing you out of it?
Patsy: Well, I had no boundaries in my life as a young person. I was a rebellious child, and that rebellion just doesn’t happen. It’s usually created out of a reaction to pain.
Patsy: I entered into the rigors of life with an abandon that set me up for trouble.
There’s a reason that boundaries are good to have. They help protect us. Now, if we’re not careful, we build walls, and then that isolates us. This thing about balance [is] it’s a lifetime opportunity for employment, let me tell you. One minute you’ve got it right, and the next minute you’ve stepped over some line.
But along the way, I was a high school dropout and a teenage runaway. I was married by the time I was seventeen. Les and I had been around each other for just a matter of a few weeks before we actually married. We never had a date until our wedding night. We lived six hundred miles apart, so the opportunity wasn’t there, or we would have taken it.
He was as rebellious and boundary-less as I was. We were really disconnected, trying to find connection. We identified with each other’s weaknesses, but we failed to realize that’s what we were going to live with unless somebody changed. And gratefully, both of us found some answers and hope, but it began a long, hard journey. I married Les right after I turned seventeen. He had just turned eighteen. So to say we had a lot of maturity between us would be ridiculous. But we had tremendous insecurity that each of us brought in, and we came in with these packages of neediness. I needed someone who would protect me, and he needed someone to protect.
He was brought up in a violent home, and his mother was very abused by his father. His longing was to protect her, and he was too little. So he grew up with the need to protect someone, and I came along needing protection. So that’s kind of what drew us to each other initially.
We married, and when I was twenty, I gave birth to our first child. After giving birth, I went into a depression, and from the depression came anxiety attacks. And from the anxiety attacks, I moved into agoraphobia. It does not have to be that way. If you’re having anxiety attacks, don’t think the next step is agoraphobia. I just didn’t realize what steps of wellness look like, so I didn’t have resources available to me at that time. I didn’t even know my condition had a name, and I fanned the flames of my fear by giving into it.
Patsy: And that’s one of the things I tell people who are struggling: you have a choice what you think about. [In] your mind, you’re able to change channels. Scripture speaks of it as learning, “How to set your mind.” Your mind can be changed and set so that you are not tormented or encouraged to indulge your weakness or your insecurities.
Jen: I really appreciate you saying that, that our minds and our thoughts are powerful, and to a huge degree, we have control over them. We really do have this empowered way to move through that anxiety.
How did you grab ahold of that runaway train? What were the lifelines sent to you, or that you grabbed onto, that ultimately pulled you out of the mire?
Patsy: Well, it started with books and reading, so we’re back to that thing about words and how I gained a passion for them. My passion for words came out of the fact that God gave me hope through the books people had written, and then also through God’s Word, which began to give me counsel. One of the names of our God is Wonderful Counselor. He began to speak to me through the scriptures, but I didn’t always know how to make the application.
Someone I was talking to on the phone recommended someone else for me to talk to on the phone, who became my friend, and for that season of my life, a mentor. She began giving me help, like just listening to me, praying for me, reading scripture over me, and encouraging me to listen to radio broadcasts that would uplift my spirit.
We have such a choice in life, and we have so many great resources available to us. I just signed up for a new Bible program called Dwell, where there’s different readers from all over the world, and they read the scriptures, and it’s just beautiful. I love how that stabilizes me and directs me for the day.
Jen: Oh, how wonderful. Okay, I will link to that, everybody listening, if you would like to hear more, discover more about that. What a great idea.
It’s so interesting, because now, of course, fast forward a few decades and you’ve literally been speaking to people all over the world. [It’s] so funny to come from such a small, inhibited space, because you have now met people from literally every walk of life. I can’t imagine a type of person that you have not loved or served or minister to or met in some way.
I’m curious—and there’s probably a billion answers to this—what have you learned from so much travel? I mean, oh my goodness, could you even try to imagine how many flights you have been on? [What you have learned] from your travels that you maybe wouldn’t have learned if you never found your way out of that house all those years ago. What is it that has meant the most to you in this huge scope of humanity, that you have now had access to in a million different settings in a million different cities?
Patsy: Well, I would have to say having community has been extremely important to me. When you travel all the time, you have to be so deliberate about it, because you start to have disconnects in the community you’ve had and known in your home territory, and suddenly you’re out and about and there’s a disconnect when you come back. So you have to be very deliberate in gathering your people or placing yourself in the midst of others who love you and know you and will have your best interest in mind.
I guess some of the things that I’ve learned, like when I was with Women of Faith—and I was with them for the twenty years that we ministered as a team, the team became the community for me. It became church. It became the people who spoke into my life. One of those [women], Luci Swindoll, made me think in ways that expanded my territory mentally, and helped me to understand that rather than thinking about how threatening it was to go out all over the world, what a joy it was and all the things I’d learn and all the stories I could collect. I had never seen it in that way, and that really opened up new passage ways for me, so to speak.
When they said, “We’d like you to go to Africa,” I have to say my first answer was, “Heavens, no.” Because that was my natural defense mechanism. But my husband said to me, “Patsy, I am realizing that I have too many disabilities to ever make that trip. Would you go for me?”
Jen: Wow. Of course. You just can’t say no to that.
Patsy: No. No, you cannot. And so I went, and it was a glorious trip. Five flights to get there, the last one by a bush pilot that I think was about seventeen years old. She said before we went up, “Why don’t we pray?” I didn’t know exactly why she was doing that, but they couldn’t even put the luggage on the same plane with us because we were so heavy, we were enough [of a] load. They had to drive the luggage in, but we landed on a dirt path with a herd of elephants waiting for us.
Jen: Wow. No way.
Patsy: It just was so far out of my comfort zone and something I will treasure all the days of my life.
Luci not only opened me up to that. I can remember one night, I left a door open in Africa that allowed the rain to come in and soak my journal, and I just felt like it was ruined. Luci said, “Bring me that journal.” I took it to her, and it was all warped from the moisture, and she said, “Isn’t this wonderful?” I looked at her like she was crazy. And she said, “You’ll never be able to look at this without remembering the night the rains came. You’ll be able to hold this and feel the excitement and the thrill of having been there. And what you saw will all come back to you.”
It really helps you to be around people who have a different way of looking at things than you do, to help you open up more to the pure thrill of being alive.
Jen: Gosh, Luci really is one of the greats in that regard, isn’t she?
Patsy: She is.
Jen: Just one of the greats. For everybody listening, if you are unfamiliar with Luci Swindoll, she is just a real force of nature. We’re lucky to share planet space with her. I was in her house one time, and that was before I understood what journaling meant to her. I know it means so much to you, and it means so much to her. And she showed me shelf, after shelf, after shelf of the most beautiful journals you’ve ever seen in your life. She’s written virtually every day of her life. Isn’t that right?
Patsy: Yes. She writes every day. And if you ever questioned [anything], if she was in your vicinity and you have a question about what you were doing, ask her, she’ll look it up.
Jen: Yeah. It’s like a library history. She’s just so special. She’s meant so much to me, also.
Jen: I want to go back to something you were saying earlier, because we were talking about how a great deal of your work is very intentionally—and even formally at this point—investing in other people, in other men and women, in their gifts and talents, in their communication.
I would love for you to speak to those of us listening. It’s time for us to take up the mantle of investment, investing in our peers, investing in our neighbors and communities, investing in the generation behind us. And for some reason, this is a stumbling block for a lot of us. I don’t know if it’s because we feel inadequate or we feel unprepared. I don’t know if it’s that we have some inflated idea of what mentorship is supposed to look like, as if we’ve solved all the problems and we’re no longer human. Maybe it’s time.
But for those of us who are really curious and interested, what does it look like to be a really good friend, to be a really good neighbor, to invest in the people that God has sent to us and around us? How would you advise us to start that engine if we’ve got some hangups here?
Patsy: I would say, first of all, don’t be up in people’s faces telling them what to do, but tell them what you’ve done that’s made a difference, because they are looking for hope. That’s why your story matters. Your story matters because they want to know: how did you survive that difficult marriage? How did you survive that sickness of your child? How did you serve? They want to know, because they’re looking for a hope for their own story.
You have more to say than you could imagine that would be of great value to someone, but you need to say it in ways that people can receive it. And they usually are open if you start with, “Well, what I went through was this, and these are some of the things that helped me make the journey through it.”
I’m asked all the time about the most valuable thing I learned in my agoraphobia, and I tell them that I learned that God has given us a will that’s stronger than our emotions. Even when we have lots of feels, we can choose to do the right thing, and our feelings will eventually, maybe not immediately, catch up with our choice that we made.
Jen: I love that.
Patsy: I think those are the types of things [to do to start investing]. Keep your ears open for the best of what others are saying, so that when someone is stuck in a way you haven’t experienced, you can relate to them. “Well, I heard so-and-so say this. It could be of help in some way.” Make it so you’re the expert, because none of us have all the answers.
Jen: That’s right.
Patsy: There’s never a point we don’t need to learn something new, we don’t need to grow more, or we don’t need to apologize. Kindness goes a long way, a long way. Luci used to tell me that all the time. I love a kind person, and I used to think in my earlier days, Why does she always say that? Today I understand fully. Kindness goes a long way.
Jen: It sure does. Golly, we’re starving for it right now.
Jen: We’ve got a culture starved for some ordinary human kindness that doesn’t look spectacular, or over the top, necessarily, or newsworthy. It’s just the stuff of everyday life. Kindness matters, and it finds its way into these lonely spaces where almost nothing else can.
I couldn’t agree with you more on that, and I can look at my experience and some of the big, grand gestures that people have made for me or toward me, and while lovely, they haven’t had the same impact as my memories of little, small, kind moments that cut through the melee and managed to go minister straight to my heart. We have that power every day—I mean, literally, every day—to bring ordinary kindness to the people that we love and that we work with and that we live by and that we live with.
Luci said, “I love kind people.” I do, too. I also love funny people, which you know. You know this, but for everybody listening, I attended what I think was—and I could be a little bit fuzzy on the year—the first, the very first, or the second season of the Women of Faith tour. I think it was 1997.
I was in Tulsa, and we were at a big arena in Tulsa. You were there with the team, and I just didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know who you guys were. I’d never been to a lady conference, and I thought, Well, this is going to be terrible. I mean, I really did. I had to go, because Brandon was the youth pastor at our church and our church was sending a whole van full of women.
And then, of course, I remember where I was sitting in the arena, and I had never, ever heard women talk like you guys talked. First of all, everybody was comedian-level funny. I did not expect that. There was a whole bit on mammograms, and I honestly think I wet my pants. It was so funny and entertaining. First of all, I didn’t know Christian women could do that. I didn’t know that we could bring our humor to bear. I didn’t realize that was allowed. I thought we only had to be incredibly academic and sober-minded. I didn’t realize that funny was possible. That was the first thing.
And then of course, I did not expect for you, specifically, but also the whole team, to talk so candidly about your stories. It was so vulnerable. I mean, it was all in there—depression, everything was in the mix. You and the team talked about so many sorrows and sufferings that we all have, but we were tucking those away, those weren’t fit for human consumption. I didn’t know that.
Way back then, I was twenty-two, I might’ve been twenty-three, tops. You set an example for me at the very, very beginning of my adult life that has since, obviously, completely informed my own work, my own ministry, the way that I serve, the way that I love and communicate and write and speak. And that means so much to me.
I want to talk about the humor part, because to me this is one of your tip-top gifts. I mean, you had to have been born this way, because nobody can be as funny as you are. It’s just a gift to be as just naturally hilarious as you are in a room.
Can you talk about when you first found out you were funny? When did you know that you could use that? When did you put that into rotation as part of your work? And how has humor, ultimately, over the course of your life, served you? How and why is humor such a huge piece of the equation still?
Patsy: Well, humor has been extremely important to me, because I’ve needed so badly to laugh. I knew how to cry, I knew how to feel sad, I knew how to despise myself, I knew those things well. So when laughter came back to me—I had been addicted to a number of things, and one was prescription drugs. I was on four tranquilizers a day. When I weaned myself off of those, one day, I heard myself laugh. I had not heard that sound come out of my body for several years. When I heard it, I thought, Oh my goodness, that was me! And I laughed, and there was something about the laughter that allowed some joy to seep in.
There is something so healthy and medicinal about laughter. It clears your brain, it releases tension, it makes you feel friendlier towards yourself and toward other people. Laughter is such an important thing for my mental health, my emotional wellbeing, and my relational connections.
Jen: Me too.
Patsy: I love to enter a room and see the audience sitting there fairly detached one from another, because I know in a few moments, music is going to make them friendlier. And then laughter from the speakers is going to make them instant friends. It’ll be a positive emotion that strangers are sharing together, opening up the possibility for connection, for friendship. I love that. It is a gift we offer our people, because it opens them up not only to people around them, but it opens them up to what’s being said in a way that they may not have initially received it.
It is a great—I don’t know, I hate to use the word tool—gift and softener of the human heart and the natural defense mechanisms that we have inside us to make space for some grace, and receiving storytelling and insights that cause us to laugh also helps us to learn.
Jen: Absolutely. Oh my goodness, it’s my favorite way to learn. It is the most reliable way for anyone else, any teacher of any sort, to break through my defenses. Which is why you see, we both see, so many times women in a room with us who go from laughter to tears in about thirty seconds. It opens us up to feel and to listen and to learn.
Let me ask you this, because here in the course of our conversation, you’re so open about who you are, the things that you’ve conquered, what you struggled through, and you just dropped it in. It’s so honest. I’m thinking about the woman listening who has maybe similar things, maybe addictions of any kind of substance. It could be fear or depression, anxiety, or a completely different battery of sorrows and struggles. But she is pretending—she is lonely inside of that pain. That’s not something that she feels confident enough to say out loud or to invite community, or even just one friend, into. Vulnerability is scary.
I wonder what you could tell us about what you’ve learned, about that process of being vulnerable, because you’ve stood on stages in front of 20,000 people and said the most vulnerable things I’ve ever heard. What have you learned about that and how would you instruct those of us who still feel like we may be living inside a prison of pretend?
Patsy: First of all, I would say you can be too vulnerable. You can be too vulnerable too quickly, and make yourself a victim. So making sure that you’ve done your own business before the Lord, and with yourself, and possibly and hopefully with wise ears and a caring heart to help guide you through and get the perspective—that’s going to be in your best interest.
Jen: That’s great.
Patsy: That’s when you’ve done your business, that what other people decide about what you’re saying is their business. And you don’t have to take it on, whether it’s positive or negative. That’s not easy, because we tend to absorb other people’s opinions as if they’re bottom line. The truth is the only bottom line is the Lord. When He speaks, we need to listen. It’s sort of like a mama who loves her child and says, “Don’t touch the stove,” and the child touches the stove. I’m thinking of my own firstborn, Marty. He was at the stove, and it had a glass window in it that got very hot when the oven was on. He was reaching for that glass, and I was running for him, and I was calling out the entire run, “Don’t touch the glass!” He looked at me, smirked, and put his hand against that little window. We do that. And what happens is you’re going to get burned.
We have to learn that many boundaries are put there for our safety, but when boundaries become walls, then they separate us from people, and people were part of God’s plan. Being able to interact with them in healthy ways was part of God’s plan for us, learning how to have social skills. Not all of us are as natural, Jen, as you are at being able to have that charismatic part of our personality that charms the heart of people. We have to learn skills that work, that are in our best interest and the best interest of others.
Certainly, one of the guidelines for that is kindness, the way we speak to another person, and the way they speak to us. If it’s hostile, if it tears and rips at your very soul, then you need to step back in a way and put up a wall in that area. Build a barrier, take refuge in the Lord. But it isn’t any person who speaks truth to you, because many times truth comes as a gift. And it can even come as a gift from an enemy. Isn’t that great?
Jen: Isn’t that great?
Patsy: I remember years ago, a gal invited me to join her at a restaurant for coffee. I was delighted, because I could never quite get this gal. I ran into her constantly at church, and I thought, This is a good thing. We’re going to be able to build a relationship that is more like two grown up people should have.
I met her, and she had a stack of books with her. She leaned across the table and she said, “Who do you think you are, that you would want to stand before other people when you’ve been such a failure?”
Patsy: Now, if I’d had any sense of maturity, I would’ve got up and left. But instead, I let her bear down on me for almost two hours.
Patsy: By the time I got home, I was in shreds. My husband could not believe that I did not stand up, take my lunch, and go home. But instead, I was so taken back, I was so unprepared, and I didn’t know what to do with all of what she was saying. And so I would say to others, “it’s really important you know who to open up your vulnerability to and who it is not safe with.”
Patsy: Because it can be very damaging to your psyche. If you’ve had someone that’s hurt you deeply, receive some counsel for that. Get that worked out so you know what to do in the future.
Do not isolate yourself. We were not meant to do life alone. One of the things that I have gone back to again and again is something Marilyn Meberg said to me that really captured the essence of what I knew, but I’d never heard it said so well, and that is, “Emotions don’t have brains.”
Patsy: You cannot build all your relationships and your feelings. You need to have brains involved, and emotions don’t have those. If all you have is emotions, you have a riotous life that’s hard to contain. So we need to be smart. We need to have a certain level of wellness and self-awareness, and we need to have the guidance of kindness in our interactions with others. If kindness isn’t there, we need to go home and ask, Why? What is this relationship that I am not kind, whether it is in my external actions or my internal actions? Am I jealous? Does she make me feel insecure? That’s my issue, not hers. You can get so much personal information that can lead to individual growth if we will look at it that way.
Patsy: And this is why I say, “Get ahold of your story, whether you want to write it for a book, write it for therapy, write it for your identity, write it for legacy for your family. And then if it’s in God’s plan, write it for ministry.”
Jen: I love it. That’s the greatest advice.
I want to ask you one last question before we wrap it up here. You wrote something on Twitter the other day. I love that you’re on Twitter, please never leave it. You redeem Twitter for me on the regular. You wrote, “One of my 2020 priorities is to ask the Lord to make space inside of me for the changes inside of others.” I thought about that for days. Can you talk more about that?
Patsy: Well, I think that as a well-seasoned believer—which is just a sweet way of saying, “Boy, am I old!”—you can forget what God saved you out of. You can forget the condition of your own heart. And you can get pedestaled into a place of believing you’re above certain things, which is foolishness, and sets us up for a great fall. Where we’re rescued is in the mercy of Christ. When you can remember your worst day, your worst thought, your worst choice, and how God rescued you out of that, how He redeemed it for purposes beyond belief to teach you sensitivity, He will use the worst of the worst for the best of the best.
Jen: That’s right.
Patsy: He will take that awful thing, and He will teach you all sorts of counsel. Ask Him to give you the counsel out of your own experiences, because that’s where you will be able to speak to another person with the greatest sense of believability, when it comes out of where you’ve been and what you’ve experienced. May we be people of mercy. The world doesn’t need one more critic, one more judge, or one more know-it-all. We need to be grace-filled, kind, spirit-directed lovers of people.
I have a dog that is really out of control. I got her that way. And all of my friends who experience her say, “Boy, you so deserve that dog.” I try not to take it too personally.
Patsy: But I do see a great deal of my willful self in her. I went for some regular care for the dog, and the doctor, the vet, said to me, “Patsy, I cannot believe this animal. When you first brought her here, in my mind, I thought, No hope. This animal is beyond hope. And now she’s like a whole new animal. I can’t believe the change in her.” To which I said to him, “Love makes a difference for all of us.”
Jen: It does.
Patsy: Love changes us. Love makes it safe to be a better version of who we were intended to be. I really believe that with all of my heart. God has put people in my life to love me in ways I didn’t know how to extend to other people. I don’t want to ever forget that.
Jen: Me neither.
Here’s the last little bit I want to ask you. These are three quick questions, I am asking everybody in the faith icons series these, just [answer off the] top of your head. The first one probably has a lot of answers so you can just pick one. Who is one of your biggest mentors in the faith?
Patsy: Florence Littauer was the first one that took me under her wing and saw something in me that others had missed.
Jen: Oh, yeah. I haven’t heard her name in a while. I had forgotten.
Patsy: She is in her nineties now and still sending me love notes.
Jen: Is she?
Jen: Oh, that’s so great. How about this? If you could ask God a question, maybe a single question at this point, do you have one? What would you ask?
Patsy: What would I ask God? Well, I think the obvious would be to say something like, “Why do children have to suffer?” But there isn’t an answer that would satisfy that in me, because I’m limited by my humanity.
Jen: That’s right.
Patsy: I would probably ask—this is really self-centered—“What will I be doing when I get to heaven?”
Jen: I like that. I’m curious.
Patsy: I am too.
Jen: I’m curious, too. I like that answer. I think that’s great. Here’s the last one. This is actually a question we ask every guest in every series as a final [question]. I actually got it from Barbara Brown Taylor. I don’t know if you’ve ever met her, but she is just a phenomenal faith leader. This question belongs to her, but you can answer it however you want. This can be as tender and sincere as the day is long, or it can be absolutely absurd. It’s up to you. But the question is: What is saving your life right now?
Patsy: That obnoxious little puppy that I adore, and the spirit within my husband that keeps him moving forward with so many obstacles in his way. He’s still telling crummy jokes, and he sings a lot.
Jen: I saw the video of you two throwing rings on each other’s reindeer hats just a couple of weeks ago, and I chuckled. How many years have you and Les been married?
Patsy: Well, in July, it will be fifty-eight.
Jen: That’s amazing.
Patsy: That’s what it comes down to. Throwing rings on reindeer antlers.
Jen: That’s it. I mean, that’s what keeps a marriage strong. That’ll get you to sixty for sure.
I want to tell you, and I’ve told you this before, but I want to say it again, how very much you have meant to me and you still mean to me. One thing that my listeners won’t ever know is the depth to which you cared for me, and loved me, and mentored me in a really, really dark season where everything felt so low and so lost and so confusing. I didn’t know who my friends in faith were, I didn’t know where to go. And I am telling you with all sincerity, the words that you spoke to me, the many, many times you put your hands on me and loved me and prayed for me and hugged me and held me close and held me fast, I’ll never forget it. You ministered to me when I needed it.
And so that’s not something that public eyes ever saw, that was private. That’s who you are, and that’s who you’ve always been. That season of being in ministry with you and in partnership with you, under your wing, will go down as one of the greatest gifts of my entire life. I know it. I don’t even know what’s to come in my life yet, but I already know that’s way up there at the top, so I want to thank you for the ways that you have loved me and served me and served and taught my generation. I’m such a lucky thing to know you and to be your friend.
Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for all that you have brought to bear in our generation, and the mark that you leave is so precious and so vast and so really unknowable, it’ll be fun to think about it together in heaven one day, just to see how far it went. I don’t even think we’ll never know. We’ll just never know. But I love you dearly. I thank you for loving me, and I thank you for being on the show today.
Patsy: I do love you. I do love you.
Jen: I told you, isn’t she just the cat’s meow? Oh, she’s such a joy. What I love about Patsy is that this fun, fiery woman that you see and know and love on a stage in front of tens of thousands of people, she is just the most sincere and genuine person. She is exactly the same behind the scenes as she is in front of people. She is the real deal, and she lives her faith beautifully. Her witness has meant so much to me, and I love her. I mean, I love her.
So over at jenhatmaker.com, we will have not only the transcript—if you’d like to see this entire interview written out for cut and pasting or just review, it’s always there for you—but we will also link to her social media accounts and golly, all of her books. Well, at least a bunch of them. I mean, my goodness. And her website, some of you may be interested in her coaching, so we’ll make sure you have all that in hand. That’s at jenhatmaker.com underneath the Podcast tab, and I’m happy to bring her to you.
Guys, this whole faith icon series is just lit up. There is so much more to come. Oh my goodness. I have had the greatest conversations with the greatest leaders. I’m pumped to bring you this entire series. So glad to be with you again. On behalf of Laura, our producer, and her amazing staff, and then of course, Amanda and I, we love you, we love to serve you, we love bringing this podcast week in and week out, and we appreciate your loyalty and your subscriptions and your comments and your reviews and your writings, all of that matters to us. None of it is lost on us, and we are so thankful. So if you love this episode, share it, grab the link and put it on your socials. Share the love of Patsy Clairmont.
Okay guys, more to come next week. See you then.