Anne Lamott: I remember making that leap of faith, of thinking, If I don’t decide for God, I’m so doomed anyway, the world is harsh and ugly and isolating and shaming and competitive. I didn’t have a clue what it meant, but I made the leap of faith and I thought, Well, I’ll figure it out as we go. And that’s what I did. That was the day my healing began.
God’s Path to Wholeness and Joy: Anne Lamott and Tabitha Brown – Episode #271
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Often, when we are in our most desperate, vulnerable state, looking for answers and help, God is our last resort, our final plea when nothing else is working. Psalm 30:2 says, “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me,” which reminds us that no matter where we’ve turned, however, we might’ve fumbled our plans, He will always help us pursue His path to wholeness and joy because it is never too late for us in His eyes. This week’s guests, author Anne Lamott and actress Tabitha Brown share their come-to-Jesus moments that guided them away from sickness and put them on a path to healing and wholeness that can only be found in the pursuit of the Creator.
First up, author Anne Lamott battled alcoholism and bulimia for years, and while extensively seeking help and resources, she found herself at a church that welcomed her with open arms. Through that experience, Anne began to discover the love that God had for her, despite her flaws and mistakes. Anne shares her journey to learning to love herself as God created her.
Anne: Hi, my name is Anne Lamott. I’m the author of Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage most recently, I think it’s my nineteenth book. I also wrote Help, Thanks, Wow, and Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird. I’m a Sunday school teacher. I’m a mother and a grandma. I got married at the age of sixty-five, three days after I got Medicare. I am so happy to be here with Jesus Calling.
I was a very anxious child. I just came the way I came, and that was very sensitive. In the fifties when I was coming up, there was a book called The Overly Sensitive Child, and it was for parents who were saddled with a child who really felt sadness and felt aware of how damaged people’s lives were. You know, in the fifties, there was no consciousness of equality or telling the truth or women’s rights to feel however they were feeling.
Women came to our house, my mom’s best friend—some of them had abusive husbands—they came with black eyes, and apparently, they’d all fallen down the stairs or walked into a cabinet. And so I learned not to see what was going on because it made my parents unhappy. I learned that to be so sensitive and for my heart to be so open caused my parents discomfort and shame. And so I tried to seal that off. When I couldn’t, I just felt very much like I was the problem in the family. And so my parents were atheists. My grandfather was a missionary in Japan. But I always found my way to Christian families.
In the fifties, if you had these positions or bad feelings or secret beliefs, you got sent from the table without eating. You went to your room without eating. Right? So, of course, I developed an eating disorder, too. Later, I was sixteen, the women’s movement burst forth, I started to understand that I could say what was true, that all the women were insisting on the right to be sad about some of what we had endured or been told about ourselves. We could be angry. We could be unaccommodating.
A Life-Changing Leap of Faith
I went off to college. I studied philosophy. I went to college for two years, and then I dropped out. But I started to read Kierkegaard. He writes about Abraham and Isaac on the mountain, where Abraham has made the decision that he’s going to sacrifice Isaac because God told him to. He has an understanding that if he doesn’t believe the word of God and the voice of God, he and his family are so doomed anyway that it doesn’t matter. And so he’s willing to because he makes that leap of faith.
And, of course, when he decides to be in alignment with the voice of God as it comes to him, then the angels appear and they say, “God has provided the lamb and you don’t have to sacrifice Isaac, and there’s a ram in the brambles” (Genesis 22:12–13).
I left that class and I remember making that leap of faith, of thinking, If I don’t decide for God, I’m so doomed anyway, the world is harsh and ugly and isolating and shaming and competitive. I didn’t have a clue what it meant, but I made the leap of faith and I thought, Well, I’ll figure it out as we go. And that’s what I did. That was the day my healing began.
“I remember making that leap of faith, of thinking, If I don’t decide for God, I’m so doomed anyway, the world is harsh and ugly and isolating and shaming and competitive, and and I did and I didn’t know what that meant, I didn’t have a clue what it meant. But I made the leap of faith and I thought, Well, I’ll figure it out as we go. And that’s what I did. But that was the day my healing began.” – Anne Lamott
A Moment of Conversion
I was really drunk for the next fifteen years, both in college and then on my own, trying to be a writer. I studied all different walks of life and, you know, Ram Dass and the Hebrew Bible and Thomas Merton, who I adored, and C.S. Lewis, who really, really, really was my bridge to Christianity—but also Hindu, Rumi, and anyone I could get my mitts on who talked about spirit. Eventually, when I was thirty-one, I was living on a houseboat that was about a ten by ten on the San Francisco Bay in Sausalito, and I was just drunk and bulimic and sick. I used to always go over to this flea market in the area of this wealthy county that was almost all people of color. 2,000 people in six churches, four of them Baptist, one of them St. Andrews Presbyterian, where I still go. And from this crummy, rundown church with this Charlie Brown Christmas tree out in front, I walked in, I got that Holy Spirit nudge. I could hear gospel music, which I’ve always loved, and I could hear the spiritual anthems I’d grown up on, both because my family loved like the Weavers and Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. I just went in and I sat there. And it was a tiny church, maybe forty people—there still are forty people. I didn’t want the Jesus stuff. I left before the sermons, but I sat there and the air was nutritious because they were there. They were about love, and they didn’t hassle me. They didn’t try to get me to study the Bible with them. They just got me water, the most Jesusy thing of all. And I kept coming back until finally, I felt Jesus chasing me down one day on the dock.
And finally, I just got tired of resisting Jesus. And I said to Him sort of bitterly, “Okay, fine.” That’s my beautiful moment of conversion, “Okay fine.” And then He rubs His hands together with glee and goes, “Oh, good, I am in.”
Finally, I just got tired of resisting Jesus. And I said to Him sort of bitterly, “Okay, fine.” That’s my beautiful moment of conversion, “Okay fine.” And then He rubs His hands together with glee and goes, “Oh, good. I am in.” – Anne Lamott
Put on the Good Glasses
Well, I got sober a year after I converted. And I stayed sober, which is really a miracle. I’m shy and odd, even though I have a public life. I’m an introvert, and I’m kind of an introvert who’s also a ham. I didn’t know how to write checks. I didn’t know how to keep a checkbook. I didn’t know I was bulimic. I didn’t know how to eat. I didn’t know how to keep food down. I weighed like thirty pounds less. I had heart problems as a result of my bulimia and anorexia. I had no self-love. I believed in God, but I believed in a God who is as disappointed as I was in me, right?
“I had no self-love. I believed in God, but I believed in a God who is as disappointed as I was in me.” – Anne Lamott
So that was a huge miracle, to find a God who thought I was just delightful.
Then I got to have a child by myself when I was thirty-five with no money. The father took off, and the miracle was that the father came back for Sam when Sam was seven. The miracle’s that Sam of course ended up with my disease of alcoholism and drug addiction, had a baby when he was nineteen, got sober when he was twenty-two, has stayed clean and sober and become a really wonderful father. And every step of the way, I just see miracles because I choose to.
“Every step of the way, I just see miracles because I choose to.” – Anne Lamott
There’s this guy who would help Bill Wilson get AA started in 1935. And he was not himself an alcoholic, he was a priest. But he said to Bill, “Sometimes I think that heaven is just a new pair of glasses,” and that changed my life. I heard that in 1987, I’d been sober a year, and it meant that I can walk around with these glasses, these bad glasses of judgment and seeing everything that really is not working for me, everything that is either annoying or infuriating or I can put on the good glasses and I can see God’s hand everywhere I look.
But, you know, what we also learned in sobriety, we learn to tell the truth no matter how unspiritual it makes you look. And we just laugh and we say, “I hate this.” We say it out loud, the truth will set you free. And laughter is carbonated holiness. So that’s a miracle.
“I can walk around with these glasses, these bad glasses of judgment and seeing everything that really is not working for me, everything that is either annoying or infuriating, or I can put on the good glasses and I can see God’s hand everywhere I look.” – Anne Lamott
Finding a Voice
My dad got brain cancer when I was twenty-three. He wrote a book about it, and I wrote a book about it. And my book was really finally coming out of the closet as both an extremely spiritual person and as an overly sensitive twenty-five-year-old child. It got published when I was twenty-six and, you know what? The right people loved it. And they said, “I’ve never said that out loud. I feel exactly like that. I’m so angry with my parents, and I love them so much. And I’m all mixed up, and I’ve never said that out loud. That gave me a kind of permission to say my truth.”
And then I just kept going. I wrote another book, and I told the truth, and I wrote about how if you’re a sensitive person, you kind of squint your eyes sometimes to hold back tears because it makes other people uncomfortable, and you find a balance of where you do sometimes squint it back and other times you share it. And as you grow and as you mature, as you get good therapy, as I discovered in twelve-step recovery, as I discovered as a maturing Christian, the way I am is the way God created me to be fearfully and wonderfully made.
You know, I picked up Jesus Calling the other day, just because I got that Holy Spirit nudge and I was feeling mentally ill. I felt like this over-caffeinated hummingbird of judgment and just unhappiness, really caffeinated unhappiness. And I happened to pick up the book and I can’t remember what day it was now, but it was March. And I picked it up and it just said, like Jesus says, “I bring that radical self-love. You want to be happy? Share that radical love, share that radical self-love. Just give it all away and you’ll feel Me. You want to feel Me? Go to where the poorest of the poor are.” And there are many ways of being poor. There are many kinds of living water.
And I went, “Oh, right. If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.”
Narrator: To learn more about Anne Lamott, check out her social media. And be sure to find her newest book, Dusk Night Dawn, at your favorite retailer.
Stay tuned to Tabitha Brown’s story after a brief message.
Jesus Listens: New Prayer Devotional from Sarah Young out Oct 5!
Many of us want to develop a deeper prayer life. In this new 365 day devotional, Jesus Listens, Sarah Young offers daily prayers based on Scripture that will help you experience how intentional prayer can connect you to God and change your heart. Learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample at jesuscalling.com/jesuslistens.
Narrator: Our next guest is actress and influencer Tabitha Brown, who shares her journey of following God’s call over her life, and how she begged Him for healing when faced with a mystery illness that was crippling her ability to follow her dreams. Now, Tabitha is living a fully vibrant, healthy, and joyful lifestyle, and she’s eager to share that joy with readers in her new book, Feeding the Soul.
Tabitha Brown: Hello there, I am Tabitha Brown. I am an actress. I am a vegan foodie, some people call me an influencer. I don’t really believe that. A lot of people know me for making plant-based or vegan food online and sharing inspirational videos and just trying my best to stay “me” and spread that love throughout the world.
I knew very early that I wanted to be an actress, and so I spent the rest of my life trying to figure out, How can I become that? And then in school, I did, of course, musical theater and plays and anything I could at church because I’m from a small town in North Carolina. Right? So there weren’t a lot of options if you wanted to be an actor. I didn’t know any actors other than what I saw on TV. And so community theater became something that was an outlet for me. And of course, in school and high school in the summertime, I did camps at the North Carolina School of the Arts. I would do short films, anything I could to perform.
When I originally graduated from high school, because I also used to make clothes, I went to school to study fashion design. I was there the first semester and I was like, This ain’t it. I’m supposed to be acting, I’m wasting time, and I called my daddy. I was down in Miami from North Carolina and had never even left my small town. And I called my daddy, I was like, “You know what, you need to come get me. I’m wasting my money and yours, and I’m supposed to be acting.” And so he was like, “All right, I’ll come down there and pick you up on Saturday morning.”
And he did. That was in, what, ’97? ’98? I started trying my best to pursue a career in acting and entertainment from that point. And so I applied for Columbia College in Chicago to pursue acting and study acting and theater. I went to Chicago, fell in love with the school, got accepted into the school, and was like, Yes, this is going to be it.
Two weeks later, after working all summer, saving up money and everything, maybe about two weeks before it was time to go to school, I got a letter in the mail that said, “Unfortunately, due to your financial aid…” I had gotten in design school, so they couldn’t approve my financial aid. I was no longer able to go to Columbia because my parents didn’t have that kind of money. And although I worked all summer to save money, I didn’t have that kind of money. And so I was like, “Okay, Lord, what am I going to do now?”
A Forgotten Dream
I remember my mom had a friend who had someone that lived in California. She had offered me if I ever wanted to move to California, I could rent a room. And so I was like, ‘Oh, I wonder if that option is still available? ‘
I called her and I was like, “Can I still come out and rent a room from you to move to California to pursue acting?”
She said, “Yes.”
And she didn’t tell me that it was going to be a little different when I got out there. But I moved there at nineteen, you know, in search of trying to figure this out. No goal in place, just a dream. I didn’t have anything figured out. I was just like, If I get to California, this is going to be it. So when I got here, I was not in L.A. I was down in Laguna in Orange County and nowhere near Hollywood. I was working two jobs trying to survive.
My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, came out and he was like, “This is crazy. You’re not doing any acting. You work two jobs, you’re barely surviving. You need to move back to North Carolina where it’s cheaper, save up for a year, and then we can move to Los Angeles so you can really pursue your dreams.”
And I thought, Well, I guess that’s a good idea. It felt like backtracking, but he was right.
And so we had a plan to move back to North Carolina, stay one year. We’re going to stay for one year, save up one year, then move to L.A.
That one year turned into five years, a baby, marriage, house, cars, jobs, all these new responsibilities and a forgotten dream. I convinced myself—because I was very young when I had my daughter. And then, of course, when you’re from a small town, if you have a baby early, you get married early, it’s kind of like, This is your life. This is what you’re going to do. I just convinced myself that I can no longer pursue acting.
Then one morning, I woke up startled, and I heard a voice that sounded like thunder and a voice said to me, “This is not the life I planned for you.” And it scared me.
I remember I got on my knees and I started to pray, “Now, Lord, I need You to show me a sign today, because if not, I’m about to go check myself on into the crazy house,” ‘cause I felt like I was losing my mind.
I told my husband what happened and he was like, “Okay.” I think he thought I was crazy, which for a moment I thought I was as well. And so I was like, “All right, I prayed for a sign today.”
Later that day, my husband and I and my daughter, we were on our way to the mall and on the radio—the D.J. was D.J. Buster Brown, he was the largest D.J. there in the triad in Greensboro, North Carolina—came on and said, “Hey, I got this new TV show, and I’m doing auditions looking for a female co-host.”
And honey, I went crazy in the car. I was like, “This is it. This is my sign, I got to go to this audition.” No auditions ever happened in Greensboro, North Carolina. And I literally went to that audition and it was maybe like thirty girls there. I eventually booked that job. I had to go back week after week and I booked it. That became the way I started dreaming again after five years of thinking I couldn’t, started hosting my own segments, interviewing celebrities when they came to town.
After I did that for about a year, I told my husband, I said, “Now it’s time to move back to L.A. so I can really pursue my acting career. I’ve done everything I could do here, so it’s time to go.”
My husband was like, “Oh, I don’t know about that. I think we’re good right here.”
I was like, “But I’ve got to go. I can go and come back and be back.” I don’t know how I thought I could do that with no money, but I was like, “I can come and go, you can stay here.”
He was like, “Oh yeah, no, we can’t do that.”
We saved up for about eight months, and then we moved to Los Angeles in 2004. And I have literally been on a pursuit ever since then—ups and downs, of course—but that’s kind of how it started here. And I’m like, You know what? God said He had a plan for me. And I know it’s not just working a regular nine to five. I know it’s not just living in North Carolina and being content with that life. And so I’ve been on a pursuit ever since and of my passion.
“I’m like, You know what? God said He had a plan for me. And I know it’s not just working a regular nine to five. I know it’s not just living in North Carolina and being content with that life. And so I’ve been on a pursuit ever since of that voice and of my passion. ” – Tabitha Brown
Switching to a plant-based diet, for me, saved my life. It saved my life, and it changed my life.
In 2016, I woke up with a terrible headache in the back of my head, and that headache rested there every day for a year and seven months. It never went away. I was in the doctor week after week, month after month. MRIs, blood work, and everything would come back normal. And I thought, Oh my God, what is wrong with me? I was falling apart inside and out and really thought I was going to die. When doctors can’t tell you what’s wrong with you, it gets frustrating. My faith wavered. I was scared. I fell into depression, had major anxiety.
“I thought, Oh my God, what is wrong with me? You know, I was falling apart inside and out and really thought I was going to die. And when doctors can’t tell you what’s wrong with you, it gets frustrating. My faith wavered. I was scared. I fell into depression, had major anxiety.” – Tabitha Brown
After some time I had what I call my “coming to Jesus” moment in my bathroom. And I prayed my final prayer because what I realized is during this time of sickness, I had been habitually praying, which means I was just praying out of habit, saying kind of the same thing. But I wasn’t believing what I was praying. And so I had to get to a place where I was like, Okay, Lord, let me have this last call of help to You. And that was, God, if You heal me, You can have me. And I won’t try to live my life my way anymore. I will simply do what You have called me to do, and I will be who You created me to be.
A couple of weeks later, I had this dream and I saw myself like very free and healthy and well and on a show. And I was like, That’s so weird because I haven’t been able to do any auditions or anything like that.
Later, my daughter came home from school and she was like, “Mom, we saw this documentary at school today, and I think you should watch it.” And it was What the Health on Netflix. It isn’t every day a teenager comes home and tells you to watch a documentary, and so I watched it. It was a light bulb moment for me when they started talking about not all diseases are hereditary, it is that we eat the same thing, causing the same disease in our family.
For me, my mom died at fifty-one of ALS, which is a rare disease. There’s no cause or cure. My dad will be seventy years old next month, and he’s the oldest male to ever live in our family. People get sick at early ages in my family and they die very young, and the only common denominator I could think of was how we ate. It was also the only thing I had not tried. I tried every drug the doctors had offered me and nothing had made me better.
I decided to do a thirty-day, plant-based vegan challenge. And in the first ten days of the thirty days, the headache I had had every single day disappeared. I started having energy again, and the pain started to leave my body. I knew I was on the right path. And from that day, you know, the idea of it being a thirty-day challenge went away. Then it was like, You know what? This is going to be my life. I’m going to live my life this way.
I was doing a lot of things that I felt like I didn’t pay attention to. But when I really started having these conversations with myself, I was like, Well, maybe that’s part of the reason. And also, I wasn’t living a life of freedom. I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t being true to myself or true to God and who He created me to be. So when I went on a journey after I prayed that prayer, I was like, You know what? I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to only be who I am meant to be and be free while doing so. And I truly believe that because my life was spared, I believe that, going plant-based, that whole thirty-day challenge, was the eye-opener for me that really saved and changed my life.
You know, it’s important for me to connect with God daily, honey, because He is my source. Right? I truly believe when they say we’re made in His image, there’s no greater creation. And I don’t do anything without seeking Him first because I lived my life my way for a very long time. I made a whole lot of mistakes and did it wrong. But the moment that I said, “You can have me, I’m Yours to do as You will, and I will only trust You and I will only hear from Him to make decisions in how I live my life,” my whole world changed. I’m a direct result of Him and being obedient to Him.
Obedience to me is everything. I have to listen to my spirit. I hear very clearly. I dream. I see things, and I’m obedient to it. So when I pray daily throughout my days and I hear after prayer, I know that’s Him speaking to me, when I feel or if I think about something more than two times in a day, honey I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m supposed to do something with this thought.” And so it’s important. It’s important. It is. The greatest gift to me is God’s love. And I honor that. And I know He honors me for that, but it’s everything to me, honey.
Jesus Always, January 2nd:
I AM YOUR JOY! These four words can light up your life. Since I am always with you, the Joy of My Presence is continually accessible to you. You can open up to My Presence through your trust in Me, your love for Me. Try saying, “Jesus, You are my Joy.” My Light will shine upon you and within you as you rejoice in Me, your Savior. Ponder all I have done for you and all that I am to you. This will lift you up above your circumstances.
When you became My follower, I empowered you to rise above the conditions in your life. I filled you with My Spirit, and this Holy Heper has limitless Power. I promised that I will come back and take you to be with Me in heaven—that you may be where I am forever. Whenever your world is looking dark, brighten your perspective by focusing on Me. Relax in My Presence, and hear Me saying, “Beloved, I am your Joy!”
Well, the two things I always say, you know this joy I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. Right? And then there was a song that I always grew up with in church. It was one of my favorites and it was, “Jesus, you’re in the center of my joy.” And that’s literally what this makes me think of. I have unspeakable joy.
Feeding the Soul
You know, I find joy in helping others by sharing my story. Right? I never ever tried to push my life on anyone. I never tell anybody they’ve got to be plant-based. I simply just share my story. And people feel inspired by it for some reason. But they’re always like, “You know what? The way you do it makes me want to try it.” And so then I know I’m doing something right, you know, and I think that’s my purpose, is to share love in life, but also help people see food differently. I’m from the South, so I saw food completely differently growing up. You know, it was more about how good the food tasted, not that it was good for us. And so I had to retrain my way of thinking and let food be my medicine. Right? And eat from the earth and show people without judgment, without pushing it on anyone, but doing it with light and doing it with humor, you know, making it fun, making it simple, telling stories while I cook, you know, little things like that. I think it helps. And I think people gravitate towards that. That’s the way we should all be. We should all strive to share without judgment, live our life authentically us and know that we are enough in the process of doing so.
“We should all strive to share without judgment, live our life authentically us and know that we are enough in the process of doing so.” – Tabitha Brown
I feel like I live my life by example. I’m always trying to encourage others to be kind, to spread love and see each other. Right? But the only way we can take time to see someone else is if we truly see ourselves. A lot of times when we’re not intentional about being loving or being kind, it’s because we’re not kind to ourselves. So it always starts with us first. If you are in love with you, right, and you know how to treat you, then you also know how to treat other people. So I always say, “Start with you so that you know how to be kind to you. So then in return, you can be kind to others.”
If you’d like to hear more stories about the joy provided by God, check out our interview with Ruth Chou Simons.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we have a very special guest joining us: the author of Jesus Calling herself, Sarah Young. Sarah gives us a glimpse into her life and the thought processes behind her writing, as well as an in-depth look into her newest devotional, Jesus Listens.
Sarah Young: Prayer is such an important part of my daily life. Praying connects us to God and helps us in countless ways. But I realize that many people find it difficult to pray. My hope is that Jesus Listens will encourage you to approach God confidently and joyfully, finding peace and rest in His Presence. It’s such a blessing to know that Jesus listens to every one of our prayers. He loves us perfectly and is constantly caring for us, whether we’re aware of His Presence with us or not.