I am so honored to be kicking off this special series with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Abby Anderson Perry. I’ve known her since we were in elementary school, since the days of slumber parties and Nichole Nordeman, since the days we stayed up all night “studying” in college. She’s been a roommate, friend and role model to me, and continues to point me to Christ with the way she conducts herself online and in real life. Without further ado, here’s Abby.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m a 28-year-old wife of a youth pastor, Jared. We have been together for 10 years, since my freshman year of college, and will have been married for 8 years in May. I’m a mother of two boys, Owen (3) and Gabriel (18 months). Gabriel has a neuro-genetic disorder which results in a lack motion or reflexes in his feet and toes, a clasped thumb, a significant number of doctor’s appointments and a lot of unanswered questions.
Do you work? Tell us a little bit about what you do and why you love it?
I work part-time from home for a nonprofit organization called His Grace Foundation (HGF) as the Program & Communications Coordinator. I love HGF because:
- We provide physical, emotional and financial support to the patients and families on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit (BMTU) of Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH).
- HGF was founded by my family of origin’s best friends, the Kiltz family, whose daughter Gracie was a patient at TCH. I love working for an organization built on sympathy and compassion.
- I get to have adult conversations and make decisions unrelated to snack choices and what to name an imaginary friend.
- My mom is the Executive Director and we love working together.
What are your hobbies and passions?
In short, words. My hobbies revolve around words because my passion is words, in all of their layers of meaning, all of the possibilities of what they can communicate depending upon how they are arranged and delivered, what is said when certain words are used and what it means when certain words aren’t. I love to read, write, listen to podcasts and music, learn, and blog, and I am working on two book ideas.
I am passionate about a range of social issues as well, primarily in terms of how the people of God should be engaging social issues. For me, this manifests as co-facilitating two community efforts – one promoting cross-racial bridge building conversations, the other supporting foster and adoptive families by meeting practical needs.
Oh, and I love a good Netflix binge just as much as the next gal.
Would you mind sharing your story of faith with us?
I grew up in a home with two parents who love the Lord, His Word and His call on their lives. My dad has been in ministry my entire life, and my mom homeschooled my sisters and I and now directs His Grace Foundation. I came to salvation early in childhood and have been certain that full time ministry would be a fundamental part of my life since I started thinking about what I would be when I grew up. My greatest battles within the context of my spirituality have been a leaning toward legalism, and, juxtaposed in a way, a heart and mind that struggle with doubt daily.
Over the last few years, my cry of, “help my unbelief,” has gotten louder and more desperate as I have (involuntarily) joined the club of special needs mothering, of loving a child with a condition that does not have case studies, does not have examples, does not contain surety of what will or will not happen. This has driven my heart to the depths, and has led me to a diagnosis of clinical depression. In it all, the Lord has been kind, even when I haven’t been able to call Him good. He has been kind through the community of believers around me, through the bright eyes of my two sweet boys, through the strength of my husband, through our families who love us well. He has been kind in giving me an outlet, writing, that requires little more than a laptop and eyes that can stay open long enough to compose a sentence. He has been kind in teaching me how to rest just a tiny bit better than I used to know how to do (which was pretty much not at all).
A friend wrote me a note today and referenced the way that faith can somehow both diminish and grow at the same time. That, right there, is the story of my faith journey, and continues to characterize it daily.
Tell us about your “Tuesdays!”
Okay gals, try to keep reading after I tell you this. Almost every morning of my week begins with Jared and Owen bringing me coffee, sometimes breakfast too, in bed. And this is only after Jared has gotten up with the kids and fed them breakfast. I know, I know. I’m the queen of my castle and it’s not fair and I confess the fact that I dwell amongst a league of extraordinary gentlemen.
Once I’ve had a bit of time with myself, the daily office reading (Scripture passages assigned by the liturgical calendar) and my coffee, I get Owen dressed for his twice a week preschool program and get myself and Gabe ready as well. After helping Owen and Jared get out the door, Gabriel and I either wait for my mom to arrive or head to her house (about ten minutes away) for a workday. Gabriel plays on the floor, eats everything in sight and convinces my mom and I to hold him way too often while we check things off of our HGF to-do lists.
I pick Owen up at 2pm and head back to our house or my parent’s house where my mom and I often continue to work while the boys play in the backyard or watch a movie. Sometimes, my mom will stay through the evening since Tuesday is one of Jared’s extremely long work days (he doesn’t come home until 9 or 10pm). We (or I, if she has left) play with the kids, make and feed them a simple dinner, stack up a giant pillow pile in the living room for them to jump in, read books, and embark on the adventure that is bedtime.
Once the kids are asleep, I’ll often read, write, watch a show or finish a podcast I’ve started earlier in the day. Oftentimes by Tuesday evening, I’m pretty spent, so Netflix it is. I’ve been learning a lot about letting myself fully relax when I need to, trusting that if I allow myself that downtime, I will be more productive when I need to be. I believe this about 70% of the time – I’m working my way up to 100%.
If you could have coffee with me, or one of my readers, what wisdom would you share?
Your time is God’s, and if you want to treat it as such and honor Him with it, it’s imperative that you take some time to learn yourself. If you can’t figure out why all of those 10-point checklists of how to keep your house clean work for everyone else but don’t work for you, maybe it’s because you don’t like doing the same thing every day. If you can’t figure out why everyone wants to plan a girls’ night every other week when all you want to do is crawl under the covers with a book, maybe you’re an introvert (who feels badly about it). We can become so buried by guilt, frustration and confusion over our personalities in comparison to the personalities we perceive others to have that we waste time, energy and emotion by the gallon without even realizing it.
If you want to get super practical about this, my advice is to take a Meyers-Briggs personality test, read a personality description to decide if you think that’s really you (if not, try tweaking one letter at a time until you find the best description) then listen to the “deep dive” episode on your personality type from Personality Hacker. Then, pray and talk to some friends about how you’re designed, what you need, what they see in you and how you can engage the world with a full heart.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing?
If this means if I wasn’t a mom/nonprofit worker, then the answer is that I can easily imagine another version of myself who is screenwriter, speechwriter, or lawyer. See. I can’t get away from the words.
If this means what would I literally be doing this minute rather than writing this, then the answer is reading A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.
What is your least favorite thing about humanity?
Lack of empathy, or even the desire for it.
How honest are you?
Painfully. I’m working on it.
What would you say your life is “Marked By?”
My life is marked by unpredictability, and learning to flourish within it. When I was 22, I was diagnosed with cancer. When I was 24, I gave birth to Owen at the end of a high-risk pregnancy. He had extreme colic, and, while I didn’t know this then, I had postpartum depression. When I was 27, we welcomed Gabriel to our family, with his little body full of questions that may never be answered. Sometimes I feel so vulnerable to this world, so unprotected, like I’m just waiting for the next arrow to strike me. My life is marked by the quest to believe that God is good, even when I cannot see it or understand how, in the midst of seeming chaos. And, because He is a God of love, He gives me joy and peace, and I take the next step.
Wow! I hope you have been encouraged by this friend like I have. See her BIO below and connect with her so you can stay up-to-date with her writing. It continues to bless me daily. Don’t forget to sign up HERE to stay up-to-date with me!
Abby is an old soul, a Jesus girl, better in writing. She is a pastor’s wife and mom of two boys, one of whom has a neuro-genetic disorder, which Abby writes about (among other things such as faith and liturgy, social issues, and literature) at www.joywovendeep.com. Abby co-facilitates two community efforts – one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations, the other supporting area foster and adoptive families, and loves books, podcasts, learning about human relationships through television and movies, personality typing, and pasta. Keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram @abbyjperry, and on her Facebook page at facebook.com/abbyjoyandersonperry.