The Cross & the Pen: Patsy Clairmont's "I Grew Up Little"
- Saturday, July 17, 2004
A few years ago, when I was but a baby chick in the publishing and speaking industry, I was asked to make a small presentation at a function. Just beforehand, I received an e-mail from the woman heading up the gathering, which read: Eva Marie, what do you want Patsy Clairmont to say when she introduces you?
What? Patsy Clairmont is introducing me?
When you're in the writing and speaking industry, you are blessed in so many ways. For me, one of the greatest blessings is to be associated with people like Patsy ...being introduced by her went over the top. Recently, I read her latest book, "I Grew Up Little" (W Publishing). I learned some things about Patsy ... and now it's my turn to tell others a bit about her.
Within the book's pages, Patsy lays the truth about her life on the line: this petite powerhouse for God was a high school dropout, a teenage runaway, a wife at 17 and a mother at 20. She has suffered from panic attacks, agoraphobia, has been addicted to caffeine and tranquilizers. At one time, Patsy Clairmont (a woman who spends 30 weekends a year on stage before thousands as she speaks with the Women of Faith conferences) couldn't summon the courage to even get out of bed.
Patsy and I — one witty Southern girl at heart and one chatty Southern girl by birth — got together for a little chit-chat the other day ... wanna listen in?
Eva Marie: Patsy, I so loved your book. It's honest and real. I can just hear your voice in it. What led to your decision to write it?
Patsy: Encouragement from Mary Graham, president of Women of Faith. I personally had had no interest to write my story but she convinced me that it could have redemptive value for others. After two years of "bugging" me, I agreed.
Eva Marie: This is one of those things you talk about with your closest friends but never thought to tell. ...
Patsy: I had never really thought my life through from beginning to end in the way one has to write it. It was painful ... joyful ... and it opened my eyes to a few things I'd never faced.
Eva Marie: Several years ago I began writing short stories ... just for myself ... about the people in my life who had had any significance ... such as my parents, my brother, friends, teachers, etc. I found the same thing was true. There is pain involved, but in the midst of life's hurts there is so much laughter and joy.
Patsy: I agree.
Eva Marie: Part of your story includes talking about your struggles with agoraphobia (abnormal fear of being helpless in an embarrassing or unescapable situation that is characterized especially by the avoidance of open or public places). Has this been an ongoing part of your testimony, or something you just recently decided to share?
Patsy: It has been ongoing. It was actually Florence Littauer who nudged me to share that part many years ago.
Eva Marie: Oh, I just love her so much!
Patsy: She is my dear, dear mentor and friend.
Eva Marie: Patsy, what are the numbers, do you know? How many suffer with being a prisoner in their own homes ... and minds?
Patsy: I don't know an exact number but what I found is there are a gazillion who battle panic attacks.
Eva Marie: I personally know about a gazillion and one. But, Patsy ... why do you think we now hear of this ailment so much when we really never heard of it before?
Patsy: I'm not sure if it's pace. ... everything is a battle and a race it seems. It could be because abuse is rampant. And we Americans are famous for our denial.
Eva Marie: Okay, back to the book itself. You picked a person who was significant in your life and then wrote about him or her per chapter. How did you decide whom to write about?
Patsy: Oh, golly. I picked the ones who wouldn't sue me!! (Patsy laughs)
Eva Marie: Oh, how funny. Patsy, I think that when someone such as yourself becomes a role model, and one who is known for her humor at that, we forget that into every life a little rain must fall ... which would mean you've experienced some storms along the way, too. I say that to say this: I think that the most poignant of all was the chapter about your brother. Can you talk about him a bit more for our readers?
Patsy: He died when he was 38 and I was 29. It was the most devastating thing I had experienced. He was kind and fun, and he liked me. (Giggles) I still miss him.
Eva Marie: I saw his photo ... he was quite dashing, too!
Patsy: Yes, and he had six darling children who still miss him as well.
Eva Marie: Your brother's accident and death were nearly relived with your sister.
Patsy: Yes, that really left me weak in the knees.
Eva Marie: Your sister suddenly went into a coma ... and it was your voice that brought her back. I know sisters have a special bond, but what was it in your voice, do you think, that allowed your sister to hear you when she lay comatose?
Patsy: We have a deep connection and certainly it was God's plan and timing.
Eva Marie: Patsy, whose decision was it to have photographs before each chapter? I love them!
Patsy: I believe it was Mary's idea. I am a visual gal and I love pictures. They are so personal and add to a story.
Eva Marie: Speaking of photos ... who is the hunk in chapter 8? [I am referring to the photo of her husband taken in their early years.]
Patsy: That hunk is mine, mine, mine!!!! Yahoo!!
Eva Marie: Although he is quite the catch, you are beautifully, painfully honest about the rough years of your marriage. It's easy to see NOW that God had HUGE plans for the two of you, but did it seem that way AT ALL in the beginning?
Patsy: No way!
Eva Marie: What was life like back then?
Patsy: We struggled big time ... and for a long time.
Eva Marie: Again, I think it's so important that you shared this. People see a long-term, successful marriage and think it was always like this ... but you spent the first part of your marriage apart.
Patsy: People ask Les today "How has your marriage lasted for forty-two years?" He quips, "She travels!" He's very funny.
Eva Marie: Oh, he and my husband would get along great! My husband is the funniest man I know ...
Patsy: Awww ... I love funny people!
Eva Marie: So, let's talk about the photo of you heading up chapter nine ...
Patsy: It was hard to find one that might portray my prisoner years. Can you tell how skinny I was??? My weight was about 85 pounds, and then I made my way up to 92 pounds and stayed there for a long time — now my right thigh weighs that much.
Eva Marie: Patsy, I've seen you recently and it does not!
Patsy: Trust me ... ask Les ... no, never mind!
Eva Marie: You are too funny ...
Patsy: You, too!
Eva Marie: I loved the southern references when you wrote about your extended family and their roots. I'm a southern gal myself, you know!
Patsy: Where from?
Eva Marie: Just outside of Savannah, Georgia.
Patsy: All right now ... one of those peaches.
Eva Marie: When I was reading those sections I thought your grandmother is the kind of person I'd like to be ...
Patsy: She was a fine lady.
Eva Marie: There's no place like the South and no people quite like Southern people.
Patsy: You got that right. When I go to glory I'm going to live in Southern Heaven.
Eva Marie: Oh, good! Then maybe we'll be neighbors! But no lima bean shelling!
That wouldn't be heaven!
Patsy: It's a deal!
Eva Marie: We'll drink iced tea from Mason jars while sitting in front porch rockers, okay?
Patsy: It's a date!
Eva Marie: Okay ... okay ... enough about us and our eternal mansions. Patsy, what are you hoping people will gain from this book? What is your prayer for those who read it?
Patsy: For anyone who has thought "How could God use me?" I hope it gives them courage to press on. For those who are stuck I hope it helps them take the next step.
Eva Marie: So then what is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who feels they are trapped in a marriage ... or in a lifestyle ... or in their home ... or by their own mind?
Patsy: That Jesus still sets prisoners free...that liberty takes time...and that all their hard work to become strong in the Lord will bring results. We are a microwave generation looking for quick easy solutions God's ways must be worked into the marrow of our bones.
Eva Marie: I believe that, too. Patsy would you say a special prayer for those who suffer as you once did?
Patsy: Lord of our todays, our yesterdays, and all of our tomorrows, remind us of your sovereign care — help us to move past our fears by doing the hard work of trusting you. Thank you that you walk beside us and behind us and before us as well as within us and that you promise to never ever leave us. We trust your word. Amen
Eva Marie: Amen.
For more information about Patsy Clairmont, please visit www.patsyclairmont.com.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes “Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God” (Cook). She is the author of “Shadow of Dreams,” “Summon the Shadows” and “Shadow of Light.” (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com.
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