Episode #20 Practical Help and Hope in the Freakshow of Life. Tess Scott

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Tess Scott, author of Listen Sister! Finding Hope in the Freakshow of Life, offers us practical help and hope as we learn to shed shame and embrace our identity in Christ. Tess is a Christian speaker, award winning author, and a former black sheep turned Jesus girl. She is on a mission through humor and the faithfulness of God to encourage other women with messy stories to know that they are not alone.

Today's Verses
  • Jeremiah 31:3
  • Proverbs 3:5,6
  • Zechariah 2:5
Additional Resources

Practical Help and Hope in the Freakshow of Life. Tess Scott

Kelly: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Unshakable Hope Podcast, where real life intersects redeeming love. I’m Kelly Hall, and this is where we wrestle through faith questions, such as, How do I trust God’s heart when His ways and delays are breaking mine? How can I believe God is good when life doesn’t seem good? My prayer is that God would renew our hope in these conversations, and that each of us would experience the very real power of His presence and love.

Hello, friends. Today, you’re going to receive practical help and hope and probably some laughs that I hope will inspire you to trust the Lord when life is disappointing.

My guest is Tess Scott. Tess is a Christian speaker and award winning author and a former black sheep turned Jesus girl.

She is on a mission through humor and the faithfulness of God to encourage other women with messy stories to know that they are not alone. Her book is called, listen, [00:01:00] sister finding hope in the freak show of life. So Tess, welcome to the podcast.

Tess: Oh, thanks, Kelly. I’m really, really looking forward to this. Unshakeable hope.

Kelly: Yes, I love that title that God gave me. Yeah, I’d love for you to just start by telling us a little bit about yourself.

Tess: Okay. , I’m a mom of a big, huge blended family of eight boys. One , we adopted, who is special needs and my son, Jesse likes to say, I have two whole, two half, two step and one adopted brothers.

, so it’s a big family and daughter in laws and grandkids, you know, it’s, it’s a big freak show and I live in Sarnia, Ontario. So I’m two minutes from Port Huron, Michigan. Just right across the St. Clair River. I can, there’s a bridge near my house. That’s how fast I could be in the United States. So right there and on the shores of Lake Huron.

It’s beautiful in the summer and in the winter it’s Canada. So there’s that. Um, [00:02:00] yeah. And uh, we have a great life. But in my story, I have been married four times, twice to the same guy. Our lives don’t always just go along all tickety boo, you know, but I’ve seen God’s faithfulness through the ups and downs of life.

So that’s what my book is about, stories of life and how God showed up.

Kelly: Yes. , I love the picture on your website of your large family. It’s just beautiful. So much joy. I can just imagine all the craziness and chaos of raising that brood. And I didn’t realize when I had read your book, I don’t remember that you had adopted a child with special needs.

Tess: Where does this child fall in the lineup of ages? Yeah. So he’s, number seven. And he’s 25 now. , we had him since birth. We were foster parents. And so they told us that we would have him for about a month and they lied because now he’s 25 and he has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. So, [00:03:00] his mom, drank alcohol when she was pregnant and, that affected his brain.

It’s not like other kids that you’re raising that, they’re 25 and now you’re moving on to the empty nest. He doesn’t live with me, but still every day, I still parent him. , but he’s one of the boys.

Kelly: So many children. I love your generous heart.

Tess: Oh, yeah. Well, at the time when we were fostering, there was, five boys , once you have one, once you have two, once you have three,

Kelly: what’s one more?

Tess: More beans, more beans. Yeah, it’s just one more.

Kelly: Yeah. Well, in a nutshell, I’d love for you just to tell us what’s the main message that you want to communicate to people as you travel and as you speak and as people read your book.

Tess: So, as I said, my book is about how God showed up in the ups and downs of life because no one’s life is perfect. And sometimes we can look around and think, wow, she has it all together. You know, Kelly has everything all together. Her life looks so perfect on the outside and I want, especially young girls, I think,[00:04:00] because maybe they’re on social media more there, you know, if you’re looking at that house on instagram with the pumpkin on the porch and the wreath on the door, and you think that girl has her life together, I want to tell you that if you showed up at her house unannounced, there’s laundry on her couch.

Just like your house in my house, her life is not perfect on the outside and none of them are. So I want to be real and vulnerable and I want to encourage other women to be real. And to say life isn’t perfect, but we can get through it. There’s still hope

Kelly: amen.

That’s beautiful. You describe yourself as a black sheep turned Jesus girl. And I love for you just to describe what that journey was like for you, how you came to know Jesus.

Tess: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that makes me different. I had to do, a book proposal.

When I was, I’m trying to find someone to publish my book and one of the questions in the book proposal was how do you differ from other authors? How is your book different from other [00:05:00] books? And I know tons of women and we all know tons of women who would say my life was a mess.

Yeah. And then I met Jesus and then everything is great. Right. I mean, I would love that storybook life and maybe nobody really has it, but we think maybe it’s because of, all those fables when we were kids, all those stories. But that’s not how life was for me. So, yes, I, my life was a mess. I knew Jesus.

I asked him into my heart when I was a little girl and, you know, I went back and forth and back and forth and I made terrible decisions and then I decided I’m going to follow Jesus and then I made more terrible decisions. As a Christian, as a Christian woman, I made terrible decisions and I sinned big time and God forgave me and I moved forward, you know, but I lived in the shame of that.

And that’s the thing that I want to bring to women is that. Even after you become a [00:06:00] Christian, you’re sometimes going to screw up, but God doesn’t want you to live in that shame. So I say, I help other women with messy stories to shed their shame by teaching them who they are in Christ. So they can embrace the power of God in their life because God never intended us to live in shame.

That is not his intention for us. I think not every woman has my story, , not every woman has had an affair as a married woman, but women have all kinds of things. I run into women when I’m speaking who come up to me and say. I had an abortion when I was in high school, or, or I made terrible decisions, in my life.

Whatever they are, whatever those things are, or maybe it’s, I regret that I did not listen when God said to do this thing. And I knew he was telling me to do it. I didn’t do it. And now I I’ve missed that opportunity and I’m living with that regret. And the shame of not following whatever it is.

I [00:07:00] think that every woman has something that they’re living with the regret and the shame of something in their, in their life. But that’s not what God intends for us. God wants us to live in freedom.

Kelly: Amen.

Tess: And that’s what I’m speaking is freedom for women. And I love it. There’s nothing like it.

There’s nothing like women saying, I feel like I can move ahead. I feel like I can do things for God that he can use me despite whatever I’ve been set free from that. Man, God is so good. He’s so good.

Kelly: Oh, I love that. I just want to jump up and down because what you’re describing is so much of what I walked through.

I didn’t even realize that I, I was being Held down by shame in my life. And I know you’ve had a lot of women come up to you and say the same thing. Like I am not ashamed of things so much of what I’ve done, but for some reason I have this lie of shame on me. And so I grew up with a lie that is so common for people, men and women alike, that they don’t feel like they’re enough.

I’m not enough. I don’t measure up. I don’t fit in that [00:08:00] there’s a standard I’m not meeting. And, and so when I was in my fifties, as a leader of women, the Lord showed me you are letting my word leak out through all these holes of insecurity and shame, and

I’m going to help you shore up with my word. And it was so beautiful, Tess. I’m going to get emotional. Um, because he just led me to the word and started giving me these statements, these identity statements that began to heal my heart from shame. And this statement, one of the most powerful statements he gave me is so simple.

I am loved, not a disappointment.

Yeah, that was a lie I was living with and I didn’t even realize it. Why am I living with this shadow of feeling like I’m a disappointment to everybody and to God? I love it when the Lord uncovers the lies because he only reveals what he’s about to heal. And so it’s so encouraging.

Tess: Oh, that’s good. I like that. Yeah.

Kelly: [00:09:00] Yeah. So I am loved, not a disappointment. And I just want to read the scripture that God used. And that’s Jeremiah 31:3, I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I’m so excited by that.

Tess: I love that so much.

Kelly: When you speak with women and you are trying to help them shed the shame, I love how you described that to walk free and shed the shame. I’m wondering if you can just take us through the tools that you hand women to help them let go of the lies and to live in the freedom of who they are in Christ.

Tess: Mm hmm. Yeah. I teach women to gear up because we know that that that’s going to be thrown at us. Right. We want to to be aware that there’s going to be things thrown at us. We’re going to be feeling like we’re not enough or we’re going to, be feeling like we’re under attack. So what can we do about that?

We need to gear up. That’s an acronym. I’m going to just take you through it quickly. So [00:10:00] G is for grab a minute. Grab five minutes a day. Now I’m a morning person. I love mornings. I’m dead at the end of the day. It doesn’t work for me, but everybody’s time is different. But just having that time alone with the Lord and I know a lot of women say, I don’t have it.

I don’t have that five minutes, but you know what? That’s because You’re probably spending that five minutes somewhere else. Like everybody’s so busy on Facebook TikTok and Netflix and all those things. Five minutes out of 24 hours, I’ll guilt you into it. Like, honestly, like five minutes a day, you can do it.

You can do it, you know, do it and then take your phone. Okay, this is important and I struggle with this. Take your phone, shut it off. Off and then put it in another room, the other side of the house and shut the door and then go back to your spot and spend time with the Lord. Right? And that’s hard because so often, I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ll be praying and thinking about, you know, listening and thinking through things and then it’ll [00:11:00] pop in my head.

Like. I wonder if, I mean, I mean, I’m going to go tomorrow and be with these women. And then I think, I wonder what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow, you know, where you find the weather on your phone, right? And then it’s so easy if it’s sitting there, I think we don’t even think about it. We pull it up.

And then, oh, one thing just goes into another, and you’re there way longer than five minutes, and it’s not spending time with the Lord. It’s spending time on your phone. And I am, I am saying this because I struggle with it. I’m not saying it, you know, because I’m better than anybody. I’m saying it because I am a struggler.

Um, so putting it somewhere where I cannot access it until I’m done this time is the only way. The only way that it’ll work for me. And, you know, it’s. It’s hard to spend that quiet time, and I get it because I’m an extrovert. Kelly, I’m an extrovert working from home. It’s a freak show. Like, I don’t want to be alone.

I want a friend to read a book. Like, I just want to be with other people all the time. That’s my rocket juice, right? [00:12:00] Yeah. But here’s what I’m finding. God speaks in the quiet. He doesn’t use a bullhorn and he does not snap chat. And I want to hear him. Don’t you? So that’s the first thing.

Spending that quiet time, whatever your time of day that you can do it. You know, you do you, but whatever that time is, spending that time alone with God is the first important thing. And so the second thing E is for examine God’s word. So be in your Bible, reading your Bible, learning to recognize what God’s word looks like.

Because the only thing that I know, that I know, that I know to be true in the world. Is God’s word. That’s it. That’s all I know. I mean, I can’t believe anything that I hear that. I mean, I basically have to see it in person with my own eyes to know that it’s true because there’s a lot of stuff there that is not true.[00:13:00]

Yeah, but I know God’s word is true. Absolutely. So I want to be reading it so that I get it in my brain. What is true? What is true? What is true spending that time in the word and I say, fill your head with truth.

Kelly: Yeah. Amen.

Tess: The third thing is analyzing your thoughts. So that’s the A.

Analyze. So, when something pops in your head and you’re thinking it, right, compare it to truth. And you know what truth is because you’ve been in the Word. That was number two. So, you can see if that’s a lie because if it’s not truth, that’s the only other thing there is. There’s only two choices here. So, analyzing your thoughts.

And when you have the thought like, I’m a disappointment. Wait. Is that what God says? What does God say? And then immediately replacing it with truth, right? So stomping it down, replacing it with truth, analyzing your thoughts constantly as you’re thinking it. So that’s the third thing. And then the fourth one, [00:14:00] the R is ruminating.

So, ruminating is a word we don’t use all the time. Like, I just thought I’d sit here and ruminate, but we do it all the time. Right? We always have thoughts going through our minds, through our minds. And if you don’t think you do, then imagine, do you remember that song by Sherry Lewis?

It was a song that doesn’t end. It just goes on and on. My friend, you remember that one?

Kelly: No,

Tess: well, she was probably before we were born, but there was this song that just went on in a loop on and on and on and on. And when it got in your head, you couldn’t get rid of it no matter what.

So it’s good that you don’t know it because I would have just made you think about it all day. But we’re thinking about things all the time, all the time on a loop in our head. So let’s make those things truth. Right. So take a verse or a section or something from the word that we know to be true, write it like I’m old school.

So, , before Pinterest was invented, we use these cards for recipes. So I write the verse on that card of the truth and then put it somewhere above my kitchen sink on [00:15:00] my bathroom mirror somewhere where I’m going to see it continually or. Even better, make it the screen saver on your cell phone where you’re looking at it all day.

Read truth. Every time you look at it, read it through. Think about it. Ruminate on it. Chew it. It’s like chewing the cud, if you’re, I’m a farm girl.

Kelly: Yes. That’s so powerful and so important. We do have to combat the lies with truth.

That’s how we silence them. We need something to replace them. And I love how, some people will say, well, I’m not good at sitting in silence. I’m not good at meditating. And a speaker author one time said, do you know how to worry? Okay. It’s the same thing. Only you’re putting different thoughts in your mind.

Tess: Yeah, true.

Kelly: So I know you encourage women just to remember God’s word. And, that’s how you live. And I know that you’ve walked through a lot of deep and difficult things. And I’m wondering if you can walk us through some of that and then how remembering w ho God [00:16:00] is and remembering his word helped you have hope in those difficult places.

Tess: Well, I think like I said earlier, everybody’s life has ups and downs I don’t think that my life is worse than anyone else’s obviously. But there was a time when I was finally following the Lord.

I was going to Bible study. , I thought everything in my life was just going along all tickety boo. And then. My husband, my third husband, decided that he was leaving, so he left. I begged God, like I had my face in the green carpet of my bedroom day after day, just begging him that Rick wouldn’t leave because Well, for obvious reasons, , I didn’t want my kids to go through that again.

I didn’t want to, be disgraced again and all of those things, but yet God allowed it, , and that was the closest…walking through those three, four years, like we actually got divorced …was the closest I’ve ever been to the Lord because I needed him so I could breathe. I am [00:17:00] so appreciative of that time.

I never want to do it again. Okay. Hear me say that. I don’t want it to happen again. But I appreciate the journey because God was there in that shag green carpet. There was never a moment. That God wasn’t there and I know that, but it’s much easier to see looking back, right? Those are the kinds of things that we see after looking back and say, Oh, yeah, God brought me through that.

But at the moment, it’s brutal. So after those years and that divorce, and I mean, I prayed almost every single day that God would change his heart, even after we were divorced and God did. And we started dating and we got remarried and , that is the biggest miracle of my life. I will never. ever, ever not just be in awe of God’s power there.

And every day I thank him for it. And sometimes when I’m mad at my [00:18:00] husband, he reminds me, you know, you prayed for this. Right. Which I don’t want to hear when I’m mad. It’s not perfect. Right. Relationships are still hard, but we were married, nine months later. And then he moved in with me and our son, we just had one at the time home.

And, three weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer. And. I can tell you that I thought that was the worst timing ever. Kelly, I was not happy with God. I thought, are you kidding me? I’m pretty sure I said it like that. Are you kidding me? Like we just, we just got together. Like we’re going to have this amazing honeymoon year and all this stuff, you know?

And instead it was like a year of surgery and chemo and radiation and all of the yucky stuff. But even through that, God did amazing things. He was, He just showed up constantly. But, Because of the journey that I had walked for those three or four years when Rick was gone, I had learned these things. I [00:19:00] had learned where to go in the hard days, right?

I wouldn’t have, it would have been more difficult to walk that cancer journey ten years before because I wasn’t where I am with my faith. So there’s just so much to be thankful for. And I think that in the midst of it, like looking back and being able to say, okay, well, we’ve walked through hard things.

And what do I know about God? He’s got me through every one of them. Every one of them.

Kelly: Yes.

Tess: And God is on his throne. I think even the way the world is and all the things that are happening that are scary and you know, they can catch us off guard, but what do I know to be true? I have to keep saying, what do I know to be true?

God is on his throne. He is not pacing back and forth going, Oh my goodness, I didn’t know this was going to happen. No, nothing catches him off guard.

Kelly: That’s one of the big comforts of my life. When we were going through the diagnosis of [00:20:00] our girls, finding out our oldest was profoundly deaf, and then having four kids very close together, finding out the twins were also profoundly deaf.

The thing that comforted me so much is this did not take God by surprise. He is on his throne. And the question I asked Tess that got me through years of difficulty of my husband deploying my husband, not being able to live with us and me having to move places so that they could get cochlear implants and things was that one question.

What do I know? That’s true. What do I know this true? I know I’m overwhelmed. Okay. That’s a true thing, but what do I know about God? That’s true. He is right here. He is with me. He rules, he reigns, he is intimately and deeply invested in my life. He is immensely powerful, intensely personal, and he is with me and for me and all his love and power at all times.

I can just so relate to what you’re talking about. I love it. You are illustrating what it looks like. To trust in the Lord with all your heart and not lean on your own understanding, which is [00:21:00] Proverbs 3:5,6. And I, I know you’ve walked a hard road to learn that, but the Lord was so gracious in those places. And, you saw him and you experienced his love.

So I know the Lord brought you out of. Feeling like you weren’t enough and he taught you how to find your value in him.

And you’ve described this beautiful process that you teach other women, that’s so powerful. And I’m wondering if you could also share with us the wall of fire story and the scripture that you have in your book.

Tess: Yeah. I don’t honestly remember the exact story in the book, but I remember the experience.

So I’ll just tell you about that. Yes, so I was working, I was working for a community college at a fire school. So, every girl’s dream. I always say, but not really. That’s a joke. So a fire school is a place where we taught students to be municipal firefighters and also I live in Sarnia. So it’s the chemical valley where we have all the refineries here, like Shell, Sunoco, [00:22:00] Exxon, all that.

So we taught people who work in the refineries to fight refinery fires. And, , at the fire school out in the back behind the building, there were props. So the props mimicked actual, actual areas in the refineries. So there would be, like, a tank car on its side. Or there was, a loading dock. Or, , things like that.

And then we would set that on fire and then teach the workers how, or the students, how to put that fire out with foam or whatever it was, and, they would be out there with this Nomex fire gear and helmets and, masks and everything and putting out these. Fire. So sometimes I went out and watched what they were doing, or I would have to come out to talk to the teacher or whatever.

So I was never, I wasn’t often in the training. I was in the office, but, I came out one day to this training and, I had, , gear on and everything. But when they lit , the fire was several stories high. I don’t remember how many, but it was very high and we [00:23:00] were back a long ways. But the heat from that fire was unbelievable.

And we were all geared up and it just reminded me because God says, it says in the Bible in,  Zechariah 2:5 for I myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the Lord. I will be its glory within. And I think if God is a wall of fire, a wall of fire, what can touch me?

There is no going through that wall of fire. I mean, we couldn’t even come close to it. And sometimes I think we get this Or I get this thought about God because, I feel like God is so close and I forget that He is so vast and amazing. It’s like He’s too familiar sometimes. And because He is all those things, right?

But He is also this huge, vast thing. And it’s not the enemy and God and they’re two equal things. Right. It’s like the enemy is nothing. And then God is this vast wall [00:24:00] of fire.

Kelly: Yes. I love that. I love this description of, it may feel like our troubles are surrounding us. That may be all we can see. But when we remember that those troubles are nothing in God’s power, they’re just nothing.

He is surrounding us like a wall of fire. It’s such a comfort. Oh, I love it. Thank you for that.

Can you tell us more about your book and share another story from your book that maybe one of your favorites, whatever comes to mind.

Tess: So, the book is a collection of stories of life from when I was a kid raised on a farm or when I raised kids or the bat or the, cancer journey, all the things it’s like how God showed up through the ups and downs of life.

And each story is just a couple minutes. So it’s a great bathroom book, or to have in the glove compartment of the car when you’re, waiting in the line at soccer because you can pull it out, read a story from anywhere. They’re not connected really. But all of them [00:25:00] show God’s faithfulness.

So they’re encouraging. Uh, one of the stories that, that I can think of that there’s a lot of stories. There’s almost a hundred stories, but one of them is a story about when I was a little girl and, I was raised on a farm. On our farm, we had a corn crib. And I don’t know if you know what a corn crib, maybe not everyone’s a farmer who listens to this podcast, but a corn crib is a wooden structure with slats and I don’t know how tall, maybe 90 feet tall.

I honestly don’t know because I was a little girl. Everything seemed tall back then. And my dad would keep the corn, the cobs of corn in there for the winter to feed the pigs. And, I wanted to climb on that in that corn crib because it was all these corn cobs and it looked like this great structure, like how fun would that be?

I felt like it would, you could get right up to heaven if you would climb. I was probably three years old. And my dad said, no, and I was heartbroken [00:26:00] because it would be so fun. What do you mean? , and my dad said, no, and anyway, that seems like nothing. But I still remember that when I grew up. So not that long ago, a few years ago, my dad was terminally ill and I was staying with him and I was laying on the bed talking to him, and we knew like he knew he only had a few weeks to live.

So you talk about your whole life at that time and what an honor that is to be able to do that. And I said to my dad, I have a bone to pick with you. When I was a little girl, I wanted to climb in those corns, those cobs of corn and you wouldn’t let me. And my dad said, Tess, there was rats in the corn.

And I thought, wow, like I’m not a lover of rats and I thought, wow, like my dad was actually protecting me, but he didn’t say that at the time. He just did what a good dad does. He protected me and isn’t that like [00:27:00] God, sometimes and in much more disappointing times than not climbing in the corn, God has said no to me and I haven’t understood, but I have to believe that God is protecting me from something that I don’t know anything about because he knows, he knows.

And someday I will probably know. Yeah, if I even care by then,

Kelly: I love that story. I remember something Susie Larson said one time, she’s really suffered a lot from Lyme disease. And of course, since my girls have that, , she’s my favorite author, writer, speaker, podcast, radio show, host person. But one time

I can’t remember her exact story and I hope I don’t mess it up. So Susie was just really weary and crying out to the Lord. And he said, Susie, if you only knew how much I protected you from, I have protected you from so much. And I think this a lot because we have walked through a lot of hard things and we’re [00:28:00] still living in an unresolved, hard story.

I think when I look into the eyes of Jesus. I’m going to just, all of it’s just going to make sense and that my questions that I had, I’m not even going to need them answered anymore. I’m just going to be so in awe of the glory and love and care of the Lord. And I’m going to see, I think we’re going to see where his hand was and where he was working in ways we never could have even imagined.

And so I love to just think about the fact that he is doing things behind the scenes. He is accomplishing things we can’t see.

Tess: I love that. I love that.

Kelly: All right. I, wonder if you could just let people know, how to connect with you?


Tess: Sure. If you’d like to join my tribe, you could go to tesscott.com. And, just scroll down and there’s a form there you can fill out.

I send out a newsletter every second week and it’s full of, encouragement, funny stories, recipes, all the jazz that you need. And also I would love to come and speak to your women [00:29:00] and encourage them so you can find me there. That’s a great place to look for me also on Instagram, Facebook, all that social media stuff as well.

Kelly: Sure. I’ll have all the links in the show notes so people can find you and get your book as well. Tess, thanks so much for being here today. This was really encouraging.

Tess: Oh, thanks so much, Kelly. What a great time.

Kelly: Thanks for listening to the Unshakable Hope Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe and leave a review. To continue the conversation and for free resources, be sure to visit me at kellyhall. org. Thanks so much.

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