It is an honor to introduce you to our next Whole Spotlight, Tammy Strait. She is a woman who was searching for truth in the midst of difficulties and found God in the street, literally while running as her form of release and therapy. Her mission with her blog, Grace Uncommon, along with her books is this; “to build a community designed for women to come as they are and share the joys and trials that bond us together. A place where we have the courage to go into our past to find the sources of our struggle, but not to stay there!”
WM: Would you please tell us a little about your upbringing?
TS: I was raised in northern Wisconsin in a tiny little town called Ladysmith. My parents owned a pizza restaurant that still puts out some of the best pizza around!
WM: How did you come to know Jesus Christ?
TS: I was raised in a Christian home and my relationship with God began as a very young girl. My mom was a constant source, providing direction and guidance that set the building blocks of my faith. However I would say I didn't really develop my own faith until much later. In my early twenties I found myself starting life over again, not really sure who I was, what I wanted or if I was even worthy. I always say I met God in the street because that's when He became real; where vulnerability, trust and intimacy began. I had gone back to finish college on a rural campus in northern Wisconsin and I started running. Outside in the wide open street -- it's where God found me; in the rhythm of breath and footfalls on pavement. It's where He still meets me today.
WM: Would you tell us about your ministry, Grace Uncommon, and how it came about?
TS: It's funny, but it was a divine combination of calling and accident! I always knew I wanted to be a writer but wasn't sure what I would write. I didn't know what I had that set me apart from all the other voices out there. But a friend had gone to a writing conference and learned that if you wanted to write, you needed to start a blog. So during the late night hours I began building a blog from the ground up. At the same time I was probing myself to find out what I had to offer. What I had to share. All I could come up with was myself. I'm not one who writes for the sake of it -- it has to mean something to me. Most often I write out of a place of struggle. I'm not really sure what I know until I've written it through. So that's where I started; sharing my deepest thoughts, feelings, struggles and dreams. Trying to move forward when I don't know the way or when everything seems to be crashing around me. My first post was actually published by mistake...to Facebook! I had accidentally posted it, didn't realize it, and went to sleep. The next morning everyone I knew on Facebook had read my post; my wide open, vulnerable, naked heart. I thought I might die. But God told me I was ready --before I thought I was -- and I've just tried really hard to trust Him every step of the way. But at its core, the blog is really about grace, which is so hard for us to wrap our minds around. It's not logical or natural and defies all the tendencies of our flesh. And yet it's what He gives us every day; unconditionally, an overwhelmingly beautiful uncommon grace.
WM: What do you hope to accomplish with your ministry?
TS: My desire is to be a voice that speaks truth. That says "me too." A voice that doesn't pretend to be perfect in a life that is really messy and hard. We all go through so many experiences and relationships that try to come at our identity and tell us of who we are. But only God can tell us that. He says we are known. We are safe. And we are enough. I believe with all my heart that we each have a redemption story. My greatest hope is to be any part of helping someone find theirs.
WM: How did you come up with the name, Grace Uncommon?
TS: It was really borne out of the uncommon grace of our Heavenly Father but multiple blogs already had that name. So I had to be flexible.
WM: You wrote, “Our soul knows the depth of our passion and it craves the courage to live it out loud. The faith to believe in something for which there is no proof.” This is so powerful and beautiful. Would you expand on this and how you came to this view?
TS: Deep in our soul we know we were made for something more. Now this doesn't necessarily relate to our education or our career, but rather that deeply held conviction that we were made to be part of something bigger than ourselves. That living a life only for us is ultimately empty and meaningless. But we're afraid. Often the places we're the most passionate and powerful stem from our greatest hurts or weaknesses. So there is this inner battle to step into it and to hide. But as Brene Brown says, "Unused creativity is not benign." It metastasizes. So our soul craves the courage to live true to ourselves, to honor the places that intricately and uniquely make us who we are, and do what we were made to do. That requires that we believe in something we cannot see or understand but, rather, have to trust. Like grace, it's not logical. It doesn't make sense that vulnerability is the most accurate indicator of strength. It doesn't seem logical that God would meet us in our greatest weakness and make us strong. But it is. It's how He's done every single thing in me my whole life.
WM: You talk about running (literally) as your therapy in life. How did you find that as your form of therapy and could you tell us how we may be able to get motivated to run as well?
TS: It became my therapy when my young marriage and the rebound relationship after it ended. I was only 21 and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know who I was. I was living in a place I didn't want to live and running became an escape. It made me feel alive. Free. Every day I ran built on the endurance gained the day before and I found myself getting stronger, braver and more confident. I started meeting other people who had similar goals and dreams. I didn't start out with a training program, I just went. Every day I went a little further. I didn't time myself or map my route, I just went where my spirit led me and one day I realized I ran ten miles so I signed up for a marathon. And I've never stopped. For me, running is the physical way that I learn to move forward. All I need to do is take the next step. Eventually you look back and see how far you've come.
WM: One of my favorite things I read on your blog was that you went to law school, pushed through the challenges of it and yet have never formally used your law degree. You took on arguably the hardest job in the world instead; the job of motherhood. Would you talk a little more about that?
TS: I went to law school because I wasn't sure my dream of being a wife and mom would ever work out for me. And I think I'm one of the rare ones who can actually say I enjoyed law school! I just love learning. But only a month into law school I met my husband at Starbucks and I knew pretty quickly he was the only one who could handle me! And me him! When God made me, He made the deep feeling heart of a mother. I'm so glad it worked out for me and I wouldn't trade the three beautiful boys I get to love. They are the greatest gift to my life.
WM: You have written a book which I cannot wait to delve into called, “PRETTY: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life.” What is this book about and how did it come about?
TS: This book is really my story about finding my identity in God. All my life I placed my identity in the people around me and what they said, who they said I was. I got to a place where I didn't even know who I was. I was so used to being whoever I needed to be to be liked. Far too many times that didn't work out well. As women, I think we often place our identity in the things we have, the people around us, or the life we pretend to live. This book was my story and journey getting beneath the surface and finding out who I really am. What I was made for and who I was created to be. It's the book that set me free.
WM: What has been your biggest struggle and hurdle in your life?
TS: Without a doubt: Perfectionism.
WM: What is your go to Bible verse in the hard times?
TS: Jeremiah 29:11-14. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.”
WM: If you could one piece of advice to someone reading this right now that feel weary or like giving up, what would that be?
TS: Don't. When I'm feeling heavy or weary or I just can't move forward in one area, I try to shift my focus or take a break. Nature is so healing for me. Going outside and finding one thing to appreciate, to savor. One of my favorite things is finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A perfectly heart-shaped rock, a beautiful sunset or the metaphor of a run in the deep, dense fog. God is everywhere. His creation, His goodness and His faithfulness is all around us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to see.
Now for some fun questions!
WM: What is a guilty pleasure of yours?
TS: Taking daily quiet time or exercise time for myself.
TS: Running, reading, writing, decorating.
WM: Who would cast as you in a movie about your life?
TS: Reese Witherspoon. I just think she's so adorable.
WM: Can you tell us a short funny story about you as a child?
TS: I lived in a small town and my parents made me take the bus home from school. It dropped me off at the end of our street and I had to walk about three blocks home. One day it was raining and I was mad she made me walk home in the rain. I guess I wanted to make her feel guilty so I stood under one of the gutters and let the water soak me to the bone! I guess I always had a flair for drama!
WM: If your husband had to describe you in three words what do you think he would say?
TS: I just asked him. He said: detailed, compassionate and engaged.
WM: Coffee or tea?
WM: Favorite genre of movies?
TS: If I had to pick only one, it would be Epics. Braveheart, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, and Pride and Prejudice are some of my favs.