Holy Hot Mess: Finding God in the Details of this Weird and Wonderful Life-a book review

Throughout her book, Hot Holy Mess, Mary Katherine Backstrom uses weird and wonderful stories from her life to explain what she has learned about God’s grace, how it works in her life, and how that grace can work for all of us.

Holy Hot Mess

finding God in the details of this weird and wonderful life

by Mary Katherine Backstrom

note: This post uses affiliate links to sites which may pay a commission used to fund this blog. The photos used here are for illustration only and are not associated with the author or the book.

I read health and medical books for my own education and to review for this blog. Sometimes I choose some thing non-medical just for fun. So when I saw this book at the library, it seemed a good choice to escape the medical world for a few hours.

I became a little nervous on page 3 when the author mentioned in college she had dated a “shaggy haired soccer player named Ian, who was premed” but I kept going. The  next page she mentioned that he had “finished his training”.  I was suspicious but kept reading.

Finally the truth came out; this soccer player Ian guy grew up to be an emergency room physician and her husband. Next, she threw in CANCER and COVID. By then I realized I had picked another  holy hot mess health book; there was no turning back.

MK’s weird and wonderful life

Although I’m well past her stage of life, I found Mary Katherine’s book funny, touching, and engaging.  Mary Katherine, MK, had a rather ordinary upbringing, living with her single mother, two siblings and pets, cheerleading in high school, then off to college ( which she didn’t take seriously). She fell in love, got married, had two children, and lived happily ever after.

Well, not quite happily ever after. That’s why she calls this book HOT HOLY MESS; that’s what her life has been like, and still is. She often (and still does) felt like an outsider.

But she always managed to find soulmates that accept her for who she is. She also met Jesus who accepts her as she is and she wrote this book to tell us about Him.

A hot mess

When I picked up this book I assumed it was one of those books that she describes on page 210; those written by a

“woman who likes to poke fun at herself for her life being a hot mess. We find solidarity in owning up to our relatable rough edges. That’s why there are so many popular bloggers with mom buns and trashed out minivans. There’s a particular level of mess that plays well to the masses earning a badge of “realness”. God forbid your mess looks like a divorce, poverty, or severe depression.”

But, God

Mary Katherine hasn’t been divorced and she’s not in poverty although money was tight for her family after her father left. She admits to struggles with anxiety and depression as well as some other hot messes that I won’t spoil by revealing here.  Mary Katherine is as real to her readers as she is to her God.

My edges aren’t neat. And I don’t exceed any standards: societal, biblical, otherwise. I’m an impatient parent. An imperfect spouse. An inconsistent churchgoer. I’m a crash dieting, emotionally fragile wreck, who spends as much money on therapy as tithing. I have a very hard time loving myself. All I see is a hot mess Mary Katherine.

But, God. He views me through a different lens entirely.


Throughout her book, Hot Holy Mess, Mary Katherine Backstrom uses weird and wonderful stories from her life to explain what she has learned about God’s grace, how it works in her life, and how that grace can work for all of us.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Your life is the backdrop of God’s greatest miracles. Your mess is the clay in his hands.


Her previous book is

Mom Babble: The Messy Truth about Motherhood.

and her newest book is

Crazy Joy: Finding Wild Happiness in a World That’s Upside Down

MK and Dr. Backstrom on Facebook

I found her on Facebook at Mary Katherine Backstrom,where she promotes her books and shares her views on a lot of other stuff going on now.

You may not agree with everything MK says on her page, or in her book, but she will entertain you and may challenge you to confront the holy hot messes in your own life, with the same honesty, courage, and surrender to what God wants to do in your life.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

She also shared her husband’s page, Dr. Backstrom

He has taken a “sabbatical” from clinical medicine, having lost the joy of practicing. I can relate, I have experienced that in my career. Medicine is a demanding profession, and sometimes the hardest demands come from within.

I’m going to follow along his journey, I hope he finds his way back to joy and satisfaction in the work he trained for. Here’s what he’s doing instead.

While I have beeen taking a sabbatical from clinical medicine, I have been spending a lot of time coaching at our local CrossFit gym. I know that fitness and CrossFit specifically sometimes get a bad rap as they are often associated with superficiality, body negativity, and unsafe movement.

In my experience this couldn’t be further from the truth. Fitness and specifically functional fitness (which CrossFit emphasizes) is medicine when delivered and practiced appropriately.

It rehabilitates our bodies, minds, and souls. It also allows for the discovery of deeper truths through the medium of competition and pushing the limits of our physical bodies.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

exploring the HEART of health in books

an open book with pages folded to make a heart

Dr Aletha

These books are also available at


Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. They believe bookstores are essential to a healthy culture and they are dedicated to the common good. Bookshop.org donates a portion of every sale to independent bookstores.

This post was featured at TRAFFIC JAM WEEKEND LINK PARTY

7 tips to calm your corona crisis concerns

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual practices will help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

Even physicians feel stressed and uneasy about the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe more so than others. After all, we’re supposed to be the ones with the answers to our patients’ questions and have the means to help them. And unfortunately this is a time when we have little of both and it’s frustrating.

One of my collagues read an article about dealing with this stress, and to decrease our stress from having one more piece of information to read he briefly outlined it in an email and added his own thoughts. I liked it so well I asked him if I could feature it here and he graciously consented. And like he did, I have added a few of my thoughts and some references, as well as a link to the original article from CNNhealth.


Limit the frequency of your updates, including social media  

With one of my patients who I was having to talk off of a ledge twice weekly, I suggested allowing herself one news check-in for 30 minutes each morning.  This worked for her.  Choose a frequency and a time that works for you.  But why stop there?  Consider a social media sabbatical .  Truly.  Give it a week and see how you feel. Taking the apps off your phone or tablet helps keep you accountable. 

CDC-Coronavirus Disease 2019

diagram of the human brain.
The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Name your fears

Recognize that we all have a negativity bias hard-wired into our brains.  It’s a leftover evolutionary tool that helped keep our caveman and hunter-gatherer ancestors alive. 

In addition to constantly scanning our environment for threats, it also does a good job of overestimating the likelihood that something tragic will befall us, and underestimates our capacity and resources to cope.  We’re not crazy or neurotic, we’re just wired that way.

Conversely, if you minimize or ignore the threat of the pandemic, ask yourself if you should  take it more seriously. If your reactions don’t match those of others in your community, your fear may have driven you to denial.

Practice Social Distancing

Think outside yourself: 

If/when you are feeling overly worried and anxious, and your thinking feels contracted and hopeless, turn your thoughts to how you can help someone else.  This may be a child or other family member, a group of society that is at risk or marginalized at this time, or some of the groups at higher risk due to their occupations, age, or medical conditions. 

Science is unequivocal that when our thoughts turn to serving others, symptoms of worry, anxiety and depression lessen, and we feel better about ourselves.  And this does not have to be anything big, simply shifting to focus off of ourselves and onto someone else helps.

a smiling woman working on a laptop computer
Physicians and counsellors are available virtually, by phone or video visits.

Seek support, but do it wisely: 

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.  And that goes for us caregivers too.  We are not, and should not think of ourselves, as impervious to the various stressors, the disrupted routines and all of the uncertainty that is prevalent in the world right now. Ask someone you can trust to be objective and rational, and not feed your worries or concerns. 

Pay attention to your basic needs

Don’t get so wrapped up in thinking about the coronavirus that you forget the essential, healthy practices that keep you physically well. 

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Keeping up with proper nutrition
  • Getting outside as much as possible
  • Engaging in regular physical activity

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual disciplines will  help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

a women with hands clasped in prayer with a Bible
a man reading to two young girls, sitting in a woman's lap

Don’t chastise yourself for worrying. 

Again, this is part of our normal evolutionary programming.  And to help kids when they are scared, don’t just tell them everything is going to be alright. 

Let them know you hear their concerns and that you understand where they are coming from.  And THEN give them evidence and reasoning for the opposite side of the worry equation.  

Acknowledge their fears, and validate them…  And then do the same for yourself.

This post was adapted from this article on CNNhealth

How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health

Thanks to my guest writer-Dane Treat, M.D.

Dr. Treat graduated from the University of Oklahoma medical school, although a couple of decades later than I did. He completed residency at Good Samaritan Family Practice in Phoenix, where he lives and practices now. He also completed a Sports Medicine fellowship. He is a student of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. He wisely married a Mayo Clinic trained gastroenterologist, and they are the proud parents of a daughter.

near Phoenix, at Scottsdale Arizona, The Boulders Resort; photo by Dr. Aletha

exploring the HEART of dealing with COVID-19

If you are depressed and thinking about or planning suicide, please stop and call this number now-988


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