Interviewing Mo Isom in an Airport

MO ISOM-4It was the smallest airport I’d ever seen. I remember parking in a spot right in front of the sliding doors and wondering if I had accidentally arrived at an elementary school or a community center or something like those things.

It had gotten overwhelmingly warm inside my busted little air-conditioned-challenged Honda named Harriett. Sometimes she pumps out refreshing, cool air and other times she leaves you wishing you hadn’t eaten dairy. Every time you get in the car, her air situation remains a mystery. Hot, then cold. Women.

I put it in park and slammed the air vents with my palm. Harriett wasn’t talking back to me.

“Well. Every day’s an adventure with you. I’ll give you that. Where’d you put my gum?”

The afternoon sun was beaming straight in my eyes and I was nervous for the first time in a while.

I headed inside the tiny airport. The doors whizzed open and there were about four chairs that filled the entire first floor. The second floor had about four more chairs. Mo was nowhere to be found.

So I searched for a coffee shop, you know, where normal adults meet to talk about work and family and the weather and money and sometimes God. Except this airport didn’t have a coffee shop. Or a restaurant. Or anything really.

It had an area with tiles on the floor and vending machines—the kind that give you overpriced fizzy drinks and thick, filmy “vanilla lattes” (which really means a whole cup of heated vanilla Coffeemate or something). 

“God, this isn’t an airport. It’s a glorified rest stop. Why in the world do you have me here?”

Table-Chairs-Vending-(1)You see, I had driven from Durham ­­to Greenville to meet Mo Isom.

Yes, that Mo Isom, the one who was on Ellen DeGeneres, the female LSU soccer athlete who tried out for the football team, the one who speaks all over the country at all sorts of Christian and Non-Christian conferences, the one who got all busted up from a car accident and overcame things like family suicide, bulimia, and seasons of serious doubt in her faith. Yes, that Mo Isom. And no, we’re not friends from all the way back in yesteryear.

I have no claim to fame when it comes to Mo, other than I felt really, really alone in the I’m-young-but-I-get-asked-to-speak-at-events-and-I-wrote-a-book-but-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-and-need-a-buddy-who’s-been-there-Will-anybody-out-there-help-me-please-so-I-don’t-screw-something-up phase of life I’m in.

You see, I love to write and inspire. I love to motivate women of faith to learn and grow and get the heck out of the infant stage of their walk with God.

But I’m young. I don’t know where I fit in inside this huge world of writers. And my favorite women who have a platform with other women are all ahead of me in life—they’ve been moms for 15 years or they’ve been in the savvy corporate world for more than a decade. All the blogs I loved were from experienced women who have a lot more under their belt than I do.

So I started seeking out the answer to an important question—“God, is there anyone else out there who is my age and is doing this well? Is there anyone who has learned from early success? I’m scared of it. King Solomon didn’t fall due to failures. He fell due to so much early success. I don’t know what you’re up to or why you’ve allowed the things you have, but I do know that I don’t want end up like that guy. This may all disappear overnight, and honestly, that would feel relieving. But if you’ve really called me to speak or teach or write in the future, show me someone who is honoring you with it at a young age. Give me an example. I feel so inadequate, but I know you don’t do your work based on our resumes or experience level. So show me someone, anyone. 

It was within the week that I found Mo Isom’s blog and snooped around. I could tell I liked her, but I wanted to know more. So I sent her an email and expected an auto-response since she had so many speaking engagements coming up.

Her response was anything but automated, and in a flurry of emails we set up a time to meet when she’d be in NC speaking at East Carolina University. She said she could meet me at the airport before she flew out.

And there I was. After searching the first floor again, I realized I missed a small nook of a few chairs and she was sitting there, shoes off, headphones in, clanking away at her Macbook as she ironed out wedding-day plans (yes, she wrote that famous post about getting engaged and no, I didn’t scream from the top of my lungs that we’d shoot her wedding for free if she’d let us. Though I wanted to :/ ) We said hello, shook hands, and headed into the rest stop—ahem—“coffee shop.” We were both to afraid to fiddle with the 1984 “latte” machine. So we sat in that tacky, uncool, not-where-you-want-to-meet-Mo-Isom room with our vended Diet Coke and Frapuccino. The room experienced the light pouring in bright and hot, and soon enough, my faith experienced the same thing.

Bible-PicturesTo cut to the chase, I don’t like Mo Isom. I love her. There are those people that you just click with, the kind that you can go deep with immediately and you don’t know why. The kind that feel like a long lost soul sister. Mo’s one of those people. By the time we were done—about 4 hours later when she was about to miss her plane!—I felt completely understood and overwhelmingly motivated to keep writing, to keep pursuing opportunities, and most importantly, to continue trusting God.

If I could communicate who she is and what she does to your faith, I’d say it this way: When she’s done with you, you’ll feel your stale, diluted, barely dripping, tap water kind-of faith erupt into a freshly shaken Mountain Dew jumper-cabled to an electrical socket.

That’s no joke. That’s exactly how I felt on my drive home after hanging out with Mo. She used Scripture. She used examples. But she wasn’t cheesy or weird. She was refreshingly funny and unafraid to make fun of herself. She was a real as it gets and it draws you in. If anything, she’s a reminder that in this crazy world we live in, God is still up to something and it doesn’t matter what vessel He uses—old or young, lively or quiet, rich or poor, checkered or clean-nosed—He’s got something to say and He’ll say it through whomever is willing.

After the incessantly fun chatting and realizations of our similarities (apart from the gaping chasm of our athletic ability and height differences), we finally got around to the good stuff.  So here’s a candid interview with Mo Isom in the most unprofessional environment ever. I was going to piece-meal the interview in a polished way, but I figured God obviously desired the whole experience to be unpolished, raw, and real. So the interview below isn’t edited. It has all the airport sounds, the realistic conversation pauses, and the last call on the intercom for Mo to get on her plane while we are still talking!! Ladies and gents: Mo Isom.

(Topics we discuss: The  balance between the call to “suffer” in the Christian life and the idea that we are “highly favored” and able to cry out to God for alleviation; Mo’s biggest struggle in her faith; image issues/eating disorders)


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