Beauty in the Mess
The "Preacher Lady Who Likes Glitter" and her family take a slow approach to modern life
By KD Reep/Photography by Rett Peek
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is as unique as her name. An author, wife, momma, yoga fan, book addict, reluctant gardener, crafter, lay Episcopal minister, blogger and speaker, among other pursuits, Jerusalem stays in constant motion.
“I do a variety of things,” she says. “I think this career chose me. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love creating—be it crafting, cooking, writing or entertaining. I also don’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in church work. I am a third-generation minister, and I happily label myself as a #churchnerd. When I was 10, I was making all the neighborhood kids Halloween costumes, and by the time I was 14 and 15, I was organizing church-wide social events and writing op-eds in the church newsletter. Granted, my father was the pastor so I had an inside track.”
She carried on this tradition into her work for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway as the minister of children, youth and families, but it is her blog, which marks its ninth year in the spring, her family and her faith that fuels her talents.
“I never set out for the things I pursue to be my career,” Jerusalem says. “It never even occurred to me that it was possible. After all, ‘Preacher Lady Who Likes Glitter’ isn’t really a job description you see in the want ads. But, it is such an honor to be able to do work that I am passionate about and help bring opportunities for people to experience peace and hope that I get to do this through a variety of creative streams—writing, speaking, crafting, cooking. It is really an amazing gift.”
Her book, A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together, outlines her family’s pursuit of living a slower version of modern life while focusing on what gives them joy. Sometimes, they do it well, Jerusalem says. A lot of times, they don’t.
“My husband Nathan, who I call Sweet Man, and our two boys Wylie and Miles, live on eight acres with three dogs, one barn cat, a potbellied pig and a leopard gecko,” she says. “We’re looking to add chickens, ducks and sheep or goats this spring. Right now, our focus is on fixing up the house.”
Chasing after her passions has allowed her to lead the life she loves, but it takes balance to do them well. Jerusalem acknowledges that practicing what she preaches helps her prioritize all aspects of her life.
“Being a mom, wife, minister and creative person challenges me daily to live what I preach,” she says. “I believe in kindness, honesty, authenticity and finding beauty in the mess. Being a mom and a professional stretch me in those areas, and there are definitely days when I am not kind or the mess seems so overwhelming that I want to run away in despair. But I have found that none of this will actually consume me, and I am strong enough to show up and do the work. My family has taught me so much about grace—for myself and others. I fall down a lot as a mother and a professional, and so do the other moms and professionals around me. But you know what? Everyone really is just doing the best they can. And we have to stop comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides. So I try to have grace for my insides and the insides of others that I can’t see.”
Acknowledging that life is a dance is what helps Jerusalem keep a realistic approach to each day. “It is hard to create balance when things are so fluid— what worked when my kids were two and six no longer works now that they are 11 and 15,” Jerusalem says. “What worked when I had a Monday through Friday work week doesn’t fit our life now that I work a lot of weekends and evenings. We try to live by the motto ‘Slow Home,’ which is our term from trying to get off the hamster wheel of keeping up with the Joneses and the constant pressure that society puts on us to do things Bigger! Better! Faster! Now! which we feel is a soul-sucking way to exist in this one wild and precious life of ours. The one thing that is helping our family at the moment is that we have a family mission statement that we call ‘The Filter.’ The Filter is a statement and a set of questions that helps us think through and determine if a project/decision/ purchase/commitment will help us sink or swim at this juncture in our life. As someone who tends to want to Do All the Things, having this practice has helped us enormously.”
Helping others slow down and enjoy the moment is something Jerusalem takes particular joy in doing. “The most rewarding part of what I do is when something I have written, said or created helps someone else experience peace, freedom or hope,” she says. “When someone emails me or comes up to me after an event or a service, and says, ‘I thought I was the only one who felt/thought/experienced that! Thank you for helping me feel less alone.’ Well, that is huge for me.”
To know and accept that none of us are alone is the bottom line for Jerusalem. In fact, she wants everyone to know that what we are doing is hard at times for all of us. “We are all beautifully and wonderfully made just as we are,” she says. “Focus on that.”