Meet Jody Rae

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Tell us your story.

I was born in McCall, Idaho, where my husband, Drew, and I hope to retire one day. It’s a gorgeous ski town on a lake, and my dad still lives there. We moved a lot when I was a kid, so I grew up in Boise, but I went back and forth to Santa Cruz, CA a few times.

I graduated with a degree in Literature – Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz before going straight into a marketing job. I still write – mostly personal essays and poetry – and over the past year I’ve had a few pieces published in lit journals. You can read some of it at www.criminysakesalive.com.

I came by my faith at the age of 21, while spending the summer in Wilmington, NC where I lived with a pastor and his family. That’s a long story involving hitchhiking across the country, insulated merely by my whiteness and a sunny disposition. That summer, I was supposed to sell education materials, door to door, alone, and on foot. Instead, I talked my way into people’s living rooms and kitchens to sip their Gatorade and enjoy their air conditioning while I let them tell me their whole life stories. It was the best job ever except for the part where I didn’t earn any money. It was also the worst job ever, because I suffered a hit and run accident that broke a vertebrae in my neck (I didn’t find that out until 14 years later – please note my crooked neck). Anyways, I came back to Santa Cruz, broke and broken, and started attending what turned out to be the most fundamentalist church in town. There, I met a guy 9 years older than me and four months later we eloped. I don’t recommend following any of the steps I’ve laid out in the previous paragraph.

After five years struggling through an abusive marriage, I moved back in with my mom, and then I took a 26-day solo road trip through the Western United States to visit national parks and procrastinate on filing for divorce. While on my road trip, I discovered Boulder and immediately wanted to move here. But I knew better than to make a major life decision on a vacation high, so I waited a full year, thinking about Boulder every single day, until everything in my life converged to allow me to relocate here. I eventually lost my house in Santa Cruz due to the 2008 financial crisis, and I didn’t know a single person in Colorado when I moved here, but I was able to quickly build a career in a field I love, and I married Drew 7 years ago. Moving to Colorado was the best decision of my life so far.

I found Left Hand Church and I knew during my first service that I wanted to serve here in any way possible. I loved the people, the worship music, and all the laughs. And I could see right away that most of you came from similar church environments that I once had, but were also seeking a non-denominational LGBTQ+ affirming faith community…And a place where it was not only fine to be real, but expected.

You’ve all helped me heal in a lot of ways from old wounds, and you’ve accepted me and all my swear words. You’ve held me accountable when I needed to be, and you’ve shown me so much grace when I’ve needed it most. I don’t think I could ever ask for more in a church family.

You serve on the Left Hand Leadership Council. Tell us about a few of the ways you have served the Left Hand community.

One of the things I am passionate about is our Kitchen Starter Kits ministry. This idea came to me just over a year ago, while I was searching for a kitchen item in a drawer. It struck me that when I moved to Boulder 10 years ago, with only my car, my clothes and a box of souvenir coffee mugs, that I had to leave everything else behind – all my furniture and linens, every household item and, yes, kitchenware. It took me years to replenish basic cookware, and arrive at the point of digging through a full kitchen drawer. It occurred to me then that there must be so many local families and individuals like me, who came upon hard times, and need some basic kitchenware to cook a healthy meal rather than waste money on take-out and junk food.

So, I asked Left Hand Church if I could launch Kitchen Starter Kits as a ministry. Then I asked all around, and within about 10 days, my entire living area was stacked with boxes of donations, some of which shipped from all over the country. We partnered with several local non-profits serving domestic violence survivors and people of all ages experiencing housing challenges. My initial goal was to supply six kitchen kits, total. Six was an arbitrary number that just seemed like a lot of kitchen stuff. That was eleven months ago, and we just delivered our 43rd kitchen kit. If you know someone in need of kitchen stuff, just let me know.

I am also very eager to begin working with Kristie Sykes and all of you to organize our Anti-racism Education & Action Group. We have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do to be better allies in the fight against white supremacy. Each of us has a role to play, and I hope we can start by listening and looking within to identify our own blind spots and unconscious bias…And by showing up wherever we can to avow that black lives matter.

What role does your faith play in your life during difficult times?

I think it has been different every time, so I can’t describe it only one way. For me, it has mostly come down to paying attention. When one of my best friends was dying, I clung to scripture and prayer; when I’ve been depressed with insomnia and anxiety, I sat still and listened for the Spirit to soothe me, or I sought professional counseling. When I was in a dangerous home, God pressed on my friends to get me out. And when I make mistakes, God reminds me of that pesky, holy humanity that persists even as I try to seal it off or hide from my own shadow. I think there is only so much our faith can do for us before God has mercy and meets us partway.

What do your days look like under the stay at home orders?

As much as possible, I try to take a walk every day while listening to true crime podcasts. It helps me take my mind off work or anything I need to take a break from. One silly thing I’m doing while staying home is letting my natural gray hair grow out. I started going gray at twenty, and I’ve been dying my hair for so long, I’m just going to give myself permission to go natural. I’m sorry you all have to go on this journey with me.

How are you staying connected to your loved ones and community?

You know, a lot of Zoom. I’ve gone on some walks with friends. I’ve attended some vigils for the black lives we’ve lost recently. I am texting with people a lot more, just to check in. In some ways, I feel more connected to people than I did before, but I do miss seeing everyone in person.

Jody’s profile is part of an on-going blog series aimed to help Left Hand members get to know each other better. Over the next few weeks we will be profiling the volunteer members of our Leadership Council.