Tuesday, August 18, 2015

FOR.THE.LOVE of Jen Hatmaker

I first shared about Jen Hatmaker when I read her book and it wrecked my life. I wrote about her again when I saw her speak at a local church. Most recently I wrote about her to tell you that I was chosen to be on the launch team for her latest book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.

Y'all. I can't even.

I feel like Jen Hatmaker and I are officially friends now. The community that has come from the private facebook group for this launch team has been incredible. I recently shared a struggle that I couldn't share in a more public forum. I received such grace, prayers, and encouragement. It is a daily joy.

For the Love officially comes out TODAY. I have been reading it, rereading it, and sharing my thoughts about it since March when I received my pre-release copy. It's incredible. Jen Hatmaker has such a gift of sharing things that are in my head and making them sound glorious. I don't know what I can do to convince you that you need this book, but I'm going to try. I've never been good at book reports. Are you supposed to go through the book chronologically and review it? Or is it better to just give the highlights? Or is it supposed to be a summary? Who knows.

First let me share with you one of my very favorite parts of the book. It's "off the beam." Here's an example: "Cleaning my house is off the beam." Jen writes about her daughter and her experience on a balance beam. She says that we need to unload our beams. We are overwhelmed by perfection, expectations, and all.the.things. Decide what's most important and that's on the beam. Loving my kids - on the beam. Being present with my family - on the beam. Walking every day - on the beam. Having perfect hair - off the beam. Stylish clothing - off the beam. Spotless house - off the beam... You get the idea. Now take that phrase and use it 3 times today. Seriously. So applicable and freeing!

I'm going to do is share some awesome quotes by Jen Hatmaker and beautiful images by my fellow launch team sisters.
I mean, I've always known this and have been trying to articulate it for years. But bam. There it is.

It is not in God's nature to make something true for me and not true for someone else. God didn't bless me especially because I'm white, educated, and American. That's privilege, not related to who God is. Of course my privilege INFLUENCES my understanding of God, but they are not one in the same. I think about this stuff a lot and it changes the way I think about God and how I treat people.

Think about it this way...
Jen writes about her experiences in Haiti working with Help One Now. This amazing quote comes in the section of her book about discerning our call. We often get over-anxious about our "calling." But if my calling is big and complicated and takes a masters degree just to figure it out, how can a poor single Christian mama in Haiti also have a calling? Perhaps our view of calling is too complicated. Jen suggests we instead view our gifts. Are we using our gifts?

One huge element in my theology is my understanding that our job as Christians is to bring heaven to earth. Every night we pray with the kids "on earth as it is in heaven" from the Lord's Prayer. This is important to me because I have control over how I treat others and how I follow Jesus. If I live my life like Jesus, earth will look a little more like heaven.
But how do we do this? Love God, love people. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Treat people as you want to be treated. If you want to be great, be a servant. (Straight from the book... For the Love AND the Bible...) It's that simple. But it's not easy, right? I don't always want to be a servant. I don't want to always want to treat people the way I want to be treated. But I know that is what God wants from me. That's how to live like Christ. And isn't that was Christians are supposed to be doing?

Jen Hatmaker writes the most accessible and appropriate theology that I've read in a long time. I love reading about her understanding of God. However, I also love her parenting advice and fashion advice. Don't believe me? Check out this fashion advice. It's worth gold. There is literally a whole chapter on fashion concerns in this book. The way Jen writes about yoga pants literally makes me pee my (yoga) pants.
For the purpose of this essay, “workout pants” can be worn during actual exercise or, say, just living your life because stretchy pants feel nice (page 26). 
If you're offended by being told yoga pants aren't really pants, perhaps Jen Hatmaker isn't your jam. If you laugh (even if you know she's talking to you!), read on. Perhaps work-out pants aren't for you to wear all.day.long. Don't worry, Jen has some suggestions...
Thank you, Maxi Dresses, for helping me appear dressed up, as though I really made an effort, but making me feel as if I’m wearing a nightgown out in public. You are basically crotchless yoga pants, and I salute you (page 52). 
So there's theology and humor. What else could you possible need from a book? How about parenting advice. Who doesn't want parenting advice from the genius that brought us "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever"? Seriously.
This is Jen's advice to her 5 kids. She has 3 bio and 2 adopted kiddos. (So obviously when we adopted Eloise I got excited that I am finally in the same category as Jen Hatmaker!) and is a self-proclaimed laid-back mama. I consider myself fairly laid back with my kids too, but still want them to grow up to be responsible members of society. Chapter 11 is a letter Jen writes to her kids outlining her dreams for them. I know it's cliche, but I laughed and cried. It's beautiful, funny, and profound. And seriously, how simple is this advice? I need this reminder everyday. Leanne, be kind. Leanne, be you. Leanne, love Jesus. It is that simple...but really isn't as easy for me to follow as it sounds!

The final quote I want to share with you is from a chapter about using your gifts. I love love love this chapter and probably need to reread it weekly. It is about doing what you love and giving your gifts back to the world. This means being humble but not self-effacing. Jen reminds us that our kids are watching. She shares a story about her mom who went back to school to get her teaching degree. It wasn't easy or convenient, but she did it because it was what she needed to do. I want my kids to be proud of me and see me doing things that I love and am good at. I want my daughter to see me working hard and being passionate. This obviously doesn't always mean working outside the home for everyone. This also doesn't always mean making billions of dollars. But it does mean valuing your skills, using what you are passionate about, and working hard.

Okay, if the incredible theology, parenting advice, fashion laughter, and quotes didn't get you, For the Love also has recipes. Recipes for Jen's Beef Bourguignon, homemade pizza, and something with lamb that Jen insists is amazing. (just.can't.) And a chocolate cake. YUM! These recipes are shared within the context of supper club - Jen believes in the power of bringing people together over food. You know this speaks to my soul. After having our own supper club for several years, I love this so much.

For the Love is challenging because Jen doesn't sugar-coat her words. But it's also funny, practical, and affirming. I found myself "uh huh"ing many (many many many!) times throughout the book. I also wished I could share the quotes I was reading on social media as I was reading them because they were that good. If you're looking for a great book to add to your library that will encourage you to be the best you can be, encourage you in the uncomfortable world of following Jesus, and make you laugh, For the Love is what you're looking for. You won't be disappointed. 

Plus, my name is in the book. Seriously. This launch team has been one of the coolest things ever. And on top of that, I'll be headed to a launch team party AT JEN'S HOUSE in a few weeks. I can't even. 
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