The popular writer, blogger, and television personality reveals with humor and style how Jesus’ extravagant grace is the key to dealing with life's biggest challenge: people.
The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning first with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, live for, go to church with, don’t like, don’t understand, fear, struggle with, compare ourselves to, and judge. People are the best and worst thing about the human life.
Jen Hatmaker knows this all too well, and so she reveals how to practice kindness, grace, truthfulness, vision, and love to ourselves and those around us. By doing this, For the Love leads our generation to reimagine Jesus’ grace as a way of life, and it does it in a funny yet profound manner that Christian readers will love. Along the way, Hatmaker shows readers how to reclaim their prophetic voices and become Good News again to a hurting, polarized world.
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About the Author
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For the Love
Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards
By Jen Hatmaker
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Jen Hatmaker
All rights reserved.
Worst Beam Ever
My nine-year-old daughter Remy is in gymnastics. After her second practice, she asked when she would have her first competition. Bless. No one ever accused that one of low self-esteem. (She is currently deciding between a future as a professional gymnast or a singer, and may I just say that both plan A and plan B are fatally flawed?)
She struggles most with the balance beam. It's unclear who invented this particular apparatus, but it was certainly not the mother of a gangly third-grader with delusions of grandeur. She is still attempting to get from one end to the other with a few "dips" and "scoops" and "leans" without falling to the mat. Forget the fancy moves; just one notch above walking throws her so off-kilter, I am beginning to wonder how she will ever become an Olympian with a music career on the side.
If I had to recite the top questions I'm asked in interviews, conversations, and e-mails, certainly included would be this one:
How do you balance work and family and community?
And every time, I think: Do you even know me?
Balance. It's like a unicorn; we've heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven't actually seen one. I'm beginning to think it isn't a thing.
Here is part of the problem, girls: we've been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn't run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for "self care," served neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.
You can't balance that job description.
Listen to me: No one can pull this off. No one is pulling this off. The women who seem to ride this unicorn only display the best parts of their stories. Trust me. No one can fragment her time and attention into this many segments.
The trouble is, we have up-close access to women who excel in each individual sphere. With social media and its carefully selected messaging, we see career women killing it, craft moms slaying it, chef moms nailing it, Christian leaders working it. We register their beautiful yards, homemade green chile enchiladas, themed birthday parties, eight-week Bible study series, chore charts, ab routines, "10 Tips for a Happy Marriage," career best practices, volunteer work, and Family Fun Night ideas. We make note of their achievements, cataloging their successes and observing their talents. Then we combine the best of everything we see, every woman we admire in every genre, and conclude: I should be all of that.
It is certifiably insane.
The only thing worse than this unattainable standard is the guilt that follows when perfection proves impossible. Sister, what could be crazier than a woman who wakes children up before dawn, feeds and waters them while listening and affirming all their chatter, gets them dressed and off to school with signed folders, then perhaps heads to a job to put food on the table or stays home to raise littles who cannot even wipe, completes one million domestic chores that multiply like gremlins, breaks up forty-four fights, intentionally disciplines 293 times a day, attends to all e-mails/correspondence/deadlines, helps with math/writing/biology homework, serves dinner while engineering a round of "High-Low," oversees Bedtime and Bath Marathon, reads lovingly to lap children, tucks them in with prayers, finishes the endless Daily Junk Everywhere Pickup, turns attention to husband with either mind or body, then has one last thought of the day: I am doing a terrible job at everything.
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
This is beyond unreasonable. It is destructive. We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.
Meanwhile, we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded — and it is simpler than we dare hope: we gotta unload that beam.
We cannot do it all, have it all, or master it all. That is simply not a thing. May I tell you something? Because women ask constantly how I "do it all," let me clear something up: I HAVE HELP. My booking representative handles events, my literary agent manages publishing stuff, my tech person does all the Internet things, my extraordinary housekeepers do in two hours what would take me twelve, and our part-time nanny fills in the gaps.
I'm not doing it all. Who could? I can't. You can't. I decided what tricks belonged on my beam and dropped the rest or figured out a way to delegate. I love to write but hate web management. Off the beam. I could not juggle weekend travel, weeknight activities (times five kids ... be near, Jesus), and a weekly small group, so as much as I love our church people, we aren't in a group right now. (And I am the pastor's wife, so let that speak freedom over your shoulds.) Off the beam.
Cooking and sit-down dinners? Life-giving for me. On the beam.
Coffee with everyone who wants to "pick my brain"? I simply can't. Off the beam.
After-hours with our best friends on the patio? Must. On the beam.
Classroom Mom? I don't have the skill set. Off the beam.
You get to do this too. You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay. What parts do you love? What are you good at? What brings you life? What has to stay during this season? Don't look sideways for these answers. Don't transplant someone else's keepers onto your beam. I could cook for days, but this does not mean you want to. Classroom Mom for me would mean a nervous breakdown; it might be the highlight of your year. You do you here. There are only twenty-four hours in a day.
We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.
Decide which parts are draining you dry. What do you dread? What are you including for all the wrong reasons? Which parts are for approval? Is there anything you could delegate or hand off? Could you sacrifice a Good for a Best? Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts. Go ahead. Your beam is too crowded. I know it.
Frame your choices through this lens: season. If your kids are under five, you cannot possibly include the things I can with middle and high schoolers. You are ruled by a tiny army you created yourself. This is just how it is right now. If you have bigs like I do, we run a taxi service from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. virtually every night. Evening real estate belongs to family for now. In ten years when they are gone, the story will change (sob). Perhaps you have a fabulous trick that no longer works, and you might need to set it aside for a season. Those are often the hardest cuts. The choices you make today may completely change in five years or even next year. Operate in the right-now.
What does this season require of you? Unsure? Ask God. He is a wonderful advisor who always, always knows the Best Thing. He will help you sort it out. When you can't trust your own discernment, you can certainly trust His. God has no agenda other than your highest good in His kingdom. There is no better leader through this minefield.
I labored over a scheduling decision last year, and the drama I projected was undoubtedly annoying. I fretted and agonized and vacillated before I remembered to pray. (I am a delightful choice for your spiritual advisor, yes?) I kid you not: I finally gave the decision to God, and in five seconds, it was instantly clear. The answer was no and it probably saved my life.
By the way, no one will make these choices for you. People will take as much as you will give them, not because they are terrible humans, but because they only want this one slice of you. It doesn't seem like much to them. On paper, it's just that one thing, that one night, that one commitment. Plus, you're probably good at their pet thing. But they don't observe the scope of your life and all the other tricks on your beam. They just want that one dip/scoop/lean, but only so many tricks fit into a day.
Good news: most people are surprisingly respectful with boundaries. Folks take a no better than I suspected. When I say, "Thank you for inviting me into this good thing of yours. It is as extraordinary as you are. But any new yes I give means a no to my family and sanity. Please accept my sincere regrets and count on my prayers," most people are amazing. You can say no, and no one will die. In fact, gracious noes challenge the myth of Doing It All. When I see another woman fighting for her balance beam, I am inspired because if she has permission, then I do too. Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices — no regrets, no apologies, no guilt.
I deeply believe God wants this freedom for us. Scripture instructs us to live presently and joyfully, resisting worry and believing Jesus set us free for freedom's sake. We have an abundance of good and perfect gifts that often look like a messy house full of laughter, a ten-year-old running through a sprinkler, a heart unburdened by comparison, an afternoon nap, joy in using our gifts and leaving the rest to people better suited. Our generation is so hamstrung with striving and guilt, we no longer recognize God's good and perfect gifts staring us in the face. What a tragedy. What a loss. We will never get these lovely years back.
So no, you cannot balance an overloaded beam. That is not a possibility. But maybe if we reject the invented standard, if we stop fearing a no will end the world, if we pare our lives down to what is beautiful, essential, life-giving, if we refuse to guilt one another for different choices, and if we celebrate the decent accomplishments of Ordinary Good Hard Life, then we'll discover there wasn't a beam in the first place, that God's kingdom never required a balancing act, and Jesus was in that fun foam pit all along.
We are all Olympic hopefuls in that event.CHAPTER 2
On Turning Forty
I am experiencing trauma and am unsure what to do. It blindsides me constantly, assaulting me when I am unaware and unprepared. Every time, I am left reeling and need to lie down to recover. I never get used to it, and each time it happens is like the first time.
I keep seeing someone's old-lady hands sticking out of my sleeves.
There I am, just going about my work, and BAM. Old-lady hands typing. Reaching for my dishes and KAPOW. Old-lady hands cooking. These hands are quite confusing, with their veins and sunspots and loose skin. What in the actual heck? Whose grandma hands are wearing my jewelry? More specifically, how did my mother's exact hands relocate to my body? My friend Tray went to high school with a woman who was convinced the government had transplanted different hands onto her body in some conspiracy (bless), and even as I chuckle, I'm secretly thinking, It's all starting to make sense.
I turned forty this year.
Forty! Which is so weird because I've always been young. I've been young my whole life, as a matter of fact. No matter how I dissect this, I've aged out of the "young" category and graduated to the "middle" group. My brain feels confused about this because I am so juvenile. I make up my own words to hip-hop songs and quote Paul Rudd as a parenting strategy. Surely I am a preteen. But much like Shakira: these hands don't lie.
So gather round, young things, for I know you think me ancient. You think forty is so distant it cannot be comprehended, though basic math confirms it a mere, say, eleven years away. In my twenties, I pitied the middle-aged as they clearly had one foot in the grave. I will never be forty, thought my young, deluded self. I will always have this elastic body and newborn-baby hands. My forehead will appear kissed by angels every morning. I will pee only if and when I want to.
Well, let me and my fellow fortysomethings tell you about it. We don't mean to terrify, but you need to know some truths. We don't want you wringing your hands in eleven years crying, "Nobody toooooold me!" So grab a pen while I prepare you for some things.
Something weird happens to your brain. This brain has served you well for so long, but it starts punking you. You can't remember directions, you forget why you walked into a room, and for the life of you, you can't recall your third kid's name ("Take out the trash ... I want to say ... Chris?"). You will talk on your cell phone while looking around your house for your cell phone. No one helps because they are laughing at you; these people you live with mock this behavior. Sometimes your husband will say a sentence using English words, but for some reason, the sentence won't compute and you will stare at him blankly, like a pigeon, because the words are so confusing. What is he trying to say? What are these words? Is this a trick? Talking is hard.
And the learning. Heaven help if you need to learn something new. At this point, education is a fool's errand. Your brain is not helpful. It is done. It already took you to college and did the heavy lifting for the last twenty years, and now it is taking a cigarette break. This is unfortunate because about this time you go back to middle and high school with your spawn. You are expected to help with algebra and chemistry and the remembering of all the things, but your brain resembles the bottom of your purse: lost pen caps and congealed, undefined filth. It feels furious about the chemistry homework. It feels angry about this new math. It will not have this crap. It will take a nap while those children work their own stuff out. Your brain already completed eleventh grade. It has done its time.
We are sorry to disclose this, young ones, but you can no longer quit eating bread for one day and lose six pounds. I know this is hard to believe. I once thought that if I made minor adjustments and took a jog, those tight jeans would fit by Tuesday. Your body is over this by forty. It just wants to be fat and happy. To prove its point, you can eat four hundred calories a day for six weeks and your body will release three pounds. The next day you eat half a tortilla and gain seventeen. It isn't interested in your diet or those jeans. Your body wants yoga pants and your husband's stretched-out T-shirts, and it will have them. Enjoy your young body. Walk naked past full-length mirrors. Wear your bikini to the grocery store. Take a lot of pictures because when you see a photo of your twenty-nine-year-old self one day, you will weep at your smooth thighs.
Skin. Come close, all ye still bathing in the fountain of youth: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN. I know, you'll never be old and wrinkly and being tan is just the best, but you'll soon regret this folly. It's strange with the skin, because sometimes your brain helps you survive the bathroom mirror (remember it is addled, plus denial is strong, young Jedi), but then you see a picture of yourself and you're like, I was in some terrible lighting and also the angle is tragic plus the shadows made my neck look weird and for the love of Annie Leibovitz do my friends not know how to use INSTAGRAM FILTERS? It is all very distressing. Sometimes I baby-talk parts of my body into resisting the mutiny: "Come on, Shins. I'm counting on you. You've always been good to me. You don't want to be like Neck and Eyelids and Chest, those loose floozies. Hang in there, baby, and you'll be the last part of me to see the light of day."
You will be surprised, but you'll become a crotchety grandma about certain things. Now you think, Wooohoo, y'all! Burn down the establishment! We are young and beautiful and we embrace this big life with wide-open arms! Down with The Man! Go big or go home! But in a few years you will sound more like, Settle down, young man, some of us need to get some sleep. My girlfriend went dancing with her husband last week, and it took her three days to recover. Brandon bought front-row balcony tickets to Aerosmith to ensure I could sit down. (I can't stand for three hours. I'm not an Olympian.) You will avoid crowds, bemoan today's youth, disparage the kids' music, and ninja-sneak out of parties to go home and watch House Hunters. This is your future. Make your peace.
You've always been pop culture savvy, but something strange happens around forty. I wonder at the cover of US Weekly: Who are these people and why can't that girl exit a car without flashing her bits and nubs? After one episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, you declare America intellectually bankrupt. (See former paragraph about crotchety grandma behavior.) Who are these teenaged singers? How do this many college-aged kids have TV shows? What are the popular baby names now? Is the name Emma so 2002? We have no idea. I don't know that song, that series, or that star. I still watch Friends reruns almost every night. Just whatever, man.
Excerpted from For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Copyright © 2015 Jen Hatmaker. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Your Very Own Self
1 Worst Beam Ever 3
2 On Turning Forty 10
3 On Calling and Haitian Moms 17
4 Fashion Concerns 24
5 Run Your Race 30
6 Not Buying 35
7 Tell the Truth 43
8 Thank-You Notes (Part 1) 50
All These People Who Live in Your House
9 Hope for Spicy Families 57
10 Surviving School 63
11 Dear Kids 70
12 Marriage: Have Fun and Stuff 77
13 Jesus Kids 86
14 Thank-You Notes (Part 2) 96
Friends, Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies
15 Supper Club 103
16 Porches as Altars 113
17 Quirky 120
18 Difficult People 130
19 Bonus Supper Club Menu 140
20 Thank-You Notes (Part 3) 147
Church, Church People, Not-Church People, and God
21 Poverty Tourism 153
22 Dear Church… 161
23 If Social Media Were Around 175
24 Thank-You Notes (Part 4) 185
25 Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Lame 189
26 On Women 198
Thank-You Notes For Real (Acknowledgments) 209
About the Author 221