Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life

Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life

by Jen Hatmaker


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New York Times bestselling author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF Jen Hatmaker returns with another round of hilarious tales, shameless honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie.

In this highly anticipated new book, beloved author Jen Hatmaker parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere. Whether it’s the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”) or the way she learned to forgive (God was super clear: Pray for this person every day, which was the meanest thing He ever said to me. I was furious.), she offers a reminder to those of us who sometimes hide in the car eating crackers that we do have the moxie to get back up and get back out. We can choose to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold, and lead vibrant, courageous, grace-filled lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718031848
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 08/08/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 114,438
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Jen Hatmaker is the author of the New York Times bestseller Of Mess and Moxie (plus twelve other books) and the host of the For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker podcast. She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a sought-after speaker, and a delighted resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family are helping keep Austin weird.

Read an Excerpt



Close your eyes, please, and imagine this graphic: Hot pink sunglasses with rhinestones at the corners, bright "sunbursts" popping off in dramatic fashion, and white swirled stars on a baby-blue background. It is colorful. It is bubbly. It is moderately-to-severely juvenile.

It was my first book cover.

I freaking loved it too. I remember thinking, This is so me. No stuffy book cover for this renegade! No woman standing in a meadow! No beach scene! No flowers! No, ma'am. This is 2005, and I will put a pair of sparkly retro sunglasses out into the literary world and state my arrival as a fresh new voice with style and, dare I say, panache.

Oh, my lordamercy.

Bless all my heart.

You guys, I cannot even muster the courage to read one paragraph of it now. I planned on combing through some of its content to cite as evidence, but I can't bring myself to open it. I can tell you it was incredibly earnest. Like, earnest enough to make you cringe all the way to Antarctica (it was titled A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study, you guys). I can tell you it wasn't well researched, because I wrote it when I was twenty-nine with dial-up Internet and half of one clue. I can tell you the stories were overwrought, forced into application, and included three times the words necessary. I can tell you it absolutely abused Christianese. When women occasionally report how it recently served them, it confirms my suspicion that God is still in the business of speaking through jackasses.

But, nonetheless, it was true to me and of me at the time.

It was my rhinestone sunglasses season.

Shortly after that and a few similar books later, I moved into a place of full spiritual deconstruction. God upended my family's life, and we moved from megachurch to missional church. Everything unraveled, and I was plagued by hard new questions I'd never asked, much less answered. I was tortured and undone and burning everything to the ground. My spiritual tension was at an all-time high, and my words were tinged with angst, disillusionment, skepticism, and no small amount of self-righteousness. I was pretty sure the American church was on the fast track to ruination and the poor "would always be among us" because Christians were a bunch of selfish nationalists with allegiance to Mammon. Delightful. I penned a whole book about it if you'd like a dose of anxiety with your morning coffee. Like I gently wrote: "Hey, here's something crazy: In the Word, poverty, widows, hunger — these are not metaphors. There are billions of lambs that literally need to be fed. With food." It was a really fun time to be around me.

That was my Interrupted season.

Born from that place of critical analysis, I swung a big bat at consumerism for the next few years. I invited (forced) my family into a yearlong social experiment called 7 in which we evaluated and reduced our consumption of food, clothes, possessions, media and technology, spending, waste, and stress. And not like, Hey family, let's have a little meeting about recycling, but more like, We are all going to wear the same seven pieces of clothing for a month (halfhearted is not an adjective ever wasted on me).

We ate the same seven foods for a month, wore the same seven pieces of clothing for a month, gave away seven things a day for a month, eliminated seven forms of media, spent money in only seven places, and adopted seven practices to care for the earth. I mean, we did not even play. I reduced my closet by 80 percent. I constantly worried over ethical supply chains, the wealth gap, landfills, and the next doomed generation of Xbox fanatics. I was afraid to buy a twelve-dollar shirt for fear of hypocrisy. I wrote a book about our experimental mutiny, which was responsible for roughly one hundred thousand readers canceling their cable (I'm sorry, husbands).

That was my simplification season.

And here I am today. I carry less angst and am not caught in the grip of as much turmoil. I'm in a season of joy, honestly. After several years of spiritual upheaval, I've seized some contentment, and grace has worked its magic. When people read my books out of order, they are like, Wait, what? Looking back over the last ten years, I still embody vital pieces of every season — I am still passionately for the poor and crave a truly Good News church for the world — but I've also continually shifted forward in new ways, into different head spaces. There is a clear trajectory in my life through changing seasons marked by new ideas, new burdens, new focal points, and new leadership.

You know what that is? Good, right, healthy, alive.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to start this book, this twelfth book, this next iteration of who I am and who we are together, dear reader. What opening note did I want? How do I want to launch these next few hours and days with you as you hold these pages and we create shared space together? And I decided my first words to you would be these:

You don't have to be who you first were.

That early version of yourself, that season you were in, even the phase you are currently experiencing — it is all good or purposeful or at least useful and created a fuller, nuanced you and contributed to your life's meaning, but you are not stuck in a category just because you were once branded that way. Just because something was does not mean it will always be.

Maybe part of your story involves heartache, abuse, struggle, loss, choices you wish you had back. Those are particularly sticky labels to unpeel. Those seasons tend to brand us permanently, at least to others, maybe especially to ourselves. Once we are that one thing, it is hard not to be. Whether self-imposed or foisted upon us, we are assessed through that specific lens: damaged, failure, addict, victim, broken, unhealthy, abuser, quitter, injured, frail. These identities stick long after they've lost their staying power. They are particularly grim ashes to rise from in beauty.

Someone dear to me was abused at a fragile age. The details unspeakable, the situation unfathomable. Without question, that abuse had the capacity to permanently wound. I sat this person down, mustered up every bit of authority I'd ever claimed in Jesus, and said, "This is not who you are. This happened to you, but it does not define you. You are not broken. You are not ruined. You are not destined to a lifetime of sexual dysfunction. You will become the exact person God intended all along, and you will be stronger in these fragile places than you were before it happened. This is a part of your story, not the end of it, and you will overcome. Not only that; you will thrive. If God is truly the strongest where we are the weakest, then He will win in this place."

You are far more than your worst day, your worst experience, your worst season, dear one. You are more than the sorriest decision you ever made. You are more than the darkest sorrow you've endured. Your name is not Ruined. It is not Helpless. It is not Victim. It is not Irresponsible. History is replete with overcomers who stood up after impossible circumstances and walked in freedom. You are not an anemic victim destined to a life of regret. Not only are you capable, you have full permission to move forward in strength and health.

And if you are prepared for a new, fresh season but others refuse to let you grow into it, sister, shake the dust from your feet and move on anyway. You may need to live a new story before others are willing to bless it. Let them see you laugh again, come back to life, dream new dreams, embrace healing. It can be difficult to envision a new start but impossible to deny one. This is your work. No one can do it for you. God created us to triumph; we are made in the image ofJesus, who has overcome the world. We are never defeated, not even when all evidence appears to the contrary. If you are still breathing, there is always tomorrow, and it can always be new.

You don't have to be who you were.

Maybe it isn't a matter of conquering struggle but simply growing forward in new ways. Sometimes these nuanced shifts are even harder to navigate because they aren't born of pain or loss, which are easier to quantify. Perhaps God is seeding you with new vision, new ideas, different perspectives, or even enormous adjustments. It could be that you have changed your mind or changed your position. Maybe that thing you loved has run its course. Something doesn't have to be bad to be over. That season has possibly given you everything it has to offer; it shaped and developed you, it stretched and inspired you. You've deeply incorporated its lasting values, and it has been true to you and of you. But now it's time to move forward to something new, different, surprising, or risky. You might not necessarily be leaving one thing but running toward something else. G. K. Chesterton wrote: "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." Change means you're alive, my friend.

Perhaps you are the one resisting change, imagining your best days are behind you. Maybe the narrative in your head sounds like: I used to be braver, I used to be thinner, I used to be needed, I used to love my career, I used to have a happy marriage, I used to love my body, my season, my life. The days ahead can never compare with the days behind. It could be that you didn't ask for the change you face: you didn't sign up for your husband's affair, getting fired, a child's illness, infertility, mental illness. Since you didn't initiate or want this change, it feels like a deal breaker, a joy stealer, and you're tempted to throw in the towel. Girl, no. Just NAH.

We can retain irreplaceable lessons and core values from every season. We are not entirely rebranded with each new season; we simply build the next layer. Throughout transitions, we embody permanent virtues and become deeply shaped, and as a testament to our design, we are capable of preserving the best of each season while rejecting the worst. The human heart is shockingly resilient.

By choice or by force, people grow and evolve, which can be incredibly healthy but not always met with approval. We usually like others, and sometimes even ourselves, to remain the same, treading the familiar paths, the ones we know, the ones we're used to. Change makes us nervous in general. It is so tempting to interpret new as an indictment against the old, but that is an incomplete story.

Two thoughts: It is incredibly tempting to disparage people who didn't "change" with us. I have criticized the words of others when the same words came out of my own mouth just two years earlier, which is incredibly un-self-aware. Human insecurity wants everyone right where we are, in the same head space at the same time. We want to progress (and digress) at a comparable rate: Everyone be into this thing I'm into! Except when I'm not. Then everyone be cool.

We need to get better at permission and grace. What is right for us may not be right for everyone, and we don't have to burn down the house simply because we've moved our things out. Other good folks probably still live there, and until one minute ago, we did too. We can bless the honorable parts of that house and express sincere gratitude for what we learned under its roof. It is unwise and shortsighted to isolate the remaining inhabitants, because there is a lot of life left, and as it turns out, we are all still neighbors.

Second, it is also human nature to disparage people when they move into a new season. Whether shifting forward or "being left," the impulse to discredit remains. I get it. We like our people to stay in the house.

My family worked steadily for six years to relocate collectively to Austin. Brandon and I moved here first, then one sister, then my parents, then the in-laws, then everyone else. Every last extended family member was finally in the same city, and we were living the dream. The family compound! We did it! So when my sister Lindsay announced she was quitting her office job and moving to NYC to go to culinary school, we all freaked out and heaped discouragement on her decision:

After a few weeks of this opposition, she finally sat us down and explained how lonely and unsupported she felt and how our disapproval was crushing.

Record scratch.

The thing was, we really just wanted her to stay in our house. That was the root of our cynicism. It was a simple matter of feeling left behind. Without considering the impact of our criticism, our aim was to keep the house intact. But it is shortsighted to isolate people who move to a new house, because that neighbor thing is sturdier than we think. A healthy community includes a lot of homes. This move was right and good and healthy for my sister, and we ultimately sent her off with our blessings.

You do not have to be who you were, who you have been. If you have a dream brewing, I hope to throw light all over it. If you encounter a new idea or perspective, I hope you feel free enough to consider it. If you need to bury an old label, girl, here is a shovel. You can care about new things and new people and new beginnings, and until you are dead in the ground, you are not stuck. If you move with the blessing of your people, marvelous. But even if you don't, this is your one life, and fear, approval, and self-preservation are terrible reasons to stay silent, stay put, stay sidelined.

You are not pigeonholed into a brand; that is not the way God works. He is on the move, which means, if we are paying attention, we are on the move with Him. It's so exciting! Possibility and adventure and love and life await us all. These are the calling cards of the kingdom, and they are ours. There is literally nothing we cannot consider, no new season we cannot embrace.

We still retain the rights to every important thing we learned along the way; those layers count and make up the whole of who we are. We have important memories from every house — some painful, some instructive, some delightful, some necessary. But how thrilling to realize that even now God is designing a new blueprint, tailor-made, and His creativity extends to the very trajectory of our lives.

Onward, sisters.


Moms, We're Fine

Except for a year or two in my parenting tenure, I've always been a working mom. Sometimes part time, sometimes from home, sometimes full time, but always working. With five kids, this means putting my head down and handling it while they are at school. Which also means I am not a weekly volunteer in their classrooms or the teacher workroom or any of that biz, because, as I have to remind my kids constantly, I have a job. This technicality never seems to connect with my spawn:

CHILD: Can you bring me Chick-fil-A for lunch?

ME: No, son, I'm working.

CHILD: Doing what? What do you even do ?


So I prioritize the special stuff: parties, field trips, programs, and award assemblies. However, while I'm pretty decent at getting the dates right, the details often turn into white noise. If I assimilate the date, the starting time, and the entry fee, that feels like a mothering win. This is the best I can do. ("I'm so sorry, but I cannot make the class banner for the parade. Why not? Oh, because I don't want to.")

Anyway, when Sydney was in fourth grade, she had a field trip to ... something somewhere. Listen, I am good at other things. I knew driving parents had to follow the buses pulling out at 8:30 a.m. Great. I showed up to the school parking lot with all the other moms and two or three SAHDs and proceeded to return phone calls in the car, which all my girlfriends and colleagues know is the only time I talk on the phone. (Leave me a message and be prepared to never hear from me again, or perhaps possibly next Friday when I'm driving to the airport. But probably never.)

Two buses pulled out, and I got in line behind the other cars and put my mind on autopilot as we headed south down I-35. Three phone calls later, I started thinking, Good night! Where are we going? What was this field trip? Something about government? Or maybe astronomy? I pulled alongside the buses just to make sure I hadn't lost the caravan, but sure enough, our school name was emblazoned on the side.


Excerpted from "Of Mess and Moxie"
by .
Copyright © 2017 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

Introduction, xv,
1. Unbranded, 1,
2. Moms, We're Fine, 11,
3. Beauty, Food, Fun, and Naps, 19,
4. Grocery Store Theology, 27,
5. We Live, 35,
6. Private Baby, 45,
7. It's Just Paint, 63,
8. No Strings Attached, 73,
9. My Soul Mate Netflix, 85,
10. Makers and Dreamers, 93,
11. Defer and Prefer, 103,
12. Sanctuary, 123,
13. On Exercise, 133,
14. The Cabin, 143,
15. Doldrums, 151,
16. Identifiable Signs of Athletic Greatness, 161,
17. Bonus Moms, 169,
18. Forgiveness School, 189,
19. Potato and Knife, 197,
20. Fangirl, 207,
21. We Were Sort of Medium, 215,
22. String Eighteen Parties Together, 233,
23. Rewoven, 243,
One More Word As You Go ..., 251,
Acknowledgments, 255,
Notes, 262,
About the Author, 266,

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