I have been terrible about reading lately, so I thought I’d make myself feel better by at least reviewing the latest book I’ve read 😉
I am typically not one to read “popular” books but for some reason I just went on Amazon and got this on a whim. I have never read anything by Jen Hatmaker before and don’t consider myself a fan, but something about this book looked really good and I kept seeing it everywhere. Note: this review will be lengthy because I had a lot of thoughts about it.
A quick summary of this book is that it’s a modern woman’s handbook on how to realistically live as a Christian in a completely counter-culture world. It has funny pieces, serious pieces, and unfortunately some confusing pieces for me. The book is broken down into the categories “Your Very Own Self,” “All These People Who Live in My House,” “Friends, Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies,” and “Church, Church People, Not-Church People, and God.”
I will start by saying I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, Jen is a refreshing Christian, not one to be weighed down with “shoulds,” who is witty and real. She is a hoot who provides fun-to-read and relateable content for all. On the other side, sometimes I wonder where the Gospel is in her message. She even tried to address this in her book that she was criticized of this before but her answer failed terribly (more on this later).
Because the book spans so many topics, I’ll review it by the book sections I listed above.
Your Very Own Self
This was probably my favorite part of the book. This is the part of the book I’d go tell every woman to read. It’s essentially about self-care and how as busy women and moms, we seriously neglect this.
My favorite quote of the book is:
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 by 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 meaning relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served in neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.
You can’t balance that job description.
She ultimately goes on to talk about how people who balance it all don’t and that it’s all a lie that our world is trying to feed us, to which I 100% needed to hear and agree. She definitely shows that she is not a perfect mom or even what society would consider “great” at times, but that it’s okay. She shows her junk in an encouraging way that makes you realize even a lady who can write several books and be on a TV show and raise 5 kids doesn’t “have it all.”
However, some parts of her writing confuse me. She claims we can’t have it all, but then goes on to say “No, I can’t do it all so I hire out the help,” which wasn’t very encouraging to someone who doesn’t have those resources or options. There were times that she sounded too celebrity for me and it became unrelatable.
Some parts of this section were just so darn funny, talking about having grandma hands and her fashion woes like wearing yoga pants at all times and in public but how leggings should not be pants. It was all funny, but sometimes I wondered what this had to do with anything? It’s not that Christian books can’t be funny. It just never tied to anything? I feel like the book was marketed wrong because I expected a “Christian book” and there was a lot less “Christian book” in this than I thought, but still enjoyable.
All These People in Your House
Looking back on this section, it wasn’t too memorable for me. She talks about how school is extremely tedious and hard to manage for 5 kids, which I totally believe. She talks about how it’s okay to have less-than-perfect family dynamics, which is encouraging coming from a preachers wife. She has a section on marriage that I have to admit just felt like anything else I’ve ever read about marriage and wasn’t inspiring, including “have more sex.” Yup, haven’t read that anywhere else before…
I really disliked a chapter called “Jesus Kids.” It was basically saying that kids are slowly drifting away from Christianity and how we need to get them back in the church. I wasn’t raised a Christian though and didn’t go to church as a kid, so I guess I find this idea a little unnecessary. Of course having kids in the church and raising them that way is ideal, but she made it seem like this was the only way the Gospel will reach the most amount of people. And I just disagree with that so hard because God works in so many ways we can’t see. Overall, it was just a very “churchy” closed-minded chapter to me.
Friends, Strangers, Neighbors, and Enemies
This is the section where she introduces her ideal for a Supper Club, which is I think becoming increasing popular among people today. The idea is to rotate houses and have dinner after the kids go to bed. Everyone else gets babysitters and the hosts have their kids to sleep. The hosts make everything and then the next month they go to someone else’s house.
She also goes on to talk a lot about community. While I envy the community she has, the way she talked about it actually turned me off because I so don’t have that type of community. I have before, but it always phases out because we move often. Again, she had a slim view of how the world works here because not everyone has these rich communities of friends who can create giant supper clubs… I guess I see a lot of the world as hard to get connected in and make those deep and lasting friendships, but it seems as if that’s the only friendships Jen has. I know that’s not true, but the way she wrote it made it seem like that, which was just a turn off.
I loved her chapter called Difficult People. She broke it down into people you choose to deal with (friends) and people you have to deal with (family, etc.). It was very encouraging because I’ve felt really hopeless in terms of some people I have to deal with and don’t know how.
Church, Church People, Not-Church People, and God
I absolutely loved most of this section. This is where I can get on the Jen Hatmaker bandwagon. She actually talked about problems that the church has without abandon.
Since I didn’t grow up in the church and got pretty burned from my last one, I don’t always think church is so great, even though I’m a Christian and love Jesus. It was so dang refreshing to hear that someone else finally feels the same way.
She addressed the very silly way many churches do ministry to other countries, how it is basically “Poverty Tourism” and that many of the efforts churches plan for like building or painting aren’t that useful. Churches fail to plan to continue going back to an area and truly make an impact.
She also talked about how church leadership is in a really bad state usually, being overworked and unable to say no to anything for fear that it won’t get done. She basically called out all pastors and ministry leaders to be real and stop faking it because that’s a lot more useful to people.
Then there was this weird chapter just thrown in there called “If Social Media Were Around…” It was pretend Tweets from if Jen had had a Twitter in her twenties. It was funny, but again, I kind of have no idea what impact it was supposed to have other than to make you laugh.
Her chapter called “Christians, Stop Being Lame” could have been so much better. I really looked forward to this after all she said about the church, but it was a let down for me. She starts the chapter talking about how a reader on Facebook says they don’t see the gospel in anything she does. I have to admit, this really resonated with me. I followed her Instagram for a while and it was so completely random and sometimes she posted some less-than-nice things about her kids, so I didn’t want to follow her anymore.
However, instead of addressing the issue with her outward appearance of not being that “Christian,” she instead talks about how we need to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat people better and skirts around the topic at hand entirely. On one hand, I totally get it. Sometimes I feel like people look at me this way – like what I share about isn’t “Christian,” like we’ve defined what Christian is and isn’t in such narrow terms. But she really didn’t give an answer to this and instead just turns it around saying that people are not treating each other right. This may be true, but I just wish she would recognize that maybe a HUGE piece is missing to her online presence? Her Facebook and Instagram seem so weird to me. Not that every post has to be about Jesus or a Bible verse or something. But I just don’t get it.
She ends the book with this supposed-to-be-super-encouraging speech about women and how we should “show up in our own lives” and love and serve and blah blah blah. It was nice, but it was just kind of empty words for me.
There were parts of this book I absolutely loved. I laughed out loud many times. I shook my head in agreement. But I was also confused. I think I just don’t personally click with Jen in all ways. Some of her verbiage or chapters just left me thinking what? I re-read a lot of parts and the point never became clearer.
I feel like the book was not marketed correctly. The tag line is “Fighting for Grace in a world of impossible standards.” I really feel like the first section about yourself is the only one that truly addressed that actual topic. What does pretend Tweets and fashion faux pas have to do with Grace? It doesn’t. While Jen is actually really funny, I just don’t think the humor in this book was executed in a way that worked for me.
This isn’t something I would say is a total “must-read” for all Christians. If you already like Jen, you’d probably love this. If you need a decent Christian book about living right with God, this seems like more of a mainstream cultural read than an actual self-help book. I definitely desired more from this one.
Questions for You:
- Are you a Hatmaker fan?
- Have you read any of her books before? I heard 7 is good and was thinking of picking that up.