Review: Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

If you’re a Christian woman in her late-twenties to early-forties, you most likely have heard of Jen Hatmaker. Funny, thoughtful, and to the point, she has a diverse following. This year, she’s used her platform to talk about things we often don’t like to talk about – race, privilege, politics. I’m always amazed at those who continue to follow her and am grateful that she is able to push the boundaries and world-views of many women.

_140_245_Book.2334.coverHatmaker’s newest book, Of Mess and Moxie just released and I was looking forward to seeing her shifting voice. In the introduction, she talks about how her theology and outlook have shifted over the years, and how this is a healthy thing. It’s true – if my views on life and faith were exactly the same as they were ten years ago, it would indicate more stagnation than steadiness.

This new collection of essays dives into some of her growth. But it also is cut off by other essays about things like How to do math homework with a middle schooler and How to find a family pet. These are funny essays but they took away from the overall depth and power of her more serious essays. I feel like Hatmaker has a great influence and a powerful way of writing. Maybe she knows the art of taking baby steps with her audience but I wish she (or her publisher?) would allow her readers to go on a deeper dive without having to resurface just as things are getting interesting.

Here’s the thing, if you’re a fan of Jen Hatmaker’s, you’re going to love Of Mess and Moxie. It’s her signature style and she feels like a buddy talking on the front porch about life and friendship and motherhood. I like Hatmaker’s message but her style at this stage just isn’t for me. It’s a reminder that not every book is for every person, and that’s ok.

How do you like your essays – deep and thought-provoking or witty and fun?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Choosing to Use My Voice

Tu es tres timide, I was told yet again. Have you thought about taking acting classes? Learning French made me awkward, vulnerable in my ignorance, and timid in starting conversations. I retreated and sounded like a toddler rather than an intelligent adult. In many ways, losing my voice while trying to speak French made me insecure about my voice in other areas.

frogs-1274769_960_720It took some time, but I learned that I’m not defined by my foreign language skills. I do have thoughts and a voice and can contribute intelligently to conversations.

I’m also learning when it’s best to contribute my own voice, when it’s best to amplify the voices of others, and when it’s best to just be quiet. Not because I agree or disagree, but because it’s just not the time or place.

We’re in yet another time as a country when voices need to be heard; when we need to stop and listen; and when we need to recognize our own place in the conversation. In these moments, I recognize that my place is more often than not to listen, not to speak. To really hear the experiences of others.

Often, this means seeking out articles from a different point of view. Ideally, this means being quiet and letting my real-life friends speak. Sometimes, this means using the “hide” function on Facebook, recognizing that it’s not the time or place for debate.

I don’t feel as helpless as I did a few years ago, when I realized the privilege in choosing to speak or not. But I’m also learning that speaking is a privilege and my hope is that I use my voice to help and advocate, not to simply add to the noise.

How do you choose to use your voice? Have you ever wished you had been bolder?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “speak.”

Interview: Sabeeha Rehman, Author of Threading My Prayer Rug

Last week, I had the honor of talking with Sabeeha Rehman, author of Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim. We read her book as part of the Red Couch Book Club (check out my discussion post) and it was a delight to ask her more questions and to dive deeper into her story.

Sabeeha’s story about finding her way as a Muslim in America is powerful. Topics we cover include the shifting views on feminism in Islam, American’s relationship and interaction with Islam over the years, and the way Sabeeha’s journey has brought her to advocacy and bridging divides between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I hope you’ll watch our video and check out her book!

Click here to watch our conversation.

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Review: Adopted by Kelley Nikondeha

I was hanging out with a friend the other day, our kids playing in the basement as we snatched bits of conversation. Her almost-one-year-old crawled over to me with the biggest smile. What a smile! I exclaimed before making a huge faux-pas, She looks just like her mom. Without missing a beat, my friend replied, She does look like her birth mom!

My friend is this little girl’s mom. She has been since before this child was born – chosen for her. And yet, through the connection of Facebook and open adoptions, we also know her birth mom and what she looks like. We see biologic resemblances even though all of this sweet girl’s nurturing is through her adoptive parents.

My friends have learned to handle these comments with grace. They are open about this road to adoption and the challenges and sweetness of the journey. They embody a family knit together by the restoration of adoption.

DGPSZ9bXcAAwJQ1In Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World, Kelley Nikondeha speaks about the theology of adoption as an adoptee herself and as an adoptive mother. She weaves together stories of her own adoption, of her journey of adopting her children, and the Bible’s underlying theme of adoptive family. From Moses to Ruth to Jesus, we see adoption stories as the basis of Christian faith. Paul calls us adopted children of God. Without adoption, there is no foundation for the radical inclusiveness and love of the message of Jesus.

Kelley brings this theology of adoption out of the ancient text and into our lives, here and now. How do we reconcile the adopted land of Israel? To some, this state is a restoration of a displaced people; to others it is the oppression of an original people group. How do we reconcile centuries of oppression and slavery in America with acknowledgement that returning to literal African roots isn’t the solution? How do we restore the stolen land of our Indigenous People while recognizing it isn’t about the physical plot of land. Or maybe it is? Kelley brings these questions and their theology to the forefront while recognizing the complexities of living out a Jubilee-faith, a faith that restores the land and forgives debts; a faith that welcomes the refugee home; a faith that reconciles adopted land with homeland.

Kelley’s rich storytelling and smart theology blend perfectly create a book that deals with current issues of social justice with the power and grace of biblical redemption. She reminds us that redemption doesn’t mean a neat bow and easy answer, that this kingdom is slow in coming. But, she says, that doesn’t mean we lose hope. Through her own story of adoption, she says,

Adoptive parents aren’t superheroes or saints. The legitimate words of caution and real complications that are part of adoption give me pause. And yet redemption, whenever it happens, must be named (94).

Extending this metaphor of adoption, she reminds us that the road to redemption is paved with disappointment, failure, and suffering. It is the restorative work of God that brings those heartaches light and brings the slow restoration of this world.

She ends this book with the reminder that all of humanity is adopted into this family of God. And that by claiming the title of family, of brothers and sisters, we are interwoven and bound. We are together on this road to reconciliation and redemption. This faithful hope gives me pause when I get discouraged and reminds me that, though there are so many divisions, there is so much repair that is happening, as well.

Adopted is for sale now, and I’d highly recommend this hopeful book! As part of Kelley’s launch team, I received an advanced copy from the publisher but all views are my own.

How have you experienced the theology of adoption? Where do you long to see restoration through adoption?

The Sweetness of Milestones

We walked to Bea’s new school the other day to meet her kindergarten teacher. When she started preschool, I didn’t cry. I saw how ready Bea was for that new adventure and it seemed so right for our family.

IMG_5702But as we walked through the halls of this big school, as friendly teachers and staff greeted us and helped us navigate our way to the new classroom, as we stood outside and peeked in, tears pricked my eyes. I realized what a milestone kindergarten will be, this embarkment into a great world of learning and discovery and independence.

Standing in the library later with the one family we knew from preschool, we talked about how this is it. For the next six years, this place will define our time and schedule. It will define a lot of our choices and how we respond to them. It will help shape our kids into the lifelong learners we’ve been hoping for already.

I’m incredibly excited for Bea to start kindergarten. She is ready and excited. She’s the type of student that will do just fine – friendly, kind, conscientious, a rule-follower. But, as with so many transitions, there’s something a little bittersweet. Our days of exploration and discovery at home are over. Our flexible schedule and ability to have midweek adventures are being traded for a wider world. It’s all good, but there is still a little heartache at seeing how quickly time really does speed along.

Life is bittersweet, isn’t it? What was your favorite grade in school? If you’re a parent, which transition was your favorite? And, did you cry on the first day of kindergarten?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “place.”

What I Learned from My Disappointment in Wonder Woman

This month’s theme at SheLoves Magazine is “Elephant in the Room.” What are things we don’t really talk about, though are glaringly obvious? I immediately thought of my response to Wonder Woman and how disappointed I was that we’re not ready for a truly feminist superhero. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

Annie-Rim-Wonder-Woman3We are in a stage of parenting where going to the movies is a low priority. The amount of planning and coordinating seems better spent on a date in which we look over a candle-lit table and have a great conversation. But when Wonder Woman hit the theaters, I knew I wanted to prioritize this film.

 I spontaneously texted my mom as we drove to church—Can you watch the girls after lunch? We want to see Wonder Woman. A quick affirmative text back meant that we suddenly had a date afternoon!

I had read articles about what an incredible film this was, from a feminist point of view, from a spiritual point of view, from a comic book nerd point of view. I went in with expectations high, ready to be inspired and filled with the fire of girl power.

I left disappointed. I won’t go into all the reasons it didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations—from the fact that, after Diana leaves Themyscira, island of the Amazonian women, the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (in which two named women have a conversation about something other than a man) to the reality that it is still the male hero who saves the day.

As we drove home, my husband enthusiastically declared it a 5-star film!!! (All exclamation points belong to his optimistic nature.) I hemmed between 3.5 and 3.75 stars. (All precise decimals belong to my overly analytical nature.)

When will we stop taking baby steps? I asked. When will we finally have an action movie with a female hero, no strings attached?

I often feel this way about life, in general. I get so tired of taking baby steps. When people tell me that Black Lives Matter—it just takes baby steps for the system to change. Or when I hear that we do want to honor Indigenous Lands—it just takes baby steps for the government to treat them as sacred. Or that women are making strides in the workplace—it just takes baby steps to earn equal pay and sustainable maternity leave.

When are we going to take an actual step? When are we going to stop relying on milk and move to solid foods? Head over to SheLoves to read the rest!

What about you? Did you love Wonder Woman? Where are some places you long for leaps rather than baby steps?

Life Vests Are Awkward

One of my favorite memories from our recent trip to Oahu is the moment I learned something new about Frank. I always thought he was a mountain man. He loves hiking and exploring and much of our early relationship was founded on trails through the Rockies.

IMG_5457Seeing him in the ocean, I realized he’s not just a mountain guy – he’s a nature guy. Growing up just an hour away from the New Jersey shore, Frank grew up swimming in the ocean and couldn’t wait to dive in.

Even though I grew up in California, swimming in the pacific just wasn’t part of my childhood. We’d go to the beach and play in the waves but the water was cold and the days were often foggy. My idea of a great beach experience includes a sweatshirt and a hot mug of cocoa.

One of the activities was a catamaran and snorkeling excursion. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn something new, so I waited to try out snorkeling until we were on the boat. While everyone pulled on flippers and dove into ocean to join a sea turtle feeding on the reef, I was handed an incredibly awkward life vest and told to stay near the lifeguard.

It was a humbling experience. I did not look cute or anything – I looked like an adult in a giant yellow plastic vest. I bobbed on top of the waves. I was kind of self-conscious.

But I’m so glad I tried! I saw beautiful fish. I got to see that sea turtle having a mid-morning snack. I experienced part of the world I never would have seen if I hadn’t just strapped on that vest and jumped in.

It was a reminder that I never look as graceful as I imagine but if I let that stop me, there are many experiences I’d miss out on. I’m learning to take a few more risks, life vest and all.

Have you ever had an experience that was way more awkward than you imagined? What are some risks you’ve taken lately?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “try.”