When I picked this book up at the bookstore, I wasn’t sure I was going to buy it. From what I had read and heard of the author, I thought the book would turn out much differently than it did. But, then I read the blurb on the back, and with what I’ve explored this year about myself, how could I not read it. This sentence in the blurb was especially refreshing. “She craves a genuine world, a more honest and sincere community, relationships based in truth-telling, to be refreshing to a parched world.” I needed this badly, but was I willing to do the work required. The only way to know for sure was to buy and read the book. I bought it, and now, I’m starting my review of it.
The author is a born story-teller. She takes her topics and writes about relevant examples from her own life without any judginess (Is that a word? lol) or religious condemnation. The book is divided into five sections with either two or three chapters in each section. The first section was especially powerful. It talked about accepting who we are–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It also discussed how each of us was made to take up a certain amount of space and how the kind of personalities we have relate to the dreams God has given us. The assertive responses listed on page 30 are responses I wish I had much earlier in my life. (Yes, you need to read the book to get those.) I plan to print these responses and hang them near my desk so I can remember when I need to use them.
The next two sections are entitled “What I Need” and What I Want.” When I looked at those titles, I recoiled. They didn’t seem right for someone who thought of herself as conservative. But, I read them. I read all of the chapters full of the author’s stories. Stories of being badly treated as a woman in ministry, stories of learning how to ask for help, and stories of leaning into her community. She also talked about dreams and about how to make space for those dreams. How about that? She has dreams like I do.
Finally, there are the sections entitled “What I Believe” and “How I Connect.” Throughout the book, but especially in these two sections, the author did a good job of sharing her story and also demonstrating that our stories weren’t going to look exactly like hers. Most people in this polarized age would turn their backs on those whose opinions were different, but she doesn’t. She is not judgemental, and I am forever grateful.
Now, for the hard work. I told you I was going to do it, and so, for this next section of the review, I am going to take each chapter title and write a sentence or two about how it applies to my own life. It’s the only way I can show how this book might help you.
- “I am wired this way.” I like to observe a situation before jumping in. This can be beneficial, but it can also be detrimental to those who want friendships.
- “I am exactly enough.” There are times I believe this down to my core, and other times, I know I will be working on this until the day I die. I think it’s why I have such a problem finishing my stories. Unconsciously, I believe my stories aren’t worthy of my pen. I want to do better!
- “I am strong in my body.” I haven’t been able to coordinate this with the other things I want to do during these strange times. It’s so hot outside that exercising wears me out, and I’m too tired to do anything else. I want to do better though.
- “I deserve goodness.” (I am quoting Jen’s statement here because I believe it reflects me exactly.) “I deserve goodness, even in religious spaces where I am an outlier. I am still a good sister and God’s kid, and I don’t deserve mischaracterization, rejection, and gossip.” (pg. 214, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen Hatmaker)
- “I need some help.” This has been a constant challenge for me because of things that have happened in my past. Trust is needed when I need to ask, and I only have a few people I trust. This is also something that is a constant challenge.
- “I need more connection.” In some ways, I feel healthy in this regard. My family has grown closer to each other during this quarantine. and I am blessed. I wish I felt more connected with my friends right now though. (Covid has taken that away from me.) My wish, I think, is to find more of a tribe, more accepting of my genuine self, and to find connections with those who are unlike me.
- “I want this dream!” Yes, I want it! I want to be a published author and have my words touch people. Guess I’ll need to break a few eggs to get there. 🙂
- “I want to choose my yeses.” “Lazy and thoughtless.” Maybe, that’s my answer to what I wrote for number 6. I say yes to people because I want to gain respect from them, and I don’t work on my dream. Need to work on that.
- “I believe in spiritual curiosity.” How is community supposed to work during this pandemic? We’re not standing together when we’re apart and afraid of each other. Yes, God has been with me every moment, and I am grateful, but I believe Christian community is going to look very different when this is over. There might be people I never see again, and I will have to learn to live with it.”
- “I believe in this cause.” I would march for women’s equality in the church and for their involvement in ministries that are not typically female-oriented.
- “I want to connect with honesty.” This is one of my biggest struggles. I have to have a level of trust with someone before I feel like I can be honest. And, sometimes I’m still not honest because I feel like I’m going to be rejected if I am.
- “I want to connect without drama.” Oh my goodness, yes! So much drama, especially among women. I guess that’s why I struggle with female friendships. I have no tolerance of drama. None. I have to take a deep breath so I won’t get sucked into it.
In conclusion, I give this book my highest recommendation. If you let it, it will help you tremendously.
God bless you all!