Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker: A Book Review

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.

  1. “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.
  2. “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!
  3. “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.
  4. “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)
  5. “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.
  6. “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.
  7. “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. 🙂
  8. “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.
  9. “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.”
  10. “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.
  11. “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.
  12. “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!

Negotiating Fear

There have been many things to negotiate during this pandemic and quarantine. I named some of them in my last two posts and in a Facebook post a few days ago.

A daily dose of perspective — OTHER THINGS are going on besides Covid. Yep, you heard it first here. You might not believe it if you scroll down your feed, but it’s true. Many things I’ve read recently have contributed to this loss of perspective so I thought I would remedy this today.

I want to speak especially to three things. Unemployment, mental health, and other physical health issues. There are also, of course, issues of social justice, but I’m not qualified to speak to those so I won’t. I have seen many posts telling people to buck up since Covid is the only thing that matters. It’s not. I’ve also seen posts saying that people can die from Covid. Of course, they can, but they can die from other things too. Don’t believe me?

If you are hungry and can’t buy food because of unemployment, you can die. If you have suicidal thoughts (mental health) from being isolated for too long and act on them, you are dead. (Isn’t that what the definition of suicide is?) By the way, I had suicidal thoughts back in March and April and thought it would be much better if I wasn’t around. (You might still think so. 🙂 ) I had to fight my way through them on my own, and it wasn’t pretty or pleasant. Finally, there are people with other physical health issues. If they are afraid to go to the hospital to get treatment because of Covid, they can die. 

Isn’t that what it all boils down to? Fear. We are afraid. Don’t bother denying it. We are afraid, and for my Christian brothers and sisters, we are afraid even though we are told not to be by Scripture. 

I’m stopping the quote here because this is the promised further exploration of fear. When we first started hearing of Covid in March which resulted in several states shutting down, I wasn’t afraid of getting Covid. Maybe, I should have been, but I wasn’t. I was more worried about what the shape of my mind would be when we came out of isolation. The voices I hear in my head because of my depression and anxiety are more prominent when I’m isolated, and there was no telling how long we would have to be at home. I also knew there were Scripture verses that told us not to be afraid and decided I was going to hold onto them with all my might. I didn’t do this perfectly, but I did my best.

The news during those first few weeks wasn’t good. The numbers kept getting higher, and the reports from the media were full of doom and gloom. Was I supposed to be afraid? That was my main question. Even though I was familiar with such verses as Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” it still seemed like I should be afraid.

Then, the churches started closing. What was this? Churches had closed, and they were still telling us not to be afraid. Verses like 1 Timothy 1:7 and 1 John 4:18 didn’t seem to mean anything to those of us who follow Jesus. Whether we should be afraid or not has been the theological question I have struggled with this entire time.

As I’ve continued to listen to the media reports over the last few months and seen the precautions taken, one conclusion made the most sense to me. They want us to be afraid. They want us to be afraid of getting sick. Whether that’s inadvertent or on purpose, I don’t know. But, I do know one thing.  I want my thoughts to be on my Lord and Savior and for Him to be with me like it says in Psalms 23:4. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.” I want my trust to be in Him like it says in Psalms 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” I want Him to deliver me from my fears like it says in Psalms 34:4.

As I wrap this up, I want to make sure I state I don’t have all the answers. I will probably be wrestling with this theological point long after the pandemic is over. But, I know I don’t need to be afraid and that God will be with me through it all–the good and the bad. I pray the same for all my Christian brothers and sisters.

God bless you!

PS I also want to make sure I tell you that I’m following all the mandated precautions for my area.

On a Different Path

A few weeks ago I saw a post from one of my blogger friends about creating a vision board for the rest of 2020. It sparked thoughts from my own life, and I wondered if I should do the same. I’m pretty sure most of us could say the first six months of 2020 have been rough with everything that has happened. Then, a few days later, I took this picture. It reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” And, I thought maybe God might be using this time to put me on a different path. So, I thought I would talk about the vision board I made today and what went into the various parts.

Now, to clarify what I mean, I should probably share a definition of the term. “A dream board or vision board is a collage of images, pictures, and affirmations of one’s dreams and desires, designed to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation, and to use the law of attraction to attain goals.” (source-Wikipedia) Pretty detailed, right? I did one for 2018 and 2019, but doing one for this year totally slipped my mind in December. I’m thinking now though it was good it did otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about now. 🙂

So, as we all know, lives have been turned upside down over the last four months. I have written and am continuing to write, but it’s been hard. There’s been a lot of noise that has interrupted my focus and concentration. When the end of June rolled around, I realized I needed to re-focus on what I wanted to do with my life, i. e. create a vision board. Some of the phrases I used included: “Make your writing stand out.” “Think small, win big.” “Turn the beat around.” “New beginnings.” I also cut out pictures from one of my writing magazines. I especially liked the picture which resembled a new plant blooming. It’s what I feel like I’m about to do. What form that takes is unknown, but I know I need to take baby steps every day to get there, and the pictures and words I see inspire me to keep going.

The other part of my vision board contains phrases of the type of person I want to be moving forward. They are either quotes from a book I found this spring titled Live Love Now by Rachel Macy Stafford or quotes from different conversations I have had as I’ve endured this time through the pandemic. I especially liked this quote from Live Love Now. “Dare to reach farther than you ever thought you could.” (pg. 255, Natalie Stafford, Live Love Now) It’s what I’m trying to do. It’s what I’m hoping to be, and seeing it on my vision board helps me get there.

Finally, there is the poem I referenced when I began this post. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
As the poem says, I’m on a different path now, one I couldn’t have imagined before the pandemic and quarantine. One which celebrates how God made me and how I am wired. One which encourages me to be a bright light in the hard. One in which bravery and courage are requirements.
May we all follow the paths God has put us on whether we do it being cheered on by others or whether we do it alone!

God bless you all!