Of Mess and Moxie – A Book Review
“Also, if your husband or family or kid or marriage or history or best friend or parent or personality or passion or orientation or career places you, ‘outside the camp,’
I want to whisper something awesome to you:
there is no camp.
There is only Jesus and His band of scalawags and ragamuffins.
Find your people. They exist.
Raise your voice, tell your story, take your place.”
Soo…full disclosure. I love Jen Hatmaker. For realz. She was one of the bloggers who re-posted He Wrote it Down and caused it to go viral, which set into motion several really important life things for me, including sobriety and Say It, Survivor. So basically, my baseline with Jen is adoration.
Last October, Jen gave an interview in which she discussed her feelings on gay marriage and the way the LGBTQ community has been treated by the church. It was open and tender and affirming and I wept when I read it.
I am the mama of two incredible human beings, both of whom are funny, kind, weird, smart people, and both of whom are members of the LGBTQ community. I have spent the past few years hearing voice after voice from faith leaders talk of Jesus out of one corner of their mouths while spewing hatred toward my kids out of the other. And if anyone is entertaining the thought of telling me it’s not personal, I’d suggest you don’t- because THE HELL IT’S NOT.
Needless to say, my gratitude to anyone in the Christian community who use their voices and their platforms to support, include, and love my kids- and all the other kids- is endless. For Jen to have done it knowing that she had a book coming out this summer, knowing that her critics would have a field day, and she would likely lose followers is brave and kind and rooted in serious integrity.
Jen’s my girl.
When I like a book I tend to annoy everyone in a half mile radius reading and/or texting quotes to them, telling them about the book. When I LOVE a book, I don’t. I want it to unfold for them the way it did for me. I did both of these things with Jen Hatmaker’s brilliant and funny new book, Of Mess and Moxie, Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life.
Some parts are just too funny not to share- it would have been selfish to keep the passage on sex talks with your kids to myself and I am nothing if not a giver. In my defense, generally, when you are cackling like a maniac in a room by yourself people ask what’s up. If I had Jen’s cell number I’d have texted her quotes from her own book. It’s a thing I tend to do with my writer-y friends. There’s an outside chance they find it annoying, but I’ve no way of knowing. I’m just going to assume it’s precious.
This book covers a lot- from faith to mothering to relationships to cooking to parent fails to sex to the creative process. That might sound like too wide a swathe of topics for one book, but it’s not and here’s why: Jen writes the way your best, smartest, most honest, hilarious girlfriend talks. The whole book reads like a girls’ night in- the kind where the conversation meanders from the sublime to the ridiculous, veering from the sacred to the wildly inappropriate. The best kind of night, we can all agree. Reading it, I found myself thinking of Truvy’s line from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
The chapter Sanctuary is one that I know I will return to again and again.
“The thing is, we all want to belong, we all crave sanctuary, we are all invited guests. Women, I commission us to fix this…. It is sacred work to open our eyes wide and look around: Who is unseen? Who is left out? Who is marginalized? Whose voice is silenced? Whose story is outside the lines? Who would feel isolated by the primary language here??”
There are also three “How to” chapters with handy step by step instructions for navigating life. For instance, the, “How to ruin your teenager’s life” section begins,
It actually could end there and be complete, but there’s more.
This entire book is a love letter to girlfriends. There are chapters that specifically speak to the power of friendship between women, and the chapters that don’t are exactly the sort of conversations women have with each other. We talk about heartbreak and how weird our kids are and aging parents and how hard marriage can be and bras and how having kids in school is more work than ACTUAL SCHOOL. We sit alongside each other in grief, we help pick up the pieces after marriages shatter, we remind each other when our kids fall down that they are more than their worst decision.
For the love.
When it comes to women friends, I have an embarrassment of riches. My tribe is wide and deep and solid. It’s, like, my favorite part of being an alcoholic. I’m am not even kidding. The upside of being a drunk in recovery is that you end up cultivating a tribe of shameless, honest, brave, badass women who run the gamut between women in their 80’s to 18-year-old fresh faced girls. I see them every single day. We show up for each other relentlessly. The love in this group is muscular. It’s gorgeous.
My BEST friend, however, is Angela. She is NOT an alcoholic, but she’s so awesome that doesn’t even matter to me. I could cry even trying to write about her. I’m so sorry for every single one of you that doesn’t have her as a best friend. Truly. I wish a version of her for you, but you cannot have her. She is very busy with me, thanksforasking.
She is smart and tough and gentle and funny and wise. She is a practical Canadian who is the single most spiritual person I have ever met. When I was stuck in mere belief she showed me what actual faith looked like. When I attend church with her I crack wide open in a way that is a struggle for me when she’s not around. She has the faith of a child, in the very best conceivable way. She’d also help me bury a body if I needed her to. I know this for a fact. She’s offered.
When I was going through my divorce I was completely undone. Shattered, really. That was a hard time for both of us. She was so worried about me. I was drinking too much and starving myself. She was literally watching her best friend disappear. She didn’t know what to do, how to help. I’m so sorry to have done that to her. At one point, she kidnapped me and dragged my skinny ass back to church where she sat next to me and looked on helplessly while I sobbed.
Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is ride shotgun alongside you in grief. That was a painful season in our friendship, but we came out of it knowing how to love one another better.
We have a whole big wide country between us now and that is hard. With jobs and kids and time zone differences, it can make connection challenging. She’s still my person, though. My love for her is deep and wide and constant and fierce, as is hers for me.
Every time I am with her I am inspired to be a better mother/friend/partner/human. The fact that her beautiful kid and my beautiful kid had the same kindergarten bus stop is proof enough to me that God loves me and wants the best for me.
There’s a chapter in the book called Fangirl. In it, Jen posits that the people we should be agog over are not celebrities, they are our friends. That we should lift up and celebrate them the way this culture does famous people (except for the delighting in their failures thing- because that’s gross.)
I couldn’t agree more. I try not to have an unarticulated loving thought about my friends. My friends are amazing and I try really hard to constantly remind them of that.
I was fortunate enough to have our pal Jen (she’s what my kid snarkily refers to as one of my interweb friends. Can you hear the air quotes? They’re deafening. Seriously, guys. “Teach them to TALK,” they said. “It’ll be FUN,” they said. They are lying liars who lie.) send me two copies of the book, just because she is awesome and generous. I’d already pre-ordered my own copy, so I seem to be in possession of some extras. That is a fabulous situation for me, as I am a compulsive book-giver.
Here’s what I’m thinking: Go to the blog’s Facebook page. If you haven’t already done so, like the page and then comment on the book review (this post) which will be the pinned post at the top. In your comment, fangirl your best friend and tag her in the comment. Tell us why she’s your ride or die friend. Shine a bright light on how totally amazeballs she is and tell us why life would, quite simply, not be the same without her. Next Friday, August 18th, I will randomly select one of the names of the commenters and then whoever is chosen -AND HER FRIEND- will receive a copy Of Mess and Moxie.
If, perchance, you DON’T win, or are just looking for the best beach read or a gift for a friend or something to pin down a very bad, small dog, go ahead and order your own copy. You won’t be sorry.
Love you so.
I am writing a book and in order to get said book published, it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform. At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.
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