Why: A long time friend was actually on the launch team for this book and sent me a copy even as I was anxiously awaiting my turn at the library! The tagline was really what attracted me to the book initially though: Fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards. I admit that I often find myself falling prey to the negativity in today’s world and feel as if I’m “not enough”. These words made me feel like someone gets it, and the idea that it was a woman sharing thoughts for women was enticing.
We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.
The Story: For the Love has four main sections that concern self, family, everyone else and the church. The portion on self comes off as a reality check to me, but in a good way. Jen provides positive reinforcement that while we all face struggles, we are not alone. We should be proud of who we are and honest with ourselves (and others). Her humor is on point here, but beyond the clothing faux paus she delivers a message of strength and not minimizing our gifts.
The family section (and in full disclosure, my favorite) shares the astounding news that we’re all a little different. We’re not all Norman Rockwell paintings of perfectly behaved children and four course meals. Parenting is hard and if you’re trying, you’re doing just fine. The world does not need to bend to our children’s every whim, and when moments are difficult, remember that the goals are to be kind, genuine, and in Jen’s house, to love Jesus. She then provides readers with ten keys to a successful marriage. You may not be expecting to see #10 in print!
The “everyone else” portion (my terminology here) both acknowledges the challenges of developing relationships and surviving difficult people, and also encourages the small moments shared in unique ways. This sets up the final installment that focuses on the church, its message, and how that message is delivered. Jen writes about the negativity that can surround Christians, and shares many lessons she has experienced first hand as both the daughter of and now wife of a pastor. She draws it all together for a conclusion that involves positively describing women as chickens. Yes, the animal.
It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior. We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other.
Opinion: This is not your mama’s book on lady-like behavior. This is an honest take on being a woman in today’s fast-paced, hyper-competitive, and Pinterest-standard world. I enjoyed the book immensely, even if I didn’t completely agree with Jen on everything. What made that disagreement work is that she lets you know that it’s ok to feel that way!
The book is conversationally written and while borderline too casual for me at times, the voice is so distinctive throughout that you truly feel like you’ve met Jen Hatmaker by the end of the book. This creates such a genuine tone that trust is established between author and reader. Personally, this made me more open to the material and lessons – especially when assessing my own actions and behaviors.
To be clear, every human has some drama. We all take a turn in the Crazy Seat. If you breathe air, you are entitled to the occasional meltdown, regrettable public rant, obsessive self-absorbed season, or time in the gutter.
Recommendation: This is geared toward women who identify with some level of Christianity. With that understanding, I do believe many of the stories and lessons and honest musings that Jen shares are worth reading for any woman who is trying to do and be it all. The chapters are short and it is a fun, easy read that will make you smile, laugh out loud and probably take a moment (or a few) to close your eyes and let her message sink in. Even the final portion regarding the church and Christians is accessible for the less “religious” reader because it addresses more concerns with the state of the church than it does preach a way of life. It identifies real situations in an open and straight forward manner. I fully recommend this book for young women who are building their “adult” lifestyle, and any other woman looking for grace in a world of impossible standards.
Faithfulness is not easy, but it is simple. You are already able, already positioned, already valuable in your normal life on your normal street next to your normal neighbors in your normal work.
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- What impossible standards do you place on yourself? Are other people instigating these standards or do you create them yourself?
- Jen asks, “What are you good at? Not sure? What do people constantly say you are good at?” Are you practicing humility or showing insecurity when you downplay your gifts?
- For the married gals, did any of Jen’s keys for a successful marriage surprise you? What would your list look like? Are you following through on your own list?
- For the single ladies, what are the standards you set for your partner (current or future)? Are these reasonable expectations? Are you honestly holding up your end of the bargain?
- What are some of the ways you actively stay in touch with friends and maintain a sense of community?
- What recipe would you make for your own Supper Club? What adjectives would you use to describe it?
I love books that challenge me to be a better person, but also appreciate the authors that let me know I’m human and doing alright! Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d be delighted if you’d share them! Or the recipes you would make for your own Supper Club… mwahaha!
I enjoyed this one too. Interestingly though, I think it serves as an introduction to Jen as a writer. Some of the books she wrote earlier (I’m thinking specifically of 7 and Interrupted) seem to go a bit deeper.
Lindsey, thank you for your comment! I’ve added 7 to my reading list (and might add Interrupted now too!), and I think you hit the nail on the head with your description. I feel like I know Jen now, and maybe reading her other books after For the Love will provide a good background? Do you have a recommendation for which one I should read next?
[…] I recently read For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and loved her style of writing. It’s personal and conversational, but full of conviction. One […]