I lied to Jen Hatmaker.
Ok, so let me explain. I didn’t exactly “lie”, I just sort of applied for something (to get advanced copy of her new revised book INTERUPPTED) even though I didn’t meet the criteria to apply (blog 4 times a month for the last 6 months). My thought process honestly was this: “If they don’t want to pick me, when they see I don’t post quite that often, they won’t. If they don’t have enough people apply though (HA- who was I kidding?), maybe they’ll make exceptions and they’ll pick me. I’ll never know if I don’t try.” So, because these days I am all about putting it out there and seeing what comes back, I quickly filled out the application that was limited to 250 people, and I hit “submit”. Then I forgot about it.
Until I was CHOSEN.
I realized then they trusted us to not apply if we didn’t meet the criteria, and what was I thinking? They were going to have a team of people read through our blogs and “make sure”? Seriously. I felt really bad for an entire day. Then I started reading INTERRUPTED again, (devoured it in an afternoon,) and remembered WHY I started LOVING Jen (that’s what her pretend BFFs call her, right?) in the first place. It wasn’t “7” that won me over, although I did read that first and loved it, but it was INTERRUPTED that gave her a forever place in my (blogging) heart. I made some space for her beside my other BFF bloggers Kristin Armstrong and Shauna Niequist and she has stayed there since, inspiring me in my actions, faith and writing, inspiring me to live my life with integrity so that what I “say” is what you “see”.
But I digress (slightly.) (While we are “digressed”, if you don’t know who Jen Hatmaker is, you might want to stop, click her name and check her out. She’s guaranteed to make you think, laugh out loud and say “me too!” no matter what your life looks like. Seriously. I rarely read her blogs without laughing and feeling inspired. So go ahead. Back? Ok- proceed.)
The purpose of the book giveaway was to help Jen get the word out about the release of the revised version of INTERRUPTED, which in her words is “the book of my heart.” So I determined (in order to assuage and re-frame my “guilt”) that I would use this as a catalyst to aim (AGAIN) to post weekly both as a commitment to my writing and a commitment to share more with those of you who kindly read my words. Without further ado, here are a few of MY words on why YOU should read Jen’s words! They are support for anyone who has felt a call to do something a little “crazy” in the way that life-changing truthful words always are.
I haven’t written in-depth about how I wound up where I am now, namely out of the Army and a full-time (or even part-time) medical career, spending my days doing things I want to do that pay absolutely nothing beyond the intangible benefits of helping others and improving health and all without a clear sense of “what’s next”. Perhaps because I’m reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene’ Brown and vulnerability is on my mind, or perhaps because I was recently at the World Domination Summit with my friend Sara and thousands of like-minded people, or perhaps I’m sun-struck or sleep-deprived or peace un-deprived or some combination of these but the truth is, I knew without a hint of a doubt that all of those changes above were the right ones for me. I was emerging on the other side of some hard years of stress, exhaustion and “un-health” in every aspect of my life. I was reading a lot of words about simplicity and de-cluttering and authentic living. I had purposely put myself in places to interact with people who were unloved, unwanted, seemingly “unproductive” members of society as well as those living in poverty and hopelessness. I had interacted with people who devoted their lives to helping these people and had seen a light and happiness in them that I did not see in myself or most of the people I interact with daily. I had come to terms with the new knowledge that the military and medicine were no longer places that strengthened me as a person and a planet-dweller. (As an aside, this is in no way meant to indicate they CAN’T be that for others, just that for me they no longer were.) For 2014, I felt strongly that I was (am) supposed to use my time investing in relationships-spending time with people in whatever ways that may look like, and trusting that my future “path” would show itself beneath me when I took that first step onto it.
Digression (is this number 3?): I recognize some of you just MIGHT be rolling your eyes a bit right now, and I get it….but it doesn’t change the fact that it is truth for me. If you know me, you probably know that my faith is very important to me, the most important relationship I invest in and I felt clearly that this journey was initiated by my friend Jesus. If you are tempted to stop reading right now, would you do me a favor? Since we are friends? In the spirit of the words of Ghandi (who said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians), in place of every time you hear/read/think “Christian” (especially if that has a negative connotation for you), would you replace that word with “Jesus-follower?” I have yet to meet anyone in all my life that has anything negative to say about Jesus, so as my friend, I’d be totally psyched if you kept reading. (And I’d be REALLY excited to hear your thoughts down in the comments below).
When I read INTERRUPTED the first time, it was just as I was making moves in the direction of these changes, which was pretty dang scary. Then, suddenly Jen came along and gave a name to what I was feeling, INTERRUPTED (in the largest sense possible) and her words sort of metaphorically held my hand as I kept making each tiny decision.
Words like “I am so done with being enslaved to the elusive top rung” and “I hate who I have to be to live there [at the top]. I hate the biblical two-step I have to perform to justify top-dwelling. I hate the posturing up there. I can’t stand the fear of heights, since falling is a constant danger…I detest the fear that haunts every decision.” How about these words? “It is shockingly peaceful down there [at the bottom]. It’s much quieter. The chaos of ego and pride recedes. It’s, well, kind of still and beautiful. I find myself exhaling and thinking less about the race going on up higher. Releasing the compulsion to be right, to be respected. To be understood, to be winning, if not natural, it’s certainly a relief.” YES. Just Yes.
These next words ESPECIALLY resonate with me because I feel their truth deep down in my heart and I’ve seen their truth in the faces and bodies of my patients and their families (and my friends and myself): “They [the poor] already live at the bottom, in Jesus’ zip code. I suppose that’s why Americans are the richest people on the planet but plagued with depression, suicide and loneliness. We’re furthest from the freedom that exists only at the bottom, and money can’t buy that liberation.”
But these next words were the ones that did it for me, words straight from Jen’s hand to my heart. She even calls me “dear” (ok I replaced “good” with “dear” but I don’t think she’d mind!):
“Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader. God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet. As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be? Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon? There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath.”
What? It’s like she knew just what I needed to hear then (and even now as I reread the revised version). A reminder that 1) I’m not alone. 2) Left to my own devices, I usually plan and “squash” the life out of things and 3) although I am in the “horrid beauty” phase, there is goodness down the path.
I do not think this book is for everyone. Not that everyone COULDN’”T read it, just that it says some truly unconventional, un-“American”, un-easy things and not everyone will want to hear them. What I love is that she does not tell us WHAT to do with the life we have, but she points out what might bring more meaning and peace to our lives and it’s not always having, doing, being “more.” Regardless of your job, background, demographic, reading tastes or age there is something in this book that would make you think and I “think” we can all agree that is a good thing.
I’m not sure if Jen is going to forgive me. Based on reading her books, and hearing her speak twice this year (even though I MISSED taking a picture with her because I was in the bathroom and Karen was texting me to “get here now” but they cut the line off RIGHT BEFORE my turn) I know she has a heart of grace. I know she is a generous soul (she gave us an e-copy AND a hard copy of INTERRUPTED), so I think my chances are looking pretty good.
I would truly love to hear anything you have to say about this post, this book, Jen Hatmaker, Jesus, military medicine, top-dwelling, lying on the internet or pretty much anything else you want to say. Truly. I think any writer would tell you when you write, about one millisecond after you hit “submit” you panic and want to take it all back! (Brene’ Brown has taught me that is the effect of shame and vulnerability is a “good” thing). So any words of response are generally helpful in bringing air back into your lungs. (Even hard words swoop your mind back into “function” mode). And seriously, maybe more than any post I’ve written, I’m interested in your thoughts.
Lastly, in the spirit of Jen’s forgiveness (just go with me here), I’d love to give my “hard” (it’s actually paperback) copy of INTERRUPTED to one of you guys who is still reading this far (thank you!). Let me know in the comments below if you want it and why, and I’ll figure out some fancy way to pick who gets it! In addition, (her generosity continues), if you want to order your own copy, you can get it for 20% off at this link through Aug 10th.