7 by Jen Hatmaker {a review}

Confronted by the worldly abundance in her life, Jen Hatmaker decided to rebel against cultural norms with an unconventional fast from greed, materialism, and overindulgence.  She identified seven areas of excess and tackled them one month at a time.  The result is recorded in Jen’s thought provoking book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

The Hatmaker family (along with some friends who were willing to participate in this crazy experiment) would only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places.  They would eliminate use of seven media outlets, give away seven things each day, adopt seven green habits, and observes seven “sacred pauses.”  This mutiny lasted seven months, each practice assigned to a different month.

Jen shares her journey through the 7 experiment in journal style.  She is humorous, honest, and humble about her struggles and successes along the way.

If the state of my paperback copy of this book is any indication of how much I would recommend 7, you should go out and buy it immediately.  The cover is bent from being shoved in my purse so I could read it during any downtime, pages are mussed up and underlined, and water marks belie the truth that it was in the bathroom (a favorite reading spot) a lot.

I’m still not sure whether I read 7 at the perfect time or the worst time.

My heart was primed for talk of purging and simplifying after reading Tsh Oxenreider’s book, Organized Simplicity. I may have freaked The Hubs out with all my talk of family purpose statements, home management, and garage sales (which we did have!).

However, all of this upheaval in my heart about intentional living coincided with upheaval in my day to day life.  Tim and I were newly married, job searching, and didn’t have a permanent place to live.  Major transitions were in motion and I started reading 7 the day we got the keys to our new apartment, 1300 miles away from where we previously called home.

I was ripe for revival in this new season, this new place, but very full with all the changes that had happened and were happening.  Our  move was the perfect opportunity to start fresh, but I was already overwhelmed with adjusting to our new situation let alone adjusting to a new style of living.

We had already reduced our possessions before moving and were beginning to weigh purchases against budget and priorities.  But, I realized this book was prompting an attitude adjustment not just an actions overhaul.

I was especially convicted about my closet.  During high school and college, I built a large part of my identity around the clothes I wore.   I had accumulated quite the clothing collection over those years and continued to purchase without purging.  Not only did I need to purge, I also needed to extricate my value from my apparel.

Month by month, as I laughed, sighed, and agreed with Jen, I became more fired up about simplicity.  But, I also developed a superior attitude about my new found zest for intentional living.  I judged other people’s choices, holding them to my own new standards.

By the time I had gotten to the last couple chapters, I was mentally crafting an S.O.S. to Jen asking how she approached other Christians who were not on the same beam about reducing excess and increasing generosity.

Then I read her conclusion. Screech. Halt. Lightbulb. Humbled.

7 allowed us to slowly break up with some of our ideas, our luxuries. However, even if I had a clear directive, I’m not sure I’d share it here. Whatever God has done or is doing in our family is certainly not a template, and I don’t want it to be.  We live in a certain city with a certain task, we have specific gifts, and we’re horribly deficient in others.  Our life looks like it does because we are the Hatmakers, and God is dealing with us the way He’s dealing with us.  We have a history and sin issues and circumstances and geography that God takes into account as He stakes our place in His kingdom. {218}

My judgment of others was based on a formula – a formula I wasn’t 100% successful at, I might add!  Fasting isn’t really about what you go without, but why you go without.  I realized that 7 wasn’t prescriptive, but descriptive.

The process of lightening our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional load in order to serve God wholeheartedly looks different for everyone.  It isn’t a formula. Jen’s message isn’t one of judgement for the techno-dependent, hoarders in all of us; it is encouragement to take an honest look at our resources and how we use them.

Each of us is in a different place on the journey. I am responsible for my own journey and to spur others on in their own journey, not to criticize.

When the reading was over, 7 left me meditating on these two verses:

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {Matthew 6:20}

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. {Micah 6:8}

Dear Jen Hatmaker {31 Days of Letters}

Dear Jen Hatmaker,

You are many things that I am not.  You are a fierce Texan, mother of five, and published author many times over.  I, on the other hand, am a loyal Californian living in Idaho, hoping to get past my one year anniversary without a little Gardner on the way, and only in my dreams have a published book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

Differences aside, we could (and should) be friends.  Within the first few pages of 7, I realized we were cut out of the same cloth, which just so happens to be a burlap coffee sack.  By the time I finished – and by finished, I  mean laughed, commiserated, and gave a hearty Amen! – the first chapter, I was doubly convinced that we would get along.  Coffee, ahem.. caffeine, is a pretty strong agent for community, wouldn’t you say?

Your reflections from Day 19 proved that I was not alone in the world.  You may not have every jot and tittle of your books on immediate recall, so permit me to quote you:

I escaped narrowly by chewing gum like a quitting smoker.  I should tell you that every time I’ve been in Sprouts, I’ve put my nose directly on the glass cases of bulk coffee beans and inhaled like a deranged weirdo. I mean, deeply inhaled.  For at least ten seconds.  Nose to the glass.  The only possible way I could act more disturbing is if I ground up some beans, made a line with a razor blade, and snorted it in the middle of aisle 9.

My gosh.  I think I have a problem.  A friend asked if I was quitting coffee after this month was up.  I told her I’d considered renouncing coffee exactly zero times, and if she ever brought up such foolishness again, I was going to quit her.

Yeah.  I definitely have a problem.

{page 34 from 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess}

I laughed right out loud when I read that, clutching my steaming cup of morning joe a little tighter so as not to splatter the pages of 7 with upset coffee.  Though, coffee splatters would have made the book smell good… Visual aids promote help retention, right?  I digress…

Besides celebrating our shared coffee addiction (and hoping we can be friends), I wanted to thank you for writing 7.  Some people find it a bit gimmicky, and to that I say, so what?  The fact that you got paid to eat seven foods or wear seven items of clothing doesn’t diminish what the Holy Spirit did in you and what He will do in people like me who get to journey with you because you wrote the book.

I love how you describe a fast not as restriction for restriction sake, but as reductions and limitations to create more space for God to move, stretch, and transform.  This journey of yours isn’t about numbers.  It’s about becoming maleable, letting God mold you into something that looks more like Him.

Thank you for being candid and just downright hilarious in the process.  If you’re ever in Northern Idaho, lets get coffee!



PS to readers:

I really would like to be friends with Jen Hatmaker.  In the meantime, I enjoy reading her blog posts and books; both of which you can check devour on her website.

And, please put 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess on your reading list!

Keep up with 31 Days of Letters.

Writing tomorrow’s left me emotionally spent…

Day one: Dear #217