An exclusive AUTHORLINK interview with Jen Hatmaker
Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life (Thomas Nelson, 8 August 2017)
Beloved Jen Hatmaker, Texan pastor, homemaker, blogger, and the star of the HGTV show, My Big Family Renovation – is the author of several successful books and the highest-profile evangelical to affirm same-sex relationships. Her latest release, the New York Times best seller, Of Mess and Moxie, is another round of hilarious tales and shameless honesty that offers hope to women around the world who have forgotten their ‘moxie’ to lead vibrant, courageous, and grace-filled lives.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Hatmaker, it’s such a pleasure to have you on Authorlink to discuss your beliefs, your writing and your recent book, Of Mess and Moxie. You share more about your family’s ups and downs in this book than in any other of the 12 you’ve written. What was the hardest thing about writing Of Mess and Moxie and what was the easiest – and how did you come up with the title?
Writing about personal suffering when it comes to our family was difficult, because so much of it involves our kids.
HATMAKER: Writing about personal suffering when it comes to our family was difficult, because so much of it involves our kids. Their stories are their stories, so discussing our family’s healing path while protecting their privacy was a tricky needle to thread, and I hope I did it with enough care. The easiest was looking back and doing a deep dive into my Childhood Greatest Hits Rolodex. My siblings and parents added hundreds of details I’d forgotten, and those were my favorite essays to write. Anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s will relate to the hilarity of driving to Colorado in a VW Van with no middle seat or seatbelts with your baby brother in a Moses basket under the stick shift.
AUTHORLINK: Too true. You said once, (RNS, 7 August 2017), “I can’t write a good story if I am not living one, and sometimes the work of being a “professional Christian” in terms of being a writer or a speaker or a preacher and a teacher, it can take the life right out of your faith.” Can you elaborate on this?
HATMAKER: Like any good thing, faith can be commodified, branded, and drained of its purity. It can absolutely be Big Business. It is possible to go through twenty straight team meetings and never mention Jesus. The onus is on me to live the majority of my life in my own skin, in my own neighborhood, in my own church, and in my own community. My faith must be real and active and exercised, or it is just head knowledge and distant memories.
AUTHORLINK: We’re sure your approach has restored many people‘s faith. The ideas you present in Off Mess and Moxie, are truly inspired. You say, “You don’t have to be who you first were”, and, “You may need to live a new story before others are willing to bless it…” to name just two out of a hundred. What keeps people stuck in their boxes do you think?
“You don’t have to be who you first were”,
HATMAKER: I think change is threatening for most of us. It signals that maybe the old way was bad, or the last system was corrupted, or the former group of people were flawed. People take change personally. It is much safer to remain in predictable spaces where we won’t be required to flex new muscles or ask others to. But stagnation is the enemy of health, and incorporating new ideas or new challenges or new healing is the sign of life, of living, of refusing to drift along the status quo because it is easier.
AUTHORLINK: We thoroughly enjoyed the ‘How To’ sections in your book and the advice to couples and parents viewed through a compassionate, humorous lens. They were very funny. Why is it so hard for us, do you think, to be easy on ourselves? It’s such a simple concept and yet, if we could manage it better, it would make us so much easier on others…
HATMAKER: We are our own worst critics. Our inner voices are so mean usually. We treat our own mistakes one thousand times more critically than we handle others. Women often get trapped in a mental loop that plays endlessly, and we feed it with fresh new examples of our daily failures. I notice that women who are kind to themselves are kinder to others too. If we struggle to give our own souls some grace, it is just as hard to give it to someone else. I would love to see this cycle broken; it is one of the great tasks of my life.
AUTHORLINK: You are so right. You are no stranger to controversy and are perhaps the most prominent female evangelical leader to voice public affirmation for gay relationships. In 2016, you made a statement. You said, “I just sort of have this dream for the church where it is safe and it is wide and it is generous and it includes all of our voices. For the longest time, the church has essentially had one voice — sort of the white, male voice.” (RNS 7 August 2016). This resonates loudly. Later that year, you told Jonathan Merritt, writer, that you think LGBT relationships “can be holy”. Consequently, LifeWay, a large Christian retailer, pulled your books from their stores because you, “voiced significant changes” in your theology, “of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage – changes which contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines…” Some of your followers were angry and shocked about this which set off a round of debate on the authority of evangelical women in the ministry. How do you feel about this ‘hoopla’ now that it has died down (somewhat)?
HATMAKER: That was a painful season that include a great deal of loss; expected loss, but hard nonetheless. Over a year later, I can tell you that our life has become so expansive with the inclusion of our gay friends and neighbors and those who love them, I wouldn’t change a solitary minute of this past year. We are bearing witness to so much life and joy and community, of folks healing and coming back to Jesus, of families pulling back together, and just the sheer delight that our gay friends bring to our life. We are watching with our eyes what the unrestricted love of God and community produces in LGBTQ folks, and it feels like an honest to goodness miracle.
AUTHORLINK: How wonderful. We admire this statement you made, “…There’s an intrinsic reward to that sort of leadership, that speaks that insider vernacular and feels a certain way to a certain group of people. But I don’t want to do that. That feels disingenuous to me, simply because we’re too connected to people who are not comfortable in that environment. They don’t have the luxury of enjoying platitudes and having that sort of – I don’t want to say sanitized, but maybe. A sort of sanitized version of Christianity.” Do you hope the effects of your belief system and your theology, will have a more Christian and inclusive approach to the worldwide community? And if so, have you seen that change?
I am just one tiny voice in a sea of noise. I have no idea how far my influence will carry or what changes it will help bring about.
HATMAKER: I am under no delusions of grandeur. I realize I am just one tiny voice in a sea of noise. I have no idea how far my influence will carry or what changes it will help bring about. But I have to look myself in the mirror at the end of every day, and if I do not have my faithful integrity, I have nothing. Watching the widespread betrayal so many Christians feel by prominent evangelicals right now breaks my heart a hundred times a day. The ways of Jesus subvert power, protect the poor and marginalized, fight for the common good, and heal the world. That is all I know and my only true north.
AUTHORLINK: A few months ago, you launched a new podcast that was anticipated to hit a million downloads in its first month. How’s that going, how did it come about, and how are you enjoying it?
HATMAKER: The For the Love Podcast is my favorite thing right now. It did hit a million downloads in its first month and has since gone well past that, and it has brought such life to me. I basically treat the podcast as my personal phone: “Who do I want to talk to? Let’s get them on the podcast.” My team is top drawer, and I think we’ve brought outstanding content to my listeners these first six months: Brene Brown, Shauna Niequist, Ree Drummond, Drs. Cloud and Townsend, Luvvie Ajayi, Glennon Doyle, and the list goes on and on. We laugh, we cry, we push, we talk about important issues. I love it.
AUTHORLINK: Good for you; that’s great news. You, your family and your new home were involved in a reality HGTV show called, My Big Family Renovation, which aired in March 2015. What would you have done differently in that show you had a second chance?
HATMAKER: Oh my gosh. We lived in a demolished house with five kids for six months. WE ARE NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN. The actual renovation was fun (my husband and I both love design), and working with our crew was the best part, but if we ever restored another old house, I would live in a fancy hotel the entire time. Family optional.
AUTHORLINK: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since your first book? What are you working on right now (other than raising your beautiful (five) children, being a pastor and your podcast)? What do you feel your next book will be about?
I wrote my first book when I was 29 on a borrowed laptop with no email address. I just struck out blindly. I had the vaguest, tiniest notion of my own voice and not much life experience.
HATMAKER: I wrote my first book when I was 29 on a borrowed laptop with no email address. I just struck out blindly. I had the vaguest, tiniest notion of my own voice and not much life experience. I can hardly muster up the courage to read a single paragraph of my early work. GOD BLESS ME. I’ve settled into not just my own voice, but my own life, and hopefully that shows in my work. I leave tomorrow for the spring leg of the Moxie Matters Tour with my close friend Nichole Nordeman, and I just turned a book proposal into my publisher. It is too soon to spill the beans on it, but I can’t wait to tell everyone.
AUTHORLINK: We’re looking forward to reading it. What made you decide to sit down and start to write a book – your first one published being A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study (2006). Do you have a special time to write and do you aim to write every day?
HATMAKER: Books were my first love. Words have always mattered to me. Writing and reading were just part of the air I breathed, so when I decided that I had something to say, something that meant a great deal to me, I turned to the keyboard. I write in seasons. When I am writing a book, I need to be in my office at my laptop with my first cup of coffee. I am a sharp, focused morning writer, but the chances of producing coherent words past 3:00 slip down to zero percent. It is morning writing or none at all. I’ve read stuff I wrote late at night the next day, and it sounds like a deranged southern kindergartener wrote it.
AUTHORLINK: Ha! Who are your favourite authors and which genre do you prefer reading during your downtime?
HATMAKER: It’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid. I have so many mentors and heroes in literature. Memoirists and Humorists are my favorite, and some of the authors I reach for over and over are David Sedaris, Kelly Corrigan, Anne Lamott, Mary Karr, Tina Fey, Sloane Crosley, Gabrielle Hamilton, Ruth Reichl. If an author can combine humor, memoir, and food, I will be their fangirl for life.
AUTHORLINK: And for one last fun question before we go; which three people (living or dead, and other than Jesus) would you invite for dinner and why?
HATMAKER: Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, and Queen Elizabeth. I’ve always been fascinated with women in power (and near power), particularly in government. I’m interested in every bit of it: the traditions, the alliances, the pressure, the responsibility, the secret gossip. One of my best girlfriends is the granddaughter of a former US president, and I cannot get over it. I’ve asked her twenty million questions and drop her name into every conversation. Like this one, for example.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Hatmaker, it was so refreshing to talk to you today. Thank you for your time and we wish you the very best on your tour and in all your endeavours.
I hope it makes my readers laugh and cry and think and love well.
HATMAKER: Thank you for highlighting “Of Mess and Moxie”…it was such a pleasure to write. I hope it makes my readers laugh and cry and think and love well.
AUTHORLINK: It was great!
For more information: http://www.thomasnelson.com/of-mess-and-moxie
About the Author: Jen Hatmaker is the author of the New York Times bestseller Of Mess and Moxie (plus twelve other books) and the host of the For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker podcast.
She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a sought-after speaker, and a delighted resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family live.
About Anna Roins: Anna Roins is a lawyer, previously of the Australian Government Solicitor, as well as a freelance journalist who writes about social and community issues and has edited dissertations, websites, and books.
She has studied creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London. Anna enjoys trying to write novels and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.