8iRWeiXjcKj9kUz5Tebo4_k_FtY Life with Two Special Needs Children: "7: A Mutiny Against Excess" - Book Review and a Giveway

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"7: A Mutiny Against Excess" - Book Review and a Giveway

I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to receive a digital copy of “7:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” written by Jen Hatmaker and write a review on my blog.  I had read one of Jen’s books (“Girl Talk:  Getting Past the Chit Chat”) previously with my BLT group at Church, and ordered a number of her other books, but have not had a chance to read them.  Life as a special needs mom seems to get in the way sometimes!  However, when I heard about “7” I knew I was going to have to read it!! 

If you have not heard of Jen Hatmaker, here is a little information about her:  Jen Hatmaker and her family live in Austin, Texas, where the city motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” and they work hard to do their part. Jen’s eight previous books include Interrupted and A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study. She and her husband planted Austin New Church in an economically and ethnically diverse, socially unique, urban area of the city in 2008. They are in the greatest adventure of their lives, (thrilled to find out where they have planted is known as the “church planters graveyard”) and have made some incredible new partnerships in ministry. They’ve seen their world turned upside down as they’ve considered what it means to ask God how to live and not just what to do. But it’s a good upside down, as part of that discovery will be the addition of two children from Ethiopia set to join the three they already have. Together they will keep Austin weird and seek to glorify God as they do.  – Jen’s family has been blessed by the miracle of adoption with the two of the cutest little ones from Ethiopia.

If you ever get the chance to go hear Jen Hatmaker speak, RUN do not walk!!  You will truly be blessed!!!!!!!

Now let’s get started on to the book. 

As Tony and I have talked about implementing this into our lives, we definitely know that there are things that we definitely need to change.  We are going to definitely implement some things, but we may not go to the extreme that Jen did in the book.  But we are definitely going to use this book as a guide to help us in our mutiny against excess!  Jen even wrote at the end of the book, 
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 history and sin issues and circumstances and geography that God takes into account as he stakes our place in His kingdom.  You have an entirely different set of factors.  I have no idea what this might look like in your life, nor do I want that job.  Your story is God’s to write, not mine.” 
To start, one thing that I love about this book is how Jen writes it.  She writes it basically as a diary of her thoughts and experiences through each month as she works through each category.  She did state that her seven categories took approximately 10 months because she spent four weeks on each section but then took two weeks before starting the next to work through the writing of the previous category.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the fact that Jen did not water anything down!  She talked through her struggles throughout the book.  She was REAL with us in this book!

Jen’s first category she focused on was food.  Jen and her husband, Brandon, only ate seven foods for the month.  Those foods were chicken, eggs, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados and apples.   This is one of the categories that Jen and her husband did not require their children to participate in. 

As I read through the first chapter on food, I kept thinking about all the times that we have just run out and gotten fast food either because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store or just didn’t want to cook.  Having three special needs children and as many appointments that are on the calendar there are a lot of days that I feel like that.  But, you know what, eating out costs a lot of money!!!!  Even going to McDonald’s for our family of five, we could easily spend over $20, which totally adds up and can quickly drain the budget.

I have recently started looking for recipes for homemade mixes (like taco seasoning, onion soup mix, cream of whatever soup, ranch dressing mix) and am looking at not buying the pre-packaged stuff at the grocery store to help our food budget.  I am also determined to eliminate the waste from our food.  There are so many weeks that I throw away so much leftovers that it literally makes me sick.  I think about all of the people in the world that would go to the garbage dumps to search for food and here I am throwing food away, just because it’s been in our refrigerator so long that it’s starting to grow mold.  That has to change and is going to change!

I loved how Jen had a “Council” going through “7” with her to give her accountability and to help her along the way.  While they didn’t eat just seven foods they had a wonderful concept of studying about seven different counties and eating how those counties ate for three days.  While they were focusing on the country, they would pray for the country and its people.  I want to implement something very similar to this with our family.  It will probably end up being a once weekly thing so our kids, but especially our daughter, can hopefully realize how fortunate and blessed we are!

On Day 7, Jen talks about the “spiritual thaw” that she is feeling from this very first week.  She also listed three questions that were provided by a pastor at their church that I will be praying about and answering and think that it’s worth everyone’s thoughts on.  Those questions are:  1) What in my life, if taken away, would alter my value or identity?  2) What causes an unhealthy change of attitude, personality, or focus when “it” becomes threatened? 3) What is the thing outside of God that you put everything else on hold for?

The second month Jen focused on clothes.  Starting out the chapter on clothes, Jen said she counted all of the clothes that she had and had 327 items from which she could choose from on a given day.  She consulted her Council to help her decide how she would handle her clothing choices, especially in light of her speaking engagements she had that month.  This is what they came up with:

Under-clothing would not count.

Her shoes counted as one item – tennis shoes and cowboy boots, which she said left, “twenty-one pairs untouched.”   

One pair of jeans, dark wash, kind of plain.

One long-sleeved shirt black “Haiti relief” T-shirt with white print.

One short-sleeved gray “Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop” T-shirt with yellow print.

One pair of gray drawstring knit Capri pants.

One long silk dark brown dress shirt.

And a second T-shirt was added when one Council member told Jen that she was “losing sleep over the scar; that it wasn’t substantial enough.

The Council did variations of the clothing month, which I really liked and will probably implement in our family.  (Now, you want to know what those are, don’t you?  You’ll just have to read “7” to find out, now won’t you?)

Notice there is no coat on Jen’s list.  Jen took the month so seriously that when it snowed in February and her Council members gave her the go ahead to wear a coat so she could play in the snow with her children, she put her capri pants on her arms and a t-shirt over her head.  

I love what Jen wrote here and pray that I feel this way always,
I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers.  May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without.  Greater yet, I’m tired of calling the suffering of “brothers and sisters” when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise.  That’s just hypocrisy veiled in altruism.  I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them.  Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.

The third month Jen and her family focused on possessions.  This is one of the months that her children participated in as well.  They were to give away seven things that they one, every day, to the total tune of 210 items in a month!  Jen didn’t just donate all of the items to Goodwill or other charities in her area.  She states that she was “looking for the perfect recipient.”  Since as she put it, “Donating everything through a third party removes the relational magic when one human being connects with another.”  Jen shared a quote from Shane Claiborne that she said changed her life and I believe can change the lives of many: 
I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor . . . I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God’s image in the other . . . I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning.  And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.

Jen told of Easter Sunday where her church went to feed the homeless instead of having  a fancy service in their rented space.  She used the opportunity to get rid of seven of her purses, including a small pink purse, which she said she debated about even bringing.  No one took that purse, until a six year old girl came up and was thrilled to have the purse.

Jen also stated that a number of her friends had gotten involved in 7 this month and they were able to fully stock and furnish an apartment in four days for a single mom and her two daughters that had nothing. 

In month five Jen and her entire family turned off seven different types of media.  In month six they limited waste by recycling, starting a compost pile, gardening, conserving energy and water, driving one car, shopping thrift and second hand stores, and only buying local.  I love the fact that Jen’s family was able to have a backyard garden with the help of the Karpophoreō Project.  I wish that was available near us, as that’s probably the only way I will have a garden, since I do NOT have a green thumb, no matter how much I try!

Month six was only spent spending money on their family only at seven places.   Jen states that, “Giving, however, floats down a separate river.”  And, “This is Jesus-approved spending, people.  The recipients are not just my belly, my feet, or my indulged life but the ones Jesus told us to care for.  Like ten thousand times.  If you don’t like us spending on the poor this month, take it up with Jesus Christ and his dad, God.”

Month seven was all about stress and it’s elimination by implementing observing the Sabbath as a family.  Jen used the “Seven Sacred Pauses” written by Macrina Wiederkeher as her guide.  Jen also stated that her family would be observing Sabbath from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday.  You just have to read the chapter to get the fullness of it!

I am definitely going to be re-reading “7” and praying about how God would want us to “mutiny against the excess” in our family!  Will you join me?  If you would like to receive a copy of “7,” the publisher has graciously provided me with a copy to give away on my blog.  I will be doing a drawing on January 22nd to one lucky reader who does any of the following (leave a separate comment for each item):

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Donna Archer said...

Very interesting review! What a great challenge this author and her family chose. I imagine they were incredibly blessed by this process and will continue to be.

As Americans, we (for the most part), live an abundant life with everything we want which is SO much more than what we need. We have so much to learn about being humble, giving instead of receiving AND loving our neighbors and fellow man.

Let the suburbs meet the slums, and may we all be blessed and become better servants of God.

Mom2many said...

I have heard so much about this book and am even more intrigued by your review. How we connect slums to suburbia shouldn't be difficult due to the instant information available through media that saturates our existence, however, it has created a desensitizing effect leading to greater apathy. I've been told many times that I can't 'save the world' but what a shame if we all give up even trying.