Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (English and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have four young kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
One of our children hid under the table the other morning and threw her shoes and socks at us. No words, just grunts and whines.
“I’m guessing you’re a little frustrated,” I said, as my husband, Jay, pulled her out, kicking and flailing. Connected parenting, connected parenting, connected parenting my mind shouted at me. I attempted. I asked for eye contact, cradled her like a baby, talked about the “big feelings” and how to handle them next time.
But later on, I lamented to Jay that I had probably handled it all wrong. It's hard work to change one's parenting style from more traditional to this connected style necessary for kids from hard places. Maybe demanding eye contact wasn’t all that connected. Maybe I should’ve just gone to her, under the table even.
“Hey, we are learning at least,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess,” I muttered, “and at this rate, maybe we’ll at least be helpful grandparents.”
Because, as it turns out, parenting is tough.
See, I thought we were A-OK when we had one child. But, never trust a one-child parent. Don’t read books or blogs by them either – or their husbands.
Our first-born is one of our biological children as well. And, we thought we understood a few things on parenting. Not so. Then we adopted internationally and dove into topics of attachment and bonding, semi-survived, and figured we then understood a fair amount about having both biological and adoptive children. Not so – for they grow and start talking (back).
Then, we started to foster. We were blind-sided by trauma and its effects on children. Words like “triggers” and “flashbacks” and “regression” have become everyday words.
Parenting now is a give-it-all-you-got-and-pray-this-thing-works kind of endeavor.
That perfect, color-coded family picture to hang on a clean mantel? We’re not going for that anymore. We’re in a messy work where standards have changed.
Namely, we’re learning to think less about changing our kids (and their behavior) and more about changing ourselves. Because, at the end of the day, parenting changes us. We’re learning that it’s less about their discipline and more about our own self-control. Less about maintaining order and more about maintaining our composure. Less about teaching them and more about ourselves becoming trustworthy. Less about who they should be and more about meeting them as they are.
Less about being authoritative and more about being their advocate.
Less about the behavior and more about the big feelings behind it.
Less about their correction and more about our connection.
So, my little girl under the table wasn’t being defiant, contrary to my former parenting style. She didn’t need to be disciplined for disobeying my direction to get her shoes on. She didn’t need to be reprimanded for throwing things in the house, or shamed for making us late, or emotionally manipulated for “making Mommy sad.”
I am the parent. Change happens with me first.
Truth is, I saw my other child pat her on the back – harder than necessary, although unintentionally so – before leaving the room. And, I could’ve chosen to address it rather than brush it off as something to just “get over.” This little girl was scared and mad that anyone would even venture close to hitting her in this family, this place she has been told is safe.As her parent, I can choose to receive from her first, interpreting her actions as communication about her needs, forego the urge to correct, and instead choose to connect in ways that promote healing.
This morning, she needed to know from a calm, composed parent that she can trust us. That she doesn’t need to “just get over it” and be thus pushed into denial or silence about the effects of her past; no, she needs encouragement to raise her voice and enforce boundaries for her body that make her comfortable and safe. And, she needs to know her parents will be right there, alongside her, helping battle the forces from her past – the ones that make her want to crawl under the table when pats on the back are too heavy, too scary.
But, it’s not just for kids from hard places. Each of us and every child longs for connection before correction and to know that parents are not just “laying down the law,” but that they are listening carefully to hear the needs behind the behaviors.
So, I’m thankful for this catalyst called foster care that is requiring us to adjust our parenting style. It’s changing us.
We might be helpful grandparents after all.
Do you want to learn more about loving children from hard places - maybe as parent, teacher, friend, or caregiver? Please check these resources.
Purvis, K. B., Cross, D. R., & Sunshine, W. L. (2007). The Connected Child: Bringing hope and healing to your adoptive family. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Buy The Connected Child here.
Welcome to our current Book Journey of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I publish posts weekly that summarize one of the five phases of the book, following the initial book review. You can find a schedule with more details at the end. Thank you for reading along - whether it's the actual book, these summary posts, the daily quotes on the facebook page, or at any level! I pray the Spirit can use the teachings in this book to deeply transform each of us to love and live more like Jesus.
Summary of Phase Two (part 1)
Teaching an old dog new tricks
In this section, Jen wrestled with the concept of "new," a theme found often in Scripture. (Matthew 9:17, Matthew 13:52, Mark 1:27, Romans 6:4, Romans 7:6, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 4:23)
The definition of new is given here as, "Other than the former or the old; different and better." What troubled Jen primarily was that her life didn't look particularly different than average.
Because, sure, parts of my life were different from your average Westerner's, but not really. I went to church way more than a normal human would or should, but I still had too much debt, too much pride, too much self-absorption, same as everyone. I lived for me and mine. Outside my spiritual titles - pastor's wife, Bible teacher, Christian author and speaker - there were no radical lifestyle distinctions that would cause anyone to say, 'Wow, you live a really different life.' I realized I was completely normal. But my Savior was the most un-normal guy ever. And it was His un-normal ideas that made everything new.
Jen goes on to describe the countercultural aspects of Jesus and His actions. While the things He said, such as "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (John 6)," were a challenge - it was also the things He did and the people He associated with and didn't associate with.
But it wasn't just what He said; it was what He did. It was who He spent time with, who He talked to, who He argued with - to say nothing of His very unaffluent life. we took Jesus' famous teaching away and just focused on the way He lives, He would still be radical. Which, of course, I've heard, but somehow was content letting Jesus do the messy work. I would just talk about it.
Desiring, doing, and remembering
God continued to open Jen's eyes as she spent time in Scripture. Earlier in the chapter, she said, "God does His heaviest spiritual lifting with me in the Word." This time, she was reading about the account the Passover meal before Jesus' crucifixion.
He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:19-20)
As Jen puts it, Jesus was doing and saying something revolutionary here, "redefining a Jewish ritual with a 1,500-year history...Jesus was transforming the untransformable." Jesus wasn't simply serving a meal for the disciples, He was saying He was the meal, the sacrifice. While individuals like Judas and Pilate played roles in Jesus' crucifixion, they did not take His life. In truth, "Jesus had eluded death countless times before the cross," Jen says, therefore His was an offering in order to fulfill a greater purpose.
Jen's description of communion here is one of my favorite parts of this book. Please read this section, if nothing else. What follows is an explanation of communion that both challenged me and clarified the practice in my mind.
When Jesus says, "Do this in remembrance of Me" - what exactly does He mean?
Is this a simple matter of observing the Lord's Supper once a quarter? Was Jesus emphasizing the Jewish custom of ritual, just with new symbolism?
Jen explains that Jesus was using the present tense verb form that requires continuous, perpetual action - not just a one-time command. The part that stood out to me, though, was this: the word remembrance is from anamnesis, which means "to make real." Thus, communion is about more than just remembering Jesus' sacrifice. It's not just recalling the offering and being thankful for it.
Remembrance means honoring Jesus' mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice. In other words, "Constantly make this real"... Not only was Communion a symbolic ritual, it was a new prototype of discipleship. "Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing. Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Becoming a living offering, denying yourself for salvation and restoration of humanity...We don't simply remember the meal; we become the meal.
Jen finishes by explaining a concept the Lord had impressed on my heart over the years, something I wrote about here in Can't I just watch from my window and recently in a reflection about our recent adoption. Redemption has a cost, or, as Jen says it, "Mercy has a cost; someone must be broken for someone else to be fed."
I love Jen's concluding words:
That sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say 'That fed me, that nourished me,' someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment...self-sacrifice is hardwired into the mission of a believer... Death in me = life in you. Broken so someone else is fed. "Feed my lambs."
Given the content of this Phase Two, I've decided to cover it in two sections instead of just one; today's post is on part 1, and I will post part 2 on Wednesday, June 22.
Questions to Consider
Join in our Book Journey of Interrupted! Check here for more information.
Welcome to our current Book Journey of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I publish one post each Friday that summarizes one of the five phases of the book, following the initial book review. You can find a schedule with more details at the end. Thank you for reading along - whether it's the actual book, these summary posts, the daily quotes on the facebook page, or at any level! I pray the Spirit can use the teachings in this book to deeply transform each of us to love and live more like Jesus.
Summary of Phase One
Black and white, no?
Jen opens with a story of her fourth-grade son who was learning about Martin Luther King Jr and segregation. Despite the education he received on this subject, he innocently assumed it meant he'd be separated from his black-haired (albeit white-skinned) father or have to go to a different school than his very white friend ("They just split everybody up! It was a crazy time, Mom.")
In summary, Jen says, "The facts have nothing to stick to because he misunderstands the main point." And then:
Likewise, I still can't believe it, but I managed to attend church three times a week as a fetus, fulfil the pastor's kid role, observe every form and function of church, get swallowed whole by Christian subculture, graduate from a Baptist college, wed a pastor, serve in full-time ministry for twelve years, become a Christian author and speaker - and misunderstand the main point.
We were the opposite of counterculture. We were a mirror image of culture, just the churched-up version.
Jen goes on to explain how her Christian life looked and felt. In her words, she said it "resembled the basic pursuit of the American dream; it just occurred in a church setting." She was following the typical steps of getting her education, getting married, having kids, making good money, moving up in the world, becoming more and more wealthy in material things, raising kids, keeping life safe and protected, serving at church, and eventually retiring in comfort.
Further, Jen explains her view of church was that it was "the location and means to transform the average seeker into a believer." She says, in reference to her role in the church:
In other words, if you need something spiritual, some help, guidance, understanding, then come to us. We'll built it, and you come. Once you do, we will pour out our lives attempting to disciple you and build spiritual health into your life. My husband, Brandon, and I spent every waking moment with Christians. We were servants of the weekend attendees.
And all this left Jen with questions such as, "Why couldn't I recall the last person I led to Christ?" and "Why did I spend all my time blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now?"
Reader, beware: Life-altering prayer ahead
This question kept coming up in Jen's mind: "Why do I feel so dry?" It was an honest question regarding her spiritual life and it led to deep change. Despite the fact that she'd just had a sabbatical that was meant to restore her, Jen was still tired and confused.
In response, Jen says: "As my kids were squawking in the back (of the van), I prayed a one-line prayer simply because my Christian labor had failed me and I had no idea what else to do (and I strongly advise against this prayer unless you are quite ready for God to take you seriously and wreck your life): 'God raise up in me a holy passion'"
The answer to that prayer began to take shape as Jen spent time in God's Word where God "turned by undiagnosed tension into a full-blown spiritual crisis."
Holy passion meets remedial shepherd
This section shares how God opened Jen's eyes as she meditated on the scripture of John 21, where Peter declares his love for Jesus three times following His resurrection. Despite having already read it and taught on it numerous times, that day it was new for Jen and covered with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For the first time, she read the words as personal - "Jen, do you truly love Me more than anything else?" Of course, her response was indignation and surprise, as her life was devoted to Him and serving His people. But, "Jen, feed my lambs," was the answer to her claims of affection for Jesus.
I do feed your lambs! I feed them spiritually. I herd them into Bible studies and unleash a campaign of harassment when they wander. I counsel and pray and cry and struggle with them. Everyone I know has my number and evidently isn't afraid to use it. I don't know if You've noticed, Jesus, but I write Christian books. You told me to write! I travel and feed sheep all over the nation!
Yet, it seemed the question persisted: "Jen, do you love Me in a true way?"
Jen thought maybe God was telling her to do more. Maybe she should offer more, give more to the sheep, better communication, etc.
Nothing could've prepared her for these words which were divinely spoken to her heart:
You do feed souls but 24,000 of My sheep will die today because no one fed their bellies; 18,000 of them are My youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around. If you truly love Me, you will feed my sheep. My people are crumbling and dying and starving, and you're blessing blessed people and serving the saved.
After doing some research, Jen discovered that those numbers, previously unknown to her, were precisely true. She said, "It dawned on me that Jesus was not asking me to do more of the same but to engage in a different chargealtogether. He was enlisting me in the cause of my generation, the mission of God's true church."
In that moment she understood and related to Peter, as "devoted by selfish, committed but misguided."
James, Jesus, Amos, and them
In Jen's Bible study following that time in John 21, she was humbled to discover that there are "more than 2,000 verses including poverty, physical oppression and justice, and the redistribution of resources." And, they aren't used as metaphors.
James 2:5-6, 8, 14-16 // "Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man...If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well...What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"
Similar themes were found in Jesus' words, and spoken by the prophets, and the patriarchs, and the disciples, and in Hebrews. But, Jen admits, she had missed it: "For all my self-proclaimed love of Gods Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me. For, my good. For my blessings. The sections that made for a great outline or fit a funny story I had in the queue. The themes I knew listeners wanted to hear. Who wants their conference speaker to worry them with poverty when she could bring a message titled, 'Managing the Home'?"
Warning: The problems are bad
But what are the problems of the poor that Jesus and Amos and others referenced in Scripture?
Jen says, "I submit the following not to shame the rich West but to offer perspective. If you've lived abroad or have global exposure, this will be familiar. But if you've never thought critically about swallowing the American pill, please come with me and step outside the construct of Western thought. These are pretty agreed upon statistics, and if I encountered a discrepancy in the research, I went with the conservative number."
Jen closes this section with a bird's eye view on the global economy and specifically how the USA fits into it. She includes statistics such as:
In summary, Jen remarks simply that "Brand America is in trouble. I ask you humbly: can you see why when Americans say democracy, the rest of the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else."
"Name it and claim it" (And I'll shame it)
In this section, Jen shines light on some of the perspectives of preachers who teach that God's will is for His people to be prosperous, happy, and affluent. The following two paragraphs offer a summary of the implications of a nation known as Christian yet not known for its generosity.
The world knows about our Jesus. They know about His poverty and love of the underdog. They know He told His followers to care for the poor and to share... They might not understand the nuances of His divinity or the various shades of His theology, but they know He was a friend of the oppressed.
So Americans living in excess beyond imagination while the world cries out for intervention is an unbearable tension and utterly misrepresents God's kingdom. While the richest people in the world pray to get richer, the rest of the world endures unimaginable suffering with their faces pressed to the window of our prosperity ... and we carry on, oblivious
Giving the good stats some play
Jen closes this phase by emphasizing her intention is not to shame America but to raise awareness. She says, "Our perspective is limited, and our church culture is so consumer-oriented that we're blinded to our responsibility to see God's kingdom come to 'all nations,' as He was so fond of saying in His Word."
And so, Jen leaves us with some questions: Do we care? Do I care? Do you care?
Questions to Consider
Book Journey of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
June 10 - post on Phase One
Quotes will be posted from Phase One on facebook for discussion this week.
June 17 - post on Phase Two
Quotes will be posted from Phase Two on facebook for discussion this week.
June 24 - post on Phase Three
Quotes will be posted from Phase Three on facebook for discussion this week.
July 1 - post on Phase Four
Quotes will be posted from Phase Four on facebook for discussion this week.
July 8 - post on Phase Five
Quotes will be posted from Phase Five on facebook for discussion this week.
BlOG POST // The post for each of the phases of this book will include a summary, discussion questions, and any relevant links.