Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: "7, an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker (All Lady July)

Last official review of All Lady July :(  Wrap up is tomorrow....

This is the second Jen Hatmaker book to show up on All All Lady July. I was going to try to not repeat any of the authors but then B&H graciously sent me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and I was not going to say no! So here we are.

Jen realizes that though she wouldn't call herself "rich" that she has far more possessions than the average human. She finds herself thinking "How much is enough?". She found herself "hungering for simplicity" and picked 7 areas in her life that she wanted to cut down on and see "what the Holy Spirit does with the new space that this creates". Publisher's blurb - So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.

Here's the areas that she wants to cut down on:

It's a lot to take on, and she has a group of friends that she refers to as "The Council" to help her. She obviously slips up and they are there for encouragement and keeping her on track (and sometimes making fun of her). A few of the Council members even participated in her cutting down, to some extent.

She starts with food. She can only eat 7 foods for one month. This also means drinking only water and not adding anything special like butter or spices. So when we say 7 foods we mean just these foods: chicken, eggs, whole wheat bread, spinach,sweet potatoes, avocados and apples. She makes it 17 days and then cries. (I don't blame her). But she keeps on.She had some struggles saying "Jesus, help me find gratitude, this whole things just feels stupid". 

Next was clothes. The Council decided that she could have unlimited socks, bras and underwear because...well come on. This challenge was tough because she had speaking events where she had to look decent picking only from 7 items. The bigger problem was that Texas was having a rare cold streak and one of her items wasn't a coat so sometimes she wore pants on her arms. (And by cold streak I meant it was like, 55 degrees, you pansies in Texas. You're killin me.)

Next was possessions. She would give away seven items a day for the whole month. This was made slightly easier by the fact that the previous month she saw how much clothes she had that she never wore. She and The Council got together and brought bags and bags of things to a local center for women and children who were fleeing domestic abuse or sexual assault. In the pile of things there was a hot pink very small purse that Jen had brought. She thought it was silly because it was basically useless but a little girl who had struggled with homelessness was there with her mother and it was like the pink purse was made for her.

Next was Media. She gave up TV, games, Facebook, Twitter, the internet, texting, phone apps. She made exceptions if there was an emergency.

Waste was a little harder to define, so she declares 7 new green habits. Buy more local, try to only use one car, compost, start a garden,recycle, buy more secondhand, conserve energy.They have some success with the garden. Some.

Spending means only spending money at 7 places. None of which is fast food, the movie theater, or anything fun like that. It makes for a lot more family time like taking walks and playing board games.

Stress. If Jen had a magic formula to get rid of stress this is where she would have shared it with us. I think she tackled this one last because it can be at the root of all the other things. She used something called  seven sacred pauses to help her de-stress. She would stop whatever she was doing and pray at midnight, dawn, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and early evening to pray. She floundered sometimes. One day her friend offered to take the midnight prayer and was surprised by how much it moved her.

There was an interesting little side story in this section. During this experiment the Hatmakers were going through the adoption process. One day Jen just was consumed by tears thinking about her yet unadopted kids and what struggles they might be going through. She didn't know why it affected her so badly on this day but it was all consuming grief. One friend suggested she make a note of the date, and maybe something somewhere in the future would maybe make sense. Jen found out much later that that day was the day that the little African girl who would be her daughter was brought to an orphanage. Cue the heartbreak.

There was a great quote in the book that I honestly should get tattooed on my forehead "Obedience isn't a lack of fear, it's just doing it scared".

This was the first of Jen's books I had read and it hooked me. (When I got done with the possessions section I set down the book, went to my bedroom, made at least 3 bags of Goodwill donations, came back, and finished the book). I want to read everything she sets her hands on. Her website and her twitter are also funny and inspirational. The family even has a show on HGTVcoming out in August, so Jen is plenty accessible. I give this book 3.5 stars for being awesome!



  1. Ooo - what a great quote!

    And how is July over tomorrow?!

    1. I do not know how July is over tomorrow! Why does July go so fast and February goes so slooooooow. PS started the Inklings book a few days ago. Learning so much, including that Lewis called JRR "Tollers" for a nickname which made me laugh kind of unreasonably hard.


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