by Jen Hatmaker on June 2nd, 2015

We continue to be incredibly grateful for your concern and follow up on my mom's cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November and moved pretty quickly into surgery and radiation. She now has regular scans, so we live in three-month increments praying for the all-clear each time. We are in Cancer Maintenance.

I've mentioned before that as adult children, when one of your parents gets sick, everyone reverts to their standard roles. You hop into your lane and peddle furiously along familiar paths because you don't have time to innovate; adrenaline only leaves room for you to do what you already know how to do.

In our case, I am the oldest child, so I jumped into procedures and systems obviously. (The middle children constantly monitor everyone's feelings, and the babies are free to get clingy and fall apart. How nice for them.) As the oldest, I immediately started planning to keep this thing on the rails. We couldn't go willy-nilly into Cancer Mode without defining the mode. What was our mode? We needed a mode. (No one ever voted me "Most Fun" in high school.)

So six months ago, five hours before my mom's surgery, some of us prayed, some assembled snacks, some set up a care calendar. I wrote an essay. (I am a first-born, controlling, career writer; I had no alternative.) I penned the following manifesto and sent it to our family. I wonder if it might be helpful to you? I believe these guidelines apply to any family in crisis and those who love them. Obviously, cursing is allowed when your person gets sick, so feel free to use our swears in addition to our rules. (And FYI, readers: the following is simply our family tone, so even if you are less...salty...the approach works across all family brands.)

The King Family Cancer Manifesto

Well, I told cancer our family was off limits, but cancer is an asshole. I already have a death plan for Mom and Dad: they are supposed to die peacefully in their sleep forty years from now on the same night holding hands.
 
We need to get our cancer rules together here on the front end. Mom goes in for surgery in five hours. Obviously, we hope the surgery will be the end of this, and Mom will kick cancer’s tail and we’ll get back to our important issues like Lindsay’s grilled pimento cheese recipe for her new menu and…whatever it is Dad does at the ranch (is it hay? Alfalfa? Are the calves born in the spring or fall? It’s all so unclear).
 
Amy H gave me this idea. It goes like this:
  • We have concentric rings around Mom’s cancer, and she gets to be in the bulls-eye, because well, she has the actual cancer.
  • The second ring is Dad, because he said “in sickness and in health” 45 years ago and so now he is stuck.
  • Us four kids are third, because we are the fruit of their loins (gross).
  • The people we married or “are hanging out with” (side-eye to Drew) or birthed are in the next ring, because Mom is their Grana or mother-in-law or “mom of the guy she is hanging out with” (Drew, land the plane, we like her so much).
  • The fourth ring includes all our best friends. The real ones. The ones we ask to help us move and crap like that. The ones who walk into our houses without knocking.
  • The outer ring includes our work friends and church friends and neighbors who like or even love us, and they will get swept into our cancer vortex by proximity.
  • Everyone else in the world is outside of those rings.
 
The way this works is that stress can always go out but never in. Mom is in the bulls-eye, so she can say and do and feel whatever she wants at all times. She gets to act straight crazy if she's in the mood, but at no time does she have to deal with our psychosis or anyone else’s. No other rings can dump their worry, fear, or burdens on Mom. She is the Cancer Queen and zero drama can reach her on the throne. She can be calm and measured like she normally is, or she can be irrational and hysterical. It doesn’t matter. In the bulls-eye, crazy can go out but no crazy can come in. We have to be strong and steady at all times for Mom. I don’t know how we’ll manage as this is not our skill set. Maybe there is a YouTube tutorial.
 
Dad is next. He can’t give Mom any fuss ever, but he can give it to anyone outside his ring. We have to absorb Dad’s junk too. We know him: this won’t look like fear or panic, it will mostly just sound like a lot of words. Dad gets to say all the words in all the world and everyone outside his ring has to listen patiently, because the only person who gets to shut him down ever is Mom. Gird your loins.
 
The family is next, so none of our crazy can go in toward Mom or Dad, but it can absolutely go out to the other rings. Our outer people have to deal with us without so much as a raised eyebrow. If we want to completely overreact and flail into a quagmire of tortured exaggeration (we are not a stoic people), we get to do that and our outer people will let us. If we decide on a bad day that our doctor is a quackadoo with a degree off the internet, they should confirm our theory and google replacement doctors. Our best friends are the recipients of all melodrama, inflated enthusiasm, and emotional outbursts. They can give us exactly zero of those things. Outer rings can only send in the good. Absolutely no crazy. If an Outer Ring Person consistently makes an Inner Ring Person panic by, for example, telling lots and lots of dead people stories, his or her ring career is over. Crazy-senders get booted from the rings immediately. We police the rings like Martin Riggs.
 

Mom, we have no idea what the doc will find today, but let me tell you this: if it is worse than we think and you are looking at mastectomies, feel free to get a nice new set of knockers when this is over. It will be your silver lining. You’ll look like a 16-year-old cheerleader. While you are under that knife, we can add on any other treatments you want BECAUSE YOU HAD CANCER AND NOW YOU GET ANYTHING YOU WANT FOREVER.
 
If people outside our rings want to help, they can pray. Remember? We believe in God! How lucky for us. And for Mom. You know she has filled, what, a million pages with her Scripture and prayer journaling every morning for forever? Mom doesn’t do a lot of talky-talking about her God feelings (that is Dad’s territory), but she is all filled up with the goods. We know how Dad prays, because he constantly makes us bawl by emailing his prayers for us. We know God loves Mom (the prayer journals alone are a straight ticket to heaven, plus all those times she bailed us out of jail) and if we are not one of His favorite families, then God has no taste at all. He’s got us. I know it.
 
So no matter what comes later today and next week and this whole next year, we can handle this. We have each other and we have God and we have good rings. We can always default to inappropriate humor, and fortunately, Mom’s cancer is in her boobs, so that gives us instant material to work with. We’ll all do what we do: Dad will talk about it, I will make rules, Lindsay will wail, Cortney will diagnose, Drew will gripe at the sisters, and Mom will be the calm Cancer Queen in the middle of this crazy family she created, probably acting like the sanest one of all.

We can do this.
**********************

Six months on this side of the manifesto, I can tell you that the ring system WORKS. If the rings are maintained well, the bulls-eye person gets to sit in a soothing emotional spa of calm and serenity and love. Oh sure, her people have plenty of fear and crazy, but they only send it outward, never inward, so she is shielded. Good outer rings constantly strengthen the inner rings. For my mom, this looked like a stocked refrigerator for weeks, an usually calm family, gifts for every single day of radiation from her staff, a cleaned house, rotating hand-holders on radiation days at the oncology office, anointing her with oil and prayer, baskets of lotion, tons of emails and texts.

For us in the innermost rings, this looked like a billion calls checking in on us, friends meeting us at the doctor's office, a steady supply of patient listeners, well-timed distractions, invites for fun stuff, treatment strategy partners, encouragement galore, helpful research, laughter. Our people absorbed all our fears so we were free to absorb Mom's and Dad's. Our rings served us so well.

God was and still is so ever present, so ever near, so ever good. And we are taking our turn as outer rings for other folks right now, because that is how the community thing works. When someone staffs the outer rings of others, she need not worry when her day in the bulls-eye comes. She'll be surrounded by good people who love her and know the rules:

All the fear and worry can go out, and only strength and goodness can come in.
 
Last day of radiation. Nailed it.


If you are in crisis with your people right now, you have all my love and solidarity. Life is hard, but God and people are good. Set up your rings, explain the out-but-not-in Crazy Policy, and remember that God loves you and is for you. I am for you too, and your pain is always safe here. Consider me an outer ring: I will gladly, patiently absorb it all for you here today.

**Quick update: My friend "Amy H" (mentioned above) who gave me this idea read it from another article! I'm sure she mentioned that but the details completely fail me. This was six months ago and we were in Cancer Crisis. All I can remember is her great idea about "stress out, never in." I would never borrow a concept without crediting the original author intentionally (that has happened to me before and it blows). I am super glad to link you to this one she'd read in the LA Times by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. I hope the "ring wisdom" is useful to so many of us. May it be a comfort and guide when our people are sick and we are all struggling.

by Jen Hatmaker on June 1st, 2015

Last week, I visited the Noonday office here in Austin. "Office" in this case is misleading; it is two entire floors of fabulous. When my friend Jessica started Noonday five years ago just as her own little adoption fundraiser, it consisted of a few pieces of Ugandan jewelry, two other friends, and her spare bedroom. Just five years later, the American office includes 50 employees and an entire office building. Don't you dare tell me God cannot take one small portion of fish and loaves and turn it into a feast.

I was an early adopter to the Noonday awesomeness, so I walked around the office like a proud mama peacock. To see me, you would have thought I built the whole business with my bare hands. Brandon says sometimes I "over-invest" emotionally.

For the three of my readers who haven't heard me talk about Noonday, this is the basic premise: Noonday identifies artisan entrepreneurs who share the dream of creating meaningful opportunity in vulnerable communities. They design gorgeous jewelry and accessories in collaboration with talented Artisans in ten different countries. They develop artisan businesses through fair trade and connect them to a global market, which enables them to create more jobs for people in their communities.

It is economic empowerment, which has transformed the lives of - wait for it - over 4000 artisans and their families around the world. (I saw it with my own eyes last year in Rwanda.)

Plus? The products are beyond.

Not only does Noonday provide economic empowerment for women (and some men!) globally, BUT RIGHT HERE TOO. Because they offer the coolest job maybe ever to women in the states: Noonday Ambassadors. NA's are three main things:

Noonday Ambassadors are stylists who share their love of fashion and help women discover jewelry and accessories that make them feel beautiful. They are storytellers who create a connection between women in their communities and Artisans around the world. They are social entrepreneurs who sell jewelry and accessories through Trunk Shows, making an impact in their communities and around the world.

There is a pretty straight line between me and the Noonday Ambassador buzz (#sorrynotsorry). Women tell me all the time how my book "7" ruined their lives (always a lovely thing to hear about your work), and they often follow that up with how Noonday became a place for them to practice the doing of that paradigm shift. Ambassadors tell me it has helped them discover their worth, exercise risk, and connect to the global community. Love, love, love. Women empowering women; it works.

Here is what several Ambassadors said:
  •  “I was doing an online Bible Study of Jen’s last summer and stumbled upon Noonday and the Style For Justice trip. Jen talked about how women across the world are all the same. They all want their kids to go to school; they all want to provide the best care for their kids. But some women just don’t have any options. I knew this what I wanted to do, so I became a Noonday Ambassador ”  -Lisa Maynard
 
  • “Jen Hatmaker made me do it and my life has not been the same. In the Style for Justice video she says "we are all different but we are all the same," and talks about how Moms want to provide for our kids no matter where we live? Dangit Jen!! There were times, when I was downright mad at her for posting such a convicting blog and calling me out of my comfort zone. That's what did it for me and made me become a Noonday Ambassador.” –Cherese Lee
 
  • “Jen’s books helped me put words and actions behind what I was feeling and becoming a Noonday Ambassador helped me put legs on it. ” –Laura Moseley
 
  • “I’ve followed Jen for a while and connected with Noonday when the opportunity to go to Rwanda with the Style For Justice team was presented. I entered the contest to go to Rwanda with her, but through the process found that becoming a Noonday Ambassador was an even better prize!”  -Nicole Berry
 
  • “After a medical trip I found myself wishing I could do something that provided people with more than temporary relief. I discovered Jen’s blog post about Noonday and IJM and knew I had be part of it all! I became a Noonday Ambassador because I wanted to help make a lasting change in the lives of others and now I am.” –Paula Cox
 
  • “Jen’s words convicted me to take a risk, face my fears, and jump in. Becoming an Ambassador has been that risk for me.”  –Lisa Thomson
 
  • “I attended a retreat where Jen was the speaker, where she talked about orphan prevention. I didn't realize that many children that become orphans actually have one or more living parents, but the parents aren't able to financially care for the child.  As a mother of three, I wrestled with this. God used Jen's teachings to nudge me to do something. I attended a Noonday trunk show and then signed up to become an Ambassador a week later. As an Ambassador, I am able to share how Noonday is changing lives around the world. “  -Jennifer Powell
I'm like an unofficial headhunter for Noonday, for the love. But this has me thinking about you, and how so many of you are fashion-forward, smart, motivated, and also very much concerned about this world and its people. Noonday Ambassadors are building a flourishing world where people have jobs, children are cherished, women are empowered, and we are all connected. This is happening around the world and right here among the Ambassador community.

It is so outstanding.

Ambassadors love their job. They are Noonday evangelists. Even more than me.

Listen, you. You right there, the one who is looking for The Next Right Step, the one who is so ready for meaningful work, the one who loves women around the world but doesn't quite know how to help while you live in Suburbia USA. You, the fashionista who styles her friends even when they don't ask you to. You, the entrepreneurial justice girl. You, the mom whose kids are all in school now. You, the world-loving bleeding heart.

Maybe it's time to consider becoming a Noonday Ambassador.

BONUS: If you sign up using this link, Noonday is going to give you a Kinfolk Bag after you sign up and host your first show. I mean, look at this thing:

The entire thing is hand-beaded and hand-stitched. I want to marry this bag.

Summer is almost here. Rhythms are about to shift. For some of you, maybe the question isn't Why? but WHY NOT?  This could be your Next Right Thing. I'll tell you this: IT IS A FUN TRIBE. Plus, pretty. Plus, meaningful. Plus, exciting. Plus, financially rock solid. Plus, best leadership ever. I mean, this girl:
 
Jessica's shoes are stilettos. Just on a random Tuesday. Can't deal. Also, I am obviously trying to impress her with my wedges. Don't try to tell me they aren't ON POINT.

I am so proud of her, of all the Ambassadors, of the Noonday model, of the artisans around the world. This is how to do it, man. It isn't charity or handouts; it is economic empowerment and sustainable, dignified work through skilled craftsmanship. DROP THE MIC.

You want in on this? Click here, find out more, and come back here in six months and tell me how Noonday has changed your life.

(And stay tuned for a Noonday/Jen Hatmaker collaboration on a to-die-for piece for the For the Love book launch this August...who else would I ask to design for me????)

 

by Jen Hatmaker on May 26th, 2015

Most home cooks have a signature move: mine is homemade pizza. (I have a few other personal faves, mostly based around curry or pickled onions/beets/radishes/anything, but my people get weird about those.) But homemade pizza? Homerun every time. Because 'Merica.

I usually post my recipes willy-nilly on Facebook only to have you send me 937 emails asking where it is two weeks later because "YOU CAN'T FIIIIIIIIIIND IT," so I decided to put this one on le blog so it can be pinned or whatever the heck.

Outside of a few fresh ingredients, you almost always have everything you need for homemade pizza. Let's do this:


by Jen Hatmaker on May 22nd, 2015

‘Twas the first week of summer and all through the land
Not a Mom was still signing folders, not even a Dad.
The backpacks were slung in the garage without care
In hopes that some Clean Out Fairy soon would be there.

The children were nestled (super late) in their beds
While visions of NO HOMEWORK danced in their heads.
Mama in her yoga pants and I in my jorts
Are scheduling summer playdates, vacations, and sports.

When out in the playroom there arose such a clatter
We yelled (from the couch) to see what was the matter.
The children were arguing, restless, and I was floored
To hear the young cherubs declare: I’M BORED.
 


by Jen Hatmaker on May 21st, 2015

A few weeks ago, our oldest son jacked up his truck AGAIN while “mudding” with his friends. This is maybe a Texas thing, I think. It involves teen boys, trucks, empty fields, and general frontal lobe underdevelopment. There were a handful of details I’ll omit, but we ended up getting a “story” instead of the truth.
 
In the inevitable confrontation, Brandon and I both played the heavy because the parenting book I read ten years ago cautioned against triangulation. But between our son’s obvious emotional distress and our relief that the “story” involved a muddy road instead of, say, drug paraphernalia, we both started losing steam midway through the lecture.
 
At one point too late in the game, Brandon looked sternly at our son and declared: “Do you know what a truck is for? TRANSPORTATION!” and I got the giggles so bad I had to hide in the kitchen. Once composed as presiding judge, I asked: “Do we look like two parents who are going to pay for your joyrides indefinitely?” and he looked at us so intently, as if the contours of our faces might confirm or deny the query, that Brandon almost snorted. Having exhausted our severity, we sent him to his room and dissolved in fits of laughter.
 
You know what I didn’t understand about parenting? No one knows what they are doing.










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