A “Fierce” Jen Hatmaker Book Club Sneak Peek!
Have you ever wanted to be part of an actual book club? One that actually reads the book instead of just providing classy cover for wine drinking? (well, okay, there’s still a *little* wine drinking) Then seriously, you need to join the Jen Hatmaker Book Club! Every month, Jen sends you one of her favorite books (along with a box of goodies!), and sits down with the book’s author for a podcast that’s exclusive for members . . . until TODAY! Because the April author of the month is none other than one Ms. Jennifer Hatmaker, who wrote a brand-new book you may have heard a little something about called Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. So to celebrate, Jen and her ride-or-die girlfriends Trina, Shonna, and Jenny hopped on Skype to talk about all the hard lessons and laughs they’ve had as they’ve lived out the pages of Fierce together. Jen and the gang talk about how they met, which friend can claim eternal credit for pushing Jen into creating a sphere of influence, how they’ve learned to love their bodies and make friendships last and trust themselves to create a life that’s worthy of the women full of fire they’ve been called to be.
SIGN UP for the Jen Hatmaker Book Club today at jenhatmakerbookclub.com!
Jen: So newsflash, I’m a complete book nerd. I think this feels obvious, fiction, nonfiction, doesn’t matter. I love books. I’ve always loved books. So like any book nerd who happens to be an Enneagram Three, I decided to launch my very own book club. Right? That’s what happens. So the Jen Hatmaker Book Club is just shy of 1 year old. And listen, it has been one of my greatest joys. Every single month, I get to send you a box of goodies and connect you with some of my tip-top favorite books I’ve ever read. And then we get to talk about them. And then we get to hear directly from the book’s author because I get to talk to them in a dedicated podcast, which is just the coolest. This book club is kind of my dream come true and packed with goodness.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, oh, our community is amazing. Like it’s just the most amazing community. I don’t, I could go on and on and on about all the awesome inside our community, but hit up jenhatmakerbookclub.com. It’s just join us. I mean, just join us. This book club doesn’t just sit around drink wine. We do that. But this book club actually reads the book and has incredible robust discussions around it. We do deep dives with the book’s author. I mean, it’s just—and, oh my gosh, all the little subgroups, that the chapters, the Jen Hatmaker Book Club communities literally all around the United States are just vibrant. I mean, they are just they just turn up.
Okay, so back to these book club podcasts: so usually these podcasts with the book’s author are available exclusively to members. That’s one of the perks. But today, with their permission, I thought I’d bend the rules a bit because, one, I’m the boss. And two, this is a discussion I absolutely want everyone to hear because I think it’ll serve you so greatly. And that’s what I’m doing here. That’s what I’m here for.
So for the month of April, our book in the Jen Hatmaker Book Club was . . . you guessed it, my new book. It was Fierce, Free and Full of Fire. And since I did not want to talk to my own self about my own book interview myself, which would be strange, I decided to talk about this book darling of mine, with the very women who lived every single one of these stories along with me. I mean, going way back. And these are my best friends, Jenny and Shonna and Trina. If you’ve read Fierce, you 100 percent recognize their names because they’re all over the pages of this book and have been in all my books. And I really couldn’t think of anybody that I’d rather share with you than my best friends. And what we’ve discovered together and how we’ve walked these ideas and roads together, what we’ve all learned, how we’ve all grown. I love these girls, obvi, and you will, too.
Jen: Well hi, here we are. We are all on a recording for a podcast. Cheers. Cheers.
Shonna: Cheers. Clink, clink.
Jen: Now, we should be fairly practiced at this, because we’ve been doing group Zooms basically every Sunday night, and then some more. So we’ve had rehearsal. It’s just that this one’s recorded and people are going to listen to it. So everybody knows who you guys are, because I write about the three of you so much. So first of all, thank you for the content and the material.
Shonna: You’re welcome.
Jen: Second of all, let’s do a little round table real quick so people who are watching can put a name with a face, and people who are listening can put a name with the voice. If you’ll just say, like, “This is who I am, this is kind of my deal, this is my family and my people, and this is how long we’ve been friends,” and whatever else you want to say.
Jenny: Okay, so my name is Jenny. My hair is brown. I have two grown kids that are twenty-four and twenty-six, I think. They’re both married. And that’s super fun having adult children. I love them. Me and my husband live real close to downtown Buda, real close to Jen and Shonna. Like, we can walk to all the fun places. Well, I mean, right now we can only walk by them. We can’t go in them. I met Jen when she came to move to Corpus. I used to live in Corpus before she drug us all to Austin. You’ll get to hear about that in her book. But, so yeah, were you twenty-two?
Jen: I think I was twenty-four.
Jen: Gavin was a born baby. And I wasn’t even pregnant with Sydney yet.
Jenny: Gavin turned one when you were there. And he’s twenty-two now? And for anyone that wants to know, I found out within a couple of weeks after I knew you, I asked you if you did your lips.
Jen: Not a couple of weeks, incorrect memory. First meeting.
Jenny: Well it was a dinner at my house with just us. But anyway, every time I see you now, I’m like, Has she been lying to me all these years? But anyways, just for the people to know, those are her real lips.
Jen: Okay, for the people to know: what Jenny really said to me, this was the first time I’d ever even known them. Like, I could barely even remember what their names were. I was still trying to remember what the names are. And we’re playing cards or something, we’re sitting over dinner. I am twenty-four years old. I just came out of college. And she’s just staring at me and goes, “Have you had a nose job?” And I was like, “No.” “Boob implants?” I’m like, Well, this is how this is going to go. So, like also work-wise, just give a quick, high-level [explanation] of your work history.
Jenny: Okay. So I have been a realtor since I graduated from college. My major was real estate, like, who even knew that was a thing? I’ve been a realtor since I was twenty-two. I’m still a realtor, and I like it. But me and Shonna started a decorating business, and I love it because I like tearing things up and putting things back together. I like to tie a bow on things.
Jen: Yep. Yep.
Jenny: We’re fun.
Jen: That was really just my way to get you guys to talk about your business.
Jenny: Thank you.
Jen: Okay, perfect. How about you, Trina? Because we’re next.
Trina: We’ve known each other since you moved to Austin. So yeah, right after you had baby Sydney, I think. So, I guess that’s—are we at the twenty year mark?
Jen: Maybe this month, isn’t it?
Trina: That’s a long, long time. But yes, three kids. Jen and I spent a lot of time together in the trenches as pastor’s wives back in the day. We had littles, and we spent a lot of time together when the husbands were always gone. And that’s kind of how we gelled. I kicked Jen into women’s ministry, so all of her fame is due to me.
Jen: That’s not a lie.
Trina: Thank you very much. All the credit, all the accolades are for me, obviously.
Jen: You drug me into the world of women because up until that point, we were just working with students. And you’re like, “Look, nobody else is at this church. I need you to lead a group.” I’m like, “I’m afraid of women. I don’t understand how to talk to women.”
Trina: Women, like adult people? What?
Jen: Mm-hmm. And that very first Bible study was at Lynn’s house, and I just was so over the moon. I’m like, “Look at this, it’s grown ups. And they talk about grownup things. I am never going back. I’m never getting on a middle school bus for the rest of my life.”
Trina: For another ski trip.
Jenny: I want to interject here that I did not think that was going to work out for you.
Jen: I believe you.
Jenny: I had only known you in the youth ministry space, and it was going really well. When you told me you were going to start [ministering to] women, I’m like, Oh no, that’s not her lane.
Jen: I’ll give it a year.
Trina: We’ll see how she goes. We’ll see if she stands on her own feet.
Jen: Okay, so talk about your family, Trina.
Trina: Oh yes, so I have almost three adult children, two adult daughters, twenty-five and twenty-three. And then one more hanging on in high school. RIP seniors who have no senior year, so sad about that. He’s my last one at home. I mean, we’re all at home. Quarantine 2020. So [I have] two girls and a boy, loving the lives that they live. One is a scientist. One is a nurse. And then again, let’s get the last one out. He can do it. He can do it. Praise the Lord.
Jen: Just shoving those seniors over the finish line. Me and Trina have a running daily text of like, “Is this going to work? Are they going to make it? Are we going to make it?” Okay. Yay. And how about you Shonna?
Shonna: I’m Shonna. I have four kids. My oldest son is married, and that is such a fun time to have—like Jenny said—the adding in of the extra awesome person. And then I have a daughter that’s also an adult, and I have an adopted son who’s in the Army. And then, our baby is a freshman in college this year, just finishing up his freshman year of college, now back at home with us. I have been married to Trace for twenty-five years. I met Jen through Jenny, and then I met Trina through the whole thing. So I just lucked out with this friendship group about twelve years ago.
Jenny: We did, too.
Jen: Same. 100 percent same. Okay. So first of all, thank you for doing this and coming on this podcast. This is for my book club, and they are phenomenal. They have been reading Fierce this month as the April selection. We managed to shoehorn that baby into the book club three weeks before it came out.
I thought the four of us could talk through some of the stuff, because frankly—I’m looking through all my chapters right now—I don’t think there’s a single point of messaging in this book that we have not lived together, that we have not experienced together, that we have not walked each other through together. And I was on a different podcast today, and she was asking me about this book, and I’m like, “This one feels earned. Like, this was lived.” And we lived it, so I cannot think of anybody who I’d rather talk about it with.
I’m just going to throw out some ideas, and we’ll just kind of round table it. I kind of kick off the whole idea of being like, “How am I actually wired?” Because the premise here is that women are struggling to be integrated everywhere. They’ve just struggled to tell the truth. There’s kind of one version of us over here, a different version of us over here. We have a lot of internal ideas or thoughts or feelings or convictions that sometimes struggle to live on the outside of our lives.
The one thing I was thinking about women—and we all are deeply embedded in communities of women—is that there’s a sense of figuring out who we really are, as step one. Like, way before we get to, “This is what I do,” or, “This is what I believe,” or, “This is what I want, just this way,” like at the core of who you are. A lot of women get hung up still, because we are handed so many gender expectations and role expectations. Sometimes it’s geography, like where we grew up. Sometimes it’s kind of in our faith spaces. And so I want to talk at the very beginning about, “Who I am.” So I think my question to you is very vague, and you can answer it however you want. But like, how old were you? How hard or easy was this for you? What did this look like, for you to go, Okay, no matter what she is, or what my parents said, or what my siblings do, or what anybody ever told me, this is how I am wired. This is who I am, this is what makes me tick. And kind of wrap your hands around that ownership and be okay with it. Does that make sense?
My hypothesis is that that internal identification is a little bit easier the older we get. Now, I’m not saying that younger women, like our daughters, do not have the capacity to be really self-aware and really self-possessed, and have a lot of agency over their own lives and desires. But I do think it gets a little easier with age. And we are all in our forties and fifties. And so I feel like this is work that I’ve seen all of us capture a little bit better in the last decade, for sure. Is that fair to say?
Jenny: To me, you told me something years ago that made me start a little bit of that journey. We were on our way to youth camp, and I got paired with a man that was so wise, so brilliant about everything about the Bible. They called him the dad to our kids, and I was the mom. And I had already told you, like, “If I get paired with him, I’ll just die, because how can I even? I’ll have nothing to say.”
And you were just like, “They need you as much as they need him. You’re just as valuable. You have just as much to offer. He can’t bring to the table what you can.” I don’t know how you came up with that. I think you used a Bible verse or something, Corinthians.
So it started there. But over the years, I just keep having to learn more things about myself, like how to stand up for myself, who I am with my family. So to me, it’s gotten harder, because when you grow a little different than your family, or what they believe or think, then you really have to learn more about who you are. And sometimes, that’s really terrible, because then you realize you’re not as much like your family maybe as you could be. That has to be okay, and you still have to love them.
Jen: And you still have to love yourself. There is this point that, I think, where women just say, “This is mine. This belongs to me. This is who I am and this is what I believe and this is what I want and this is where I’m going.” We just kind of stop apologizing for that all the time, or shrugging it down, or making it a little bit more palatable, which isn’t to say we’re always in a fight with everybody, but there is something about just saying, “I have permission to be my own person.”
Jenny: Also, I want you to say a little bit about that part of your book, because I struggled for a long time about I’m just a medium person. I am good at what I do, but I’m not ever going to be you. I’m not going to be a stay-at-home mom either. I’m going to be somewhere in the middle. You had a part in the book where you talked about, like, mega woman. What were the three women?
Jen: I just made up some words. I made up some words. I liked that you said this, because this is such a strong person’s title. I remember right at the beginning when I first started talking about it, one of the people online said, “I’m not sure if this is going to be for me, because I’m kind of gentle. I’m gentle-natured. I don’t feel like this big, mega powerful.” I was really quick to say, “Oh, no, no, no. This is not a guide to becoming the loudest trumpet in the band. It’s not a guide of self-improvement. It’s more like self-discovery.” And so some women, their correct capacity is gentle and it is subtle and it is tender-hearted, and that’s exactly who they should be in the world.
Jen: I can think of times when I definitely have been told to be less. Virtually every woman knows that spot. “Be less. You don’t get this many opinions. You don’t get this much space.” But a lot of women are also told to be more, like, “You’re not enough and you should be louder and you should claim more.”
I’m not interested in that conversation, but what’s meaningful is, “How are you wired? What capacity do you feel?” I called it mega, mezzo, and modest. It was just made up, and I love alliteration, if you cannot tell. You cannot tell. My last book was called Of Mess and Moxie. I just like all the letters to be the same.
I think rather than women ratcheting up or down the levels to fit whatever the room is asking of them, there’s some really important internal work to do to go, “Oh no, this is how I am. This is who I am. This is how much room I am designed to take up and I’m going to take it.”
Trina: I still bring something to the table.
Jen: Oh my gosh! Can you imagine if every woman in the world had a mega personality? What a nightmare. What a mess. You know? We need every kind of personality, every kind of woman.
What about the other two that you like, or if there was even a specific moment where you’re like, I’m going to stake my own territory and it’s not going to be necessarily with expectations put on me, but just what is true for me and at me.
Trina: I was thinking, I wonder if it’s almost a remembering sometimes? Because as we’ve gone through our lives, you have many different versions of yourself. You have the go get ‘em twenty-something, you have the thirty-something, I just had my kids, what is happening? I don’t know what in the world’s going on. Forties, you’re starting to see some light, maybe you failed at a few things and then you’re trying something else. You start to learn what you’re not good at, which I think is just as valuable, if not more valuable than knowing what you’re really good at.
Sometimes I think to myself, There’s a little Trina that has some, let’s call it moxie. Let’s go back to moxie. She had some stuff that sometimes I got, something happened maybe, or it got beat out of me somewhere just from a meeting that went bad or a conversation that seems strange. But the root of me is back there.
And so I feel like the journey sort of is like just re-remembering, trying to remember who you really are at the root of yourself and not based on the influence of other people. Because, I mean, there’s good and bad. But there’s a part of us that sometimes will hesitate to do something or say something because you’ve been burned in the past. You feel very strongly about it, but now you won’t say anything. Speaking for myself, of course. Sometimes, I’m like, I just need to remember who I really was and am because that’s what I’m at. That’s who I am. Just say what you’re thinking and don’t worry about it.
Trina: It’s a remembering for me. A re-remembering.
Jen: Yeah, I like that, because it’s true. There was a moment when we’re younger, before we had a really solid grasp of expectations and gender roles and limitations, and we were still pretty innocent in the world. I bet for every single one of us, we can up-link the best parts of ourselves to how we were when we were six. That’s who we were. That’s who we are.
Trina: I think if you have kids, you can see your own children—especially those of us with adult children—I remember their tendencies at four and five that are still a challenge or they’re still driving me crazy. The root of that person is still there. The very root of that person that we’ve watched grow up, I can see glimmers of it as they’ve grown and I’m like, “That’s not a shock that you’re responding to that that way.”
Jenny: For sure.
Trina: Let me talk to your counselor. Let me explain a few things.
Jen: Caleb Hatmaker and Kade Barlow have been giving us a run for our money since they were in preschool together. That’s who they are.
Trina: Still are.
Jen: Still are.
Trina: Still are, yes.
Jen: That’s good. Shonna?
Shonna: I feel like I’m not a very introspective person. I’ve said this to you guys a lot, but really learning who I was—I was a young mother and young wife and went basically from the dorm to marriage, and I didn’t know myself. It took outside things like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram and stuff like that to know myself and then to say, “Wait, who I am is okay, and what other people say about me, that’s their opinion, but also I’m okay if that’s the case.” Like you said, those things that, as a little girl, if I had a strong personality or a fiery temper, that’s still there or whatever. But also it’s fun to have.
Jen: It is. It is fun. I always love to see it.
Trina: Right. Yeah. She’s only put on one shoe in her life so it’s fine. It was a flip flop.
Shonna: It’s a flip flop.
Jen: That was a flip flop. That’s right. Everybody relax about that.
Jenny: I’m so happy.
Jen: It feels good to settle in.
Trina: Yeah, [it took] the thirties to really figure out, Okay, yes.
Jenny: But young people are doing it earlier these days because they have all these tools. Also, they’re way smarter than I was and I think all y’all were, too.
Shonna: Agree. Agree.
Trina: Agreed. Self-care and all those things. What?
Jenny: Yeah. We didn’t talk about our feelings growing up either. You jot that crap down. Bury it in the ground.
Jen: Yeah. Yeah, I know exactly. I was having this conversation with another woman, and I was saying, “I wish that somebody would have taught me this stuff when I was twenty. I wish I would’ve even heard it. I wouldn’t have even known what this stuff was. I wouldn’t have even had access to it.” She was just like, “I don’t know if twenty year olds can hear it.”
I’m like, “Well, maybe we couldn’t have, because we had no precedence for that sort of internal work. Those were new ideas being trotted out into the cultural lexicon, but our daughters for sure are.” We can put these ideas in the hands of our twenty year old daughters, our twenty-something daughters, and they’re already halfway down the road.
Jen: Which is exciting. I love that. I love that some of the work that we are doing in our forties and fifties is going to fast forward this for our daughters, because they’re ready sooner. I’m always so impressed with them.
Jenny: My kids did the Enneagram test before I even did. I don’t know if they did that before y’all.
Jen: Yeah. It’s great. It’s making healthy relationships for them, and really just what I even hear more so is healthier adults. Tthey have a real sense of who they are and where they’re going.
I want to talk about this, because, oh Lordy. I mean, we could talk about this for a hundred years, but one of the ideas I was exploring in Fierce is places where there is some sort of breach. There’s something that’s true on the inside, and we struggle to live it on the outside. It’s either we’re keeping it down, or it’s secret or pretending about it, or we’re afraid to say what’s true. We’re afraid to admit something. We’re all of that, generally, in every area except the one we’re about to talk about. There’s something we have internally that we need to give permission to be true externally. But when it comes to our bodies, it’s the opposite. We are so mean inside about our outside body. We are just the meanest, the absolute meanest. And the whole body thing, I’m just going to be honest, and I said it so it’s not a mystery, but this is the one area that I’m still like, I don’t have it. I just don’t have it. And it makes me wonder if I am going to fight against my own container my entire life, and I don’t want to. It’s easy for me to get the cart before the horse when I think about our girls. When I’m like, Oh, I would hate it if this is how my girls thought about their bodies. If this is the sort of abuse, essentially, that they put their bodies through to fit some idea that of course you and I, we knew when we were in elementary school how we were supposed to look and what was going to be rewarded.
So I just wonder if we can talk about the process to learn to love our bodies well and to care. My friend Hillary McBride, who I referenced heavily in that chapter, she says, “Let’s call our bodies a her and a she. She’s a part of us. That is, she’s not just some separate horrible container walking our brains around.”
What have you learned or what have you struggled with? What feels like, This is a place I’ve really gained some ground here, and this is the place that I still push up against this cultural conditioning that we’ve been given. There’s nothing wrong with this. This is the message that we were meant to receive. We’ve been hearing it since we were three years old. And so it’s not as if we invented it or something’s malfunctioning in our brain, it’s just that we were targeted for a message and we got it.
Jen: How do we unravel this? How do we do better? How can we make peace with the inside and the outside?
Jenny: I was sitting here just thinking about when you were saying that and thinking, I don’t really have this problem, because sometimes I’m real chubby and I feel like, Well I don’t look that bad. As you were saying that, I remembered how I don’t feel very sexual when I’m at my worst. My sex life is not as good and all the things. I mean, maybe I do have a problem. I don’t know.
Jen: Think of how hard, and with such aggression, we have pushed our bodies to be smaller. How much we denied ourselves, how much we withhold. I spent a lot of mental energy on my body. More than I’d like to admit is how often I’m thinking about what I look like and how my clothes fit and how I wished I looked and how other people look and I just don’t have victory in this one yet.
Shonna: Yeah. Same.
Trina: I think that’s a hard victory to win, honestly. I mean, again, social media does not help as we all know. I don’t think it helps in any age group. Yeah, body stuff, man. Like you said, my children, I’m going to make sure that they have a great body image. I’m going to encourage them and tell them that, “It doesn’t matter and you need to be healthy and that you’re taking care of your body,” and all those things, and at the same time go carb free for two years.
Jenny: I tried so hard to not body shame myself in front of my daughter all growing up. Then when she was in college, I realized that it’s not just in our home.
Jen: Oh, that’s right.
Jenny: I mean obviously, it’s outside of here. We call it here, but she struggled more than I actually did. I mean, that was really hard, because I look at her body and I’m like, “Oh girl, it’s perfect.”
Jenny: Yes, if I would have just told myself, “Oh girl, what you’ve got is still perfect,” the way I would tell y’all. I mean, why don’t we treat our own bodies the way…
Jenny: Why don’t we tell ourselves what I would tell all of y’all. I love y’all more than I love my own body.
Shonna: See what we do there? Because I look at y’all and I think, Awesome. Look at all the babies you’ve birthed. Look all the fun we have. Then with myself I’m like, Oh if only I could. If only I would’ve.
Jen: I know. That’s a great way to frame it up, Shonna, because I am just as generous to other women as I am to my daughters. I mean it.
Shonna: Yes, absolutely.
Jen: It does help me. It has really served me. Hillary taught me about one year ago—I had her on the podcast, I don’t know if you guys listened to that episode—she’s a doctor, she’s a therapist, and she’s, like, got this presence. The kind where you just want to lean into her bosom. You know what I mean? That’s how her voice sounds. When she started talking about the she/her paradigm, I was like What? I just am not used to hearing women talk about their bodies like that in a way that is gentle and generous and charitable and kind. When she made me go through this list of everything my body has done for me, everywhere she has taken me, every good thing she has helped me experience, I can just cry my eyes out.
Why [am I] so mean to this poor body? It’s weird, because I think, Trina, you just mentioned social media, it has given us this very, very, very narrow percentage of beauty, which is the type of beauty that’s celebrated right now at this moment in time in our culture. It’ll change. It’s changed all throughout history, but we see too much of it now. Back in the day, we would have rarely seen that one percent person walking around. It would just be a normal sampling of women. Now, I just think we see too much of that, and it has corroded our idea of what is feasible, what’s reasonable. I’m not going to be 130 pounds ever again for the rest of my life. Why do I keep saying that number? I don’t know. I’d love to see women have some recovery in this conversation in a way that we’re not held hostage to this anymore.
Shonna: Me too. I think it’s just going to take women doing that for other women, though. Because I think for the most part, men are like, “I love the way your body looks.” I feel like we have to start with each other in saying, “I love how your body looks,” and not be jealous, but just generous, because I do. You know? I don’t know.
Jen: Yeah. I think that’s great. I think that’s a good way to think about it. Yeah, because you’re right. The men are like, “Yay. Yay to all the bodies.”
Jen: Checkmark. So true. We can’t wait for the beauty industry to do it, because they’re counting on us to hate ourselves.
Jen: It’s a billion industry for a reason. Let’s not wait on them to tell us how to be healthy either, because a lot of that messaging is still just horrible body image culture packaged as diet culture. It’s no better.
Shonna: Or wrinkles.
Jen: I mean, yes.
Shonna: Especially on video chat.
Trina: I see no wrinkles on any of us at video chat.
Shonna: I know.
Jen: That’s because I have bright lights on my face.
Trina: Yeah, exactly. The one thing I was thinking about in terms of body image, too, is I struggled with panic in my thirties and forties, which you and I went through, and really got frustrated with how my body reacted to really an emotional mental state that I had gotten myself into. But then when you go through counseling and learn about it and do a lot more reading and try to figure out what in the world is going on, I made friends with it.
Anyway, my point is once you start learning how your body’s reacting, your body is doing the work. It’s reacting to protect you. With regards to panic, you’re getting worked up and your heart’s racing, you’re sweating, your body’s working to get you back into a calm state, but have to go through that period where you’re feeling horrible to finally get back there.
And what it really taught me is that our bodies are constantly taking care of us all the time, all the time. Especially through the panic period that I had in my life, it was working really hard. I had to come to peace with that, and there was a moment where I was like, My body is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s responding to what it thinks is a major threat to my life, and it’s doing exactly what it is meant to do. And so stop being so angry with the body.
I would get really angry and irritated that I might get stressed and panicky. And once I finally accepted that and came to peace with that’s your body’s response, and actually at the end of this you’re going to feel better, and there’s going to be a flood of endorphins and you’re going to be much, much calmer at the end of this episode, I was so much better. And I think that can carry over into a lot of spaces where you can say your body is working very hard for you every day. We’ll put it through so many things, the stress of work, and it’s constantly trying to get you back to feeling calm and carefree. The extra weight, the extra things that we are bothered by, it’s also protecting you in some ways. I kind of feel like sometimes we’re putting on a little blanket when I’ve got some little extra weight.
Jen: Keeping me nice and warm.
Trina: Keeping me nice and warm. If we lived in the north again, that would be your nice winter blanket.
Jenny: Like you’re hibernating, you’re a bear.
Trina: I’m hibernating. I just think that our bodies—and I think you talked about this—are doing a lot of stuff. It’s taking care of a lot of stuff, and we’re just taking it for granted. When you have food poisoning, guess what, man? Your body takes care of that.
Jen: That’s right.
Trina: When we’re having babies, it is working really hard. Take an anatomy class, figure out what it is that your body is doing, and man, it’s quite amazing. It’s pretty amazing.
Jen: It’s so helpful.
Jen: It’s so helpful to remember that at all times, 100% of the time—so whatever’s happening in a room, there’s always weird alliances, this person’s for you, this person is suspicious of you, this person wants something from you, this person is going to manipulate you—but your body? My body in any room, in any moment, in any scenario, 100% Team Jen, 100%. That’s the one person on my entire side in every scenario. When she gives me alarms like, “Well, you’re not safe.” That’s her looking out for me.
Trina: Yep, agree.
Jen: And I think that’s a wonderful way to reimagine our thoughts toward our bodies. I’m still working. I hope that when we have this conversation in a few years, I will be further down the road than I feel right now on that really hard conversation, and I hope our daughters don’t have to battle it. I hope they don’t even know what we’re talking about.
Trina: I know.
Jen: I hope they’re like, “Why are our moms like this?”
I want to talk about this for a second, because one of the portions in Fierce discusses connection and how deeply it matters to just being a human person. It is the number one factor, like the number one indicator to how well we are thriving or how poorly we are thriving. There’s other factors that matter, but stable and flourishing relationships are the biggest one. I cited something where researchers said that, “Connected relationships have a bigger impact on our lifespan than obesity and drinking and smoking combined.” So if we are lonely, we are more likely to die thirty percent earlier. It’s a big deal, this is a huge deal. I think women have a lot of shame and sadness around loneliness.
Shonna: For sure.
Jen: I’ve noticed in the community of readers that is reading Fierce right now, this is hitting a nerve. And so can we talk a little bit about connection and times where we feel like, Yes, I’m flourishing inside of it, and times when we haven’t, and the difference we’ve discovered, and then even what it has taken to create and develop this level of friendship? Because we have seen some miles together.
Jen: I don’t think there’s a single thing you guys don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything in the whole world that you don’t know. Just knowing that this is a spot where some women just feel deeply sad and they don’t know what to do and they don’t know how to create it, or they’ve been burned and they’re afraid to try again, just [share] any sort of wisdom you have to say about your experience with healthy relationships and tight connections and friendships and all of it.
Jenny: Who is really good at it? Mostly me and Shonna are the best at it. When crap does down, we say it right away.
Jen: You do.
Jenny: Jen, you like to hang on to it for a couple of days sometimes by yourself.
Jen: It’s true.
Jenny: The sadness. Trina likes to just try to bury it at first.
Shonna: That’s true.
Jenny: Like in the grass. Not ask for help.
Jen: She rejects it.
Trina: I reject all that help.
Jenny: She has a community for it, but she’s like, No one has time for this.
Jen: Yeah, and I think that’s actually what a lot of people say. Like, “Nobody has time for not just what’s going wrong and what’s hard for me, but me period.” Like, “Nobody has time for a friend. Nobody has time for a new relationship or time together because it takes time.” Isn’t that the secret sauce, time together?
Trina: Well, we all know with regards to me and my not wanting to share or thinking that it’s no big deal, I can handle it myself, we all know that eventually in this little safe space, I lose it and I come crumbling down.
Trina: It never comes out very pretty if I hold onto it too long by myself.
Jen: You and I do it, but we’re just late to the party.
Trina: Just give me a minute. I just need a minute with it and I’m ready.
Shonna: Jenny is always like, “I’m not going to say anything.”
Shonna: “I’m just not going to say anything.” And she’s at the place with us for five minutes, and she just like, says it all out. I was like, “Remember when you said you weren’t going to say anything?” And she goes, “You know I can’t ever not…”
Jenny: Yeah. This is also not just with us, but I could be like in a Bible study with thirty women, and I would tell Shonna on the way there, “This is what I’m struggling with, but I can’t share this with the group. It’s too emotional for me.” And then there I am, I can’t help it. I cannot help it.
Jen: Yeah. It’s so good though Jenny, the results of that in your life that I see is that because you are so transparent and not afraid to be vulnerable. We know how vulnerability works. We’re afraid of it, afraid it’s going to push people away, but it actually draws people in, and so because of that, you have so many women who are drawn to you because they see you tell the truth so often and with such authenticity that they think, Oh, that’s a person I can trust. I don’t have to hide from her. I don’t have to pretend around her. You’re like dripping, dripping with women. I mean, and some of them are like twenty-two. They flock to you, and they’re in your house all the time. It is because you’re always creating places for people to belong, but it is also because you tell the truth inside of relationships and that makes people feel not just trusted, but it makes them feel safe.
Jenny: Yeah, agree.
Jen: It’s just so true that everybody has hard things. We’re all secretly always looking around like, Who can I trust? Who would be trustworthy?
Shonna: That’s really hard. I mean, I have trust issues, and I was pretty lonely in my twenties and early thirties, and then I finally was like, I’ve got to just put myself out there. And when I did, that’s when I really found what you’re saying, people were letting me in. When I was letting people in, they were letting me in, and I’ve never gone back from that. I mean, with some people, I do keep myself.
Jenny: We met you on this side of that, and so I’m shocked that you didn’t have more friends, that you were so lonely and private.
Shonna: I had already had friends that I was close with, but like when you said people are burned by people or betrayed, I mean that’s just so hard. You feel like, Who can I trust?
Jen: So what was it, Shonna, because I think you’re saying something important that a lot of people are experiencing right now, which is they’ve had some really bad false starts or they’ve been really hurt inside of an important relationship or they’ve tried a friendship and it went sideways or whatever. And you’ve had some of those experiences. Can you pinpoint what it was either in you or what was it that made you finally say, “I’m going to give this a try,” instead of just kind of staying super safe and protected, which you could have, inside your little family unit and your marriage? What was it? What was it that made you go, I’m going to open myself up to these strangers essentially?
Shonna: First of all, I think we’re just all craving—I think you said in the book—this connection. My husband and I had friends in our twenties, but no one we could always be 100% ourselves with, and I graduated college in my early thirties. I kind of went back to school, and after that is when I said, “I’m going to give some things a chance, I’m going to put myself out there in a real way with people and take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me.” I took a chance on me, and I have made some of my very best friends since that point, and it’s changed my life.
Jen: That’s good.
Shonna: It’s never too late…
Jen: Yeah, that’s right.
Shonna: …to go back to school or to meet your best friends. Either thing.
Jen: That’s right.
Jen: Anything to add, Trin?
Trina: Watching each of us in our own lane, and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, is awesome and it’s something to be celebrated. Again, this is the benefit of trying to figure out who you are and what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. If you can recognize the things that you are meant to do, then that friendship that you have, you’re celebrating that friendship completely genuinely, because you’re proud and happy for what they’re doing.
Jenny: It’s so real.
Jen: Yeah. I think that sense of friends who are just so for each other is special. Like, that’ll take you a long way. There’s just very few things that actually matter. You can be really different, you can have different personalities, you can absolutely operate in different capacities. Man, when you can say anything to each other, we can hear anything from each other and we’re always on each other’s side. It’s just, that’s it. That is it. That’s a life force for me.
Jenny: Also, I don’t want you to think just because we have been friends for so many years, but with each one of you, I became really fast friends with. I knew real quick.
Shonna: Right away.
Jenny: I could tell you anything and everything, so that’s nothing that you have to be like, Oh, it’s going to take me years to get there. Nope.
Jen: That’s true.
Shonna: It can literally take one long Chili’s date.
Jenny: Oh my goodness. Shonna vomited on me the first time we ever spent any time together.
Shonna: That’s not like me. Y’all know that’s not like me. I was so happy.
Jen: That’s true, it’s not. I think we get to kind of speed up connection to the degree that we are willing to attempt some vulnerability with somebody else. That is a fast forward button, which I know it’s risky. I get it. I really do understand the aversion to it, especially if relationships haven’t been safe for you historically, or if you’ve never experienced that, particularly in a community of women. But I just contend that the risk is still worth it. Even when it goes sideways, we’ve had some—not with each other, but with other people—false starts where we’re like, “This is not going to be the connection I thought it was going to be.” And that’s okay.
Shonna: That is okay.
Jen: Not everybody is going to be a lifer. But still, I wouldn’t want to go back and self-protect just so I wouldn’t have to experience that at all.
I want to talk about this while we still have time. Trina kind of alluded to this, and I feel like this is something I really want to hear you guys talk about. Again, this is a real shared growth point between the four of us.
There’s one whole section in Fierce under the umbrella called, “What I Believe.” Again, with this whole idea of internal tension or questions or struggle that we feel afraid to voice, I find that to be a real common theme inside a lot of faith communities. Because certain questions are not rewarded, or in fact they’re punished, or diverging ideas are incredibly dangerous. They will endanger your sense of belonging, not your sense of belonging, your belonging. It can be removed.
One of the chapters is called, “I Believe in Spiritual Curiosity.” And this is something I feel like I’ve only learned in my forties to be honest—well thirties at some point, but in earnest in my forties—that spiritual curiosity is a wonderful thing and something to be regarded in high esteem, not in low esteem.
And so I wonder if there’s anything that you can talk about. What has your high level faith process looked like, let’s just say in the last ten or fifteen years? What has changed for you, or what have you learned, or what meant something to you as you kind of gave yourselves permission to evolve spiritually?
Shonna: I think for so many people, if they do say, “Oh, I don’t believe that, or I believe this differently,” they’re like, “Okay, well, bye.”
But I feel like I have the freedom to say in my community, in my church, “I don’t agree with you.” Or, maybe I was ahead of you or behind you or whatever in a certain way of thinking, and it was still okay. It’s just us all thinking it’s a process and a journey and not just like hard and fast, yes or no, black and white. That’s been really helpful for me spiritually, just to know that not everyone has it right every time.
Jenny: Well you said ten years ago—and it’s been eleven years since we moved here, or maybe twelve…
Jenny: …to plant off a new church.
Jenny: So if we could say the last twelve years, how I have changed, it’s been one million. I mean, me and Trey moved here to plant Austin New Church, and we were in a very conservative Baptist church and we knew all the answers. I was just coming along to help everything get going here, but I didn’t really realize that my brain was, well, I was given permission basically to ask a lot of questions.
Shonna: Yeah, exactly.
Jenny: Yep. And I love that in our church, we can believe different things, we don’t have to agree on stuff. We can have people that are Republicans and Democrats and all in between. A lot of us do have the same heartbeat toward justice and stuff, but other than that, you can be an atheist and come to our church. Like, come on.
Jen: Because I think I have a lot of readers and women in my community who are somewhere near the beginning of that process of just understanding that they even have permission to ask hard questions of maybe the faith they were handed as a kid or the structures that they grew up in.
Shonna: What their husbands believe.
Jen: What their husbands believe, what their parents believe, or maybe they come from no belief and they’re just wondering if there’s a place for them too inside of a faith community.
And so I wonder if somewhere in that early season of spiritual curiosity, if you will, was that even hard for you? Did you even feel like, I don’t know if this is okay? I just remember having an internal sense of a little bit of panic, like, Where’s this going? Where is this going? Where am I going to end up? I had been told that that sort of curiosity was dangerous my whole life. And so that message was deeply internalized. I wonder if you guys can talk about those early first steps, when you’re like Mary, just beginning to reimagine an idea or a doctrine or a position or just whatever.
Trina: I come at this from a kind of a different space. I grew up Lutheran, became Catholic, went to a Catholic university, got married in the Catholic church, fell away from a Catholic church when we felt like a priest couldn’t really help us with our marriage.
I feel like the Catholic university experience did allow me to sit in. We had a lot of theology classes and philosophy classes as a prerequisite, you had to take them, and so there were a lot of priests that loved to ask a lot of questions, and that was actually my first experience in asking a lot of questions and getting into the really philosophical questions that are fun to chew on, right?
I forgot about those for a long time. And then when we ended up in a Baptist institution, where actually we were fed and the Bible came alive, and it really was amazing. So it was both/and, I got the great part of that as well. Some of the things that I’d never understood in the Catholic church were revealed to me in studying the Bible in the Protestant church. So there’s beauty in both.
I just felt like once I was able to kind of come back around to thinking about the bigger picture, God got much, much bigger and could handle all the questions. So any questions and doubts that I had, or that other people around me were also expressing, because all of us went through this about at the same time. It was one of these kinds of upheaval of, What do we really believe as a crisis of belief?
It’s the best thing that can happen to you. If you can handle it, it’s the best thing that can happen to you. Because God can handle those questions and He can handle the doubt. And if you’ve got people that will talk to you about it and let you say the things that maybe sound a little funny in your brain, find a safe space to be able to talk about that, because there’s people that want to talk about it with you, too.
I remember college conversations, we were questioning God and all those things. We’ll go ahead and do that again. It’s not heretical. God can handle it, He can handle it.
Jen: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, of course. And I think that that level of curiosity and wonder and even open handedness toward faith, at least for me and the way I grew up, was never celebrated. That was seen as a lack of faith, and that was seen—as Jenny mentioned—as the slippery slope. That was a big thing we were always told.
But that’s not the way I have experienced faith exploration at all. In my view, a woman who is willing to ask important and hard questions of her faith system, she cares. And that means something, like that is not a sign of weakness, but of strength, that is something to be honored and to be celebrated and I hope that women are not shamed out of their search, or I hope that the threat of excommunication doesn’t keep us from asking some really good and important questions. I just don’t believe that it’s going to be on our watch with our questions that God’s going to fall out of the sky. I think He’s going to make it. I do, I believe in His capacity. Thank you for saying that.
Jen: Okay. As we wrap it up, I didn’t really prepare you for this one, so good luck.
Jenny: Oh no.
Jen: Yeah. My whole hope is that women get to the end of this book, and they don’t just feel empowered to be exactly who they are and thrive in the ways that they are meant to thrive and have full ownership over their wants and needs and desires and beliefs and life like women who have agency over their life. But I hope they feel equipped for it, that they’ve got tools in their hands and all that.
And so I have obviously watched all three of you do this work for years, just years and years and years. We have worked through a lot of this together. And so if you had to say like, “This is one area where I felt like I put my flag in the ground and I claimed it. This is a thing that I earned, I won this in my life. I kind of claimed this as mine, my truth, I’m proud that I worked to a point where I was able to say, ‘You know what? This is true and this is good and this is mine.’”
Trina: So I was mostly raised by my dad, so I have this good old boy affinity. I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of men, even when I was a little girl. We were farmers in Illinois, so he would take me to the elevator and we would sit and they would talk about grain prices and I don’t know, but I was always with my dad and with a bunch of men.
Later in my career, I ended up also in conference rooms with a bunch of men, and good old boy Ford dealers, and Pepsi executives, and Interstate Batteries talking about NASCAR, and I don’t know how that happened, but there I was, right? And I finally realized that in that space where women are generally marginalized and not listened to, sometimes I’d have to say it twice, but I was pretty sure I knew what I was talking about. I wasn’t always right obviously, but eventually I learned how to make them listen to me, just by being serious and I had done the research, I had done the work, I knew what I needed to say.
And even now, sometimes I’ll question, “Should I say that? Should I not say it?” But then I’ll come back to myself and say, “You already know this, you know that you know that you know.”
And so I’m not saying that well, your own self confidence will sometimes waver. It will always waver, you’ll always think through things and second guess yourself. But I learned that in a room full of men, I can speak and be heard as a professional, and that’s a good place to be. I’ve got other stories, too, that are not great, but for the most part, I could sit in a room of men and be confident in what I was saying and not as a female or a woman—as someone who had done the work.
Jen: That’s right. I love that. Yes. I hear you saying that you figured out how to trust yourself and your own authority.
Trina: Go, women.
Jen: And with your knowledge and your own professionalism and that means something. That really is incredible, I love that. I love thinking about you in those rooms full of NASCAR men. Those are some of my favorite memories.
Trina: Those are some fun guys, for sure.
Jen: Yes. Yes. You heard some stuff.
Trina: I did.
Jen: That’s a good one, Trin. Okay.
Shonna: Well this is a hard question for sure. I feel like a lot of my life, I was told I was too sensitive or had too many feelings, and I think a lot of women do hear that. Or that you don’t know about things, and you’re letting your feelings come into that decision or all of that. And I think I learned that it can be a strength for me to use my feelings, number one to look out for other people which I have, and to have empathy, and that it is okay that I am me, because I have too many feelings and it’s okay.
Jen: It is.
Shonna: And people like me for it.
Jen: Yes. It’s a strength.
Shonna: It’s a strength.
Jen: It’s not too many. It’s not too many, it’s the right amount. And they have served you well, and they’ve served your friends well, and they’ve served your kids well.
Shonna: And I have to trust them. Trusting your own feelings, like you said about trusting your own words, Trina. Same. I had to trust my feelings, and now that I can, that’s just a big thing.
Jen: That’s pretty powerful, because that has been leveraged against women for a very long time. The emotional thing, the feelings thing, which is such a wonderful strength of so many women that have high emotional intelligence, and so yeah, pushing back against that narrative and saying, “Oh no, that’s actually an advantage and everybody’s lucky that I have it.” It’s really powerful, super powerful.
Okay, well I feel so lucky and proud of you and being your friend and being a part of a little friend group that is so meaningful, and so forever, and so incredibly safe. I mean, the four of us were texting last night. I was crying in my bed texting you. That just never ends. There’s no end of it, and we all seem to take turns falling apart, which is great.
And so, it will never be lost on me what it is like to have friends who are so loyal and faithful and who are willing to grow together, and grow up together, and watch our kids grow up together. And that is really special. So thank you for saying yes to this. I am sorry how often I drag you guys onto videos. It won’t end. You know that it won’t, I’m not really sorry, but I’m a little bit sorry.
Jenny: I’ll say we’re happy about it, because we put on makeup today.
Jen: I know!
Shonna: For the first time in six weeks.
Trina: Yeah, no kidding. I put in earrings too, which I haven’t done in ages.
Jen: When the four of us jumped onto this Zoom, that was the very first thing we all said, we were like, “Look at your eyeliner, wow!” But it’s been the quarantine faces for some time.
Shonna: That’s true.
Jen: That’s it everybody, love y’all.
Trina: Okay, love you.
Shonna: Love you.