It’s happened.

We, a bunch of women, have built each other up in love instead of tearing each other down in jealousy. We, a bunch of strangers, have shared our stories about sex, hormones, parenting, daily caffeine needs, torn butt holes and God’s miracles in our lives with grace and humor. We, a formerly disjointed but now connected crew of female readers and writers, have circled the wagons and gone on the offensive to raise up our sister in her new venture.

We’ve rejected the stereotypical norms of female conversation in our Messy Wrestle book group. We’ve resisted the pettiness of gossip, jealousy and, judgment in #realtalk. We’ve gathered around one of our own and demanded to be part of the conversation in #the4500.

Women can co-exist without tearing each other down. Excuse me, for I think I see pigs flying and hell freezing over. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been told. Right?


Last summer I shared my idea to gather 17 women to talk about hard stuff. That’s the only description I had for the subjects with which I was wrestling. My role as a women in the evangelical church, submission, anxiety, being driven and aggressive in my career, not recognizing myself in the books situated within the Christian Life section of Barnes & Noble. Everyone seemed too churchy, too sugary sweet. A prescriptive six-week bible study with DVD and study guide materials was just not going to cut it.

I wanted deep. I wanted real conversation about stuff that was hard and messy and complicated. And I wanted it with actual women who were in my community.

So, I asked 17 women from all corners of my life to join me in this endeavor. Most of them gave me the electronic side eye. As in, we’re going to do what, exactly? I asked them to trust me and they did. We’re 7 months into our 8-month experiment and our lives have been impacted like no other prescriptive Bible study or 6-week course.

Little did I know that during this adventure God would turn my life inside out and upside down. Instead of this tribe of 17, I now have over 900 online and countless thousands more through IF:Gathering who are… get this… looking for the same.





This week I realized how far we’ve all come together in this journey to real, this messy wrestle. At the book club gathering this week, someone pointed out that we’ve never once devolved into a husband bashing group. We’ve not once dipped a toe into the realm of complaining about church or jobs, friends or mothers in law. We’ve never jumped into judgment or lept into rudeness. Feelings have not been hurt, nor concerns dismissed.

The unspoken truth is that women are often made out to be petty man-bashers who, at any opportunity to gather, prefer surface-level exchanges that result in a mere gossip circle.

In my case, this was not unspoken. When I convened the Messy Wrestle group, I was cautioned by a local pastor to not let the group devolve into divisive husband bashing. Because, Jana, you know how it gets. I nodded, agreed and left. Because, gentle reader, I really did think that it would get that way. I’d never known any different and I was ready to facilitate, dodge and deflect my way through this project.

Eight months later and I’ve never had to do this. Not once.


Recently I’ve joined two online groups that sprung from the left over ladies not chosen for the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love. I wrote about one here. Soon after, a second group split off for subjects not related to Jen’s book. We called it #realtalk and, Oh My Word, has there been. Sex, anxiety, personal failures, parenting woes, spiritual wins and losses, marital hurts, medical issues (torn butt holes – really), daily struggles, kid issues and mother-in-law problems.

You’d think this group would be rife with complaints and judgment, pettiness and princess complexes.

On the contrary.

I see women posting encouraging comments and you go girl! messages all day, every day. Women offering loving advice and prayer support. There’s an ongoing thread about sex and the issues with which we struggle in that realm. Ladies post confessions and we rally around them for support.

Been there, sister! 

Hold on because it gets better!

You’re not alone.

Here’s my story, too. 

You’ve made me brave. 

We also post selfies sans makeup and memes like this:


Yes, I know there’s a curse word in there. If you need to clutch your pearls, you’re probably not meant for this group.

Guess what? There’s no man bashing and WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO MANDATE IT!


What I’ve learned about being among women this year has been pretty eye opening. I’ve always detested women’s ministry, but not because I don’t like women. I like women who are real. I like women who admit failure and then pick themselves back up to fight another day. I like women who will come alongside another who is hurt and say, here, let me help, lean on me. I like women who say, today sucks, let’s get a beer after work.  I like women who can have a great time without giving each other a jealous once-over about their outfit or roots that need to be done. I like women who will say I’ll pray for you and then actually do it right in the middle of the MNSCU Undergraduate Research Conference on Monday (true story).

I like women who can do hard things together and not devolve into petty princesses. I’ve found my tribe, these women with broken tiaras.