2018. forty. 2019.

I’ve tried to write a birthday or a Turning Forty post for a few weeks and somehow haven’t been able to muster up either.
This current version of Word that I’m typing in coupled with dip polish is not helping my game here either, but I’m going to persevere… for my fans, of course.  (LOL.)
If I’d known what 2018 would bring, I honestly would have run into this new year wearing track shorts, knee socks and the prettiest shoes imaginable.  I truly thought that 2018 would be a quiet year, hopefully full of healing with a splash of joy.  By mid-year, I discovered that this year brought joy in the form of Niagara Falls because it kept gushing and I needed floaties!
In March, the Lord began to heal some deeply broken places.  I had to be brave (which is not my middle name, EVER) and push past levels of fear and discomfort.
In June, I had a moment with the Holy Spirit that was so deep and so soul-wrecking-ly beautiful that I got a tattoo to commemorate it.
The last six months of this year are so full of moments of grace and humility, of joy and hope, of fruition and promise, that I am still struggling with how to articulate it.
To cap it all off, I wound up having the most spectacular birthday and weekend with friends.  
There is a song by The Belonging Company that sums up my 2018 –
Beautiful Story
Chorus: You write a beautiful story, you write a beautiful story, from glory to glory I believe. You write a beautiful story, you write a beautiful story, beginning to ending and in between.
Bridge: All the while you keep saying, trust that I am orchestrating, everything for good.  All the while you keep saying, trust that I am custom making everything for good.  You work all things together for good, all things together for good, all things together for good, like You said You would.
That’s the fun part about the Lord: He writes the story.  I think we get lost in the noise that says to write our own narrative – to write our own story.  Instead, trusting Him means that He orchestrates our story, and it is a best seller instead of personal diary on a shelf.
This year, The Lord has written my story.  He is not finished yet and in true divine fashion, I keep trying to offer notes and suggestion and learn that I never know where this story is going but because He is faithful, this story is working for His glory and for my good.  My story is beautiful.
That also prompts my word for 2019 – which is surrender.  I have to surrender everything back to him.  My heart, my time, my love, my energy, my joy, my heartache, my life.  
It’s all His.

lucky number thirteen

Thirteen years.
Where I was:
Unemployed and broken from a job that sucked the joy out of me.
Heartbroken from a relationship that took a hit I was unprepared for.
My mother was two weeks post op from a fall where her arm was shattered into a thousand pieces and has since forever changed our family.
What happened:
On Monday, August 29th, I interviewed in Dalton.  The interview was terrible.  I didn’t apply for the job and STILL have no idea how they got my resume.  My mother was in the middle of surgery while I was interviewing and I was a basket case.  I left defeated.
I had been reading Andy Stanley’s book “The Best Question Ever”.  He uses the example of putting God in a proverbial box, praying hard, God not changing the situation and us being frustrated with God when WE put him in the box.  In the same season, several friends had moved to Nashville and I have no desire AT ALL to move to Nashville.  
That Tuesday night, I laid in the floor and repented for putting God in a box when I clearly had no idea what His plan was.  
On Wednesday morning, I went back to job hunting and the first job that popped up was in Brentwood, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.  It was 10:30am.  I applied for the job. (I actually laughed out loud with God!)  At 11:30, the recruiter called me and submitted me for the job.  At 3:20, the recruiter called me back and set up the interview for that Friday.
Friday morning, I left for Nashville, hot rollers in my hair rocking a navy power suit.  I miscalculated the time for the interview forgetting that Nashville was on Central time and I’d gained an hour.  I used that opportunity to put on make-up and make sure I knew how to get to all of the places that I needed to go.
While I was on the road making sure I knew where the interview was going to be held, I got a phone call.  
Long story short, all of the things I’d begged God for – HE.  SHOWED.  OUT.  After that phone call that ended with an offer and acceptance, I pulled into a parking lot and bawled.  I called my family, who were all sitting at in a waiting room while my mother was in her second surgery.  I was so hysterical, they thought I’d been in an accident. 
Over the last thirteen years:
I have told my Ninevah story as often as I can because my story had nothing to do with Nashville, it was solely about obedience.
I have seen God move in mighty ways that I don’t deserve.
He has moved on my behalf.
Every time I get to a place where I think God can’t do it and that my journey has ended, God messes me up.
I spent nine years in an office where God reshaped every facet of my life.
I’ve spent the last four years in another office where God shifted more things in my life than I can even begin to tell.
Growth.  Brokenness.  Pain.  Grief.  Joy.  Purpose.  Trust.  Love.  Hope.  
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord!"
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
I'm so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.
Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood
And in simple faith to plunge me
'Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace

Jesus you change everything.

This morning, I had my ear buds in and a particular song cranked up to 40 on my iPhone.  I was fully engaged in the moment when I had this thought:
Bravery rarely comes in the loud moments we proclaim it.  Bravery comes when we lay our heads down and declare that we will not be insomniacs to our fears, our anxieties, our trepidations, or the thoughts of others.  Bravery comes in the moment when we kind of say “screw it!” and run with abandon knowing that it could fail historically, but if God’s grace if even a smidge like we know it, then our foundation and our core tells us that being brave and walking tall is where HE gets all the glory and we get to see the magnitude of God.  
I think there are a lot of Christians who can easily throw their hands up on Sunday morning.  We worship wild.  We surrender.  We proclaim.  We go, on this spiritual high, to lunch and profess what God has done for us and how we will be free/better/different.  
And then {we} stay stuck for months and years because real bravery requires more than we are prepared to give.  
It requires more than I am prepared to give.  More than I am comfortable to sacrifice.

Last night, after a dinner I cooked for some friends, I overshared.  (Hi, my name is Jenn and my spiritual gift is gab and oversharing.) I had prefaced one of my guests with the following disclaimer in a text: “I’d rather tell you this story in person and I understand if you completely run for the hills afterward.”
The actuality is that the last thing I want this person to do is run for the hills.  I don’t want any of my friends to run for the hills because, HELLUR, that clearly defeats the purpose of friendship and accountability and love.  
But the strangest thing about last night was that after my friends left, I wasn’t scared that I overshared.  
I did not lay awake for hours wondering if last night was the last time I would have dinner with them, or be open and share, or laugh.
I did not have bad dreams about them abandoning me, saying horrible things about me, or thinking that I’m a completely deranged fruit loop that needs to get her life together and possibly therapy.    
I’m a realist, so generally these things are THE things that plague me -- that make me want to send (or actually send) some sort of corrective action text that is basically me begging for my friends to not abandon me and love me in my crazy.  I’ve been known to buy dinner for a friend out of that guilt and anguish because: PLEASE LOVE ME AND DON’T DITCH ME BECAUSE I SEEM EMOTIONALLY UNSTABLE AND SAY ALLLL THE THINGS AND I NEED YOUR FRIENDSHIP.  
My twenties were an incredibly healthy time, can’t you tell?  Also, WHY am I not married?  These are the mysteries of the world. 
{insert head slap emoji}
I keep coming to the realization that I have spent far too long offering some kind of disclaimer about myself to others.  I come with more warning stickers than a mattress or a hairdryer.  I’m becoming fully aware of the shame that I cultivated in my own head and in my own heart that says I am not enough in nearly every facet of my life.
Because I have never been truly brave enough. 
The devil is a liar.

Jesus, you changed everything.

unicorn sighting

I like to think that because I’m nearly 40 and single, I have somehow mastered the art of patience on waiting for a man and that my long suffering has produced some kind of virtue.  This virtue does not esteem me in any way; moreover it’s one of those virtues that is rare because most people are married before now and never have to worry about it.
In a totally ironic twist, I’ve been hung up listening to a song called “not in a hurry”.  For real.  Can’t even make up the hilariousness that is my life sometimes.
But right in the moment where I think I’ve mastered that art, God puts someone in my path that gets me all in my feelings and I’m all “microwave this Jesus!” and God laughs.  OUT.  LOUD.  Because funny is the only word that really applies to this, that’s how I process the fact that God shows me a unicorn in the thicket and suddenly I’m not patient but quiet impatient and antsy for God to move because I’m shallow enough to think that’s why He put him there.
(On the days where I am my own conundrum, I exhaust myself.)
So here I sit reminded that I have to be patient.  And that patience produces joy. That the very thing I want so desperately is worth waiting for, that I am worth praying for, and that love comes softly and quietly and never in a hurry.  The apostle Paul is in my head today reminding me that his letter to Corinth was for me too.  
 Lord, help me in this season to not sabotage the beautiful things you are doing in my life.  Clothe my impatience with patience and hope.  May everything that I do, point right back to you.


I remember being in the third grade and reading a word that, while I’d heard it more times than I could count, I had never read it.
I remember sounding out the word and that moment when it clicked it my head, connecting the dots from hearing to sight.  It was so cool to me to put those together.  (If you know me at all, my deep love of words, their meanings, and using them is lifeblood.)
I know that I sound like a broken record, but HOLY SMOKES -- that is exactly what this season is like.  (Clarification: not with reading words.  I’m actually smarter than that! LOL.)  This season of hearing words and being able to articulate what happened in my head and my heart and how God is healing, mending, restoring, transforming, and birthing.  It’s so beautiful to me, and I’d be a liar if I said I haven’t cried as many happy tears in the last month as I did sad ones last year.  In my very pentacostal heart, I’ve also had daily moments where I want to take a lap because a message I hear or a word I read translates in my heart instantly.
A soul rendezvous, if you will.
Webster defines rendezvous this way:  A meeting at an agreed time and place, typically between two people.
Y’all.  Y’ALL.
God, in his omnipotence set a time and a place.  In the moment where I gave my heart to Jesus, the journey was never promised to be easy.  In my humanity and in my brokenness, I detoured.  BUT GOD.  He planned a rendezvous with me.  
Isn’t that amazing???
And honestly, this rendezvous is like a scavenger hunt where I keep finding things like joy, hope, words of affirmation, love, kindness, gentleness, and peace – even and especially in places where I never expected it.

a sight for sore eyes...

The last few weeks have brought this really beautiful clarity for me.  Deep… resonating… bubbly like a brook clarity.  If I knew any way to cling tight to this season where clarity seems plentiful, I would.  I know that this season is temporarily, so I’m soaking in every moment.  Coming out of this horrible season of brokenness, I’m in some form of euphoric sensory overload because I can feel again.  It’s so healing, so affirming – so much more than I even know what to say. I’ve had a lot of days where I feel like my heart could burst, but in the best way.
Because I’m older (and hopefully a smidge wiser), I am reminded that I can’t share this with everyone. I can’t jump back into the same opportunities that I had before, if for no other reason except they don’t exist.  And even though that is a set-back, it’s not the brick wall that I thought it was even six months ago.
A few weeks ago, I went to Charlotte with two friends.  That weekend was so healing for my heart.  I have attempted to adequately describe what happened, but the truth is -- I can’t.    The Holy Spirit spoke so loudly to my heart, in my ears, in my soul -- all in the middle of a service that it just wrecked me.  (And there is no way I could have anticipated that a semi-spontaneously planned weekend would have provided that, but here we are.)
This sound corny, but I don’t feel the spiritual fatigue that ravaged my heart for a year.  I still have stuff that I need to deal with, to sort through, and process with healthy emotions, but that weight is gone.  What it has been replaced with is a reservation and the knowledge that I have to keep some part of me back because that’s what I’m supposed to do.  That’s what healthy people do.  It doesn’t mean I squelch or diminish who I am.  Quite oppositely it means that I need to start acknowledging that while I am not every one's proverbial cup of tea, I am steeped in grace and fire and God’s overwhelming love for me is sustenance. 
I remember the day I got contacts.  Just a day or two after my seventh birthday, my second grade teacher Miss Biddle ratted my blindness to my mother.  One Wednesday night, I left Pearle vision with a pair of Smurfette glasses that changed my life.  I hated glasses.  I’m hot natured, so they would sweat on my face, and running in them was a nightmare.  Plus, I never felt pretty in those glasses.  They were so big and so defining and made me stand out in a way that I did not like.  Three weeks before I started eighth grade, my mother took me to the optometrist and I got fitted for contacts.  When I got home, I remember walking up the street and the contacts, as they were aligning to my eyes, created these funny orbs in the road.  The orbs went away and I wanted nothing more to live in my contacts.  I could see, I could stand out how I wanted to, I could hide if I wanted to, and I didn’t have any restriction that kept me from running.  (Although to be fair, being hot was the main prevention in why I hated running.  Still applies to this day! LOL!!)  
Even now, the biggest grievance my wonderful optometrist has with me is that I live in my contacts.  Ain’t that grace ya’ll??  When it becomes second skin and {we} want nothing more than to live in it.
THAT is this season.  I’ve been in googles that sucked the life of me and in one swoop, glasses are gone and I can see.  It’s glorious and fun and so full of joy.  

::new wine::

New Wine
Words and Music by Brooke Ligertwood
In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender
You are breaking new ground
So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand
Make me Your vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever You want me to be
I came here with nothing
But all You have given me
Jesus bring new wine out of me
In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender
You are breaking new ground
You are breaking new ground
Where there is new wine
There is new power
There is new freedom
The Kingdom is here
I lay down my old flames
To carry Your new fire today

Fairly recently, I told a friend of mine that an anniversary (of sorts) was coming up.  That anniversary marks THE YEAR.  And I am choosing to make a conscious decision at that year to just let some stuff go.
Stuff (defined): emotional baggage, hurt, pain, anger, general frustration, victim mentality, source of excuse
Last year, nobody understood why I was angry and hurt.  Truthfully, I didn’t understand the magnitude of it either.  I had been hurt by church people before – surely, I could get over this.  WRONG.  I got in, under, and wrapped up in my pain, but never over it.  I festered.  I seethed.  I threw a couple of pity parties.  Even invited friends if I thought they’d join in.
When the dust settled, I still felt mangled and angry.  I said I was forgiving.  I really was trying.  But forgiveness as an adult can be hard because we are so dang stubborn, and then psychoanalyze everything we do as “building walls”.  
Y’ALL I have spouted building walls until I’m blue in the face.
We are dumb.
But I still had to forgive.   I am commanded to forgive.  
But his song struck me this week, because it is my prayer and my hope:
Make me Your vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever You want me to be
I came here with nothing
But all You have given me
Jesus bring new wine out of me
I will be the first to admit that I have 10,000 “I don’t know” answers to my questions, but I am confident in this:
I know whose I am.
I know who is in control.
And I know that new wine is coming.

And no more stuff.  I'm holding tight to my anniversary.