January 16, 2019

To This You Were Called.

When I was a teenager I felt a strong call from God to the mission field.

At that time it meant Mexico. I've been on roughly 10ish mission trips to Mexico. I used to dream of opening a clinic/pharmacy where American churches could rotate medical mission trips through. That dream isn't gone, it's still there in the back of my mind.

But here's the thing. 32 year old Jenna is in a different season than 17 year old Jenna was in. Not that I couldn't take that dream and run with it, I guess I could... but raising children and this season I am in now, it's, in a lot of ways, harder. 

My heart loves the people in Mexico, every ounce of my being longs to go and help them but I also realize that my mission field is a little narrower these days. I've got three little people and a husband to care for. 

I've known since becoming a mother that this is my current mission field. 
My town is my mission field. 
My friends are my mission field.

So in October when I got the phone call from one of my best friends that she needed help/advice/I don't really know what she intended with that phone call, come to think of it, but that is a snap shot in my mind I will never forget, I went.

I didn't for a second hesitate to drive to her house that morning and then God made this next mission field very clear to us. 

I hadn't hesitated for a second since that I was in the center of God's will for me. I remember talking to my mom on the phone one night, I was probably crying because I was tired and felt like I had nothing left to give, and she said, "Jenna, just because God calls you to something doesn't mean it'll be easy." I have clung to those words more times than I could count. 

Fast forward some weeks and a lot of headache and heartache. Mix in some confusion and a lot of unknowns. THEN add two holidays and deciding to put our big boys in school full time. My faith began to waiver. I had people who I love question me and what we were doing. I started to hesitate. And worry. The anxiety that God had healed me from crept back in.

I opened my Bible after being "too busy" and these words were there.

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." 
1 Peter 2:21

Whoa, what? God could you be any clearer? To THIS you were called?

It was like God was saying, "Jenna, I've been right here all along. I've had these words for you, I gave you this mission. I do not waiver. I called you to THIS and I sent my son to be an example for you to follow."

...well okay then. Stop having your pity party. Are you hanging on a cross? No. Sleep deprived maybe, but no crosses are currently involved. 

We are studying Luke in our small group right now and our leader said on Sunday that Jesus could have stopped his crucifixion. He could have called the angels to come take him at any moment, but he didn't. I'd never REALLY thought about that. The moments in my life when I've been in the most excruciating pain, I would have done ANYTHING to make it stop. But Jesus persevered to save ME.

....so a little lack of sleep and a little more chaos, I can totally handle that.

My hope for you in reading this is that you'll see that if you're in a season of doubt, if you're unsure of God's plan. If you're scared, worried or just exhausted. God has called you to whatever your THIS is. He's gone before you and is right beside you.

"I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." 
Psalm 16:8

We still don't know the ending of this current season. But I know who has called me. I may not be opening a clinic in Mexico right now, but I AM raising mighty warriors who I hope will love and follow Jesus hard all the days of their lives. 

To THIS you were called.

January 2, 2019

Choosing Joy.

What happens when you choose joy?

...well let's start with what happens when you don't.

2018 was a hard year for me. And actually it probably started more towards the end of 2017 and carried over. I had postpartum anxiety, got diagnosed with a painful inflammatory condition, got shingles, struggled to lose weight again, got some very hard personal news, my dad battled thyroid cancer... and that is just the beginning.

Then I ended up sitting up one whole night in the rocking chair with Sawyer when he was sick last Spring. I'm not sure if I pinched a nerve or what but I ended up with severe neck pain. I went to the chiropractor, I took prescription meds... then the tingling started. Neuropathy isn't something to play with. The whole left side of my head and face started either throbbing or tingling, feeling like it was going to sleep... then my mouth and neck. I was horrified what this could mean.

I carried all of those things- the emotional and physical things. They were like a weight on my back. All of the practical things I could do weren't working. The chiropractor helped briefly but the pain would come back. I was taking prescription pain medications to function. Bryan had to miss work and stay home with me so I could recoup.

I was grumpy. I wasn't joyful. I was mad at my circumstances and mad at God. I lost myself. I was carrying unforgiveness. I wasn't a fun mom or a happy wife. I was an anxious wreck, my kids couldn't leave my house without me almost going into a panic attack worrying about them. I wasn't enjoying the things I used to enjoy. I neglected the blog I love. I couldn't work out. I didn't care about eating healthy. I felt like crap.

In July we got some more heartbreaking news. It hit me very hard. I had a dream of what could be and that dream was shattered as quickly as it started. So I took a day to be sad. I took the boys to get happy meals and we went to the park. I let them play while I ate my McDonalds salad without a fork (thanks a lot for that McD's). I cried on the phone with Bryan for what seems like forever but I am sure was only a few minutes. I was upset because God didn't do something that I thought would redeem all of the bad... not just the recent bad but also the not so recent bad of losing Janet and everything that came with that.

Bryan's words to me that day changed my trajectory. God spoke through him because He knew he'd be the only one I'd listen to.

"Jen, if God never did one good thing for us ever again, it would be okay. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. If that's all He ever does, that's enough."

He was so right. I sucked it up. I stopped crying and let go of that shattered dream and decided to move on. I went to the doctor for my neck and got a steroid and lidocaine shot in the back of my head, and it started to relieve the pain. I overhauled my diet. I cut out gluten completely, something I'd dabbled with and "cheated" on several times in the last 15 years. Within two weeks my facial numbness was completely gone. I'm over 6 months completely gluten free now.

In September I started a new bible study. It wasn't really the bible study I wanted to do, but my best friend said it sounded good so I went along with it. I started reading my bible. I started trying to pray again. But Jenna didn't have words to pray. I didn't know what to ask for. I was numb literally and physically. So I just started writing scripture. I started in my prayer journal. And then I moved to note cards. I taped note cards with the scriptures I was writing all over my house. As I started reading and filling my mind with God's words, my attitude started to change. On the advice of my mom, I listened to a podcast by Lysa Terkurst that spoke volumes to me. I took away a huge key thing and wrote on my mirror (it's still written there today).

There is what Jenna sees... and what God is doing.

I've listened to that podcast 4 times now. As I continued to read my Bible, listen to uplifting podcasts and books and saturate my mind with GOOD and with GOD, I felt God telling me to let go and let Him step in and carry my burdens. So I did that. I gave it all up. It's been a process and didn't exactly happen overnight. My neck pain disappeared. My neuropathy was gone. The personal problems didn't feel so overwhelming. The anxiety was still there, but was better. I didn't know why, but I was looking at God's words everywhere I looked. The bible study I was doing was James McDonald's Think Differently. It dove into the story of Issac and Jacob. Everywhere I looked, and still look, I'm getting this story from different angles, to the point of when I start listening to something and it's about another aspect of the story I start laughing. "Got it, God, You really want me to understand this!"

...And then on October 23 while driving to bible study I got a phone call that changed my life. I can't share a lot about this story yet, there are a lot of unknowns and it has definitely not been easy. But on October 23, God healed me of my anxiety. God has showed me why I was memorizing HIS words. He knew I'd have dark and very sad days. He knew there would be a lot of unknowns. He knew I couldn't do it, but He could. He brought my joy back after months of searching for it. I was able to close my eyes in the midst of very hard things and see God's words that I'd written. Every time the unknowns crept in or I needed comfort- His words came visually to my mind- that's why I'd written those verses. That's why they were all over my home. He knew I'd need them in my mind when they weren't physically in front of me.

July Jenna... she could not have handled the situation I am in right now. October to now January Jenna... she's hanging in just fine. This new Jenna gets to love on a baby girl, part time right now. She's in the middle of legal craziness. Her family has been scrutinized with a home study which she was told would NO WAY be done by the end of the year (BUT GOD. God worked it out, and we got it finalized on Dec. 30 ;)). She's been misrepresented and been in a place where she's unable to clear that up. July Jenna wouldn't be able to get out of bed because of the physical pain and the severe anxiety she'd be under.

But not me, I'm changed, by the GRACE of God. I won't stop sharing about it. I wish I could share every detail and how God's hand has been on EVERY single detail over the last few months... and that that's included me sobbing on my bed and God preparing me for disappointment and me just rereading verse after verse in my prayer journal that I'd written since early September. I say that to tell you that just because He's healed me, He hasn't given me an easy journey to walk right now.

So what happens when you don't choose joy? When you think you've got a plan and it doesn't work out?

...nothing good. This is not a good place to be.

But when you do start to choose joy again and allow God into the dark spaces... the light shines again. I don't know how my story ends. Or how the crazy journey that started back on October 23 ends.

But I do know that God is good. He is faithful. He goes before me. He hasn't given me a spirit of fear. He withholds no good thing from those who do what is right. When I start to feel the anxiety creep in, I go back to those facts. His word holds true.

Stay tuned my friends.

December 18, 2018

Where A Kid Can Be A Kid!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chuck E. Cheese's . The opinions and text are all mine.

I don't know about you but my kids LOVE Chuck E. Cheese. I love the fun and safe environment and it is a place we frequent often, for sure. I even remember going there as a little girl. It was one of my favorite places even back then!

For more than 40 years, Chuck E. Cheese's has provided families across the country with a safe environment where they can enjoy delicious food and quality time. Lately they've taken on an extensive exterior and interior renovations which is part of Chuck E. Cheese's continued commitment to local communities across the country and their promise of delivering a fun experience for the entire family. There is a brand new light up dance floor where the hourly live show and birthday show will take place! AND there is a Birthday Zone featuring difference party sections designated by characters in Chuck E.'s band.

The restaurant features a calmer ambiance with warm wood, neutral tones and streamlined graphics. I can't forget to mention the new games in the remodeled game rooms!! I also can't forget about the food. Chuck E. Cheese's remodeled restaurants also feature open kitchens so guest's can watch the pizza making process.

Chuck E. Cheese has also recently launched their all new All You Can Play, a first of it's kind gaming experience where parents can buy time instead of tokens or play points, making it easier than ever to play any game at any time. Chuck E. Cheeses' believes that kids only have one job to do- and that is PLAY- that's why the All You Can Play where kids can have unstructured play time to play any game they want as many times as they want, with no restrictions is truly one of a kind. Instead of buying tokens or play points- you can buy time. For kiddos that means a whole lot of tickets and prizes and for mom's like me, I can focus on the important stuff and NOT my kids fighting over tokens. Ha! You choose the timeframe and when the time is up, you're done. It really is THAT easy! I like things that make my life easier and THIS is one of those things. So the really awesome thing is that one of the many store that has been updated it local to where I live, in Fort Smith, Arkansas (pictured below)!

You can find more information about Chuck E. Cheese and the new remodeled locations on the Chuck E. Cheese website, on the Chuck E. Cheese Facebook, on the Chuck E. Cheese Instagram or on the Chuck E. Cheese Twitter pages!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chuck E. Cheese's . The opinions and text are all mine.

August 3, 2018

Vacation Bible School 2018

VBS led us back to our home church this time last year, so I knew this year I wanted to serve and I couldn't wait for my boys to attend! We spent three weeks decorating and getting ready, and the week of was SO amazing and exhausting but I loved it!

My big boys both got to participate and were in groups with their good friends!

I helped with preschool kid vid and had THE best time and best group to work with! It took a massive amount of caffiene to get through the week but we did it!!

Loved my time leading KidVid with this sweet friend of mine, Nicole! 

 Sawyer went to the baby class and had a great time every day too! It was such a fun week!

Close to 1000 kids were in attendance all week! It was AMAZING and the staff at FBC did an incredible job!

KidVid Crew! Loved serving with these ladies all week!

I wish I could end telling you that it was all roses and daisies with my kids all week-- but it wasn't. Hudson absolutely loved it. Rhett had a very hard time and by the end of the week I decided to let him spend the last day with Pa. I guess VBS isn't everyone's cup of tea. We will try again next year and hope he does better! Shipwrecked 2018 is in the books and it was a great one!

August 2, 2018

Beach Vacay 2018

My grandma and mom & dad blessed us with a trip to Orange Beach, AL this summer for Christmas last year. We have been looking SO forward to this vacation and the boys' first time at the beach and first time to remember being on an airplane for Rhett and FIRST flight for Sawyer. We had a great trip, despite getting the stomach bug. Out of our house of 24 people, 20 of us had it before the week was over.

So really this is just a big photo dump. We had great food, fellowship with all of my family and Bryan and I took the boys to see the battleship in Mobile one day and that was SO great too! If you're down that way I highly recommend it! My boys loved the beach, it took Sawyer a little bit to warm up to it, but over all he was a happy camper! Hudson and Rhett would have played in the sand all day long but they also LOVED our little pool on our deck.

We celebrated Bryan's birthday at Melting Pot and had a fun girls night out at an amazing restaurant in Pensacola that's off the beaten path (5 sisters!).

Mama needed this iced coffee mid-week of my WHOLE family getting the stomach bug

Thanks so much Mom and Dad and Grandma Jeda for the best vacay! Everyone LOVED the beach so much! Wish we were back there now! 

May 22, 2018

Weekend In Review!

We had a FABULOUS weekend. Bryan and I felt like or the last several weeks we've been going in different directions so we decided to have this be a weekend we all stayed together and Saturday was the BEST day!

I got up early and watched the royal wedding, well Sawyer woke me up early... and it was gorgeous!

We worked in the yard early and then ventured out for the day!

We did a little shopping for Bryan for summer clothes and headed to the children's museum! We hadn't been in awhile and the boys had a great time!

Then we went to eat at our favorite BBQ restaurant where we ate outside and they had a live band. On our way home we stopped by Janet's grave... I shared this on my social media but wanted to post here too!

It’s been almost 4.5 years since Janet went to Heaven. Our Rhetty Joe, who was only 10 months old when we lost her, doesn’t remember her. He’s been asking a lot about her lately. A lot about Heaven and he’s sad that he doesn’t know her... and we are sad that she doesn’t get to know him. 
But he’s so much like Bryan, she’d love every ounce of his funny and ornery personality. And he looks so much like her. I see her in his little face all of the time. I’d love to hear what tidbits of wisdom she’d have for me in raising him. There would be no shortage of laughs on his behalf. And she did love him much in the 10 months she had with her “baby Rhett”. 

Saturday we took the boys to her grave for the first time. Rhett immediately laid down on her headstone. Bryan and I had been perfectly composed until that moment. His few minutes of peacefulness was followed with more questions- like any little boy would have- and then we got back in the car. As we were getting buckled back up, Bryan asked him why he laid down there... and he said “I just wanted to hug her.”
And our hearts broke. We all want to hug her one more time. But we got to share that that’s the sweetness of Heaven- we will get to see her again one day. We all miss her so much! 

Then Sunday we had a lazy at home day and it was glorious! We are finishing up the last few days of baseball and preschool this week and then we are in full on summer mode! We cannot wait!

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