Create + Write + Inspire
Bridging the Gap: A Very Special Visit
by Jennifer Kelly on December 10th, 2015

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" Psalm 37:3

I have been running on "pretend" sleep. You know, where you close your eyes and go in and out of a consciousness for about three to four hours, wake up, get stuff done, and do it all over again. I always try and convince myself that "pretend" sleep counts. Kind of like credit cards. Credit cards feel like cash, can be used like cash, but in the end are two very different things. It's a type of self induced hyperbole that tricks me to function on a much higher level. Or so I think it does. Just-like-sugar-pills.

Anyway, I had been participating in this world with copious amounts of caffeine, curiosity, and adrenaline (a mixture I love and regret all at the same time). I had flown from PHX to FWA (the cutest place in Indiana known as Fort Wayne). Did you know, #1 - that FWA is considered an international airport and #2 - you get an oatmeal cookie as a welcoming gesture? I mean, c'mon now. HOW-DARLING-CAN-YOU-GET? I had literally time-travelled from the unrelenting heat of the desert (somehow, Phoenix was still managing to hit triple-digit-torture in October) and miraculously, I entered the glorious, autumn filled temps of the Midwest. (Side note: Heaven is almost always 72 degrees with shades of orange, yellow, brown and red that falls like glitter from trees). Just so you know.

My October visit to Indiana included the following: 
Huntington University - Where my brilliant aunt gets to work and play with some of the most amazing people on the planet. I mean, there is just-too-much-great-things to say about this University, but even more to say about the heartfelt love and gentleness that the faculty and students seem to naturally exude while being in their presence. 
Victory Noll - Just entering upon this sacred land will make you shut-your-mouth because of its beauty and peace. (I am quite sure that the good sisters of Victory Noll have a much more eloquent explanation of their ministry and spiritual retreats). It's quite literally, a little piece of heaven on earth.
McClure Orchards - Located in Peru, Indiana - north of Mexico, Indiana by the way?? Where picturesque rolling hills DO exist and you find yourself eating melt-in-your-mouth apple dumplings, while shopping for jewelry. ALL-AT-THE-SAME-TIME.
The Purviance House - Is the most exquisite little bed and breakfast I have ever visited (recently renovated by the most jubilant and hospitable owners EVER). The name alone is magnificent but the accommodations are sure to knock-your-little-socks-off and make you want to live there.
Brick House Grill - I am a girl who likes to eat good food. A lot of good food. This little, hole-in-the-wall place (which by the way - always seem to be the best) does not disappoint! Not only were my Maryland Style Crab Cakes delicious, but they offer Fried Green Tomatoes and Maple Dijon Mahi Mahi (making it very difficult for me to choose). Plus, my company that night was a young couple making a huge impact in Huntington, and awesome conversation. LIVING IS SO FUN SOMETIMES.
The Party Shop - This place is my dirty little secret. I didn't have too much time in Huntington and I came here twice. I love chocolate covered pretzels, but these are out of this world, PHENOMENAL. I don't know what they do here that makes them so-freaking-delicious. My mouth is melting right now just writing about them.

I was also able to tour Huntington's Love, Inc (a fascinating non-profit organization who's primary goal is to help churches, help people in need) and attend Sunday Service at College Park United Brethren Church. If all of these things don't make you fall in love with small town America, I surely don't know what will. Did I mention ANTIQOLOGY? It's this small business that's located downtown Huntington with the LARGEST selection of craft soda found anywhere in the Midwest - AKA: best root beer of your life.

So obviously, I could go on and on about the places and charm Indiana seems to carry around it's neck, but you will just need to go and find out for yourself. Much more exciting than the Midwest's charm and delight are the generous souls of the people found in every nook and cranny of Huntington, Indiana. Literally, these people were THE most gracious, hospitable, welcoming, loving people known to man. Just to (sit) and (chat) and (talk) about THINGS. And not ONCE feel rushed or inconvenienced or guilty about taking up their time. This is a gift. A Midwestern, God-given, gift.

During the very last night of my visit in Indiana, I got the opportunity to share my story to small group of girls at Huntington University. More particularly, how God had come and picked up a million, little pieces of a broken soul and slowly placed them back together.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I mean these women on campus, are making such life-changing, God-honoring decisions every day (that are SO much different from my own at that age). I was slinging back drinks and experiencing black outs while their - PRAYING?! I was busy bar hopping and flirting with strange men in dark corners while their spending their evenings experiencing the true lover of their soul and planning mission trips. So, there's that. What could I possibly have to say to these brave, wonderful, faith-driven woman about God?

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday" Psalm 37:5

As I sat and started to speak (in a customary white rocking chair on the 3rd floor of a female dormitory) , I nervously shared my own story of overcoming past hurts, grief and pain. I talked through some of my very-bad decision making skills at their age, and how I came to the end of myself. I told them about church and counseling and how Jesus likes to put together marriages and people. I actually read part of a blog I wrote, almost a year-to-the-day, and was amazed at the difference a 'life' found in Christ can be. Reading my story out loud, felt like reading a tale about another Jennifer that lived a very long time ago...

Suddenly, my nervousness settled and I realized some very important things: 
Yes, our stories are different, but life found and shared and experienced in Christ is the same. Yes, these awesome students are making strikingly different decisions than I did at that age, but the same blood that spilled on Calvary for them, was the same blood spilled for me. The righteousness that clothed them - is the same righteousness that now clothes me. What bridges the gap in all our stories is Jesus. What Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, when we give our lives to Him.

I found out (in a special, little dormitory room at 9:30pm) that Christ does bring righteousness to pass, even in the most unlikeliest of places. Chains break, the lame walk, and the blind do see. Because when you find your life in Jesus and learn to trust Him in all areas of your life, the dead come to life. Dry bones are dry bones, no matter what stories are buried underneath, but God is the one who raises them.

It's so inspiring to learn from the body of Christ. It's truly one of the most brilliant and unexpected experiences you will ever be able to have. ESPECIALLY, when a group of women, devoted to Jesus, come together of their own accord to (meet) and (learn) and (talk) and (share). These honest moments together becomes one of the most meaningful places on earth. You could say that this girl got to experience the real-deal fellowship of the Church. Not some "pretend", hyperbole kind, with fake smiles and sugar pills. I got to experience the absolute uplifting kind. Where messiness and forgiveness meet. Where true faith in Jesus brings all types of people together, to give Him glory for what He has done. 

I couldn't have asked for a better trip.

To all my family in Huntington, Indiana: It was truly a blessing to visit with you and have an opportunity to see your families after so many years and - GO MSU!

To the girls on the Third Floor that made me sit in a horrific white rocking chair: It's December and I find myself still thinking of our short time together. Thank you for listening to my story and welcoming me in. You all are so bright and shiny and I just love you to pieces. Lifting you up in prayer as you dedicate your future to the One that matters the most.

And Aunt RuthAnn (AKA: Auntie) This post is dedicated to you. Your consistent commitment and unwavering love for Jesus (is rare) and has effected more people across the entire globe (literally) than you will ever know. You have been one of the greatest influences of my life and I could never thank you enough. Thank you for your generous hospitality during my stay and being such a rockstar to so many young girls. I love you tons.

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Jenna - December 10th, 2015 at 2:44 PM
Thanks for your reflections, Jen. Can't wait for your next visit!
Too bad the Strick-selfie didn't make it on the blog. ;)
Jennifer - December 10th, 2015 at 4:37 PM
Thanks so much Jenna! I hope it will be sooner than later. Much love to you!!
Lydia Johnson - December 10th, 2015 at 6:16 PM
I'm glad you liked the rocking chair:) Thank you so very much for coming and sharing your wonderful story with us!
Jennifer - December 10th, 2015 at 6:18 PM
I loved every second of it Lydia. Hope your finishing out the semester strong. Have a Merry Christmas!
Jess - December 11th, 2015 at 1:42 PM
Thank you again for coming and speaking to the floor! I love when women have the chance to come speak to the lovely ladies of meadows. Your story made an impact! Blessed by your presence!
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