Create + Write + Inspire
by Jennifer Kelly on May 6th, 2016

I am NOT a great mother. 
In fact, I used to be a really bad one.

Now, more than ever, I find it essential to no longer define myself as a "good" mom or a "bad" one, just an imperfect one. Why we need to define roles in hard-line definitions, I will never know. People are not so easily pigeonholed as we would like them to be.

I'm just trying my best as a mom to help shape and cultivate hearts who will ultimately love the Lord. That is my prayer anyhow. I wish I could always say that about my story as a mother to my girls, but I cannot. 

As a mom, I've stockpiled plenty of moments where my words don't align with my actions and my message gets muddled in the mayhem and anxieties of this life. On the worst days, it gets absolutely maligned by my pure selfishness.

I'm not proud to say that there have been times that I've unleashed spouts of horror. Where my voice gets scary and angry, and has the capacity to instantly fill the hearts and minds of my innocent children with fear and trepidation. When I think about instances where I have so easily lost my patience over "spilled milk", I shutter.

When discipline is not expressed in love, but fear and exasperation, guilt always follows. And we would do good to pay attention to that guilt. We all know words can cut deeper than physical wounds, but when they come from the one who is supposed to nurture and protect - whoa. My girls are only 7 and 6 and I've done my fair share of, "I'm so sorry baby. Mommy is so sorry, forgive me?"

More recently, in the last few years, I have experienced plenty of precious times of unadulterated selfless acts of sacrifice and love. When I am their champion, their provider, their one and only defense. My arms and hands instinctively know how to caress my crying child, my voice turns airy and hopeful, and I whisper words of admiration, confirmation and love into the ears of my kids that constantly need to hear it over and over and over again. And when I think of those moments, tears well up instantly and I exhale. I know I'm learning how to become a better mother to my kids; and that has not been easy.

When I think of being a mom to my girls now, grace is neither poor in size, but moderate in daily quantity. For me, motherhood is middling grace. Learning, apologizing, disciplining, cleaning, instructing, loving, adjusting and balancing. My own grace extended is steady, sufficient, sizable, but it is deeply imperfect in every way.

As I find myself reflecting on my own parenting this time of year, I'm so thankful that God's grace is not middling. That if anything, it is abundant. The grace that Jesus extends is so un-steady, and over-the-top poured out for us, it is hard to understand. Yes, it is true that there is discipline and consequences, but there is always arms extended wide. Never abandonment. A God that will do whatever it takes to spend eternity with His children. Only we are left to decide.

And yet, in a world that puts so much pressure in a day - in honoring a ROLE of an imperfect human being, Jesus stands there and offers to take it all away. 

In Staci Eldridge's book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You, Staci eloquently and tenderly writes how to carefully understand your past, all the while allowing God to "rewrite your story". And if you know anything about me, then you know I am a woman with a past, a woman who has committed every sin, abomination, atrocity, (insert any detestable act here) in more ways then one.​ And yet, Jesus changed that despite the worst that was in me.

The Mother's Day propaganda has a remarkable ability to remind me of my insufficiency as a mom, as a wife, hell - as a woman.

It's when I take the time to sit down at Jesus' feet and remind myself that all of those insecurities can only be fully covered and fulfilled in the loving arms of His resurrected life before honor can be given to ANY role. Because it's God's story. It's about His love and glory all along.

To live in Jesus' redemptive light is the glorious Truth I'm offered to operate out of everyday. Sometimes I live like it - and other times I don't. But my Father in Heaven never stops whispering in the ear of His daughter over and over and over again, "Grace child. I love you, there is nothing you can do to stop my love".

It's the most unreasonable and difficult life lesson I've ever had to learn, that I'm still learning. To really trust that all my insecurity, all my sin, all of my insufficiencies, all of my desires, all of my shortcomings, EVERYTHING, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. That my past does not define me. That He can make me different, even better that what I was yesterday. Can this truly be? Yes, and despite me being me most of the time, I find over and over again that His grace is sufficient for me.

In truth, I actually cannot bear to live without it.

​I know Mother's Day is not an easy day for all. The pain of a child gone, or a child not born. Maybe you have experienced a lackadaisical mother's hurtful words or actions that have turned into deep threaded scars over time? Or perhaps you know the emptiness of a mom taken away too early on. There are many, many wounds that this holiday can so easily turn on in an instant. Regret, shame, unfulfilled desires, remorse, pain, hurt and agony... the list can go on and on.

Whatever your facing this Mother's Day, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ wash over you like fresh, living water this Sunday. May you stop and turn to Him and hear His whispers of grace and love and be filled with hope. Hope that He is who He says He is.

Hope that He can and will make you new again.

"Though our past has shaped us, we are not our past. Though our failures and sin have had an effect on who we are, we are not defined by our failures or our sin. Though thought patterns and addictions have overwhelmed us, we are not overcome by them and we will never be overcome by them. Jesus has won our victory. Jesus is our victory." -Staci Eldridge, Becoming Myself

If the only thing my daughters learn from me in their lifetime, is the message of Jesus, then my prayer will be answered and God will have done a miracle. A freaking miracle. Motherhood as truly been one of the largest experiences of grace in my lifetime. And yet, what God promises is true: I am forgiven.

God is rewriting my story; my story as a woman, my story as a wife, my story as a mother. Passing along to a new generation of women who's identity it rooted in His grace and love - despite me being me.

I used to be a bad mom, now I'm not. The only reason that changed is because of Jesus.​
Jesus is my victory. For this ragamuffin. For this woman at the well. For the least of these.

THAT is exactly what He promises and THAT is what He does. He takes the worst and whispers, "Grace child. I love you. Trust me. Come follow me". And then over time - rewrites your story, unlike anything you could ever imagine.

And that is the only Mother's Day message any of us need to hear: Grace through the precious blood of Jesus Christ when you make a choice to believe.

by Jennifer Kelly on March 15th, 2016

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths."  
-M. Scott Peck, MD The Road Less Traveled

My Dearest Me,

As I sit here and reflect, a thought keeps bubbling up in my mind. I've been thinking about it for a while now and writing it down (and out) seems like the best course of action. I don't want you to forget my thoughts, or the helpful insight from others on the subject of how to face life's difficulties (and our very creative excuses to escape them). So a letter from me to you seems appropriate. Keep it; read it when you are facing a trial, situation or problem, and use it to face anything life throws your way with tenacity and insight. The goal is for us to start to change the way in which we interact with life itself. Consistently. That's the hope anyway. We both know that words are nothing if not accompanied with change.

I'm not entirely sure what we have come to expect out of life (the very fact that we legitimately expect something from life to begin with should tell you a thing, or two, about our neurosis or if nothing else, much about where in the world we live). What makes us so special, divinely providential (even Jesus came across problem after temptation after test), or a complete tool, Lord only knows. But while I sit here and examine our life, and those around us, two things are becoming frightfully clear.

First: The brave souls that have accepted that life is difficult, or "an endless series of problems" (Peck, The Road Less Traveled) have somehow learned the discipline of resolve. They have figured out what it means to admit, face, and tackle their problems head on; with ferociousness and perseverance. Resilient people have learned that meaning can be found in the midst of turmoil and hold on to that truth - all the while whispering "...a doxology in the darkness" (Manning; Ruthless Trust).

Remember when we read Brene Brown's Rising Strong book, when she wrote, "We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret - people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up".

Take a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Elizabeth Elliot, Martin Luther King Jr., Horatio Spafford, Hannah Moore, Saint John of the Cross and Corrie ten Boom. They kept showing up. They are but a few examples of people who experienced legitimate suffering and horrific pain and overcame it. They all have left a lasting legacy for future generations on how to grow and love through processes in which they had every excuse not to. Dearest me, look to them for inspiration, for wisdom, or for some grit to get your through a problem with integrity and perseverance.

Second: The type of scared, victim-prone people (like us), who are experts at denying, escaping, and numbing our way to fantasy land is no way to live. We have this amazing tendency to avoid, manipulate, and run to never-never land; where we remain children for the rest of our incomplete and foolish lives. Actually Peck, again, says it way better than I ever could:

"This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis for all human mental illness. Since most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try and find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, 'Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering' " (italics are my own for you to pay attention to).

Jen, we have lived the second way for too long. And it is crap. The second way is HORSE MANURE. Dung. ****. No way around it).

Thankfully the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our found meaning in the mess. Jesus, who came to die and save and redeem 'victim-prone' people (just like us) is a wonderful revelation. The fact that you have another day to work on your self-discipline, repentance, values, integrity, and admit the truth about who you are (and who you're not) is grace.

Life is difficult. You have problems. Some more serious than others. BUT we are learning to welcome them, look at them honestly, and figure them out. In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Or remember when Peck wrote, "It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'Those things that hurt, instruct.' It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems". 

Instead of Disney movies or perfectionism or safety, what if we were taught our children that life is painful and hard and it will entail a series of problems in which we need to learn how to overcome and find meaning in the process? We don't hear that one too often now, do we?

Think about it, what do we always go back to? I guess spending that money at that one store on Saturday wasn't a great idea. Or happy hour during that game, or going back to same thing, place, blah, blah, blah, freaking-blah. Pick one, it's all the same. The habit of Escapism = Disillusionment.

I'm not trying to be hard on you. I want you to get better and grow and change. I guess we can do what we normally do, OR we can spend some time in vulnerability and discomfort and decide to BE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Truth (in the form of love) is the best antidote I know of when it comes to neurosis. I've seen you lift up our sin, our pride, our shame and lay it all down at Jesus' feet. He washes us white as snow and whispers, "Get on up again, Jen. Try, try again". And our ragamuffin soul does. Thanking and praising the only One worthy to be praised.

We are the prodigal daughter 70 times over.
And we know all to well that Jesus forgives 70x7.


As I sit here in a Starbucks, reading my Bible, praying, writing a letter to myself, I can hear a lady behind me say to her neighbor, "if it feels good, do it". And I find the timing of me typing the words and her statement hilarious and sad. How very different the western world's perspective to Scripture is astonishing? Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and the stranger next to me proclaims JUST DO IT!  How we used to live that way, the wide road of selfishness. Our pleasure, our money, our passions, our luxury car, house on a hill, and fancy clothes. The million dollar, fantastic lie that shrivels souls down to the simpleness of the here and now. I wonder if the same heroes I mentioned above only focused on themselves and decided not to carry their cross? How vastly different would their stories have unfolded in the ripples of history if they decided to live for themselves?

How refreshing is the message of The Road Less Traveled:

"Let us inculcate in ourselves and in our children the means of achieving mental and spiritual health. By this I mean let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved... When we teach ourselves and our children discipline we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow" -M. Scott Peck, MD 

I know my letter to you sounds very different than what you hear, read or see all around you. If we were to die tomorrow, I don't think it'll be the places we were never able to travel to, or an adventure unaccomplished. When we have the privilege to stand in front of our Maker, I'm pretty sure we'll regret the moments in which we could've been a better person, one that loved more, sacrificed more, served more or showed up more often than not. Because that is what we are called to do.

And lastly, don't get confused or discouraged by the progress you have made in this life when you do stumble and fall. To do so would mean defeat. And Jesus is constantly telling us to REMAIN, because He loves us. "As the Father has loved me, have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's command and remain in His love" John 15:9-10;NIV

Jesus loves you so much dearest me. Remember that truth first and foremost - all the time and every day. And then understand that life is difficult, but you can overcome it with love and meaning and discipline. You don't need to run away anymore. Stand for the Gospel in this life. Tackle issues. Teach your children truth and reach inside your mind, heart and soul for meaning in the midst of turmoil. Because you have a choice, dearest me. And we don't always make the right one. But everyday is second chance to do what is right and good and true. 

Every day holds within it a way. I pray and hope you will always choose redemption, love and service as the way forward.

Much love from your biggest critic,
Me

by Jennifer Kelly on February 25th, 2016

Something in my soul feels like it's jilted and hyperventilating a bit. I don't need to cook or clean or run. My heart doesn't need to transfix words on a page; it needs to pour out sounds and release itself in prayer.

Prayer = the unsolicited and underused power that connects me with the Holy of Holies.

I stand up and head over to my golden, brown ottoman. My family's craigslist steal, has hosted strangers, family and friends, but in the last year and half I'm particular to this piece of furniture in a more spiritual kind of way. During the evening-time our 'new-to-us' ottoman is the place for my family's feet to glaze, but more often than not, it has been a refuge for my weary elbows and arms to pray. In the early morning hours, mid-afternoon, or late night times when I can't seem to sleep or eat, my wearied head burrows and tears often ensue.

"Dear Jesus..."

I find no coincidence that our ottoman doubles for dirty feet to feel comfortable AND acts as a prayer bench for a much dirtier, sinner-girl like me.

More words have been lifted up to Jesus about (this-and-that) and (that-and-this) than what I could even begin to describe. Our brown, sectional couch will be with me one day in Paradise. Where it will host friends and family once again in a much grander/heavenly sort of way, but it will be the ottoman that holds the secrets. More than functionality, comfort, or golden hues it displays, it is the place where Jesus gently strokes the top of my head, like a father to his daughter, listening and guiding, even when I wasn't fully aware of His presence. Only proving that prayer can turn any ordinary piece of furniture, or place, into an intimate, loving and exceptionally (rare) space of 'holy ground'. 

My stance always changes after "Dear Jesus". I usually end up curling into a ball somehow. My spine no longer straight but bowed. Begging for Jesus to come, to help, to save, to forgive, to clean, to heal, to give, to come again. This begging (of and for) Jesus today is no longer an issue as it once was. If anything, with our growing age and friendship, it's more frequent. Give me Jesus today; I only need Jesus today - because one day without Him is just no good at all.

I understand why the Syrophoenician woman went straight to Jesus when she heard of His arrival, fell at His feet and begged. "If only the crumbs - I'll take Your crumbs Lord" (Mark 7:24-30). Or how about the woman who bled for years and knew that she just needed to reach and touch Jesus' garment? Just a fingertip act of desperation in faith (Mark 5:21-43). I wonder if during their journey they thought, "Just give me Jesus today, I only need Jesus today".

For this woman, it's a desperate/jilted kind of day where I know I need to get to Jesus. Not that it's a bad or good type of day, but one in which my soul is stirring. Right now. In this very moment.

"Jesus, would You come, help, see, forgive, clean, heal, give and come again Lord? Please. Whisper something. Touch something. I'll take the crumbs if you'll accept my frantic act of desperation to experience you today Lord."

Because nothing else matters. Nothing. The house, the bills, the worries and cares. His presence consumes everything.

And my soul breathes.

I wipe the tears from my puffy cheeks and stand up slowly. What was once so jumbled and frantic is now calm and released. Because of prayer. Because of my time with Him. And I'm thankful and hopeful. His Spirit lives in me and whispers, "Daughter". I am accepted and loved and called His very own.

And that's what happens when we beg for Jesus, today. 
Presence, purpose, hope and renewal. 
Just give me Jesus today.

by Jennifer Kelly on January 28th, 2016

"The problem begins when people who know God, do not worship Him as God, but become proud in their imagination." Ravi Zacharias ( Who is Jesus? Part 2 of 2 RZIM Podcast)

My mentor once hypothesized that she could trace each and every one of our sin's root - back to pride. It is an interesting theory, and one that I am slowly beginning to not only understand, but also believe.

Our family moved to Denver, Colorado over Christmastime. My husband, Mike, got a thrilling opportunity to come and be on staff at Colorado Christian University as their Network Administrator. We had prayed and prayed over the last couple years that Mike could find a job that challenged him cognitively, while engaging him spiritually, all the while providing for us financially. This triad is harder to come by then one might think. Mike's brain is gifted in a world that pays handsomely for his technical skills and abilities. Unfortunately, spiritually and morally, his struggle to be away from his family had become a strain. It's a problem that resonates with so many families who love God, want to provide, and be present - all at the same time.

We ended up here as surely as Jesus called Peter to come and walk with Him on the water. It was audible and miraculous and FAST. We picked up our home and traded the desert for snow, the brown for green, and scorpions for geese. And, Just-like-that, we were in Colorado, one wave at a time.

It would be such an awesome thing to be able to write and give you a testimony of my humbleness and grace and patience through this transition. I wish I could tell you that I was this Proverbs 31 wife who said "good-bye" gracefully and supported her husband and family with strength and perseverance, all the while keeping my eyes on Jesus.

I-did-no-such-thing.

Something started brewing underneath. A mound of pressure and change and unknown. What was once a definitive "call" from God, so audible and clear, quickly began to drown in gurgles of anticipation and doubt. I started hanging, cleaning, moving and doing to saturate my uneasiness and jealousy. Here, my husband was blessed with a job that he immediately LOVED, and his passion spilled everywhere. I was still mourning my church and friends and all the areas I was of use, only to find myself in a place where it seemed I was of no use at all. Except laundry and cooking and cleaning. 

Anticipation, doubt, fear, and jealousy can all be traced back to PRIDE.
It all comes back to ME.
Why is this happening? God, are you sure about this? Can't I do something of worth (like tending to a family is not worthy enough)? Why do I have to do the freaking dishes? What about me, Lord? Do you see me here - struggling? And so on. I quickly took the strings back from God and started placing the pins where I wanted them to be. Kingpin.

The great and not-so-great thing about God is He allows us to do these things. Like Jonah or Saul, God allowed my own form of disobedience to swell and run, watching and waiting for my temper tantrum to subside. When it didn't (I've been known to get even more indignant than the best of them), He sets a bowling ball down a greased lane for a perfect strike.

****

All of sudden I am sent spinning, and quickly reminded of His sovereignty and my very fickle existence without regard for His will and His way. I immediately am reminded of what a life looks like without worshiping Him or without even a slight regard toward Him. Because pride takes ME (where God once was), and diminishes everything down to my pleasure. It feels good in the beginning, but leaves you wanting in the end. It is lucrative and destructive. 

Especially when I know better. I know the million little pieces of pain and a shattered mess He has glued back together again. I know of my family torn and sewn, stitch-by-stitch, in the grace and redemption of the cross. I know of mercy and forgiveness and love when I didn't deserve it. 

I was diagnosed with bronchitis recently. The bacterial kind that knocks you off your feet and requires an inhaler, antibiotics, cough syrup, and some other medicinal concoction your body so desperately needs - It also provides a whole heck-of-a-lot-of-time.

Time of quiet.
Time to process.
Time in Scripture.

Spiritual time (with tears and silence and prayer) is one of the best remedies for pride I know of. It places you at Jesus' feet and whispers, "Repent, move on and be thankful".

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" Hebrews 12:5-6

How many times do I have to learn that this life is not about me?
Pride always makes it about me: Kingpin.

One of my favorite hymns is "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing". Robert Robinson penned the lyrics in 1758 so eloquently and truthfully when he wrote,

"O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
Seal it for Thy courts above"

A 'fetter' is a chain used to restrain a prisoner, either tied around the ankles or wrists. Otherwise known as a shackle. Robinson is beckoning (through the goodness of God) that He chain his wandering heart to Him.

They sang this song at church this past Sunday. (Bowling ball down a greased lane).
I asked God to do the same thing Robert Robinson did in 1758. And then I cried. (Strike).

Shackle my prideful heart to you, O God. ​

I'm feeling better now. Yes, the antibiotics have kicked in and I'm not coughing or hacking or feeling miserable, in the physical sense, but it's more than that. I don't have all the insecurity underneath emotions anymore. The jealousy, the doubt, the PRIDE. The dangerous kind of sickness that eats away at your soul is so much more important than the physical kind. 

Here's some truth - when I get frantic and scared or envious, I'm like an ally cat that hisses and scratches like it's demon possessed (I have suspicions that this has a lot to do with my past and trust issues). When transitions occur, my survival skills (or lack thereof) flare up and I have tendency to go back to past behaviors, but God's love is deeper and wider than my cat-like behavior to transitions ever could be (thank the good Lord) and I'm slowly learning to live differently.

Even at 33. 

And God's mercy and patience to deal with me through all of it is amazing. It's actually the point. His love is new every, single morning. 

"...But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" Hebrews 12:10-11

So this transition is training. This move, this job, the cleaning, and finding a new church, and meeting new people and supporting my family is TRAINING. Jen needs training, a better way of living and a heart that is more like Jesus. AMEN SISTER? And the only way I know I'm on par, is to sit at His feet every morning, read His Word, pray, and let Him change my heart. One stubborn wave after another. He always reaches down and pulls me out of the water.

I don't mind the dishes so much, and I am SO proud (finally - in the good way) of my husband. I'm also learning that a heart of thanksgiving starts to cultivate when your life is aligned in the correct posture. It's a wonderful start in the opposite direction of prideful dissatisfaction.

IF Pride = Kingpin
Then Thankfulness = Servant

What a better way to live, in the in-between.

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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