You cannot put the shackles on yourself.

When you are not present how could something significant occur?


I have a wonderful friend & her name is Anna Rose. Whenever I am with her and there are a few minutes of silence, she will always, without fail, ask what I’m thinking about. I love this. Last night, we were sitting in rocking chairs, Elizabeth, Anna Rose, and I, and after about 5 or 10 minutes she asked us what we were thinking about. Of course, we both answered something along the lines of “I don’t know” or “Too many things.” When we asked her what she was thinking about though, she blew my mind. She began leading us through her stream of consciousness, which included the make up of cells, finding people beautiful, and touch, among a broad spectrum of things. All of these cells fit together really nicely. Our bodies are just shells. Just a mechanism. It’s weird to think about how much time we spend on our shells though. The configuration of their cells is so good-looking. Touch is so impactful. 

If there is one person from whom I am learning to be present, Anna Rose is definitely that person. The eloquence of the way she speaks and the way she so carefully handcrafts her sentences makes me take a step back and realize where God has me. It’s these kind of people you should want to be around the most. The people who make your existence much more bearable and even joyful.

A few mornings ago, on Wednesday, I felt like a true college student. Our meal plan didn’t start for another day, and I was a little too broke to go on another grocery run, so peanut butter & apple sauce it was (not mixed together, of course). Surprisingly fulfilling, if you ask me. Oh, and there was coffee. Copious amounts of coffee.

Wednesday was *dun dun dun* freshman move-in day. I don’t say this to be a bad thing, but I have gotten comfortable in my little Gate bubble, so I know my world’s about to be a little overwhelming. I am very excited though to meet the people I will be spending the next four years with. However, what started as a morning where I wasn’t going into work until 9 and I was going to have my quiet time from my dorm room, ended with parents’ voices booming up and down the hall at 7:30 this morning. No, thank you. I was still able to focus though, which I was really surprised about, but you know, God’s an awesome guy and works in mysterious ways (I get very easily distracted).

Tuesday night at Bible study (I feel like this one was the best one I’ve been to), we read through Romans 8 and Ephesians 1:3-8. Word of advice: If you want to rock somebody’s world, read them these chapters. I know we’re always told how much God loves us, but how often do we let it sink in? Last night though, I felt immersed in God’s love for me. When words like “lavished” and “abundantly free” came into the equation, suddenly something settled in my heart. One of the ladies there, Hannah, said something that really just hit home for me, and I’m not sure if she even realized how powerful her words were. We had just read through Ephesians 1:3-8, which says:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

After we all kind of took a moment to let that sink in, people started giving their initial feedback to the passage, and Hannah said,

No matter what you do, you cannot put the shackles on yourself.” 

God has broken every chain, and no matter what I do, I cannot put them back on. No matter how much I pity myself or try to feel such shame and guilt in those moments, He will not allow it to consume me. Wow. How amazing is He? And the fact that He formed us before the foundation of the earth; what pleasure He took in planning this. And in addition to all that He has already done for us, for the cherry on top of everything, He has LAVISHED upon us His grace and love and mercy. Lavished. This word literally means to give or expend in great amounts or without limit. He extends to us a love that is limitless. There is nothing we did to deserve it, but there is nothing we can do that will take it away. We cannot place the shackles on ourselves.

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As for the moments I have been present this week, they have been endless. Yes, I still meticulously create my to-do lists, but I have found myself actually sinking inside of myself and living in so many moments recently. My hand out the car window catching the sticky August air on my fingertips. Savory moments with a blackberry white mocha. Belting, and I mean belting, country music songs at the top of my lungs during joy rides in a Trailblazer. Afternoons in the chapel, after long, terrible days, just playing the piano & still singing at the top of my lungs. Sipping cups of coffee in glass mugs. Long, evening runs that make you happy you’re alive. Christmas lights in a dorm room. Text messages that bring back memories of letters you wrote as a freshman in high school. Reading old letters in general. Songs being stuck in my head for days. Messy buns turning out perfectly. Participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge. Conversation that makes you happy for even existing & conversation where you can truly feel the presence of God with each word said. Finding God in the chaos and confusion of a new season life, but knowing He will be there to help you navigate each step you’re taking.

I love getting to know new people, especially those whom I haven’t grown up with and know their tics and habits or the stories that formed them. I want to sit over coffee, and I want you to ask me every question you’ve ever had, even though you know I won’t have the answers. I want you to explain every doubt you’ve ever had. I want to hear the stories that made you the way you are. I want to know about the inside jokes, the late night talks, and the unanswered philosophical questions. I want to know it all. I want to know about your relationship with God. I want to know how you like your coffee. I want to know the big and the small. I want to see where we relate because I’m sure we do, more than you would’ve thought. I want to know what has scarred you. What makes you jump in fear or grow giddy in excitement? What is one thing that someone said that will never leave your mind? What is that one comment that constantly diminishes you? Who is one person whose face will never leave your mind? What is the greatest feeling in the world? What is the best book quote you have ever read? Where do you find the most joy? I want you to know what to say when somebody says to you, “Tell me about yourself,” because that will forever be one of life’s hardest questions. But you should know that you are free. Your shackles are gone, they cannot be replaced, and you are free.


Unpredictable Happiness.

Today has been one of those days where I’m just happy about everything. The sound of coffee brewing. Watching the sun rise over the baseball field from my dorm window. Having a good hair day. Lipstick stains on the edge of my coffee mug. Feeling well rested (I suppose it helps that I fell asleep around 9 o’clock last night). Good music to wake up with. Being all organized with my planner & a full to-do list. A healthy breakfast (A.K.A. I didn’t eat a Pop-Tart). The excitement from dinner plans with a special friend I haven’t seen in quite a while. Just an overall incredible day.

And aside from the superficial things, I have had so many moments that I have known I am present. Truly living in the moment, whether it be on a lunch date/meeting at Panera or watching a new friend try on wedding dresses. Yes, a dear friend (whom I have known for a week and a half) asked me if I wanted to join her while she tried on wedding dresses. You can bet your bottom dollar that I said yes. I think weddings are so magical. And her face when she tried on one of her favorite dresses thus far…priceless. She looked so beautiful, and the whole moment was just…wow. No words. So there’s me being all sappy for the day.

However, I have found that lately, there will be moments throughout my day when I just hit a little sad spot. I wallow for a few minutes, and I haven’t figured out why yet. Sad memories or depressing quotes or homesickness come into my mind. Or maybe empowering quotes after a depressing moment. Or when Anna Rose and I watched My Girl. Ooh, what a heart breaker. Or when I read the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life. I immediately had flashbacks to my 12th grade AP English class. ALL girls, by coincidence, and it was the best class I have ever had. One day (actually over the span of a few days), we watched Dead Poets Society. This movie will ROCK. YOUR. WORLD. In an amazing/earth-shattering/eye-opening way. On the first day of starting this movie, I will be honest, I did not think I was going to enjoy it, but then it just cycled into all of these events that just captivated me. One quote in particular has stuck with me since seeing it:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Soak that in for a second. I know that’s a lot for one quote. Please tell me you felt something from reading it. Please tell me it moved your heart in the darkest places, that it made you realize you have one life. You have one time to shake this earth & fight the beautiful fight. You have one chance to change the lives of other people & to change the hearts of those around you. Now, I could go on my for hours about how you have it in you. Do you understand how incredible you are? It is by God’s grace that you are sitting here reading this post from your phone or your computer. That means that you are alive & you are able. You have it in you to change the world. You have it in you to leave fingerprints on the people around you. And do you know how grateful they will be for those fingerprints? I don’t know about you, but I always find myself thinking about the moments that have shaped the person I am today, and the people in those moments have given me some of the traits I now possess. Let’s compare ourselves to pieces of clay, and you are now shaped the way you are because of the people who have crushed, smoothed, and molded you. However, have you ever stopped to think that you are the one crushing, smoothing, or molding somebody else’s piece of clay? I know I hadn’t until this very moment. If you take one thing away from this blog post, let it be this: Your words matter. Your words take a toll on people, so use them to better people, praise them, and lift them up. 

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8 ESV

And as cliche as this may sound: Will you use your words for good? Take that into consideration. I know I get annoyed easily, and I am so quick to make assumptions or snide remarks, which I am working on. Maybe just think, Oh, well maybe this person got some bad news today or just had a really bad morning. People are the way they are for a reason. Generally, there will be reasons for why they act and react the way they do, so please “be kind, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle you know nothing about” (I usually hate cliches, but these are true, people). I have that quote hanging in my dorm because everybody needs that reminder sometimes. Sometimes, all you can do is love someone & sometimes, that’s all they really need. They don’t need your advice, but rather words of affirmation. They don’t need your pity, but maybe they just need someone to listen, so listen. Be there. Be present.

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To finish this off: I wish for you nothing but days that make you happy you are alive. Deep conversations over hot coffee. New dresses that make you feel beautiful in your own skin. Love affairs with novels that make you sad they came to an end. Letters taped to your door or tucked into your planner from people who brighten your day. Stargazing with people who give you butterflies, the good kind. Moments when you are in God’s Word and something beautiful just hits you so hard. Finding extra pieces to your puzzle. Food so amazing that all you can do is thank God for creating it. Prayer that leaves you feeling refreshed. Journal entries that make you feel like a weight has been lifted. Ice cold lemonade on super humid, August days. Jam sessions in cars with the windows down and the music up (because that is the only way a jam session can be done). Worship that cripples you and brings you to your knees. Running errands with friends who you are comfortable around. Gatherings where you find God in the chaos and excitement. Moments where you truly realize what an amazing God you serve.

Another thing I took from my AP Lit class was this poem. It will break your heart & restore it, all at the same time, so enjoy.

“My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.”

– “Love Poem” by John Frederick Nims

Have a wonderful rest of your week & I hope you find joy in the little things.


To-Do Lists, Pineapple Milkshakes, & Isaiah 43:1

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” – Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV

I am happy to announce that I am writing this blog post from my couch at home with my dog snuggled up on one side of me and my six year old brother on the other.

This week has been another week of firsts (as has every week in college thus far). White water rafting, pineapple milkshakes (& a peach cobbler one as well), moving into a castle…yes, you read that right. While moving up to the castle was a pain in my butt, it’s absolutely beautiful. Think Hogwarts. And I was fortunate enough to have a friend help me move all of my stuff, which was where the milkshakes came into play…that was the payment.

This week was the greatest week. The schedule was packed, which is something I LOVE. Overflowing to-do lists are among my favorite things on this earth. Monday, we had senior-freshman coffee night to gain advice from some of the seniors on the same scholarship we’re on. It was a very enlightening hour and a half, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tuesday, we bought all of our books for fall semester (yikes), and some of us met at the director of student ministry’s house to watch Noah. Though controversial, the movie was really good. I know that it got a bunch of criticism for not following the original Bible story of Noah, but plot twist: it wasn’t supposed to be. The guy who directed it practices Jewish Gnosticism, and it’s actually quite interesting. Read here to learn more about the background of the movie. Wednesday, we joined with our work supervisors for a low country boil dinner, and boy, was it incredible. One thing I have discovered about myself in the past few weeks, and have mentioned in previous blog posts, I love gatherings. They fill my cup & make me extremely happy. Thursday, was a whole new adventure. We went white water rafting & IT. WAS. AWESOME. I did not fall off the raft, in this level 4 river, which was once used in the 1996 Olympics…for something or another. So many adrenaline rushes. And the lunch we had was amazing. Especially since it was spent with some amazing, new friends.

Side note: This week was packed full of adventure, which is why this is a bit scatter-brained, but every other post has also been scatter-brained, so maybe that’s just the way I write sometimes…anyways!

And then Thursday night and Friday were spent moving all of my things up to Ford, which is where I’ll be spending my freshman year at Berry! In a castle! Wow. And might I point out, this is the only dorm without an elevator, so it was kind of a pain in my butt. However, while my arms still feel like Jell-O from all of the boxes, I feel quite accomplished (with the help of some awesome new friends). And my roommate moves in next weekend! Woohoo!

Saturday was spent relaxing and finishing up some homework. And shopping. Thank goodness I was finally able to find some new clothes because, let me tell you, when you think two big bins full of clothes is going to be enough, actually more than enough, you are probably wrong. And I was finally able to see one of my best friends, whom I haven’t seen in over a month. That was refreshing. Being able to spend 5 hours with someone who shares the same sense of humor that I do was extremely refreshing. I have missed our jam session and endless stories.

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Now that I’ve told you about my hectic week in a nutshell, let me share with you what I learned this week (buckle your seatbelts).

First: one of my closest friends sent me his favorite verse this week (I LOVE it when I get texts like these).

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44 ESV

I got this text while I was watching Noah this week. It took me a while to truly understand what it means. Giving it up. That’s what it’s about. Surrender in the most vulnerable form. Taking up your cross daily. Selling all you have for Heaven. Wow. The fact that we are ABLE to do this is amazing enough on it’s own, but then that we get a response from Jesus and that response is always acceptance. That is what love is. If you just take the time to soak that in right now, I promise today will be a fantastic Sunday.

Second: this song will give you goosebumps and move you to tears…if you’re anything like I am towards worship music. “And I will lock eyes with the One who’s ransomed me. The One who gave me joy for mourning. And oh, I will lock eyes with the One who’s chosen me. The one who set my feet to dancing.” Read this scripture to follow:

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.” – Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Another thing I realized this past week/2 weeks: I don’t know why, but I feel so much of a burden for the hurt in other’s hearts. I wish I were able to kind of shut that part of myself off for myself, and it’s not even like a part of me hurts, but my whole being hurts when I know someone’s heart has been led astray or they can feel nothing but pain. It hurts my heart. This goes back to being emotional. It’s also something I have dedicated a lot of my prayer life to right now. Why do I allow myself to feel so burdened for other people? Why do I let frustration and sadness consume my heart when it should be consumed by the love of the Savior of the world? I know I’m not the only one to ever feel this way, so I know there must be reason. For now, I will continue to pour my heart and being into these people who I hurt for, and I will trust that Jesus will help me to make sense of it all because that is all I can do. This goes back to the first verse I posted today: Isaiah 43:1-2. When I pass through deep waters, He is with me. He is always with me. Even in the deepest and darkest waters. So much comfort comes from knowing that I am not capable of being alone, even when it feels like it. This verse really hit home this week, and it’s always proving to be true. When I get frazzled or stressed out, I just start repeating it to myself. Works perfectly. There is nothing more powerful than His Word. I was once told that memorized Scripture is like an arsenal for us, and that has definitely proven true, especially in the past few weeks. As soon as I start to repeat God’s Word to myself, this stillness washes over me, and I know that He is there.

Last realization for the week: cuddling with a teddy bear really does solve all of life’s problems. You have no idea how much stress is released just by pulling a cuddly, soft, little bear into your arms and lying on your bed. Trust me on this one. Also, a giant cup of coffee makes for a great companion for the teddy bear.


Well, there is an over-sized coffee mug & a package of cookie dough waiting for me in my dorm room, so it’s time to get back to real life. Have a wonderful rest of your weekends, friends.


Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up: Cultivate Thankfulness

Things you should know about me:

1) I have lived in the South my entire life (all 18 years of it).

2) I’ve gone to church sporadically for those 18 years, until a year ago when I started to go every weekend.

3) Yesterday was the first Southern Sunday I have ever had.

Now you’re probably wondering: What is a Southern Sunday?

Well, I am glad you asked. I’m not sure many people refer to them the same way I do, or even have a name for these special days, but a Southern Sunday, to me, is going to a church service (of your choice) around 10 in the morning, which is followed by a nice, southern, home-cooked meal for lunch. A big meal at that (complete with Arnold Palmers and peach pie). Chicken and rice casserole, green beans, fried okra, and salad.  My heart was so happy when a lovely woman, at a new church I was trying out, came up to me & said, “You’re Jenna! Well, today you have a place to eat lunch!” (And it also helped that I am a poor college student, so that added to the happiness). I’m always blown away by how welcoming people can be, and I still haven’t figured out why yet. I always assume people are going to be closed off, but Jesus always proves me wrong with that one. I love that He is revealing Himself to me through these relationships and people around me.

This was one of those moments when I was able to be present. I sat around that table, while we all fellowshipped together, and just took it all in. This is what life is about. These moments of community that make you happy you’re alive. Maybe you don’t go to church, and you really don’t want to, but community is important. Community lifts you up on your lows & celebrates with you on the highs. It’s these people that make up who you are. Whether you like it or not, you take something from each person you’re around, whether it be a personality trait or a life lesson or something you know you don’t want to do.

These people I’ve decided to surround myself with, and who Christ has decided to bless me with, have made all the difference. Instead of morphing my beliefs and my quirks and my personality, these people have helped highlight and amplify them (even the sarcasm and the stories that I think are funny but actually end with crickets chirping in the background). I have come to find that there will be some people in your life that you just enjoy being in the presence of. No words have to be spoken or actions have to be made. They bring peace to your life and you feel like yourself when you’re around them. Maybe you’ve just met them or maybe you have known them forever. You don’t have to be in love with this person or even think of them romantically. There is just a special type of person that you can be around that will highlight your best qualities. When you remember these moments, you will remember these special people, and how they were there in those moments when you felt the fullest.

I’ve found myself in these moments quite frequently in the past week. Whether it be with a kind, new friend over Swift & Finch coffee or staring up at the stars with those couple of people around me. Or maybe by the Old Mill just listening to a sweet friend strum her guitar and hum a little tune. Or praying with a new friend after Bible study. Or enlightening office conversations. Or watching the sunset from a roof. What do all of these moments have in common, you ask? I found Jesus in every single second. His love abounded in every little moment. I knew what it felt like to be wholeheartedly loved by the God of the universe because I was present.

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Yes, I have noticed that I released the Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up on a  Sunday night, but I know a few people who start work and school for the first day tomorrow morning, so I wanted to give them a chance to see this. I know I don’t particularly care for reading at 6:30 in the morning, but that’s just me, so you never know.

Alright, so here’s the pick-me-up part of this amazing Monday morning: Be present. Soak in each moment today. Find Jesus in everything you do. Even in the frustration or the anxiety, He is there. You will find Him in your weaknesses or even if it’s the most amazing Monday you have ever had. Seek Him out & you will find. Be your best self today. I know you have it in you.

A couple weeks ago, I was asked the question (or something similar to it):

“If you were always aware that the Holy Spirit was living inside of you, how differently would you live your life?”

Food for thought. How differently would you see yourself? Would you lift yourself up more often than you bring yourself down? How would you treat your body? How would you spend your time? Walk with the reassurance that Jesus lives inside you this morning, friends. I know it may be hard, and at times you may feel unworthy, but don’t be discouraged. Jesus is with you. Always.

Do you need a Monday morning pump up song? Here you go, my friend. Feel free to dance & worship while getting ready.

Looking to feel inspired? Read this.

Do you need a laugh? Watch this.


“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” – Colossians 3:15-17 MSG

Shine light into the world & have a wonderful Monday, friends.