Consider this your invitation. 

I sat in this little office with 8 people crammed on couches and computer chairs and counter tops, and I was immediately reminded of Genesis 50:20. As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. Over and over and over again. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. 

And I’ll go ahead and lay this out as a welcome mat to this blog post: I’m not calling anyone evil. I’ll put it this way though: there will be times when the enemy will try to rob you of things that Christ died to show you. Like love. There will be times when it seems that you are completely drowning in lie after lie after lie. You will hear that you don’t hold value and that you’re unlovable and that God created you to be used by people. That’s where I’ll stop you. This is one of those times.

I’ll go back to that moment in a packed office with my family of a church staff. I sat there, and I remembered 3 weeks ago when I thought I’d get up from a rocking chair and never want to hear the word “love” ever again. It stung when my best friends said it. It stung when my mom said it. I hated that word for a good two days. I hated the person who said it even more. And I remember just having this stormy, crashing-wave-filled ocean of thoughts that I thought I was drowning in. I didn’t want to hear love, I didn’t want to hear truth, and I definitely didn’t want to hear what God had to say about this one. I felt an “I told you so” coming on, and I’m not sure why because that’s lie #1. I felt unlovable and used up, and I know what used up feels like. I went through a long period of time where I thought that God’s specific purpose for me on this earth was to be used for the gratification of others. FALSE. LIE. SHUT DOWN.


So I’ve got this awesome friend who sends the best, most-eloquently-worded emails and kills it at spoken word. And I stumbled across one of her older spoken words this week. “But snow can crumble unexpectedly, and I watched the windy city change you into someone new. I see that you are happy. And that’s what I wanted. It just gets hard sometimes to watch you grow into someone I won’t grow old with.”

And I remembered how good it felt to know that I don’t have to have the words because sometimes God either shows us the words or He gives us people who show up in beautiful ways. And I’ve got an army of people who show up in beautiful ways. I’ve got friends who let me sit in their laps and cry and complain and get angry to no end. I’ve got friends who sit with me while I swear like a sailor and doubt God and get angry with Him. I’ve got friends who show up with Honeymoon Bakery chocolate tarts that completely turn your Tuesday around. I’ve got friends who let me talk and talk and talk until I lose my voice. I’ve got friends who understand the art of distractions. I’ve got friends who will skip class to get breakfast and have the best heart-to-hearts just because we both need it so much. I’ve got friends who style sassy outfits to make me feel on top of the world. I’ve got friends I’ve made through building some awesome bridges. I’ve got friends who will be the angry Charlotte when Big stands Carrie up at the altar, friends who’ve got my back no matter what. I’ve got friends who stick with me in the mess. I’ve got friends who stick with me even in the chaos of concert planning and emotional roller coasters, who stick with me when I end up crying in the Christmas lights aisle at Big Lots. I’ve got friends who are showing me what love is through their actions and IT SPEAKS VOLUMES.

And now I’m drinking deep of what love actually is and getting to see it through people’s actions even when they’re not explicitly telling you they love you. And do I have a solid definition for you at this very moment? No. But I can tell you I’ve been getting it all wrong. Love’s not a habit. Love isn’t selfish. Love’s not boastful. Love is not fleeting emotions. Also, in the midst of struggling with all of this crap, I got to sit in our church and listen to a sermon on the postures of love. Admittedly, when I realized what we were talking about, I wanted to book it out of that theater so freaking fast and hide under a rock. I didn’t want to listen to any of it. And then it hit me so hard. So much truth. And with a lot of sermons, I feel like I could predict a road map, but with this one, it was just unexpected truth after unexpected truth. He talked about when we get so set in our plans and our daily routine, when something comes up that we hadn’t planned, we view it as an inconvenience and you can’t love an inconvenience. He said the only safety and security we get is in who He is, not in what He gives us. He talked about this self-focused and self-actualizing love that we’ve been wrapped up in because that’s what’s normal in our day and age.

The reason I bring all this up is because I sat in this theater and thought about all the things this one person had done and how he had wronged me and how he doesn’t love well and how self-focused he is and how he has made an astounding and complete and utter mess, but then, Jesus. He humbled me. He said, “Jenna, you do it too. You’re prideful and angry and your brokenness affects people too.” We’re all broken. We’re going to hurt each other. We just have to admit our brokenness instead of telling Jesus that we can do it on our own, because honestly He laughs before we even say the words. Let me just take these next few lines to be completely raw and honest with you, since you’re already into this journey with me. I’m going to be real with you. Did I love with everything in me? Yes. 100% yes, and that’s what hurts the most. Is that you’ve drained yourself in loving someone so much and that love was not reciprocated. You want to know rock bottom? Sit across from someone and let them tell you they don’t love you and receive that in the deepest parts of your heart. I’ve never known a hurt quite like this. I never thought I’d have to relearn love, but here we are. I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop, the one where I’ve cried a few tears and dreamed a hell of a lot of dreams, and I am hurting. Unfortunately, hurt manifests itself in different ways. Bitterness. Anger. A whole lot of tears. Some joy. Some really wild and crazy choices.

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But then I’m learning that we have the ability to channel that. I can sit here, and say, “God. Help. I have nothing else left.” And as I typed those words, I felt this deep pain, and not from heartbreak. Jenna, I have given you everything. Goosebumps down my arm. Chills down my back. I have given you everything.

And that’s the moment I recognize how small this is. How insignificant this will be a few days, months, years from now. And I weep, because I have taken for granted these moments that God meant for joy and these moments that are GIFTS. He has given us a gift that’s wrapped up in night and day and filled to the brim with joy and sorrow and friendship and people who love you to no end because He loves us. These moments are gifts, and I spent His gift dwelling on something and letting bitterness manifest itself into things that I know to be lies. You are unlovable. You have no value. You were created to be used. You are unworthy. Lies. This is the cup He has passed to me, and I’m about to drink deep. Take it in. Practice His presence because He has given me another day on earth to bring His Kingdom here.

Consider this your invitation to a walk through lies about love and vulnerability and value and worthiness, and also a hell of a lot of truth I’m walking into. Your invitation is really cute too, like a white note card with confetti on it and CELEBRATE written in all caps right smack dab in the middle. Because this is something to celebrate. Waking up and shutting down lies is grounds for celebration. This is our opportunity to submit to the One who orders our days. Walk with me. Celebrate today because this is a gift. This moment is a gift.

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What’s the point of having a relationship with God if you insist on carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?

This morning, I woke up and I hurt. However, I can honestly say that there is peace and closure and all the joy even in physical hurt. The world didn’t stop spinning like I’d imagined it would, and I got out of bed, put on real clothes, and pushed on. I continued with a morning routine, swapped coffee for tea, and thumbed through Job. Now, I started Job a few weeks ago, working through a year-long-whole-Bible-reading plan, and I wondered why God would have it in His plans to have me read a book where someone was having literally everything taken away from them but I was so happy. And I came across these verses that I scribbled in my journal a few days ago:

If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.” // JOB 11:13-18 ESV

I’m learning that loving well is actually actions and not just a habitual string of words we use to make each other feel better. Loving well is spoken prayers when it seems there isn’t enough time and caring for someone and wanting the best for someone even when they say things that hurt you. Loving well is forgiveness. Loving well is “I’m sorry”s that they may not even be receiving. Loving well is genuinely caring for a person and their well-being. Loving well is being honest even when it hurts. Loving well is being kind, not nice.

We used to do this thing in my high school ceramics classes where we would be given these slabs of clay and had to cut them into tiles that we would use to carve into and make these patterns or images in the clay, but it was such a process of carving and piercing through the clay and fixing the holes and smoothing it out, but it was my favorite project to date. I made a ton of tiles because those were the projects that made sense to me, and I don’t remember all of the artsy terms or the tools we used, but when all of this is happening in my life and I say I can’t find God in everything that’s happening, I think about refining and what I would be like if I were the clay. And then I realize, I am. God is molding and shaping me into something that I don’t have a sketch or blueprint for. I have no idea what the end result will be, and today I’m learning to be okay with that. I had a friend pray that I would be secure in God in the unknown, so that’s the biggest prayer prayed lately. Not to be comfortable in the unknown, but to remember my dependence on God.

Last night I sat illegally parked in a handicapped spot for the second time in the past week and I pleaded with God and asked Him to help me find Him in all of this because I don’t see Him. I was sitting in the passenger seat in this handicapped spot letting a friend pray over me (because my friends are the freaking best people in the entire world, thank you if you’re reading this), and I looked up to see the top of the chapel on campus, it was covered by a bunch of other buildings and a mess of tree branches and I could barely see it, but it was there. I’d like to think that God gives us imagery when we need it, at least that’s how it is for me because I’m a super visual person and He knows that. I also find comfort in knowing that He knows the hurt, not just the hurt I describe to Him in long, drawn out prayers, but He feels it all and knows it all in the moments it’s happening and before it ever happens and in the coping and the grief that comes afterward. I am completely known and still loved, whatever the hell that word still means. He’s working in the waiting, and I’m sure of that. I have no idea what He is doing, but I’m trying desperately to trust. There are little spaces in all of this that I could harvest bitterness and a hardness to even the word “love,” but I’m pleading with God and asking Him to prevent that.

I was sitting having coffee with a friend this morning and she’s one of the greatest listeners I have ever met and usually that’s enough to keep my head on straight and know that God is still good, but on the way back to campus, she turned to me and said, “You need to remember that he’s a super broken and sinful person, and so are you.” And in that moment he wasn’t the enemy anymore and I felt like I’d never have another enemy again if I could remember that very simple saying. We are all super broken and sinful people. And our brokenness and sinful nature will always hurt people, it’s inevitable. We will hurt until the day we’re sitting in the presence of God. Vices don’t fix hurt. Marriage doesn’t fix hurt. Friends don’t fix hurt. I’m learning that even praying the hardest I’ve ever prayed before doesn’t fix hurt. God is in the business of healing, I just have to trust that He will. And tonight, I anticipate that day when I get to sit in His presence for the rest of eternity. There will be a day with no more hurt, and that is where I place my hope, in a God who is in the business of healing and restoring what is hurt and broken. Every single day, one day at a time.

And on a note of not totally heartbreaking things going on in the Jenna realm, Saturday was the first day I stood behind my camera and thought, “I’m good at what I do.” And my friends, there is no greater feeling. Saturday was the stuff of dreams and books and movies. I shot an engagement shoot for a friend and her fiancé and it was just the best thing. I watched Pride and Prejudice for the first time ever. Swooned. Determined I was Elizabeth Bennett. Fell in love with Mr. Darcy. Okay, actually watched half of Pride and Prejudice and didn’t feel good so I fell asleep, but I intend on finishing it, so don’t you worry.

Sunday was spent in Chattanooga trying out a new church with my office fam jam. It was the greatest thing. People generally frown upon distractions, but I finally had a friend pull me from that last year and tell me that sometimes they are so necessary and she is so right. We tried out this awesome Anglican church in a coffee shop and it was so good, and that was followed by Jason’s Deli and a long trip to McKay’s (which still didn’t feel long enough). And it ended with me buying a book called If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, and it is so good. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I might actually finish a book for the first time in forever.

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Here’s to learning to relinquish control every single morning before my feet hit the ground. I can’t fix this. I can’t put my hurt in my backpack and carry it around with me every day, but I can continue in the pursuit of loving people well despite pain. And I think right in the middle of that, I’ll look up and realize God’s been here all along. I’ll finish with a quote from Tim Keller because I listened to a sermon of his on plans (and he blew my mind, so check it out):

Nobody ever learned God loved them by being told. They have to be shown. You wouldn’t live the way you do if you believed that. You know what you need in order to really know? You have to be shown over and over and over as life goes on. You have to be in positions where you’re absolutely sure that God has abandoned you and then find out later on that you were wrong.” – TIM KELLER

Here’s to figuring out what it means to be loved by God, looking for the answers and needing to know who He is in order to love because of who is He and what He has done. I know He loves and I know He is good, but I think it’s going to take a reminder of what that really looks like. We say it all the time. “God loves you. God is good. God loves you. God is good.” But what do those phrases even mean? We toss them around like trivial answers for people who are hurting when we’re actually the ones who need to understand His love and His goodness.

I could write a ton more, and I have absolutely no doubt that there will be more, but this is where I’ll leave it: I challenge you to remember what God’s love looks like and how we are called to love other people the way He loves us. I’m relearning and I feel a long journey, but I haven’t been this excited to learn in a long time. Here’s to being still and letting God fight the fight that’s already been won. Here’s to resting in His victory and peace. Here’s to trusting that He has plans far greater than anything I could ever even hope to dream about.

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