Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the beauty of an open heart...

This is the 3 of us in China where they are currently living.

They have been two of my best friends for years now... We met as Freshman at Faulkner University, and have been friends ever since. Our journey together has been crazy! The ins and outs of our friendship are definitely filled with ups and downs, but when I look back over the past 6 years, I see God's mighty hand working out some beautiful things!

I really believe that God brought us together, along with another dear friend, Laurel, because He knew that over the course of the next several years, He was going to be able to use us, with our specific personalities & talents & passions, in each other's lives.

I am so thankful for these friendships, and the ways I see God using these girls.

For example, take Brittany. 
This is a picture of the two of us in Malawi, Africa in the summer of 2006. The summer before this, Brittany went on her first mission trip. She went with Landmark to this orphanage in Malawi, and the work of the Lord overseas opened her heart to missions. For the past 2 years, she and her husband, Will (also a best friend from the college years). have lived in China, teaching English in a university there, and serving an ever greater purpose for God. 

She and Will are going to be moving back to the States in July. Will wants to go into youth/worship ministry, so they have been keeping their eyes open for the next door of opportunity that the Lord will open for them.
(Note: Know of any youth/worship minister positions open? I am trying to find them work near me. haha!)

And then there is Carie. 
This picture is from that same trip in 2006. Carie may have the most compassionate heart of anyone I have ever met. Her heart belongs to children in need. Children who need food, shelter, and clothes, but more than any of that, they need to be introduced to the One who loves them so much that He died for them. Once Carie started going overseas to serve, she realized that she was just not satisfied staying here and being comfortable at home. She felt the call to go. And boy has she gone! She's been on short-term trips to Honduras, Panama, and Malawi. She then spent about 6 months in India before moving to China for a year to be a part of the work that Will & Brittany are involved in. 

Now that her year in China is up, she is preparing for her next leap of faith. That leap happens to have her jumping back to India, back to the needs of the children who stole her heart the first time she was there. This time, she will not be serving as a part of a work that has already been established, but beginning a new work in a new place. She, along with a family she grew close to the first time she was there, are beginning a new journey in which God is leading them to a new city to start another home for orphans and homeless children. I am so excited about all that God can do through them and their open hearts and open hands. 

I would love to tell you more about the work Carie plans to do, but why don't you hear it from her? She has recently started a blog to keep family and friends updated as things progress. Check it out.

Today I ask you to pray for these girls and their families as they prepare to transition into and be engaged in the new work He has for them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

i got tagged....

... to play this random little blogging game by Katie, and it really isn't difficult, so here goes nothing...

All you have to do is:
1. Take a pic of yourself right now.
2. No primping or preparing.
3. Just snap a picture.
4. Load the picture onto your blog.
5. Tag some people to play along.

I tag: Jessica, Annie, Ashley, & Lana.

I just noticed something-- check out Katie's picture. It kind of looks like we are both on the same couch! We're not. I think that is funny. So I figured I would share my observation with whoever reads this post.

By the way, I am enjoying the most wonderful Monday ever with my dear friend, Amelia, who is in town visiting me! It has been absolutely wonderful, and we are about to go watch the season finale of Chuck at our friend Jason's apartment! (Jason Helton- you and your tivo are my heros. Yes, this is a shout out for you. And no, I won't write about your messy apartment. haha)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

i really have just started blogging about some of the most random things...

Any of you that know me well enough to know my TV preferences knows that tomorrow night is a big night in television for me. 
My favorite show, Chuck, is wrapping up Season 2 with its finale, and man is it going to be a good one!!! 
I seriously cannot wait to see what happens! 
And then I can't wait till Season 2 comes out on DVD! 
And then I can't wait for Season 3 to start up!!! 
(PLEASE let there be a Season 3, NBC!!!) 
Oh how I love Chuck Bartowski.... sigh...

p.s. - I love Chuck more than I love Jim Halpert. 
Yes. It is true.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

real simple magazine, hear my plea...

Dear Real Simple magazine,

For Christmas, I asked for a subscription to my favorite magazine in the world. Your magazine. I love it. Every month, my mind is filled with the inspiring images that you select to educate me on the ways of simplicity. Every month I slowly flip through the beautiful pages, ink pen in hand, ready to makes notes in the margins-- reminders to myself that I need to take your advice or exclamations of this being my "dream kitchen" or that being the way I want my bookshelves to look...

When I select colors and fonts for my little postcards and newsletters, you are the inspiration for my designs. When dreaming up decor for my Girls Retreat, I so often referred to you. One day, when I am a bride, you will be my wedding guidebook. When I finally begin cooking, I will use your recipes. One day I will have a home of my own, and the things I have learned from you will fill the rooms of my house.

Can you tell that you inspire me? Here's the thing, Real Simple- I just can't do it myself yet. I still have so much to learn. And now I find myself in a small, cluttered, inefficiently organized office that needs to be painted. Help!! Are you out there? Can you tell me how to fix this on a tight budget? I need your wisdom to best utilize this space! Please?

Your dedicated subscriber,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

reasons why i miss college...

I am currently stretched out across my bed, surrounded by everything that was in my arms upon returning from the office. The sun has been shining through my window, as if it were making an effort to pull me away from the confines of my apartment, but I have turned my back to it. Right now, the invite almost feels like mockery. Come Jenna, you're alone with nothing to do this evening. Why don't you come outside and enjoy the fresh spring air-- alone. (The sun laughs.)

My mind quickly tried to explain my state of solitude to the sun. I'm only here alone because my roommate is gone tonight... and besides, I could use a day with nothing to do... the past couple of weeks have been crazy... and... I... I... I could do something if I wanted to. There's people I could call... or text... besides... solitude is good for a person.... .... so there! The taunting of the sun continues. It can tell it is winning. Stupid sunshine.

And that leads me to this list of reasons why I miss college.

#1. In college, most of my friends could be found within a 1/4 mile radius of my door. Companionship - check. Done and done. Sunshiny day? Guaranteed I would come across someone else that wanted to go to Shakespeare Park to lay around and read, take goofy pictures, and play bocce ball. It was easy to find someone to venture downtown with. We'd go, park the car, walk around, explore random old church buildings, and eat at the most hole-in-the-wall place we could find. Wanna smoothie? We'd pile up in the car and make our way across the street to the Coffee Bean. Best. Smoothies. Ever. Favorite TV show on? You'd never watch it alone. Every Thursday night a large crowd gathered in our apt to watch the Office. And that doesn't even begin to describe it... Sigh... never again will I ever live so close to such a large percentage of my facebook friends... 

Yep. That pretty much sums it up. Oh the days of a social life, how I miss thee... 

Monday, April 20, 2009

feelin' the love...

My friend and follow blogger, Katie, gave me the Kreativ Blogger Award! I was pretty excited! Here are the award rules: List 7 things that you love, and then pass the award on to 7 bloggers that you love! Be sure to tag them and let them know that they have won. You can copy the picture of the award and paste it on your sideboard letting the whole world are Kreativ!
1. I love God.
2. I love my family
3. I love all of my friends. 
(I really have been blessed with some amazing friends!)
4. I love my MYM family.
5. I love good conversation.
6. I love meaningful music.
7. I love moments where I am free of responsibility. 

Let's see... now I am going to tag...
Annie (I know Katie tagged you too, but this is me seconding that.)

Thanks for the award, Katie!! Love ya!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

confessions of a 24 year old moleskine addict...

It is true.
I am addicted to something called the Moleskine.

I started using the Moleskine in May of 2005 when a friend convinced me to purchase one while we were in Washington, D.C.  We were in this quaint little bookshop... I knew all the cool kids were using them... It didn't take much to convince me that I needed one. The Moleskine is legendary, after all. I mean, think of the big names that were users... Hemingway... Picasso... Chatwin... David the Psalmist... (okay, probably not David the Psalmist, but if they had existed he totally would have had one!). I was told a Moleskine would change my life.

It did.

Now here I am, almost 4 years and 7 Moleskines later (would have been 8 if I hadn't been stupid my senior year in college and purchased a random navy, soft leather-bound journal instead). It takes me about 6 months to go through one journal. One day, I will have quite a library... 

There are many different styles of Moleskine out there. I am very particular about mine. I refuse to veer away from the traditional black, hardcover, ruled notebook. I want my collection to be uniform (I learned my lesson with that crazy navy journal...). Yes, I realize that is a bit obsessive-compulsive, but like I said, it is an addiction.

Now on a more serious note (because yes, this post does have a point), I really do love my Moleskine journals. Not only because I love the simple, classy, black leather cover, but because of all that fills them. 

I just spent some time flipping through my journals from the past year & a half. It is absolutely incredible to see some of the blatantly obvious ways God was at work in my life. In these journals, I can look back and see, in my own handwriting, a record of events & prayers & conversations & wishes & pleas & frustrations & answers & choices & movement....  I am able to make connections that I never would have noticed without these records. 

The more I think about it, these journals are probably my most cherished possessions...

Maybe one day I will be able to take this record of my story and turn it into something to publish and share with others. I would say that is a dream of mine...

Or maybe these journals aren't meant to be shared like that... maybe the stories they contain are most effectively shared in the context of relationships...

Regardless of how they may be used in the future, for now I will continue to use them as a record from the past to help me live in the present as I strive to live for eternity. 

(Note: Any other Moleskine users want to go in together and buy in bulk? These things are getting a little pricy! haha)

Monday, April 13, 2009

a lovely birthday, indeed...

Well, I got the weekend at home that I wanted! 
I loved getting to spend time with my family! We celebrated my birthday together with some yummy food (chicken w/plum chipotle sauce, asparagus, sweet potato fries, & broccoli salad-- a fav meal of mine), fun game time (Pass the Pigs anyone?), a couple movies, an amazing cookout at Mamaw's (complete with an egg hunt & volleyball), and an incredible Easter Sunday afternoon picnic and walk in the park. Seriously, it doesn't get much better than that!

And today was such a lovely day.
Sometimes I take these new friendships I have for granted. I spend some much time longing for what I once had, that I forget to cherish the gifts that God's put right in front of me. Well over and over again today, I was reminded of those dear gifts... I am blessed with so much. I work with people that genuinely care about me. I live with a friend who I appreciate and love more and more each day. I have some incredible teenagers in my life that I love, and they love me, and together we are striving for His Kingdom, and I get to show them things that have helped me, and I get to watch them discover His power and love for them... And my family really isn't that far away. I've even got some family in town now, and I love getting to see my best friend cousin more often and play with her sweet baby girls.

So today, I say thank you.
And I smile knowing that He hears me.

pictured above: Dad, Mom, Kayla (baby sis), me, Karissa (middle sis), & Kyle (middle sis's bf.. not quite family, but we'll let him in our picture... :)
(I love my crazy family!!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

birthday present #2...

watch out youth groupers...

Cause I am armed and dangerous.
You kids like rolling my apartment door and stealing my tires...
Next time you feel so inspired to cover my car in post-it notes,
just remember...

I'll be waiting for you.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

birthday present #1...

check out my new ride!

Mom and Dad had it waiting for me in the basement when I got home tonight! I am back in Cleveland for my birthday/Easter weekend, and the sisters get here tomorrow, and could not be more excited! We've been looking forward to this weekend, when we would all get to be home together, since February. What can I say? We love each other. :)

I hope you all have a fabulous Easter weekend!

So because of this crazy weather we are supposed to have tomorrow, the sisters may not get to come. PLEASE pray that the storms will just go away so they can come home tomorrow. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

so guess what....

i am going to see these people in Nashville!!!! 
and i am SO excited!!!!

It is official.
The tickets have been purchased. 
(I think I may have been the very first person to buy the tickets.. I was on ticketmaster just waiting and refreshing the page until they went onsale. Yes. I am that excited.)
Whoo whooooo!!!! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

there's a first time for everything...

(this is the current background on my macbook)

I am less than a week away from turning 24. I've been thinking a lot about this past year, and I've realized that there have been quite a few "firsts" that have taken place. Because of this, I have decided to make a list of these "firsts", so I now present to you:

Twenty-three Firsts from my 23rd Year
1. Moved (alone) to a new city for a job
2. Moved into my very own apartment
3. Got my 1st Macbook
4. Had interns-- wasn't one!
5. Went on a canoe trip
(I'm not counting that time in 1st grade with the Girl Scouts...)
6. Experienced Christmas in July
7. Moved baby sister into her college dorm
8. Ate beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans
9. Hiking at Monte Sano
10. Tuesday nights at the BCM
11. Saw Wicked (the musical) in Atlanta
12. Mrs. Bobo's w/ the office ladies
(and became known around the office for my love of the apples...)
13. Got food poisoning
14. Played in the North Alabama Flag Football Tournament
15. Baked my 1st German Chocolate Cake
16. Had 2 carseats in my backseat
(and first time to routinely pick up babies from daycare)
17. First trip to Colorado/1st NCYM/1st attempt at skiing
18. Flew first class
(and for no additional cost- thanks Alisha! haha)
19. Visited the City of Children
20. Went camping
21. Experienced the City Museum in St. Louis
(This was, in fact, on my 1st Mystery Mission trip.)
22. Went on the Renewal retreat
23. Experienced my first year in youth ministry

Twenty-three was definitely a year of changes and growth.. then again, so was 22. And really, I imagine the same will be true for 24. So today, I look back and remember all the challenges, all the adventures, all the joys... Perhaps tomorrow I will dream up 24 things to do in my 24th year...

Friday, April 03, 2009

I've needed a break...

...and thankfully, I got one.

In case you couldn't tell by the tone of my most recent posts (and the lack of posting), I've had a rough couple of weeks. I guess I had just reached a breaking point. I had been putting way too much pressure on myself, and after a few disappointments and with several events that I find to be a little intimidating approaching, I just found myself utterly exhausted. 

And Satan didn't miss a beat. He came right in, whispering his words of deceit, leaving me tired, frustrated, filled with endless doubts & insecurities, and just generally downcast. I felt disconnected, and God was just not coming to my rescue how I wanted Him to.

Honestly, I felt a little abandoned. 

Why would God lead me to this place and then just leave me? I'd been trying so hard to pursue Him-- why wasn't He showing up?! What was I doing wrong?!? How was I supposed to show a bunch of teenagers who He is when I can hardly even feel Him myself? The questions and doubts and disconnection had me pretty worn out. I didn't want to go to work. I dreaded the planning. I dreaded the pressure. I expected the worst. And I was simply a little scared-- what did all of this mean?

Well, our God is a good One. He doesn't usually just show up in the ways we expect Him to, or even want Him to, but He is there. And He is good. And He has not abandoned me.

In these past two weeks, He has provided me with several people to speak His truths to me. I am so thankful for the many people He put in my path to encourage me and pick me up and point me back in His direction of truth... my roommate, some of my co-ministers, my friends in the young pro group, my family, and the incredible women I was able to slip away and go on a retreat of renewal with...  I am thankful the words He spoke through them. He said:

"You have not been abandoned." 
"You are not alone-- I've been there too."
"You put too much pressure on yourself."
"You do belong here."
"You have been sent."
"I am at work in you."
"I am good, even when you don't feel good."
"I am there, even when you don't feel Me."
"Be still- cease strivings- know I am God."
"I am glorified when you just keep doing what you're supposed to do."
"Simply be faithful."

So yes, I may still be a little tired. And yes, maybe I'm still a little intimidated. And I'm still feeling kinda disconnected. But you know what? That's okay. Because He doesn't tell me that I will always feel good, and times of desolation are sure to come. But I can rest in His truth. I can rest in His peace. And I can be faithful. And sometimes, in times like these, that's all He wants me to do.