Thursday, February 5, 2015

invest in people. period.

"Invest in people who invest in you."

A fleeting quote that I scrolled past quickly on a recent, late night pinning streak.

Huh.  How about that...

I'm not sure where it came from or who said it or the context of the particular conversation that drew the individual of this comment to their finite conclusion.

I imagine it must have been from a place of resolution, self-preservation, personal experience.

But I have to respectfully disagree.

It doesn't add up.  And I don't think we're designed to work like that.

What if the history of the world had been defined by individuals and leaders who only paid attention to the people who were capable of returning the favor?  What if we only gave the time of day to the people who could help us out?  What if we only reached out to the people who could give us a tangible something?

No.  That can't be right.

Mother Teresa didn't move to Calcutta because the people there would catapult her to fame and fortune.  Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't write his "I have a dream..." speech and share it with a small group of private donors.  Jesus didn't sit down with the people who had the nicest homes or the best jobs or the finest choice of livestock.


Our culture is motivated by prosperity at all costs.  And I fall prey to the expectations that are set for me by society and accept them for myself.  But I think we've got it all wrong.

What if we just loved?  What if we truly chose to put on love (Colossians 3:14)  and love one another deeply (1 Peter 4:8) and place love above all else (1 Corinthians 13:13)?

Because love is a game changer.  And I don't want to decide that loving the people who love me back is enough.  I want to live a life that is defined by love.  I want to invest in people.  Invest my time and my resources and my life into others.  Because I think that is what Jesus is calling me to do.

Invest in people who invest in you.

Invest in people. Period.

(shout out to Millie for the smudges. wet noses can be tricky.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

scruffy city streets

I started this post ages ago.  And never got around to finishing it. Until tonight.  I've decided to start an "unfinished" series.  I'm committing to completing all of the posts that are currently sitting pretty as "drafts".  So, here goes.

I live downtown.  It is an absolute dream.  Truly.  I've always imagined living in a place where I could walk down the stairs of my loft over to a grocery or a coffee shop or a book store or a quaint little local retail store.  And now, I do.

And yet, I forget that this is my neighborhood sometimes.  That this is the place that I call home - and it is a real life "living the dream" type of scenario.

Downtown has taught me to simplify.  That living in one room is plenty of space for a person and a dog.  That desks don't have to be big.  That chests of drawers can double as coffee stations and faux mantles work great for holding stockings.

And I'm thankful for simplicity.  I'm thankful for living in a city that is thriving and strong, but is pretty quiet once 10 o'clock rolls around.  I'm thankful for historic buildings that stand only a few stories tall.  I'm thankful for the character that is so evident when you walk these streets.

And I've had the realization that these days are some of my glory days.  That, sometime, I'll fondly reminisce on these magical, downtown days of mine.  And I'll smile and decide that Jordan and I need to have a dinner date in Market Square immediately.

But for now, I'll enjoy my view.  And I'll take a few extra walks on these scruffy city streets.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I have come to love Friday mornings.  Serving in the church means that my work week is Sunday-Thursday, so Fridays are sweet and least most of the time.

This morning, I woke up to sound of soft winter rain.  The kind of rain that feels like Grace. (Well, I think all rain feels like Grace.  But this shower is especially Grace-full.)

And I've had this thought as I eat my toast and drink my chai tea...What if breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, but for a totally different reason from what I've always assumed?

You see, I've never been much of a morning person.  But these days, my mornings are sacred.  They are the quiet, stillness my life so desperately needs.  And breakfasts, well, they require me to sit and sip and settle.  And it seems that breakfast is the time when I can sit and revel in the fact that His mercies are new every morning.  And I can intimately say, "In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus."  And I'm not consumed by lists or expectations, I'm just still.  I'm just sitting on a stool at the prep table my Papa prepared so many meals on, breaking bread with the Morning.

Maybe breakfast matters because it gets our metabolism running.

Or maybe, breakfast matters because it is a benediction.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

thursday thoughts: #newyear

I always get a little reflective around the New Year.  Generally, it hits me a few days after the ball know, when you finally get back into the swing of things and realize that life goes on - regardless of where you stand with your resolutions.

So, 2015 is gonna be a year of intentionality for me. I think. I hope.  It is going to be a big year.  A year of a new last name NO BIG DEAL. (Oh, wait.  That is actually a huge deal.  Good grief.  Oh happy day! But I digress.)

I want this to be a year of choices I make using my head and my heart.  A year when I pursue Jesus fervently.  A year when I write more handwritten notes.  A year when I eat more fruits and veggies and less chips and salsa...well, we'll see about that - let's just start with more fruits and veggies.  A year when I use time wisely.  A year when I read more books.  A year when I make space for creativity and coffee dates and movie nights and walks with my dog and the Holy Spirit.  A year when I chase Light and hope to shed some of my own.  A year when I marry my sweet fiancĂ©, the love of my heart, my closest companion.  A year of late nights and early mornings.  A year when I feel spent because of working hard and learn to truly rest, to be still.

I want this to be a year that I don't make a finite set of resolutions that make me feel guilty if when I fall short.  I want this to be a year that is full of life changes, heart changes.  Where my eyes are opened to the people and places right under my nose.  Where I hold grace before grudges.  Where I laugh. A lot.  Where I dive deep into the Word.  Where, above all, I love.

I know that is idealistic.  I know I sound like a hopeless romantic.  But why not?  Why not strive for what seems like lofty, extreme, over-the-top kind of dreams?  After all, "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7).

So, 2015, I tip my hat to you.  And I'm excited.  Because you're going to be a little different, I can just feel it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

to have & to hold

Big news folks. Really big news. REALLY, HAPPY, WONDERFUL, JOYOUS, GROWN-UP, PRAISE-THE-LORD, kind of big news.

Jordan asked me to marry him.  And I said yes - no surprise there!

It was the sweetest of evenings.  Just perfect for who we are as individuals and who we are together.  So, I'll spell it out for you.

I had been sick the whole week.  Sick as a dog.  Friday morning (the day of the proposal) rolled around, and I had not improved.  Not even a little.  I was bummed that I might have to ask Jordan to postpone the date he had planned for us that evening, but was distracted because my head felt fuzzy and I thought I might have a temperature.

Jordan called to check on me that morning, and I'm relatively certain the sound of my voice could have sent him into cardiac arrest.  But he played it cool, telling me to rest and that maybe I would still feel up to dinner later - gently persuading me to keep our plans.  I thought that was odd, but quickly talked myself out of assuming that anything was up.

After nap number 2, I started to pep up a bit!  And Jordan says that when I called him to tell him I still wanted to go to dinner, he nearly drove off the road celebrating.

So, he came to my apartment to pick me up and we walked to Market Square, like we so often do.  We were going to Cafe 4, my favorite restaurant and where we had our first date.  I was talking incessantly about a delicious grilled cheese sandwich when he said, "Let's walk this way" and lead me to the stone path between the trees that stand in the entrance to Market Square.  He turned around and said, "Jen, I need to talk to you about something."  And my heart skipped a beat. This is happening.  We're about to do this.  For real.  Holy cow.

He told me that he loved me so dearly and that he wanted us to be a family.  It all happened so fast that most of the conversation is still a blur.  But I'll never forget the look on his face when he said, "So, I've got a question I need to ask you..." and got down on one knee.


He celebrated and I was so surprised to hear yells from his sisters, who had been sneakily taking pictures of us.  They came along with their partners in crime (Abbey's boyfriend and Amy's roommate) with a sign they had made for us and took all kinds of pictures.

After they left, we went into Cafe 4 to have our dinner together.  Sitting on our table was a letter C decoration and the sweetest note from my new fiancĂ© - which is a word we're still getting used to!  That hour that we spent together over my mac n cheese and his chicken and waffles is one of the sweetest times we have shared.  It was just us, like the first date, but so much more now.  Jordan blessed the food and prayed for our marriage and asked God to be with us in this new stage of life.  He told me the stories of telling his parents and sisters his plans, going to Johnson City to meet with my family, picking my ring, and pulling to all together.  I wouldn't change that time together for the world.

After dinner, we called my family, who claimed to be driving to the Topper football game, and then walked through Market Square to find Amy a birthday present.  (P.S. How awesome is Amy Cross for sharing her birthday with us?  I am so grateful for her generous spirit and gentle heart.)  As we were driving to the Cross residence to celebrate Amy's birthday, Jordan said, "I've got one more surprise for you."  And as we crested the hill to his house, I saw all of the cars.  The cars of our families and dear friends who drove from all over to be there, waiting to celebrate with us.


Our parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends that are more like family were there.  And we had a BBQ feast (Well, they did.  We had just eaten at Cafe 4, remember?)  And we laughed and talked and shed a few tears of joy.  We were abundantly blessed and celebrated and the whole night was just a dream.  A night that was set aside for us, by the man that I'm going to call my husband in a matter of months.

The thing about it all is that it sets a new season in motion.  A season when we start to plan our life together.  A season where people share with us their advice and wisdom.  A season where we make plans as one family rather than two individuals.  A season of preparation, wonder, joy, and growth.

I am so grateful that our love story is built on a foundation of friendship and is grounded in Christ.  It is not perfect, certainly not.  But the love and trust that we have built is strong.  I know that Jordan's proposal is the promise of a man who is resolved and faithful.  And my response is the promise to be the same, resolved and faithful, for always.  To love and support one another.  To build a life together.  To point each other to Jesus.  To have each other's backs and to hold each other's hands.  To become one.  To have and to hold.  Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

thanks & giving

On November 1, I made the decision to become more thankful.  To train myself to have a heart of gratitude.  To count, and I mean really count, my blessings.

So, I started two new traditions.  One for Jordan and I to share and one that was for my heart.

The first is a thankful tree.  I was inspired by Jones Design Company, by far my favorite blogger to follow, and it has been such a fun time to share this season with Jordan.  We write down the things that we are grateful for and hang them on on the "tree" that sits in my entryway.  It is such a joy when I see a new tag hanging that I didn't see him write.  And it is wonderful to be able to be thankful for things together. P.S. Apparently the courtyard behind my building has some killer twigs.

The second is a thankful list.  I got a small journal and each day is a new entry for the list.  I really enjoy journaling, but, historically, I have had some time issues with follow through.  This, however, has been a different story.  Rather than becoming a chore, this little notebook has changed the way I look at my days.  It took a little while to get the hang of it, but in less than a week, I began seeing my whole world differently.  As if through a lens of thankfulness.

Yesterday, I found the quote, "Let our lives be full of both thanks and giving."  Thanks & giving. And it made me realize, it isn't enough to be thankful - although that is crucial.  Gratitude must inspire action.  I'm not quite sure what mine will be yet.  But I can say this, even on the worst of days,  I am blessed far beyond I deserve.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


In youth band this year, we've talked a lot about the breath of God.  How the Lord's breath was present during creation.  How God spoke the world into being.  How God breathed life into Adam and Eve.  How God sent spoken messages through an angel to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the wise men.  How God's breath sustains each of us today.

And we've talked about worship being an opportunity to give God's breath back to him, as an offering.  [I first heard this concept when listening to Louie Giglio speak at a conference and it really struck a chord in my heart.]  That when we sing and play and worship, it is a blessing to our Father. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." - Psalm 103:1

We are fervently preparing for our fall retreat.  The youth band will be leading worship for our group with 7 different sets over the course of the weekend.  Over 30 songs.  DANG.  Makes my heart flutter I'm so proud.  And as pleased as I am with their work ethic and focus and preparation, I am most proud of their hearts.  The way they continue to be so mindful of how they want to lead.  So aware of their distinct role in this youth department.  So conscious of the way the Lord is calling them to use their talents.

Last night, at the end of rehearsal, we talked, discussing how we want to prepare over the next 8 days.  And we talked about the breath of God.  It dawned on me in that moment - it would be cold enough at SLA [Spiritual Life Advance.  The name of our fall retreat.] to see our breath.  A visible reminder of our job - to give God's breath back to him.  We talked about it and agreed that it would help us remain focused during the weekend.  We prayed and went home.

And then, this morning came.  The first really cold morning of the fall.  And I walked outside, bundled in a scarf, and breathed.  And I saw it.  My breath.  God's breath living in me.  And I couldn't help but grin.  Because, without anything spectacular happening, God spoke.  Not through a burning bush or a dove with an olive branch or skywriting.  Through a breath.  Reminding me that today is an offering.  Always an offering.  All it took was a breath.

Just a breath.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.