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.

Friday, September 19, 2014


There are days when my spirit feels restless.  When I have a strong desire to travel or paint or create or dance or sing or cut my hair off or something. Just something.  Maybe it's a quarter life crisis.   Maybe it's because a jackhammer woke me up a 6:30 this morning.  I don't know.

But what I've learned is that on days like these, I'm probably being told to just be still.  That a yearning that I can't quite put my finger on is a yearning for Jesus.  A yearning for deep relationship with the redeemer of my heart.

Today, I curled up under my favorite family quilt and sipped some chai tea and my puppy snuggled by my side.  And I felt my soul settle.  This has been a morning of sweet little reminders. Reminders that life gets fuzzy and messy.  Reminders that a simple life can be a sweet life.  Reminders that I don't have to have it all figured out.  Reminders that put my restless heart at ease.

I'm so grateful for mornings when I'm told I need to just slow down.

Friday, September 12, 2014

a letter for girls

Dear, sweet girl,

As I write you this letter, I'm sitting at my desk with a vase of sunflowers and a candle that smells like fall.  And I'm thinking of you. Praying for you.  Because life is hard as a middle or high schooler.  There is a lot of pressure.  So much comparison.  Crushing expectations.  And there isn't much time to figure out who you are.

I can tell you one thing.  You are loved.  You are so dearly loved.  Even on days when it doesn't seem that way - it is true.  You were created for a purpose, in the beautiful image of your Father, and that is not something we should take for granted.  But we all know that we do.

This purpose I'm talking about can sound daunting.  And you may not know yet what you will become.  But there is purpose in today.  And that purpose is set aside for you.  Just for you, dear one.  And it doesn't matter what it is that you love to do...that desire was given to you for a reason.  You may not see it, but others do.

If you love to read, read books of worth.  Choose stories of heroines that are strong and bold.  Pick books that make you think and challenge your spirit.  And pay attention in your English classes - because your teachers are wiser than you give them credit.  

If you love to cheer, cheer loudly!  And make sure your squad only yells "S-C-O-R-E" when your team actually has the ball.  And when the student section doesn't' cheer along, try not to take it personally.  You just keep doing your thing.

If you love to perform, don't hold back.  The stage is full of lessons to learn - jump in feet first.  When you a learning about a character, let it teach you about other people.  See the world the way you see the theatre.  And ALWAYS pack a snack during tech week.

If you love to play sports, run fast and jump high and work hard.  Because you are talented.  We both know you are.  But talent needs hard work to make something of it.  Push yourself in practice and it'll show up in a game.

If you love to dance, dance fiercely!  And love every minute, because one day, you'll miss the studio.  Although you may not put on a leotard and tights anymore, you do have wedding season to look forward to - and you'll KILL IT on the dance floor.  Oh, and when you do leave dancing behind, don't quit stretching.  You'll lose your splits faster than you can imagine.  Trust me.  

If you love animals, love them well.  They need you!  Find a farm that welcomes you in just as you are.  And remember, there are times when puppies and horses are the best kind of friends.  And that is more than ok.

If you love learning, never stop.  Push yourself in school.  Ask hard questions.  And be patient with those around you who might not feel the same way.  As a matter of fact, help that kid that never seems to figure the homework out.  Life is tough for them too, you know.

If you love fashion, dress well.  Be yourself and be modest.  This doesn't mean you have to wear a burlap sack, but you and I both know what is and isn't ok.  Make the choice for yourself - I promise you'll be glad you did.

If you love music, make a joyful noise!  Sing to the top of your lungs!  Play to your heart's content!  And practice.  Play your scales and sing your warm-ups.  And remember, learning classically will give you all the tools you need.  But it's still ok to sing along to the radio.

If you love being involved, join that club!  Run for SGA, help organize an event, work for the yearbook!  Test the waters in all kinds of different things, and see where your heart really lies.  But don't get so busy that you forget to be still.  Because filling a schedule is easy.  Prioritizing takes a little more work.

If you're a dreamer, dream big.

If you're scared, it's ok.

If you don't know what on earth you're doing, you'll figure it out.

If you feel lost, don't.  You've already been found.

Because you see, sweet girl, you are in the palm of our Creator's hand.  The One who breathed life into this world did the same thing for you.  He loves you.  He desires a relationship with you.  He sees your worth.  Don't you?  Oh, I know you don't.  But it is there.  Under the insecurity or the make-up or the good grades or the bad ones, there is a beautiful, smart, exciting human.  And I just love her.  She's the best there is.

I'll leave you with this: Don't grow up too fast.  Listen to your parents.  Laugh with your friends.  Challenge yourself.  Seek out a mentor.  Eat ice cream.  Go to high school football games - even if you don't think it's your thing, give it a try, just once, for me.  When you start to drive, BE SAFE.  Forgive faster than you want to.  Learn from your mistakes.  Cut yourself some slack.  Love the Lord.  Trust in Him.  For His provision is good and His love endures.

Things are tough, but you'll get through them.  I believe in you.  And remember that part I said a while back? The part about you being so dearly loved?  Please, please believe it.  Because it is true.

All my love,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

bouquets of sharpened pencils

[Spoiler Alert: This is gonna get mushy.]

Sometimes, life surprises you.  And it surprised me. With Jordan Cross.  We had been the best of friends for the majority of undergrad.  Wedding season rolled around last summer, both of us in need of dates and dance partners.  After a first date a Cafe 4 (my favorite restaurant), we both knew this thing was different.  And I can confidently say that each day is sweeter than the one before.  That isn't to say that each day is filled to brim with happiness and that we float around in some sort of euphoric daze.  Quite the contrary - life is sweet because I have a constant buddy for when things get rough.  And they do.  And consistent does not even scratch the service at who Jordan is.

On my birthday last year, the gift Jordan gave me was full of thoughtful little things.  Things that I truly loved but would have never spent on myself.  Things that he took the time and energy to remember, seek out, and surprise me with.  In the gift, he had included a fresh package of yellow, No. 2, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (THE BEST traditional pencils on the market as far as I'm concerned).  He handed them to me and said, "Your bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  It's almost fall - I thought you needed some."  And I just knew.  This kid was the real deal.

A bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  1. You've Got Mail reference.  2. School supplies.  3.  Preparation for fall.  I mean, it doesn't get much better than that in my book.

I was having a conversation yesterday where the woman said, "Ya know, the small stuff really does matter in the long run."  And I have to agree with her.  Because choosing to be kind may not win us a Nobel Peace Prize, but it impacts the every day lives of those around.  Because the small stuff adds up.  Our lives are jam-packed with little moments - and when I think about the things in my life that really mean something, it's the small stuff.

I wish that I could give the whole world a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  But for now, I will pay attention to the small things, try my best to love the people that are placed right in front of me at any given moment.  And say little prayers of thanks for the man that Jordan Cross is and continues to become and for falling hard for him all of those many days ago.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

craving creativity

I don't know if it's that fall is just around the corner, that I'm finally getting settled in my new home, or that I just wanted to update things around here, but I felt like Jenny D from TN needed a bit of a facelift.  I'm pumped about how it looks so far.  Thanks for stopping by, and way to go on making it through this long Tuesday!

Monday, September 8, 2014

waiting, prayerfully

It's Monday.  Sometimes I learn things on Mondays.  A lot of times, Mondays sit in a fog.  But, sometimes, Mondays shift into focus.  After a weekend that has refreshed my heart and my soul, this day is just good.  That isn't to say that it is easier than other days. Or slower.  Or out-of-the-ordinary.  But there is something different about it.  Days have been kinda hard as of late.  Lots of change, lots of sad.  After a long season of feeling enormously led, even in the tiniest of decisions and steps, this most recent time has been, well, quiet in that department.  Today feels like a new season might be on my horizon - much like my beloved fall, which promises to show itself soon. Today I'm grateful for things that renew my spirit: local music with JC & watching football games smack-dab between Mama D and Spanky & my cuddly puppy & chai tea & the book of Romans.  So grateful.

I don't read Anne Lamott regularly, or even know much about her.  But I stumbled upon something that she shared with her readers today.

"Fifteen years ago, my pastor Veronica said that when she had no clue what direction to take, she imagined standing in a spotlight, as if on stage, and waited, prayerfully, until one more spotlight began to appear nearby. Then she would go stand in that circle of light."

Wow.  I just love that.  Moving from light to light.  Prayerfully considering our next steps, and taking action after the Leader of our hearts has revealed a glimpse of what we're supposed to do.  And using a stage to teach me that?  Well, the tiny dancer in my soul grins because that image must have come from a kindred spirit that needed to learn that lesson, too.  Funny how that works.

I'm going to fight hard against the temptation to take this season into my own hands.  To seek Light, first...not my own understanding.  For now, I'm just waiting, prayerfully.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

slow down easy

I make lists. I love lists. But I'm learning that woman does not live by list alone.  Life calls for self-motivation and intentional planning.  But sometimes I take all that a little too seriously.  Tonight, I'm feeling puny, and I'm just taking a step away from my lists.  Because some days you just have to.  So, I'll lay in my bed, binge watching 80s sitcoms on Netflix while my puppy sleeps next to me and I drink milk from a mug.  And while I'm not necessarily excited about being under the weather, I'm grateful for a night when things slow down, even if it's just for a little while.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

goodbye to 449

In August of 2012, I moved into the most magical little downtown apartment I could have ever imagined.  Complete with exposed brick walls, polished concrete floors, and plenty of character, I quickly turned Apartment 449 into my home.  It was almost effortless, really.  It was like we just got each other - because I am romantic enough to believe that places have personalities.

This sweet little home of mine allowed me to grow up.  I experienced big life changes, made difficult decisions, hosted my first parties, and adopted a puppy here.  I started graduate school and received a Master's degree here.  Jordan picked me up for our first date here.  I accepted my first full time job here.  I learned how to cook [sort of] here.  449 was the place I sipped coffee, had quiet time, watched my favorite movies, and really learned who I am.  And I will be forever grateful for it's cozy, comforting walls.

Leaving 449 was more difficult than I expected.  It was abrupt and quick - and a teary goodbye was given my last night there that nearly broke my heart.  Although that sounds terribly dramatic and I know that a new adventure is just around the corner, there is a bittersweet sadness to leaving your first grown-up home - the one where you really made a place yours for the first time.  But, it is time for me to leave, to find a new nest, only blocks away [more to come on that].  And there is peace in knowing that time is not ours, but belongs to the One who is much wiser than we can ever hope to be.

My prayer as I left 449 was that those who call it home next are welcomed with the same warm embrace I felt my first night there.  That it knows they need a place to call theirs as much as I did.  That they laugh there and find comfort there and share it with all of their friends and family.  That they become regulars at Pete's and Soccer Taco and Cafe 4.  That they call 449 home as quickly as I did.  That they love this special home like no place they've ever known.  And that, when it is time for them to go, it is a bittersweet goodbye.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Millie Pup Comes Home

Well, it's been a long while since I've posted. I'll chalk that up to working and finishing a Master's degree. all that craziness, one of the happiest things of my whole life has happened.  If you know me even a tiny little bit, you know that I have a deep and long lasting love for the canine species.  As a little girl, I barked during my first dance recital, wrote every single creative writing assignment from kindergarten through second grade about a dog, got my family to play 101 Dalmatians with me approximately 9 times a week, you get the idea.  When we got our sweet Holly dog growing up, dreams came true.  And when I went off to college, I was ready for one of my own, but not really. [Spoiler Alert: Dogs are a lot of work and responsibility, and I needed to wait.]  So, for years, I mean YEARS, I have waited patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) for the right time for me to get a pup of my own.  And then for the right pup to come along.  Here is the story of Millie.

I decided earlier in the year that I would get a puppy at the conclusion of my graduate degree.  So, I began looking diligently on  And then I found her. THE dog.  There was this little 4 month old cavapoo puppy [Cavalier King Charles Spaniel + Poodle] that needed a home.  She had been at a pet store, but hadn't been taken care of.  She got sick and rather than taking her to the vet, they were going to just put her to sleep.  East Coast Humane Society heard about this and rescued her.  When I found her online, she had only been in the shelter about half a day - so I applied quickly and was accepted to adopt!  She had to stay at the shelter nearly a month before she was healthy enough to come home.  She had several parasites, Kennel Cough, and infected eyes that would require surgery.  Once she was better, she was transported to Chattanooga where Jordan and I went to pick her up.  It was one of the most joyous things I have experienced.

She was placed in my arms by a very kind man who said, "I believe she belongs to you."  And that was it.  We were officially a pair.  She took to Jordan and me pretty quickly, although she was a little scared and visibly exhausted.  The whole car ride home she took some time warming up to us.  The sweetest moment came when I crawled into the backseat to ride with her.  And she came to sit right beside me, putting her furry paw up on my leg.  And it was in that tiny moment, halfway back to Knoxville, that we both knew we were the right match.

Millie pup has settled in so nicely at home.  And we've gotten to know each other pretty well.  She loves downtown and her fox toy and helping me make my bed (please view the images below).  Oh, and she is basically the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life.  She really is so good.  And she loves people.  She is like a furry little bundle of joy.

So, Millie is the pup I've waited ages for and she's here.  And I think she is pretty happy I'm her person.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

High Five for Friday

I haven't done a High Five for Friday, so in honor of an incredibly great week, here it is.

1.  Saw the guy's acappella group, VOLume, perform in ICCA South's competition last weekend.  They NAILED IT. And placed third in their first ever competition - I mean, it's no big deal.

2.  Snowpocalyse hit scruffy little Knoxville this week.  Possibly the most snow I've seen since the infamous Blizzard of '93.  Trust me, I didn't hate it. Not one bit.

3.  Had an impromptu date night with my main dude at our first date spot.  And they brought me a macaroon with a heart on it. Coincidence?  I think not.


5.  Allow me to brag on Jordan Cross here for a minute.  Upon driving back into Knoxville early Sunday morning on 3 hours of sleep, he brought coffee to me at church because he thought I might be tired.  Let me say that again. [[He thought I might be tired.]] Not sure how I was blessed enough to have this guy ask me on a date a while back, but I sure am he did.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

new years.

So, it's January 30th and I'm just now getting around to posting about my New Year's Resolutions.  Why? Because I wanted to see if I actually stuck with them. It hasn't been perfect, but hey - perfect seems pretty boring to me. So, without further 14 resolutions for 2014.

1. Don't give up on resolutions. I think this one is pretty obvious.  But I am the queen of giving up by January 3rd because I missed a day. Not happening this year.

2. Get healthy. This is not a goal about a magic number on a scale and that makes my heart sing.  This is about lifestyle choices - being active, eating well, learning to cook. So far, so good. Also, Trader Joe's is a gift from above.

3. Tidy up. This has made my life significantly simpler.  At the end of each day, I take about 10 minutes to do things around my apartment that need to be done - folding clothes, organizing my desk, putting away the dishes. Some nights are more effective than others, but I have avoided "cleaning parties" by doing things a little bit at a time.

4. Get fit. Once again, not about weight loss.  Growing up, I danced multiple hours a day just about every day of the week.  I have lost flexibility and stamina and I'm working to get those things back.

5. Don't snooze.  This is the least successful goal so far.  I have a terrible habit of snoozing in the morning.  We're talking SERIOUS separation anxiety with my bed.  I'm gonna get over day...maybe.

6. Make my bed.  I love a clean room.  And a made bed is a large part of that.  I've been pretty diligent about making my bed in the morning and it has made a huge difference.  Such a simple change!

7. Hydrate.  Drink. More. Water. Period. End of story.

8. Read.  Read a book a month. A little behind on my January reading, but I'll catch up!  More to come on my reading list.

9. Be intentional.  I have a lot of dear friends and family who do not live in good ol' Knoxville.  I want to be better about having phone conversations, writing notes, and going on coffee dates. Who doesn't love a resolution that is all about words?

10. Travel.  I just want to go places. This year, I'm traveling to the Big Apple.  It is happening - 100%.

11. Finish projects.  I am the queen of starting something and never getting about to finishing it. So, watch out Pinterest. I'm coming for ya.

12. Be still.  I have not done a great job the last little while about having quiet time.  I want to listen to what God is telling me, but I am terrible about being silent.  I'm looking forward to setting aside time to be in The Word and just be still.

13. Learn calligraphy.  I think calligraphy is a beautiful art and a skill that will be such a fun one to acquire.  I have ordered a "calligraphy how-to" kit and am so excited to write beautiful notes and letters.

14. GET A PUPPY. I can hardly bear how excited I am about this goal.  But come June, there will be a new member of 449 and I could not be more thrilled.  I'll be rescuing and am so excited about what this new adventure has in store!  Until then, you can find me googling all things puppy until the wee small hours of the morning.  How glorious!