Month: September 2015

Close Encounters: Jenn

Today, we are beginning a new guest series: Close Encounters. We all, at some point in our lives, cross paths with someone who changes us. Perhaps they change our perspective or our circumstance. Maybe we can’t exactly pinpoint the change, but we know we are different because of that person. Through these stories, we will step into these moments with each other. 

Meet Jenn. I had the joy of serving with Jenn in college as a Breakaway Ministries volunteer. She has a tender heart and loves well. She lets people in, even when it is difficult. Over the last several months, I have watched from the sidelines as she has let little loves into her home and her heart. It has been a beautiful journey to watch and she was so gracious and eager to share her close encounter with us all. me and sim

In her own words: My name is Jenn and I am a Texas-born gal who is now living in sunny SoCal.  I am a wife to
a creative VFX artist as well as a foster mother to two littles who have moved into their forever families.  I am a lover of coffee, adventure, fitness, people and sharing stories of how I see the magnificence of Jesus in the mundane things of life

Sixteen months ago a little girl showed up at my apartment and would change my life forever.  She was three months old at the time and came through our front door in the arms of her social worker with two grocery sacks of belongings.

We took Little Girl as an emergency placement and anticipated having her for six months.  She had already been through more challenges in her three-month life than I had been through in my twenty-nine years and we were eager to love her.

However, when Little Girl came into our lives, she would not look us in the eyes.  She cried more when we picked her up.  She had an expressionless face and shared no smiles.  Each time we tried to love her, it was rejected.

Several weeks later, when she woke up, I went in to get her.  Rather than scooping her up right away, I stopped and smiled at her through the crib.  She, for the first time, smiled back.  I made a silly face and she smiled more.  As we smiled through the crib bars that morning, I saw a little girl who was actually accepting love.  And it brought me to tears.

I don’t quite know how it is possible in a three-month old mind to comprehend grief, tragedy and hardship.  Or how it is possible in just 210 days to already know how to push away love if you’ve never experienced it.  But as I watched her that morning, I thought about how many of us do that very same thing.  How many times I’ve only loved or received love through the insulated barriers I’ve come up with to protect my heart.

That moment in the crib did not change everything right away.  But slowly we learned how to love her in a way she understood.  It was two months before she looked me in the eyes, even when I was feeding her.  Through labor, tears and the grace of Jesus, things began to change.

We got to have Little Girl in our home for 14 months.  And as we launched her into her forever family, we were shocked at how far God had taken her.  She was expressionistic, funny, and joyful. She would laugh, play with others, and give kisses.  We had watched as God broke down barriers in her heart and taught her that she was safe.

I feel like Little Girl did more for me than I ever did for her as her foster mama.

She taught me to love even when it hurts.

She taught me that sometimes love actually doesn’t come naturally, even for your children.  But, when love takes work, it almost feels richer.

She taught me that sometimes you have to love others through bars and that kind of love can actually demolish the bars residing in our hearts.

She taught me that love does conqueror all.

Most importantly, she taught me how vital it is to let myself be loved by Jesus and love others out of that transformative, powerful Love.

The Road Trip

General wisdom would tell you that it isn’t a good idea to get into a car with women you met online. There is, of course, the matter of safety. After all, you might end up dead on the side of the road. But, aside from that, there is the near guarantee of sheer awkwardness.

Hours in the car with women you know from the internet? Sharing a small house, that has one bathroom, with 9 other women? And a party with 200 plus whom you have only interacted with on Facebook? It just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

And yet…

Last weekend, I went on an adventure. I took a road trip with my internet community. 5 of us caravanned to Austin and we were later joined by 5 others in our tiny house. Together, the ten of us went to a backyard party with 200 other women. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Community has been difficult for me the past two years. I don’t share that so you will throw me a pity party. (I’ve thrown enough of my own over it and they aren’t the best sort of parties.) It has caused me to review my years on this planet and examine the communities of which I have had the joy of being a part. There are many flashes of healthy friendships, strong community, but that’s the thing. Those moments feel like flashes in the pan. Just little sparks of hope in the midst of something that seems more often than not to be difficult and painful.

It isn’t anyone’s fault. It is everyone’s fault. Mine too. It’s our brokenness. It’s our looking to others to make us feel whole. And it’s no one’s fault. We live in a transient culture. People don’t stay put. Interests change, seasons change, locations change. This has always been one of the most difficult realities for me to grasp. It began in college. I had friends one semester who I never saw the next. I hated it. I thought it would end after graduation. I was wrong. Now, seasons seem to change a bit slower, no longer semester by semester. However, it also takes longer to bond with adult peers than it did with college peers. Everyone has routines, responsibilities, and reputations to uphold. We don’t let people in very quickly.

So I have been in a season of isolation, and it has been wrecking me. But then I joined this launch team. Large groups of women generally make me want to run and hide. So much estrogen. Lord bless us. And internet community? …well that isn’t a real thing, right? I figured I would read a book, get a glimpse into the mind of an author I highly respect, and that would be it. A great experience, but contained within my own walls, within a few months.

Instead, I have found this community. Women who have loved me in the biggest ways. Women who have lived the gospel. Sacrifice for the others, crying tears over someone else’s pain, and then throwing the best girls’ weekend of all time.

On Friday morning, the first crew of 5 went to South Congress after a fantastic lunch at The Salt Lick. We knew some other of the launch team ladies would be there but how to find them…we had no idea. We parked and headed to the crosswalk, and just across the street, we saw them…another crew. Y’all, you would have thought we were childhood friends reuniting. We were screaming and hugging. Oh yeah, and introducing ourselves. When does that happen? When was the last time you saw someone you didn’t really know and had a little street corner party?

And these women! That day, the clerks at the TOMS store were invited to North Dakota, to game night, to church. A group of women exiting a store found themselves in the middle of a launch team street corner party and asked if they could hang out with us because we were so fun. And they did! It was Annie’s birthday so we celebrated with her! And there were other stories too. I had feared it would crumble when we moved beyond the screen into real life. Instead, I watched this weird grace spill out into the streets of Austin. And it was beautiful.

Then there was a real party. We gathered in the yard of the woman who had given us this gift. She introduced us to her family, she hugged our necks, she spoke to each of us as though she knew exactly who we were. And this generous, kind person asked us to be her friends not fans. She was precious. And while I am certain we would be magnificent friends, I am also certain that she and I will never be the dubsmashing*, text for no reason, sit on the porch and spill your guts and laugh till you cry, kind of friends. Even still, it was the words God gave her, the dream that began in her heart, that gave me those kinds of friends.

Why has it been so different? Why is it that as women (and men?), we can walk into a small group at a church with every intention of building deep friendships and end up feeling more lonely and more disconnected than ever? Why is it that that we can extend ourselves to the outer edges of our souls in the name of connecting as we know we were created to and yet, feel as though we have been speaking into a void? But then, this. No hope for relationship, no plans to connect with anything more than written words and BAM! community.

I think perhaps it is about expectation. Most of us tend to go to small groups expecting to find friends. We expect to find The Church as it should be. But she isn’t. We aren’t as we should be. We are all grasping for worth from our community. And it never works. Maybe, just maybe, this launch team led to community because none of us expected it. We just came in, ready to have a little personal adventure and it became more. It surprised us. In the very best way.

We have already begun planning our next trip. Perhaps we will visit our friend in North Dakota.

Wondering what dubsmash is? Well, here you go: