Five Notable Lessons I Learned in my 20’s

Well, I’m just over three months shy of turning the big 3-0. I made it through some of life’s greatest struggles, and I learned some life-changing lessons along the way. Some good – some not so good, but, either way, I will take what I’ve learned and try to make the next 10 years even better. These didn’t just pop in my head like one big epiphany one day. There were some lightbulb moments, but, for the most part, these were all gradual realizations that, unfortunately, took two or three tries before I got it right.

We’ve all heard the most popular life lessons: don’t spend more than you make, work hard, do your best, etc. those are important. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of five personal lessons, and, hopefully, it will encourage someone else.

1. Let them see YOU – We are not chameleons meant to camouflage our identity to conform or adapt to everything else around us. Why do we do this? Why did I feel the need to “camouflage”? Maybe for the same reason this fancy lizard does – to avoid the threat of the predator. There’s not enough time in the day to list everything I’ve considered a “predator”, but my point is – I am (and you are) a peculiar creation of God, made perfect in His image. He knows my every thought, desire, dream, my every mistake (and He STILL loves me? YES!!) I’m accepted… By the ONE who matters most. I will be who I was created to be. If someone doesn’t like it – they can take it up with my Father.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them…”
Maya Angelou

2. GIVE YOUR ALL – This one is in all caps because I cannot stress enough how important this is. I’ve always tried to spread myself too thin, and, as a result, I’ve missed out on opportunities – incredible opportunities.

There are people in the world who are prolific authors, songwriters, athletes, on and on. They give their all to (usually) one thing they are passionate about. I cannot tell you how many hobbies, sports, and activities I’ve been involved in, but my biggest regret is that I did not give my all to one thing. I’ve always been a passionate person, and, had I devoted all that passion to one or two things, who knows what I would be doing today. Maybe I would have been a singer, a full-time musician, a softball coach, a doctor (yes, that was a dream at some point), an engineer, a mother, even. For some of those, it’s too late. So, be passionate – not just about specific things – but about life in general. Fall in love with life. Whether your passion is collecting points on Candy Crush or showing your talent in front of large crowds, GIVE IT YOUR ALL.

True story – I had a brief conversation with a man recently who was passionate about (get ready for it) fountain pens. By the end of our conversation, I swear I was ready to dish out $30 for a decent fountain pen. Maybe I’m easily impressed, yes. But this guy was enthusiastic. You may not get “rich” (monetarily speaking) or famous, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you gave your all. Your enthusiasm will be appealing, welcomed. Of course, I’m applying this rule to relationships also, but that will be discussed in a minute.

3. “Let your Yes’ be YES and No’s be NO” – No, I’m not being hypocritical. Like I said, these are lessons I’ve learned; I’m STILL learning. We are taught all our lives that we are supposed to tell the truth. The Bible tells us so, as well as parents, teachers, and those in authority. We may think that in a moment where it seems appropriate, a little white lie benefits us. Trust the one who has, at times, felt like a master manipulator – it DOES NOT, ever, under any circumstance, benefit anyone. All it does is start a domino effect, a snowball of lies and deceit that’s nearly impossible to defuse. You lose credibility, friends, and respect. Here’s an excerpt from a book I’m reading titled Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. The passage is appropriate for almost all of these I’ve listed:

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4. Be anxious over nothing – I really should’ve titled this “Dear Me” because these are things I’m learning the hard way. Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Why is this one of the hardest things to do? Maybe because we (or I,) have felt, at one point or another that I know what’s best for me. Let me tell you – I do not. Everything is not a crisis, and controlling my tongue has proven to be a difficult task, though extremely beneficial.

Everything is a process. For most of us anyway, we just don’t reach our goals overnight. Wake up early, work hard , make money, pay bills, save. By doing those simple things, it makes life a little easier and manageable when the difficult times hit.

5. Love to love… Hard – I mentioned earlier to fall in love with life. Here, however, I am specifically referring to relationships. Though it may be listed last, I find it is most important because the first objective is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’m still working on this one myself. There are days when I feel it is so easy to love God with all my heart when life is going smooth and peachy. What about when someone rams the back of my car and drives off (this happened recently)? Let me tell you, my first thought was not “oh, how I love Jesus”. I’m just being real. In fact, I had to regroup and ask Him for forgiveness for my thoughts, for my words. And, because He loves me so, I’m forgiven. That’s how I want to love Him. That’s how I want to love others – in such a way that I can immediately offer compassion and forgiveness.
Holding onto bitterness only hurts the bitter one. I once heard it put this way, and I like it: it’s like drinking poison and waiting for the person you’re angry at to get sick.

There are far more important issues in life than worrying over someone who doesn’t like you or accept you. So, love people, and have no regrets. As much as I miss my grandmothers, I have no regrets. I know in my heart that they knew how much I loved them. I said it often, yes, but I also showed it. I have a long way to go, but I know if my priorities are to first love God then others as myself, life should be minimally complicated. In fact, I’m assuming it should be very rewarding! After all, how could I ever expect God to forgive me of all my many mistakes if I’m not willing to offer the same to my peers? Impossible.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Catching Up

Wow – what a wild ride it’s been the past few weeks! Everyone said having a new puppy is like having a new baby, and, although I don’t have human children, I see what they mean! Am I just partial to my sweet little fur baby, or is the shih tzu breed one of the best there is?! I’m gonna go with the latter.

On another note, Great Exchange (our band) had a gig tonight, and it was awesome. So many young people worshiping God – blessed me so much! I love my fellow band mates! They’re so incredibly talented.

Welp, I’m gonna go love on my sweet baby, then it’s celebration time in the morning! Before I go – some new shots of Bentley:

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Blessings,

Jennifer

The Haney Project: Need Your Help!

On the three-year anniversary of the disastrous storms that swept through North Alabama, Southern Tennessee, and surrounding areas, residents faced the same threat. The storms in April 2011 devastated lives in our community, leaving people without homes, vehicles, and even family members. The pictures on the news channels did not even begin to depict how detrimental the aftermath of these storms were.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 29, 2014, people in the Tennessee Valley experienced a sense of déjà vu as they watched and prepared for another cluster of powerful storms. I didn’t realize just how powerful they were until I got the news in the middle of the night that some special friends of mine, our minister of music at Church of the Valley, and his family had just lost everything. God, however, protected this sweet family, and as the rooms surrounding them collapsed from trees falling on the roof, the bathroom they were in remained intact. They made it out without a scratch! Praise God for their safety!

Pastor Darrell and Tammy Haney’s home was destroyed, as well as Matt and Christi’s. And since Matt, Christi, and the kids were staying in a family member’s house while preparing to build their own, they lost, not only the house, but all the contents and their vehicles. It was heartbreaking to see these precious people with nothing but rubble left on the ground. Their sweet children, who were so scared, had everything taken from them.

I’ve known this family for more than 10 years, and I know how hard they’ve worked to build a place for people to come together to worship God. Being obedient to The Lord, Pastor Darrell of Grace Falls Church and Simply the Truth Ministries spent long, hard days and nights building the church and a camp for youth. The Grace Falls Church building was leveled in the storms, with nothing left except the slab it was built on. Please seek your heart on what you might be able to do to help this family! The link to a donation sight is at the bottom of this post. Also, here is an excerpt from brother Darrell’s daughter with details on how you can help! Thanks for reading!

“Hello again to all of you. I wanted to pass on more information to you all. My parents have been able to salvage a lot of their clothes today while going through the rubble of the home. They were able to wash the clothes they have found. My brother, sister in law, nephew and niece are the ones with the most lost. Their house was literally emploded and the only think found has been my brother’s passport. The following is information of things that you guys can donate if you would like to donate items. My family has safe housing for now with family and friends. I have friends that have restaurants that are making up all types of food for my family.

Matt – L or XL shirts, pants/shorts are 36×30, and shoes are size 11.

Christi – is 7 months pregnant. I do not know her size and we have been asking for people to look into donating gift cards to target, old navy, or walmart so that she can get maternity clothes.

Carson – is a 5t in clothes and 12 in kids shoes.

Elyse – is a 3t in clothes and 6 in kid shoes.

The kids have lost all of their toys and stuffed animals. They love books, puzzles, coloring and art stuff.

Carson is into super heroes right now and loves all the Marvel Avengers. He loves sports and plays baseball. He also likes to play with hot-wheels.

Elyse loves Minnie Mouse and Callie the sheriff of the Wild West on Disney Junior. She loves babies, books, and to color.

Anything that you all are able to do financially or with items is greatly appreciated. You can contact me for a mailing address via cell (931-625-5112) or via email (cmhgators@gmail.com)

Thank you all again for so much!”
– By Christy Haney

Click HERE to donate!

Blessings,

Jennifer

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From Grief to Acceptance and Hope

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Dedicated to four of my heroes that became my angels: Oval Leon McClure (“Pappy”), Betty Jean Lyons (“Mommaw”), Joy Maude McClure (“Granny”), and J.R. Pinder (cousin).

I was reluctant to write a post on grief because I know so many people who have lost parents, siblings, spouses, and even their own child. I didn’t feel that my grief even compared to others’. In just a matter of 12 months, my world, as I knew it, changed.

May 12, 2011 – I can distinctly remember where I was sitting in my living room, who was there, and what I was doing when the dreaded phone call came. The voice on the other end was my uncle Mike, mom’s twin. “It’s mom”, he said. Without hesitation, we knew what that meant. Mommaw’s heart had been giving her trouble for a couple years now, and we knew it was weak, but we didn’t expect this to happen. Not yet.

Mommaw was one of my very best friends in the world. I was her baby. She was my angel, my hero. There was nothing in this world this precious soul would not do for me. I can remember being about 8 years old and wanting to learn to play piano. Mommaw had this really nice, almost antique, piano (that she played well, I might add). I believe she played it every day, as long as her back wasn’t hurting too bad. When I would go visit, she would always play for me and ask me to sing for her. As I got older, she ALWAYS requested the song, “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy” (a song that I would later sing at her funeral). She would cry, almost weep, every time she heard that song. She knew where she was going when she left this earth. She knew when she took her last breath, she was going to be with Jesus, her mother, her husband who passed away at 30 years old, and so many more. Whether or not it sounded good, she always made me feel like I was the most special girl in the world, and she made me feel like a star. Back to the piano story though. As much as she loved her piano, the moment I told her I wanted a piano, she had my grandfather load it up in his truck and take it to my house. Completely selfless. Gosh, I admire how selfless she lived. I could go on and on with stories about my sweet Mommaw.

I mentioned my grandfather (mom’s dad) passing away when he was just 30. Mom and her twin were just 4 years old, and their sister Deb was a few years older. He had been diagnosed with cancer. In his final days, he became incoherent and bed ridden. In weeks, he hadn’t spoken a clear word. He was in a coma. One day, he crashed. He was dead. Doctors and nurses did their thing and brought him back for a moment. What he said next would change the hearts of family that was in the room, as well as the doctors and nurses. Now, remember I said he hadn’t spoken a clear word in weeks. After he was revived, he said, “Why did you bring me back? I saw The Lord waiting to take me home.” He took my sweet Mommaw by the hand and said, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry I won’t be with you to help raise the babies, but The Lord is going to take care of you.” Then, he said the sweetest prayer and passed away. This happened 19 years before I was even born, and it changed my life. It also changed the lives of his brother, who accepted Christ as his savior in that very hospital room. It changed the lives of the staff who witnessed this miracle.

Back to the night Mommaw passed. I had never watched anyone die before my eyes, and seeing the paramedics unsuccessfully administering CPR, I felt so helpless. She was gone, and I didn’t get to tell her goodbye. I spent nearly the whole year prior visiting her as much as possible, but it still didn’t feel like enough time. I held my precious momma, who had just lost her best friend in the world. From the time mom was little, these two were inseparable. Mommaw was her rock. OUR rock.

When I think about how much it hurts that Mommaw, Granny, and JR are no longer with us in flesh, that story gives me the strength I need to get through. They are with Jesus! As my precious mom puts it – they have gone on the best vacation of their lives, and we GET to go, too! They just got there first.

January 15, 2012 – Only 10 months after losing my sweet Mommaw, my Granny passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for a couple years. She was such a fighter. Granny was probably one of the toughest women I’d ever known. She fought hard up until her last couple days on earth. Granny loved the company of her family more than anything else. She loved having people around – the more, the merrier. In fact, just 3 months before she passed away, she was recorded on home video dancing on a cruise ship. She was so full of life and joy. And that was her name – Joy. She could make anyone laugh no matter the situation. Her final moments on earth perfectly portrayed the influence she had on the people she loved. Two nights before she passed, she was surrounded in her own living room by family and friends who loved her dearly. It was the sweetest time, as we sang hymns around her bed and, one by one, hugged her and said our goodbyes. She could hardly speak or move her head, but she had joy even then. She, too, knew where she was going when she took her final breath. I said she could make people laugh during any situation, and, well, her final moments were no exception. We asked her what song she wanted us to play and sing, and her response? “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” We laughed, even then, and sang the song about her. As the time seemed to dreadfully draw nearer to her passing, as everyone was sobbing and saying goodbye, she called for my uncle Kevin and whispered something in his ear. On the edge of our seats, and as silence swept across that living room, he began to laugh. “What did she say?” seemed to be what everyone was asking. “She wants me to get that picture Jennifer drew of Ross”. Now, if you know my family, this is so funny because at the moment of saying goodbye and singing hymns over sweet granny, she was thinking of this silly picture I drew of my uncle. She filled so many hearts with joy and love, and everyone who knew her loved her. She joined her husband, my sweet pappy (who died when I was 5), in heaven on January 15, 2012.

March 21, 2012 – Dad called home from church that night. The following words cut through like a dull knife: “JR was in a wreck and didn’t make it”. “JR? OUR JR? JR Pinder?” was all that I could manage to utter. It sounds cliche, but it truly did seem like a nightmare. So surreal, so unexpected. Although we are never prepared, we know at some point in life that we will bury parents, grandparents, and even spouses. What’s NEVER expected is to bury a child. My cousins, Jeremy and Ginger Pinder, faced the most difficult tragedy one could possibly face – the loss of their 16 year old son, JR Pinder.

I remember the day Ginger found out she was pregnant with her first born, JR. My dad called his sister, Debbie, in the Bahamas to congratulate her on becoming a grandma for the first time – so much joy and excitement in her voice over the phone. The day JR was born, I remember he had the cutest big cheeks, bright blue eyes, and a big pacifier in his mouth. I hardly remember seeing him without it, as a baby. Then, as Stevie (my brother) was born, then Chase, these three boys were practically inseparable. JR looked after the younger boys, and, although they had their disagreements, they loved each other. They looked out for each other. His sister, Kaitlyn, was born a few years later, and you could see so much love pouring out of JR for his baby sister. He looked out for her, and it was evident. JR was always smiling, telling jokes, and making people laugh. He was so full of life and good at everything he did – golf, basketball, baseball, hunting, fishing, etc. He was passionate. He was also passionate about Jesus, his Savior, and he wasn’t ever ashamed to let people know.

I cannot fathom the grief that Jeremy and Ginger face as the parents of this precious boy; however, they have put all of their hope in Jesus and the fact that they WILL see him again soon. He’s with his Creator, and he’s much better off than any one of us.

The deaths of these special individuals in my life have certainly changed me. There’s always the thoughts: What I would give to hold them, or, If I could just get a glimpse of them in heaven. But, I have Hope, and his name is Jesus Christ. For He is holding them now, and there’s nowhere else they would rather be. The One who holds them now is the very One who gave His only Son to be tortured and beaten to death so that we could be with Him in heaven. God the Father knows what this kind of loss feels like.

I’ve said many times since these precious people have passed that I would give anything to have them back for just a day. How selfish am I? They’re in no pain, have no sadness, and are with Jesus in a place of everlasting joy, and I’m wishing them to come back!? I know it’s not that unusual to have feelings like that, but the best way I can honor them is to be and do everything God would have me to do. I have a peace that surpasses ALL understanding and an excitement in my heart because I will get to join them one day when my life here is done!

I hope this has been encouraging for anyone who has experienced grief and loss.

To Jesus – I dedicate my life. To Pappy, Mommaw, Granny, and JR – I do it in your honor.

Here are some pictures of my angels:

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Forget the Frock…

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Feed an orphan!

At Church of the Valley, we support an organization that is making a huge impact across the world (forgetthefrock.org if you want to check it out). In a nutshell, the Forget the Frock idea is simple: instead of going out and buying all the fancy Easter “get up”, as we say in the south, you spend about $20 that goes to feed starving children. AND you get to pick out a t-shirt.

Being a drummer in church, forgetting the frock for me is not too much of a sacrifice since I haven’t even bought a new Easter dress in about 2 decades (Wow – that makes me sound old. I’m not quite 3 decades old yet, ok?). I can’t exactly play drums in a dress anyways! So, without further ado, here’s my awesome T-shirt:

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Again, if you decide to take part, the website is http://forgetthefrock.org.

Signing off for now,

Jennifer

Side Note…

Being a beginner at blogging, I realized I had a lot to say! No surprise there, I guess! But, I thought this was worth sharing. The ONLY reason I want to maintain this blog is to share Christ and hopefully encourage others. With that being said, the last thing I want to do is lead anyone to believe I am, as the phrase goes, “holier than thou”. In fact, I am a sinner – saved by grace in my savior, Jesus Christ. I’m a girl who has probably caused more harm in this world than good. I’ve had my “pet sins” and secret sins. I’ve done unimaginable things in the sight of God. I’ve lived a double standard, and I’ve hurt people. BUT, my soul is willing and ready to give it ALL to the only One who paid the ultimate price for those sins.

With both feet, I’m diving in!

Blessings,

Jennifer

David Platt’s ‘Radical’ Challenge

So, I’m reading the book, Radical, by David Platt, and WOW – I’ve been convicted. All along I’ve been taught money, success, a house with a white picket fence, a husband and 2.5 kids was living the American Dream. Isn’t that what we’ve been taught the American Dream is? Well, maybe so, but if it contradicts what God’s Word tells me, then I’ve been going about it all wrong.

Not that I believe that having nice things is a bad thing – but if I ignore the lost and poor of this world to pursue MY selfish hopes and dreams, then I’m not in God’s will. And, especially in this day and time, in His will is where I need, where I LONG to be. I’ve heard people ask questions such as, “How could a loving God allow so many people in this world to go starving, homeless, live in orphanages, etc?” I don’t have that answer, but God’s word does, and it tells us that WE, as His people, are put on this earth to abandon ourselves and live as Christ lived – feeding the hungry and poor and ministering to the lost and broken. Jesus Christ – along with 12 disciples – changed this world in the short time He was here. What if we all, as Christians, followed in His footsteps? How would that impact the world? I believe that’s the answer to those questions I’ve heard.

I’m going to leave you with an excerpt from Radical.

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God bless, and thanks for reading!

-Jennifer