Living out Loud

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Dinner plans. Presents. What you had for lunch. Ultrasound pics. Dogs and cats. Kids and siblings. Special dates. Drama. Opinions. Thoughts. Feelings. Feel good moments. Steak dinner. Errand list. Complaints. Travel plans. What you’re reading. What you’re wearing. What you’re doing.

All of it, lived out on social media.

Before I go on, I want to give y’all full disclosure and say that I am guilty, guilty, guilty. I even have some examples that I will entertain you with later.

Everyday, we all log on and putting our best foot forward, spill tidbits of our lives, share pictures that represent the best of us, and create this painting for our friends and enemies alike of what our lives should look like from the outside.

Here’s an example. If you got through my page, you’ll see posts like this:

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I LOVED that day. We had just got our first Sam’s club card and we were like little kids on Christmas morning, holding hands and pattering down each and every aisle, laughing at the oversized portions and acting like goofs. It was a beautiful moment and a wonderful day, and as soon as I came home (or maybe in route to home to be honest) I decided to share it with my 637 Facebook friends. Why?

Maybe because it was a moment worth sharing, but I think more so because it was a pretty picture of my life at that moment. If you crept up to my window and peeked in, that is what I would want you to see. And really, that’s what Facebook allows us to do. It gives us warning that you are coming over, so we can tidy up our house and put out the fine china.  It gives us control over what others see and let’s us paint a picture that we want, that may or may not mirror reality.

My husband and I DO have a fantastic marriage, but it’s not all hand holds in the grocery store and love cuddles on the sofa. What marriage is? But you won’t see much of the posts where I say “Went shopping with my husband and argued over which bread to get for an hour. Why can’t he just embrace wheat bread? Why should I have to get white bread?” That’s not what I want you to see, because it’s not what I want to see myself.

I worry about living our lives out loud. That we get so caught up in posting pictures and status’s that we are forgetting to LIVE the moment, cherish it in our hearts for ourselves, not everyone else.

I worry about the reassurance and constant approval we are learning to rely on. How many likes? How many comments? Look at the ring he got me for my birthday, does it meet your approval? Are you jealous? Is my life desirable?

My life’s aim is to make my life approved by one man, and that is God. He doesn’t buy into the rose-colored pictures and status, but see’s the core of who I am. He seems the ugly in my life and loves me just the same. I don’t need to put my best forward for Him, but instead, His love strives me to be better.

I ask you to take a challenge with me. It’s scary and seems a bit crazy, but I think we can do it.

I am taking the next 30 days to live my life for me, to cherish my moments and keep them banked in my own heart.  I am going to be free and messy and me without status updates and pictures. With full disclosure, I will still use Facebook to talk to friends and to post blog things, but nothing personal. Are you in?

Let me know if you will take my challenge too!

With Love and Prayers,

Jenny

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Why I won’t go Home

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I was born and raised in the great city of Pittsburgh, a city I love, a city I stand for. It doesn’t take long into first meeting me that I start to gush about my hometown. I love the sports, the black and gold nation of Steelers, Penguins and Pirates and their fans. I love the bridges that are snapped in like Legos over the still rivers that line a beautiful skyline.  I love the people, a small town demeanor in a big city lifestyle.

Pittsburgh is my home, and I miss it everyday. It’s been almost 6 years since I have lived in it’s billowing comforts, but I know I won’t ever live there again.

I know that I won’t ever go home.

Since my move away from Pittsburgh, I have lived in many places and have been willing to move whenever I felt like I needed or wanted a change or whenever I felt God calling me somewhere. But, I have never once thought of living back in Pittsburgh.

If you have been a reader from awhile, you know that my upbringing didn’t foster a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings in my life. I grew up in a family that defines dysfunction and there are wounds from it that are still barely scabbed over. Unfortunately, those pains hang over my beloved city like an inescapable chill. A visit there doesn’t bring me the same comforts that it used to, but instead attempts to claw at my healing and rips away old wounds while creating a halt to my moving forward.

This is a very hard balancing act, because I have two younger brothers that I love more than life itself in that city. I have an aunt that became like a mother to me, took me in when my mom threw me out like the garbage and she raised me like her own. I have a step-dad that is an important male figure in my life and who has never once treated me like anything but his daughter. There are friends, best friends, that helped me through the hell of those rough years and the pain afterwards.

In other words, in the darkness of that pain, there is so much light.

In a way, Pittsburgh is just a metaphor for the life we live everday. There is pain and darkness, hurt and sadness. There are open wounds that we try and cover over each day, hoping that in time they will heal and the sting of life won’t hurt quite as much.

But, in those moments there is light. There is a God to lean on, to provide us strength and healing like nothing else can. There are friends and family that guard our hearts and build us back to being stronger than we ever were before.

I won’t ever live in Pittsburgh again, but the longer I let my hometown stay besieged by the pain, the more power I give that pain, and the people that caused it. The more I shield myself from the darkness, the more I miss the light.

Part of this move to Maryland was to be closer to the people I love in the city I call home, and yet here I am dragging my feet afraid to open the door.

I will visit and see the people I love. And I will look at the foundation that sits in between the rivers, and think about sitting in it’s midst on hot summer days studying for finals. I will remember the good I achieved there, the non-profit I started, Hearts and Crafts, that partners the Art Institute with children at Children’s hospital. The Habitat work that lead me to New Orleans and ultimately Mississippi. The people that shaped my life, the road that lead me to who I am now.

I won’t see the clouds, but the light shining through.

Is there something you can’t face for fear of pain?  Please let me know how I can pray for you.

Jenny

Step One

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Hello, Small, Still Family! I have missed y’all and this project very much over the last month! As you can see we are back and blessed to have three new voices on board and I am thrilled!

Since I last posted, we have made the trek from Mississippi to Maryland! It was a two day drive with just what we could pile into our SUV. It may sound crazy, but I love packing light. When I moved to Mississippi to do disaster relief four years ago, I moved with just two suitcases. For some it might sound impossible, but for me it made me prioritize what was important in my life. I don’t need 12 pair of shoes to survive, I can  make it with two. I don’t need a rainbow of cardigans, a few standard colors will work.

For my sometimes hoarding husband, it was harder. He bonds with things, attaches memories to them. Right now, in our under-construction home, I am typing next to three pieces of driftwood he grabbed from the place we got engaged. He has a sweet heart, so how can I argue with that? But those ideals weren’t going to get us 1,200 miles in an SUV, so we had to learn to pick our favorites.

I guess that is the theme of our live right now, shedding the excess. As you all know we are in the process of hitting the road as full time missionaries. In my impulsive, do-it-now attitude, I thought we’d make our cross country move, drop our stuff and head straight to New York/New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy hit.

In reality, that just isn’t how it works.

Patience is not a virtue I hold dearly. When I decided I would move to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to do disaster relief, I was gone within two weeks. I was raised in a family that never left the 20 miles radius of my grandmother’s house, so Mississippi to them may as well of been Mars. I felt the call, I went, and I didn’t think too much about the rest.

This worked when it was just me, and my few possession in the early days of my 20’s, but I am realizing it’s a bit different now. I am married, and we acquire things that matter, things that need to make the move. It’s not just my stuff that I can toss away, it’s my husbands and his memories. We have a dog now, and he has things. A life starts to gain value with this acquisitions, if only in love and memories. It’s true, when I look over at those pieces of driftwood that I swore were a waste, I smile. I think back to my husband on bended knee on a swaying bridge overlooking the water. It takes me there.

We also have debt. Student loans, car loans, bills. Even with our move to a small home build on his dad’s land, we still have obligations to this world financially.

We want to raise a family.

My life suddenly lacked the mobility it once had.

So, I am calling this phase step one.

We made the move, across country and are settling and working on our half-constructed home. (Plumbing as soon as it stops snowing for more than 15 minutes)

We are finding work to pay off our debt and to save for our dreams.

We are going to finish college, while doing missionary work.

I used to think I had to chose, I had to pick all or nothing. God has shown me the beauty in the middle road, the road where I can have all the things I dream while living out all the plans he has for my husband and I.

When I am frantic, God is calm. When I am planning, God is waiting. When I get discouraged, God is my encourager.

Through this season, Step one, God is preparing us. And I am learning to be ok with that.

With love,

Jenny

“You are not Called”

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Photo by: Marc Falardeau’s, Flickr Creative Commons

My countdown has begun, and the closer our moving date gets, the more solid our calling ingrains in our hearts. The negative voices get small, the doubts become hushed, and the voice of my Lord  is all I can hear. Every moment lately has solidified our decision and our calling.  God has answered the doubts, and in a way that is bigger than anything I could of thought.

A week ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine here and she flat out told me something, in her blunt way, that we were not called. Those were her words, “I don’t think you are called.” Because it came from someone close to me, it rocked me a bit. She used my past, my lack of foundation in my childhood and tried to use it to prove that this was psychological, not spiritual. I spent a night deep in tears, praying and trying to sort out my fears and if this voice telling me to go was God, or just me.

The very next morning, I got a message from an amazing friend that I had the privilege of serving with in Nashville after the floods a few years back. She was calling to tell us she wanted to sponsor us monthly. We hadn’t asked for a single thing yet, haven’t put up a website or donation information, but she picked this day, when my heart was troubled, to be our first monthly sponsor. God answered.

And since that morning, God has revealed himself in moments big and small to assure our hearts and direct us on the path we are called for.

When we went to the dentist a week ago to try and get our checkups in order before we hit the road, we found out that Kurt needed an emergency root canal that day. I was beyond stressed, adding up the money in my head against our other monthly payments and trying to make it add up. I didn’t need to do that though, because God had already added it for us. Our dentist called ahead to the specialist and told him about our future plans in missionary work, specifically going where Sandy just hit, and he did the entire procedure for nothing more than the insurance would cover. We didn’t pay a dime out of pocket.

And today we are having our wisdom teeth out, oral surgery for both of us that has been payed for by the kindness of our doctors and a God that is paving our way.

Now, there are moments in our day where instead of looking at one another with worry, a unspoken “Are we making the right decision?” in our eyes, we say out loud with joy “How amazing is it that God chose us?!”

God chose us to do something that lines up perfectly with our hearts and our passion. He will use us and guide us and for every negative comment or doubtful looks, He will answer them in a big and powerful way.

I am so excited, so happy to make this our life, and so content and happy in the arms of protection of my Lord and Savior.  Thank you all for your support, your comments, your calls and your prayers. I want you to know how much that fuel us, give us power and confidence in this uncertain road ahead of us.

With more love than you’ll ever know,

Jenny

Day in the Life of Jenny

Hey Y’all it’s”Day in the Life” week! It’s nice to share our lives with you and give you a peak into our daily hustle and bustle!

6:00 am : Alarm goes off, I hit snooze and ignore my sweet pup looking at me with “I have to pee” eyes.

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6:20am: Finally get up, get my coffee brewing and let the dog out. I usually let him run around the yard and check the perimeter while I shower and get ready. He comes in after peeing on every surface bordering our house. I usually check out She Reads Truth if I haven’t hit snooze too many times! It’s an online bible study with an amazing group of woman. If I miss it in the morning, I hit it in the evening! This morning, it was an evening check.

8:00am: Arrive at my first school and start setting up!

december 004This is a picture of the boards I use. I tutor kids who have dyslexia, and so these boards are used to enable different learning styles to overcome these difficulties. By using the tiles, they are thinking out their spelling choices, taking their time, and also using tactile skills. We also talk ALOT! They tell me what they are going to do before they do it, since talking is actually how a lot of children with dyslexia learn.

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Every single concept of English is broken down into easier to understand parts. There are memory techniques for each “rule” and we spend a ton of time learning and working with sounds.

The second half of the session is reading/writing on paper, but I keep it green and use a small dry erase board.

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10am- Leave my first school and head to see two more students at my next school. I tutor each child for an hour, twice a week, one on one. It lets me work on each strengths and weaknesses and a very friendly atmosphere. A lot of my kids are bullied or picked on because of their difficulties, so with me, they are praised and loved on as much as possible!

12:30pm:  Along the way to my next school is my house, so I always stop in for 15 minutes to let my dog out and give him some love and attention. I usually grab a few bites to eat quickly and maybe some coffee if my day is dragging!

 

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Love that sweet face!

3pm: I am done for the day! Over the week, I tutor 13 kids in three different schools and at afterschool tutoring at our center. Today though, my day is done at 3, so I make my way home!

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I come home to this. He sits in the window and just waits for us to come home! Sweet little dog, you have my heart!

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Since my husband is working, I steal a few hours on the computer writing. Besides this beautiful project, I just started contributing to another blog, A Marathon to Lose, where I talk about my fitness and clean eating habits journey that I am embarking on! Missionaries need to be fit, y’all! I am also working on a book manuscript and a collection of short stories. What can I say, I like to write! I also am working on our missionary website and researching like crazy! I can spend 2-3 hours easily a day here!

6pm: Dinner! Tonight was embarrassingly bits and pieces put together. I had a small salad, some soup, a handful of almonds, and a string cheese. If my husband works, I usually don’t cook for just me.

7pm: Time to pick up my husband! We have one car so I take him in the morning, sometimes earlier than he needs to be or I try and get him there in between my schools. Now, it’s time to pick him up, so I grab the dog and my kindle and head over to Best Buy.

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He knows as soon as we pull into the parking lot and waits for daddy to come out!

Husband comes out, and we go home to a lazy night reading or watching tv before heading to bed. I usually go to bed earlier than him, because I love my sleep and no one wants to be around me when I don’t get a good 8 hours. He’ll stay up and watch shows I hate or playing on the computer or xbox.

That’s it y’all. That’s a normal day in my life, and I have to stay, I am kind of in love with my job and my life in general.

Thanks for taking a peek into my world!

Love,

Jenny

Numbers

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Photo credit: Anniehp

 

 

In case you missed it, my husband and I have decided to become full time missionaries in disaster relief this coming new year. The decision was a long time coming and one that once made, felt so peaceful and right that we knew we had made the right decision. There hasn’t been a day since we decided a month ago that we regret it or have rethought it.

That said, there have definitely been a few days where the “How will this work?” have been harder to swallow than others. Friends and family members hit us with questions daily about funding, stability, expenses, and everything in between on how this will work. Their voices are desperately trying to come across with love and support, but their doubts speak loudly in the brief pauses of their questions.

Most days, we are full of confidence and answer the best way we can, “We don’t know, but God does and we trust in Him fully.” We stand on this statement, we find peace and comfort and this statement, and our hearts are on fire with this statement. For some it’s enough, they get it. But for others, there are sideways glances, a puzzled look in their eyes and a worry in their “Well, Good Luck”.

I get it. This is crazy. But God loves crazy! He loves big steps, glorious dreams, things that seem impossible that we dare to try because it shows a complete and utter confidence in Him. It’s like being a kid again, when you are asked what you want to be and you answer BIG

“President”

“Olympic gold medalist”

“Doctor”

“Astronaut”.

We were able to answer big because we hadn’t learned real fear yet. We didn’t know that there was a cap on dreams, that our answers were crazy. We didn’t know that those things might not be in our grasp. We only knew the world our parents build for us. We knew the comfort and security in our homes and thought the world was exactly the same. We thought our dreams carried over into the real world.

That is the same comfort we find in Jesus, and in a God that loves and holds our dreams in his hands. We can dream big with God, because he will answer even bigger.

There is a notebook I have that I am keeping all of our ideas and notes in. The first page is all numbers. Numbers that when taken alone, can bring me to my knees in fear. They can cause my heart to drop, my eyes to swell with apprehension, and my head to fill with the looks and words of doubts that I have heard around us.

They are numbers of what it will take to survive. How much we need each month. How much we need to get a pull along trailer to extend our time on the road. How many miles we will cover. How many people we need to get behind us to make the money add up.

They are scary numbers.

But, above all the numbers, in the vast white space on the top margin,  is one thing :“No number is too big for God”.

It helps me look at that page and add to it without aversion. To see it and believe in it, that while it is too big for me, it is never big enough for God.

I trust in my God, and just like a kid, I will dream with the same virtue and bravery. I will speak with conviction and a full faith that while yes, this path that we are on is too big for us, that God is smiling on us and is ready to do big things through us.

Your prayer in these times fuel me, your support is like music in our lives right now. Please, keep us in your thoughts and prayers as our weeks wind down here and our new chapter begins!

Love,

Jenny

Big News

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 I have talked a lot lately about decisions my husband and I have been making about the road we are on, about tough choices and where our future was going to take us.

I’m happy to announce that over much though and prayer we have made a decision.

As of the second week of January, my husband and I will be on the road as full-time missionaries, helping after disasters. Our first trip will be to the areas just hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Our dream has ALWAYS been to live a simple life, traveling from city to city and helping people rebuild their lives after a disaster. However, as our lives continued to play out, our dream kept getting put on the back burner. Which is truthfully just a kinder way of saying “We were too scared”.

And we still are scared. There are so many unknowns when you follow your heart and listen to God’s plan for you. You have to trust fully in him to provide for you, to clear the path and that in the toughest of times, He is with you. That is easy to say, and something we wish we embraced 100%, but the fact is that it is scary to not have control. We surrender to Him completely and have learned over the years that in the areas where we think we have control, we don’t.

Even as we begin to tell close family and friends of our decision, the questions came up quickly..

How will you get money?

Where will you live?

How will you support it?

The answer: God. God will provide, and while I used to say this answer with an hint of a shakiness in my voice, I can now say it with confidence. God will provide.

For now, we are closing our chapter here in Mississippi, saying good-bye to people and jobs we love. We will pack up and move the last week of December to Kurt’s hometown, drop our stuff and spend some much needed time with our families, and then hit the road.

We hope to get a website up and speak to church’s for support. One day, we want to have an RV so we can stay out longer and go further and further. Our hopes seem so big, so scary, but are nothing to God who will use us and take us further than even we can imagine now.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers, for your continued support as we make these decisions.

We are so excited to be living out God’s plan for us and to be able to spread his love and hope in this country!

 

Love,

Jenny