Posted in authenticity, discipline, encouraging women, expectations, grace, isolation, loving God with your mind, spiritual growth, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

What did I expect?

It all started with a little conversation with a woman who embraces life with gusto. We found out our birthdays are one day and 11 years apart. She asked me what I had planned for my birthday. She had 3 separate parties planned. I said, “Wow! We don’t really have high expectations for birthdays.”

Then, I thought back to my 35th birthday when I took it upon myself to grab life by my rules. I was embracing the fact that we were at the end of our quest for fertility, and I said, “I am throwing myself a dinner party and will choose to celebrate!” After the prior conversation, I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would take charge of making something happen on my birthday this year instead of being passive. Life is what you make it, right?

Well, I tried to make it. I decided we would go out with some friends of ours for a birthday dinner. I sought out babysitters. One by one, no one was available. And then, I began writing this script in my head. (Spoiler alert: this is why you do NOT practice having unexpressed expectations .)

Expect: to consider probable or certain; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; preparing/envisioning for—Hope; anticipate, await

I said…”well, we can work on a girl’s night.” However, guess what I had envisioned in my head? It went a little something like this: Greg had really scheduled one of these babysitters “who couldn’t make it,” and we were going to go as planned but it would be a surprise for me. Y’all. We don’t really do surprises in our family. We don’t do manipulation (I learned this at 23 the first time I stormed out of a room and was not followed). We try to say what we mean. Why in the world, did I think the rules had changed?

I dared to expect, but I told no one. I tried to put it together, and I expected a different outcome when things did not go as I planned. Instead of dealing in reality, I kept basing my hopes on a script I had made up. As I was recounting this story later, my friend, Beth, said–“you normally do not do this!” Yep–but I did it with abandon this time.

Because we had planned to go to dinner earlier in the week, I told Greg to go to buy tickets for the Avengers movie on the morning of my birthday while I was with the boys. In an attempt to seize the day with my boys, I thought we could go downtown. I reached out to several people to see if they were up for tagging along, and no one was available. Most people I know plan ahead, so I could not fault them for my lack of foresight. Our plans were amended, and we went to Chick-fil-a for the boys to play outside, and then, Greg met us to take them home while I had some “me” time. Usually I am elated to have some alone time that is unscheduled. However, because I had set my expectation on the hope that my birthday would somehow be filled with people, I came up lonely and disappointed.

Y’all, I kept digging the hole deeper and deeper with the false narrative. “It’s okay because tonight…” I came home “in my feelings” realizing that I had set myself up. So, like any good 7 on the Enneagram, I took up a paint brush and painted a wall and changed around a room. I cannot control the other stuff, so, I chose what I could control. I was mad, lonely, frustrated, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I ruined my own birthday with my attitude.

As I was cooking dinner that night, I began to fight to take back the narrative. I began telling myself what is really true instead of my feelings. My feelings, based on a false narrative, had hijacked my joy. I had been riding a rollercoaster of self-imposed self-pity.

What did I remember was true? I have a beautiful family with boys that awakened me with flowers and a card (that their Daddy provided for them) as my birthday began. I have a husband that is real and true and faithful that doesn’t play games that joyfully gave me time to myself. He is a rock for me. I had a day of sunshine and warmth and flowers and the hope of Spring that I chose to ignore. I have a Mother-in-Law that thoughtfully sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers. I had the privilege of affording Chick-fil-a and watching my boys have fun and care for others as they played. I have hope in Jesus because of His work on the cross and life He lived. I have a home that I can be creative in. I could go on and on.

The last thing that was true? I had the privilege of leading a women’s growth series the next morning where we would discuss relationships, vulnerability, authenticity, and gulp, expectations. “I get it, Lord.” My life had been a lab for what we were going to talk about. My heart was tender, and I was reminded of this fight we have in relationships. We can allow our desires and our expectations to run rampant and to leave us in a constant state of disappointment, resentment, loneliness–poor me. We can write an impossible script that we are hoping will come true that is completely unrealistic and false. In doing so, we keep ourselves stuck, and we miss out on the true joys and the true growth. We can become a victim of our false thinking. Let me assure you of this, the control we have in life is in how we think and respond to things. With the truth of God’s word, the Spirit and the hope in Christ, we can live with a lens of adventure and expectancy that do not have our limited desires and narrative as the end all, be all.

Was I still tender and sad the next day? Yes. Did I have hope in something beyond circumstances? Yes. Did I get together with a few friends that Sunday night to pull away and celebrate time together? Yes. And, I appreciated the simple joy of doing so…

Posted in authenticity, encouraging women, grace, thankfulness, the reason for coming alive

I see you…

I see you finding your way in the world. I see you weaving through thoughts, doubts, experiences to find your voice.

I see you bounding through a park with energy, spunk, empathy, and imagination. I see a freedom of owning who you are with no regard for what others think. I see you unaware of what you look like on the outside by living from the inside.

I see you awakening to the thoughts of others. I see you beginning to shrink back for fear that people will point out what is different in you. I see you losing inner confidence in a world of glossy pictures. I see your shoulders slump to protect your heart. I see you defining yourself by what amounts to smoke and mirrors.

I see you performing, learning, practicing, and growing. I see you gaining competence. I see you flexing your strengthening muscles. I see you looking to the needs of others to serve and to encourage because you know what it is to struggle.

I see you stepping into the new to lead, to stretch, to protect, to inspire, to create, to administrate, to nurture, and to empower others. I see you more and less confident with each new step. I see your wings flopping and popping from the cocoon. I see you proud and hiding all at the same time.

I see you believing you have significance. I see you embracing change. I see you embarking on a life long adventure.

I see you dying to yourself to serve another. I see you learning sacrifice and mourning and embracing the loss of freedom. I see you intentionally stepping into love. I see you toughening from the inside out. I see you strong, soft, vulnerable, gritty.

I see you spinning all the plates. I see you calling the plays. I see you learning what to let go and what to embrace. I see you leaning in.

I see you feeling invisible everywhere while you keep life going. I see you tripping while trying to be all things to all people. I see you answering to what feels like everyone everywhere.

I see you letting go and embracing what is reasonable. I see you learning to set boundaries. I see you mourning the loss of who you were and trying to figure out who you are. I see you needing a minute to catch your breath.

I see you renegotiating your life. I see you feeling lost and yet hopeful. I see you embracing yourself like never before. I see you laughing in the midst.

I see you trying new things with spunk, empathy and imagination. I see you shaking off the expectations of others. I see you finding your voice in a more authentic way. I see you shrinking back from being small and choosing to spread your wings.

I see you when you feel invisible to a world that falsely values youth. I see that you are strong, purposed, wise. I see your beauty that is from the inside out. I see you use your voice to embolden others to use their voice, to impact the world, and to live for what matters.

From girl to Woman, I see you.

Posted in community, grace, New year, parenting, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

2018 Year-End Ebenezer Awards

My counselor often says–“take time to write that down, Jen.”

How can we so easily forget the beautiful provisions and lessons that are so life changing? We have amnesia of the moment.  Whatever is right in front of us gets our attention.

So, I am writing it down–“blogging it forth”–“setting the Ebenezer up” to remind me of moments of thankfulness this year.                                                   It has been a huge year in my heart–growth-a-palooza with a side of a long way to go.  

In NO particular order, the Ebenezers go to…

*A reentry back into writing.  My soul was missing the way that writing makes me dig and process.  For a 7 on the Enneagram (which tries to avoid all pain), you can see this is a healthy practice for me.  I can take myself WAY LESS SERIOUSLY than I did when I started this blog 11 years ago January 1.  

*517VADWLEqL._AC_UL160_514-Br1DhSL._AC_UL160_The Enneagram.  Seriously, I think in terms of these 9 numbers now.  If you are thinking…”oh yeah I took this cute little test on that,” Stop. Right. Now. and get “The Road Back to You” by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.  There are several good podcasts too! A test will not suffice.  This is a helpful tool for understanding and growth!

*The growth of new and seasoned Business Partners on the Rodan + Fields journey.  It has been exciting and such a joy to encourage and grow with these women and my team all over the country.  Even more than ever, I realize that God expanded ministry opportunities through RF instead of closing me R&F(1of1)-59off to them with the disbanding of Women’s Discipleship Concepts 4 years ago.  The highlight was a retreat for some of my directs in April. It ended up, through the Spirit’s leading, to be a time of rest in the Lord, an encouragement for souls on the journey, and time of forming a deep community.

*Puzzles:  I am so thankful that I got a “hankering” for a puzzle one day, and the rest is documented in a big pile of puzzle boxes in our downstairs bedroom.   I know I am a nerd.  Yep.It is a practice that makes me set aside time to just be.  That is sooo important for our hearts, mommas.  (and, PS, I am donating some to an assisted living–in case you think I need to add “puzzle hoarder” to my profile.)


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*The freedom and financial ability to do some fun trips with the boys AND do Boat Club as a family. A little Chattanooga trip to explore for Spring Break, A full-fledged vacation to the beach for a week (first legit vacation we have paid for), some Smokey Mountain fun for Fall Break at Dollywood, Season Passes to Dollywood…  I want presence, experiences, and adventure with my boys.  Who knew that everything would be so expensive???  This has been a HUGE blessing from my continued growth in my RF business.

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*A special trip with my Mom and Sister to go to my nephew’s wedding in Spokane, Washington.  What a beautiful part of the country.  I am so Thankful for time with family.

I loved the enriching conversations that this trip brought with strangers.  I am reminded that God wants us to engage the world with His Beauty and Truth, and we get so bogged down with what’s right in front of us that we miss out.

*My oldest son’s Kindergarten and 1st-grade year…I was so scared.  Sensory Processing Disorder is no joke, and we have worked so hard to help him build resiliency and coping skills. I am beyond thankful for our school, the wonderful teachers and community, our OT, ac6646139525ea749b261b878deb0577Mrs. Kathy, the children’s ministry at our church, and family friends that have encouraged our little guy so much.  He is a different kid than when we started this journey over four years ago.  The motto around our house is “you can do hard things!”  Including the parenting part for Greg and me.  There was a HUGE marker in this journey in December as we got to reflect on how much growth has come in our buddy–HUGE thankfulness to God!

*RF Convention in New Orleans.  It was a beautiful and fun week with 30 members of our team, countless dear friends that are sideline sisters, and friends from all over the country that I have made on this journey.   It was so fun to walk the stage and go to spectacular parties.  Dressing up is fun, and I rarely do that in life! However, It was a IMG_9351monumental week in my heart for none of those reasons.  God intricately brought restoration to so many parts of me, and I straight up was overwhelmed by His Fathering, His pursuit, and His deep love for me.    Someday I might tell the bigger story, but I do not feel released to yet.  I am reminded that He can use anything anywhere to do His work in us.  Hilariously, I had a worshipful time in a city known for its darkness reminding me that His light pierces through our darkness.

IMG_8481IMG_8484*Y’all…I did a scary thing that I dreamed about.  I got the opportunity and encouragement from my friend and business partner, Lindsey, and I pressed go LIVE on a training platform for 180,000 RF consultants. The topic in April was “Times I almost quit: Building the art of resilience,” and the topic in August was “Get Real Thursday: examining the posture you are taking toward business and life.”  I am amazed at the personal growth in public speaking I have gotten over the last year and a half, in particular.  Every time someone asked me to stretch to speak at something new, I thought 2 things:  1) that is not my strength–I don’t do this!  and 2) I don’t have anything special to say that anyone has not said (aka someone else could do it better!)          Here’s the truth…both of those statements are probably true, but we only grow when we stretch to new things.  It is uncomfortable, exhilarating, challenging, full of anxiety, and yet, if I had listened to my fears, I would have missed out in sad ways.        Note 1: Live videos always choose the greatest screenshots–eye roll here.  Note 2:  I also discovered the spray tan the 2nd time around. 

* The growth of my sweet, sassy, smart boys.  I am so thankful that Greg keeps a running list of their hilarious quotes.  Every day I think about the slipping time, and I am sobered by the responsibility and privilege of being their Momma (yep–over my dead body will they call me anything else!!).  Greg is an amazing Daddy–I need him for balance:). As I have read back over the earlier years of my blog, I remember that there was a time that I surrendered that they would not be here.  Maybe it’s my age, their preciousness, or my period of infertility, but I am so thankful for their lives and this opportunity.  

The truth is, as I reflect more, I will remember more.  Why?  I so easily forget the beauty of God’s hand in my life.  What about you?  What are your Ebenezers for the year?   

Posted in infertility, thankfulness, trusting God

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow…

Sometimes life gets so loud and painful that we miss recognizing blessings.  Our vision gets blurry because we are just trying to survive.  We start the journey with clear eyes, but life and all of its subtle and not so subtle issues help us to forget the goal for which we were striving.

This story started almost 8 years ago.  Two and a half years ago, God brought 4 miraculous blessings into our lives—eggs and sperms together to form embryos against some stringent odds.  Two were implanted September of 2010 in my uterus and a little miracle named John Benjamin “Jack” Pinkner entered the world in June of 2011.

Greg and I began praying about these next two embryos almost immediately after having Jack.  We had made a commitment to implant them or put them up and available to be adopted when we began the whole IVF process.  We took this decision very seriously as Greg and I know now the reality of his RA in parenting brings.  We had to be prepared to parent twins…which would be a big challenge with one parent with a chronic illness.  With trepidation (we are both realists–no romantic notions of parenthood here), we decided to trust God and go through a Frozen Embryo Transfer in January of 2013.

I was not prepared in my heart to walk back into the throws of infertility drugs and infertility thoughts and fears.  It. was.  hard.  The drugs seemed more intense in my body and in my head.  I had a toddler to tend to, as well.  Our journey with infertility was the richest time of growth in the Lord I had ever experienced, but it was so so so painful.  True growth comes, many times, through pain.  It is the kind of thing you want to look back on and not walk back through.  The process is long and you hold to hope and yet guard your heart for what reality might bring.  We had to know that this could be it…no more children and the answer would come definitive and soon.  All the while we were laying our hearts on the altar trusting God’s sovereignty and being re-baptized into the faith that grew the first time around–is God good when He acts differently than we expect?  When we gives what we hoped would not come?  Is He good and does He do us good when we hurt and are disappointed?

Three and a half months after this process began, fertility drugs, heartbeat scares, daily shots, shingles, colds, intense sickness and many many many prayers from the saints…we got a good report from the doc today.  A doctor who knew he was an instrument and not the answer to our problems…he acknowledged that God’s hand brought this life (single life) growing in my womb.  For the first time today, I have let some joy wash over me…thankfulness as my self-protection begins to fade and yet heaviness for those who have gotten devastating news in the last days and weeks about their hopeful ones.  I am so thankful –so undeserving of this blessing.  As my sickness wanes on, I pray that each day grow in joy.  These last 10 weeks have been filled with many things physically and mentally to cloud my vision and help me forget the reason we started this journey.  We having a baby that is due October 10, 2013.  Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.  He is our hope…our strong tower…our defender…our redeemer…our all.

Posted in authenticity, discipline, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Remember

Life is hard. We forget the good at times. We forget where and how we have grown. We forget friends who were faithful along the way. We can major on our feelings of the crisis or the mundane we are in.
This is the human condition. That is why God reminded the children of Israel over and over and over in his word of their story and His faithfulness in their story.
When I was in the deep throws of infertility the first time(…thinking we would have no children and wrestling with all my emotions of that fact), I took time to write my life story in my journal. I was at the beach in January by myself. For hours I poured through the pages of my mind remembering joy and sorrow and God’s faithfulness. Many times I would say out loud “OH YEAH–I totally forgot that fruit or that growth or that miracle!”
This morning, as I was praying, I remembered that journal. I need to find it and reread it–TODAY. We are forgetful and are often driven by our feelings of pain in the moment.
We each have huge miracles and pictures of grace in our lives that we easily dismiss when the next pain comes along–just like Israel when they got hungry and tired right after God had parted the Red Sea.
Let’s take time to remember so that we may run this race with endurance.

Posted in discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

Posted in thankfulness

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas…

IMG_3899 IMG_3881 IMG_3856 IMG_3815This has been a special season with little Jack.  He is hilarious.  The picture with Santa perfectly captures his personality–checking Him out and making me crack up at the same time.  It is such a blessing to be his momma.  He is beginning to say more and more words–‘teat” is eat and he says “bye” with the quickness of my 99 year old Uncle Charley.  He LOVES The Muppets–could care less about cartoons–but Kermit with Bob Hope capture his heart and attention.

Today, he began saying “pease” along with signing it.  I love to see others take joy and love him.  I am learning how to discipline him–his sin nature has taken on full force–he wants to assert his will many times an hour.  I do not know if we will have the opportunity to have more, but I am trying to take advantage of everyday with him and prepare him to learn and grow in God as an adult.