Saturday, February 04, 2006

Retreat Talk

Ok - this is long, but bear with it. This is what I shared at our church ladies' retreat this weekend.
I was introduced by my good friend Kelly. This is what she said:

I probably met Jenni in the Clifton's kitchen in the fall of 1999. We graduated from church acquaintances to real friends soon after when, on a whim (and because I didn't know anyone who liked Christian rock music), I asked her if she wanted to go to a Superchic[k] concert. From that time on, we've been good friends and I've learned that:
  • she has a sense of adventure and is willing to try new, fun eating, shopping and music experiences
  • she makes the best chunky monkey bread and is gifted in many other domestic arts as well
  • she is extremely organized that uses that gift to bless others
  • she has the spiritual gift of hospitality
  • her taste in jewelry is really great and she looks fabulous in things I couldn't pull off
  • as a friend she is loyal and patient
  • and finally, for as long as I've known her, she has been persistently seeking after God through times of confidence and doubt, obvious blessings and guidance and times when God feels farther away, and through it all, she doesn't give up!
What a sweet tribute - thanks Kelly!!!
I was nervous when Holly first asked me to speak this weekend. Earlier this week when I heard that I was going to be the FIRST one up here to speak, that nervousness turned into the beginnings of panic. But my mother reminded me that I always wanted to be first and way ahead of everyone, I guess it is fitting. Here goes.....

I was born into a Christian home. My mom was raised church of Christ and my dad was raised Methodist, so, from the beginning, I was in church every time the doors were opened. We lived in Amarillo until I was 8, then in Denver, CO for a couple of years before moving to Abilene when I was in fifth grade. Lynn Anderson was still preaching at Highland (before he came to Preston Road) and I remember sitting on the front row through my middle school years taking notes during his sermons. I was baptized at age 12 after a camp experience the summer after sixth grade. Looking back, I realize that I was pretty much a goody-two-shoes all through high school, and even probably some into college. I did all the youth group activities, looked down my nose at those in my classes at school that were out partying, graduated top of my class from high school, then went off to Abilene Christian University.

While I was at ACU, I was involved in a lot - class officer, Sing Song, Welcome Week committees, you name it, I was there. It was during my time in college that I really started to think about making my faith my own. Not my parents’ faith – but mine. I did test some of the boundaries that ACU set – but never did stray too far from the rules. Because I’m pretty much a rules follower. I remember the first Sunday that I missed church because I slept in (because I was out waaayyyy too late the night before, and frankly, had too much to drink). Waves of pure church of Christ guilt washed over me all day long.

I came away from my college experience with many good friends – but there are six of us that are still close enough to really work at spending time together each year. Sarah, one of the six, I would consider to be my “best friend” – we met and became friends in high school, the summer between junior and senior year, while doing ACU’s Junior Scholars program. At semester of our sophomore year of college we became roommates and lived together throughout the rest of our time at ACU. The six of us girls were split between two houses through our Junior and Senior years, and although I didn’t know a couple of the girls really well while we were still in college, we have gotten much closer since graduation, even while living scattered across the world. Those girls have pushed and challenged me, traveled with me, sung with me, cried with me, prayed for me, given me advice and in general supported me through pretty much everything in the past few years. I learned a lot about how to be a friend – how to pray – how to develop those deep, lasting bonds that come through sharing our struggles. Those girls have taught me more than they probably even know about how to live my life for Christ.

I left college thinking that I had it pretty much all figured out. I was a strong, independent career woman. I could move to the big city alone, and make it just fine. I knew what I wanted and worked pretty hard to get there. But deep in the back of my mind, there was something missing. A piece of the puzzle that hadn’t yet clicked into place. I have struggled with making my faith really my own – with making it an integral part of my everyday life – and with being fully confident in God and in my relationship with Him. I’ve struggled, in part I think, because there are still deep seated goals and ambitions in my life that are yet unsatisfied. And somehow, in the warped back of my mind and in the deep recesses of my heart, that means that God isn’t who He says He is.

Rewind to the late 1960’s - my parents met in high school and dated throughout the end of high school and long-distance during college (Daddy stayed at home and went to UTA while Mom went to ACC), getting married the summer after they graduated from college. Daddy worked for the government in Amarillo and Denver, then took a job at ACU that prompted our move to Abilene when I was 10, while Mom always stayed home with us. I’m pretty sure she worked at least part-time in the early days of their marriage, but as soon as I was born, she was “just” a mom and didn’t work outside our home.

One of the things I remember from growing up was that Mom had a Kindergarten-12th grade school memento book for me and my sister. She would put pictures from the first and last day of each year of school and all the pertinent stats from our school year, plus there were blanks to fill in as to what our favorite things were and what we wanted to be when we grew up.

No matter what else I ever wanted to be, whether it was a teacher, an astronaut, or the president, from the earliest time I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be my mom. To fall in love and get married. To have a family. To stay home with my children. To cook, clean, sew, organize and be a “chief home executive.”

I’ve had people over the years deride that dream, wondering why I would “waste” the accounting talents that I’ve been blessed with to “just” be a mom. They tell me that I’ll change my mind -- when faced with the opportunity to quit work and stay home, I’ll choose my career. I tell them over and over that it isn’t going to happen. My goal is to be a wife and a stay-at-home mom. That’s what I think I’m really wired for. What I believe that God has gifted me to be.

But. Here I am – a month shy of 30 years old and still single (when mom was my age, I was 5½ ). I have a great job that I enjoy and where I am having success. I have great friends that I do things with and that are very important to my life. I have a wonderful church family that has encouraged me to grow and stretch my talents and has provided me with mentors and Dallas “moms” and “dads”. But, I have no husband and no children - yet. Hopefully someday - soon? Sometimes, I do wonder (and this wondering does get louder in my head as I get older)…….God, do you hear me when I pray? You do know that I’m supposed to be a wife and mom, right? I not supposed to do this career thing. I’m supposed to be staying home with my babies. So, why am I still single….with no prospects?

Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song on his “Declaration” album titled: God is God. Many of you may be familiar with it. The chorus of that song is what I have to remind myself of over and over again. Especially when I start to wonder why my life isn’t going the way I planned it (because I’m pretty good at planning things, and my life is no exception) The chorus goes like this:

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all, for only God is God

I have to remind myself of that often. God has a plan for my life. Even when I don’t see what He’s painting. When I have no idea as to what the next scene is supposed to show. In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet tells me that God has a plan for me, a plan to prosper me and not to harm me, a plan to give me hope and a future. So, I remember the lyrics of that chorus – God is God. I am not. I’m not supposed to be. I don’t know what His plans are for my life. I don’t know if I will ever fall in love and get married. If I will ever get to experience the joy of being a mom. I just know that His plan will all work out in His timing, in His way – if I will just trust Him. If I will just seek after Him. If I will let Him be in control. If I will live according to His plan as He reveals it to me.

I have a little prayer on the cabinet in my bathroom: “Father, thank you for giving us what we need, when we need it. Forgive me for borrowing tomorrow’s trouble; teach me the comfort of trust.”

I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder. That God is God. He is in control of everything. He knows what is best for me. He knows what is best for my life. I just need to learn to follow Him. To trust Him. To wait for Him.

Now before you start thinking that I’ve got it all together – that I have figured it all out. Stop. Look at the tears running down my face. Hear the crack in my voice. I don’t know what I’m doing – and most of the time what I do is wrong anyway. And it drives me crazy. I try to control my life. I try to take the reins. And I screw it up all the time. Because, guess what? I’m not GOD. Neither are you.

Believe me, I am speaking to myself as much as I am to you – it is time to let go of the control that I think I have over my life and give God the reins. I’m still hoping and praying (and praying and hoping) that somehow His plan will line up with at least some of my plans for my life. That He will want for me to be a wife and mom. And that, in His perfect time, that prayer will be answered. But for now, I’m learning to trust Him anyway. Every day, I’m learning to follow Him anyway. To not base my happiness or contentment on the answer to that one prayer – but to enjoy the journey.

Life won’t magically be perfect when or if I get married or have children. I know that. I have enough friends that are in that stage of life and remind me often of that fact. I know that there will still be struggles daily to live for Christ. To surrender to His control. To let Him lead my life. But what I’m beginning to figure out is that if I let go of the illusion that I am in control and let God be God, then my life will be so much better for it.


That Girl said...


This was super. I've got tears, too. I hope that you get all you've ever wanted in this life but I know that we'll both get more than we've ever dreamed of after this mess is over! I hope we get to live closer in the next place!

Hang in there - God is God!

DJG said...

Good stuff Jenni. I am sure all appreciated your honest and straightforward talk.

God does have plans for you lady. I can't wait to hear about the next chapter.

SG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SG said...

Jenni ~ I know you got that first novel long comment, but the more I thought about it, I just wante dit to be just for you to read. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You have left me encouraged and reminded again that yes, God is God.

chinachat said...

i hear ya, jenni! i'm waiting, too. thanks for your honesty

MattandSara said...

Beautiful Jenni! Thank you for sharing your heart.

Ryan and Lesli said...

Jenni, thank you so much for sharing! You did such an amazing job on Friday night. It has been such a source of inspiration to me. Thank you for your heart. I know God will bless you in more ways that you can even imagine!

Lesli (I don't think I've ever given it to you before.)

Mae said...

Beautiful talk, Jenni. One of my dearest friends and I were discussing much of the same Friday night too. He always sends us answers... Personally, I don't always get them when I expect.

Paige said...

Loved it Jenni. Preston Road is so blessed to have you and your love of the Lord. I miss you guys.

Chelsea said...

That was amazing...and so relevant to everyone in every stage of life. God is God! And, it is so easy to try and "help him" do His job! Thanks for the wonderful reminders.

You have always been someone who amazed me----with your strength, your compassion for others, your intelligence, for the BEST hugs I ever got in college! ...And, for your continuous reliance on the Lord.

Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are truly being used by God in ways you don't even know.

jettybetty said...

I waited until I had time to really read through your whole talk--it truly blessed me--what a sweet heart you have! I cried most of the way through! How did you ever make it through while you were giving it???

We only missed you in Amarillo by 3 or 4 years!

Little Light said...


I think its easier to figure out your own faith when you don't have a husband (or parents or even a boyfriend) around. When you do get married, maybe you can skip some of that figuring out that other people have to do while maintaining a household?

Alyssa said...

Jenni, I admire your spirit so much and was deeply encouraged by your post today. It is so tough to wait on the Lord... and I know that your comments and your example were a great testimony at the retreat!

summer said...

i was inspired by your transparancy and desire to allow God to be God. i'm trying to do that to. love you and so glad to have you on the praise team!!!!! it is going to be so much fun!!!

Sarge said...

I don't know ... sometimes I think I know you better than most, then other times I think I don't know you near as well as I have always thought I do (well, was that confusing or what...) Either way, i DO know that you are a beautiful, gifted, loving woman, and I know that God has great plans for you and through you. Only He knows why things work the way they do here, but I pray that you have patience with his plans and I pray that He reveals his wonderful love to you through a partner here on earth. The only thing I have to say about that is that I tend to be very protective about those I love dearly. Whoever this partner might be, he's going to have to be pretty special to pass the Sarge test. I love you Jenni ... trust in the Lord and He'll take good care of you.
BTW ... I love your message. Would it be okay to use it as the beginning of a good talk with Huddles, or is it too personal?

love you!

Jana said...

Jenni - Thanks for baring your soul. It takes courage to spill your innermost struggles with God to the general public. You're awesome, girl. Wish we could hang out sometime.

Karen said...

Jenni, that was beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

R Debenport said...

Jenni - thanks for your transparency. It is an encouragement to me. Wish I could've heard you in person. I heard great things about the retreat, even over here in Thailand!

Amy said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You are a very special person, I can tell just by your words on your blog. I have really enjoyed getting to know your heart and hope to meet you someday.

Jacinda said...

I copied the prayer down to save for myself to read over & over. I am always worrying about one thing or another and need to trust God more. Thank you for posting your talk.