“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

The world around us just keeps looking more and more bleak doesn’t it? It feels like maybe Covid will end soon and we can return to normal. Oh wait, there’s another strain of the virus and here we go again. There’s racial tension, wars, earthquakes, snow storms, political unrest, gas prices sky-rocketing and it feels like the list just keeps growing. 

Maybe you’ve learned how to deal with everything being shut down from the pandemic, but then one more thing comes. A child gets sick and you don’t know what it is; you get a cancer diagnosis; your family is struggling to make ends meet; you have gone way too long without being able to be around people; or you’ve missed seeing/making friends. This is a new season of life for literally everyone, and it can take its toll on our minds. 

My husband spoke not too long ago from 2 Chron. 20:12  where it says, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you”. This reiterates everything God taught me throughout my cancer journey … both times! With cancer there’s literally nothing I could do except listen to the doctors and make the best game plan that worked to prayerfully keep me alive. Then it’s just a mind game from there on out. I learned that when I kept my eyes deadlocked on Jesus, it kept my mind from thinking about the worst-case scenario. But once the cancer journey “ended”, I’m left to pick up the pieces and try to have a normal life — although it never really returns to normal. That’s the phase our world is in right now — longing for normal. However, I’m not so sure we’ll ever return to the normal we once knew. But, here’s the good news. One thing that will never be taken away from us is our ability to change our focus — our perspective. When we don’t know what to do, if we choose to put our eyes on Jesus, we can’t lose! Because Jesus has ALREADY won. If you have asked Jesus to come take up residence inside of you then you already know that this is not our home. One day we will be able to live forever with our King! 

Back to the verse. Another cool thing about this passage is that not only did Jehoshaphat choose to keep his eyes on God Almighty, but he put the praise and worship team at the front of the army! You might be thinking wait, wait, wait, if I were on the praise and worship team I would NOT want to be at the front. But here’s why. They were going to praise their way through this battle! 

I watched a testimony on YouTube about the girl that wrote the song, Catch the Wind. This girl suffered from a chronic illness and she kept pleading for God to rid her of this pain. She very plainly heard God tell her, “I want you to sing your way out”. After hearing this a couple times, she finally started singing the words to Catch the Wind. And this is exactly what God wants you to do right now. He wants us to sing our way out. Singing didn’t completely heal this girl of her pain, but it changed her heart! Singing your way out won’t necessarily change the war going on in Ukraine, it might not fix your financial situation or rid you of cancer. But, it will change your heart/perspective to be fixed on Jesus. 

Maybe you’re thinking this all sounds great but how do I do this? I’m so glad you asked! Let me share what God told me while I was in the middle of depression. Take every thought captive. In other words, think about what you’re thinking about; and then, determine if it’s truth or not. Maybe it is truth, but there’s nothing you can do about it, such as the war in Ukraine. You’ve already donated, prayed, and anything else that is in your power to do. However, you keep thinking about all the people and all the pain and it keeps breaking your heart or making you angry. This thought needs to be taken captive. So start with prayer, “Jesus I’ve already done what I can, now help me to focus on my own family or the task at hand.” You do this with every thought that comes through your mind. If it’s not true, honorable, just, of good report, virtue or praise, replace it with something that is. I’ve heard it said that when you’re creating a new thought pattern it’s extra hard because you are literally making a new pathway in your brain. Because of the way we’re wired, we have the tendency to fall back into the thought patterns that has been more engrained. So, if you’re tired and you don’t know what else to replace a negative thought with and feel yourself slipping back to negative thought patterns, just say, “Jesus” and picture His pierced hands and feet. 

Now that we’ve discussed how to take a thought captive and replace it, let’s add another layer. Remember who Jesus is! Remember that He is the Creator of all, the Alpha and Omega, He is our Lord, our Savior, our King, the Lamb that became the sacrifice for us. As I was dwelling on this, I began to read through Job 38-41. As soon as I read the first few verses in chapter 38, the tears began to fall. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements — surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” Reading these verses put everything in perspective for me. It’s not about me! It doesn’t matter how hard I think my life is or how everything seems to be crumbling down around me, God sees and He knows. When I remember God’s Almighty power instead of just focusing on my little corner of the world, my spiritual eyes are opened and see things through God’s lense, not mine.

Does all of this change the circumstances going on around us? Probably not, but it does change us in our circumstances. Maybe you feel battered and bruised in this season of your life. I pray right now that you would feel Jesus’ warm embrace around you and then take a long look into the loving face of your Savior and remember that He has already been bruised, beaten and bloodied for YOU!

Abide, Cake, and a Recipe for Both!

In January I chose the word “Abide” to focus on for the year. Learning to live with this hormone treatment and dealing with a chemical inside my body has been a struggle. On a daily basis, I fight to keep from being overcome by the intense feelings of depression and thoughts of, “Do I really belong here anymore?” and, “Can God still use me?” Recently, I became desperate and decided to study the word “abide”. What does it really mean to abide?


I found an article by Desiring God that describes it this way: “To abide is believing, trusting, savoring, resting and receiving.” The words savoring and receiving really jumped out at me. I hadn’t ever considered those words as describing abide. Consider the scripture that says, “I am the vine, you are the branch.” Whatever comes through the vine goes directly to the branch. If we’re hungry, He feeds us (daily bread), if we’re thirsty, He gives us water (living water). Whatever our need, He provides and satisfies. 


So, how does this apply to depression? Or maybe for you it’s fear, anxiety … a life circumstance that seems like it’s winning and you’re losing. For me it means to sit in Jesus’ presence. Truthfully, I’ve been doing a lot of this lately; but, as I asked myself a few weeks back in the midst of depression, “why isn’t this bringing me joy?” What I realized is that I needed to sit in His presence anyway because I know He is my only hope. And in this persistence of sitting with Him, I felt Him speaking to my spirit about what abide meant – what it meant for me in my circumstance! He’s literally given me a recipe that I’m savoring!


Take every thought captive. This means those thoughts like “I don’t belong here anymore” need to be replaced with truths like “He who began a good work in you WILL see it through to completion.”


Dive deep into who Jesus is. Get my eyes off the waves (depression, fear, chemical imbalance, or other life circumstance). Listen to songs that only glorify God. Lift up Jesus’ name. Learn all the names of Jesus and what they mean. I’m currently reading The Power of Jesus’ Names by Tony Evans. Just learning the name “Immanuel” has been so powerful. The name means “God with us”. He was first named this in Isaiah when they were in captivity. Life was bleak, but Jesus promised He was with us. In the dark when it feels there is no hope, no way of escape, He is with us.


And finally, I can’t compare my healing time to someone else that has gone through a similar journey. No two people are exactly the same. So when I start to feel like I should be healed and better by now, I have to remember that this is no else’s journey but mine. 


I’m not out of the woods yet, but I know that I need to stay faithful with these practices, because Jesus is in the business of healing. And even though I’m not “healed” yet, my hope is in Jesus and Jesus alone. It’s not in the healing itself. Keep trusting, keep abiding, keep resting, keep receiving everything Jesus has to offer, keep believing and keep sitting in fellowship with Jesus.

————-


I’m now coming back to write this several days after ending with that last paragraph, and I’m overjoyed to report to you that I feel as though God has given me a way of escape! After learning what it meant to abide and putting all the above ideas into practice, I decided to literally take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Anytime I would look at the waves around me, feel fear or my chest began to tighten, I would picture Jesus’ nail-driven hands or laying at His nail-driven feet. After a week of doing this, I feel so much freedom. I had begun to think my battle plan that’s always worked for every situation doesn’t apply to me because I have a chemical that’s taking over my mind; but, even with depression and a chemical messing with my mind, I asked God to give me the recipe to overcome this phase in my life so I could help other women through this, and this is what He gave me! I’m not saying I’ll never have fear again or look at the waves around me; but now, instead of feeling like there’s no hope, I know that NO MATTER your circumstances, keep your eyes on Jesus! He can overcome ANYTHING!! 


Abide! Fully trust, fully rest, fully savor, fully believe, actively receive and be in constant fellowship with Jesus. This is easier said than done, but my heart is crying out for you to understand the freedom that you can live in!


Abide means to fully trust. Trust that even when you don’t see how that life circumstance could possibly turn out good, “God works everything out for good to those who love Him.” It might not turn out exactly the way you wanted it to, but it will turn out for the good of God’s glory.


Abide means to fully rest. This means laying down EVERY care, EVERY fear, EVERY bit of anxiety. Lay down all the weight of everything that keeps you awake at night and picture yourself resting at Jesus’ feet.


Abide means to savor. Think about a piece of cake that was absolutely divine and you wanted to savor every bite. I’m thinking about a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake that I just made last week … wowzers!! Or maybe a moment spent with a child or best friend and you wanted to savor every second spent with them because it was such a sweet time. Do you savor Jesus? Every ounce of love and grace that He has poured into you, do you savor every moment you sit with Him in sweet fellowship?


Abide is the act of receiving. Receive everything that Jesus has to offer. Remember the analogy of the vine and the branch. Everything that Jesus has to offer is right in your reach. It flows straight from Him to you if you are connected to His power source. All the power, love, truth, daily bread and living water that flows from Him, you have access to.


Abide means being in fellowship with Jesus. Yes, read your Bible and pray. But it’s more than that. Have constant communication with Him. Think about your best friend that you always want to share the good, bad and ugly with. Have that relationship with Jesus, but even closer. The second you wake up, are you reaching for your phone or do you feel like you’re picking up a conversation with Jesus that you left off from the night before? The second you have to make a tough decision at work or your kids just made a bad choice and you have to decide how to handle it, is your first thought to ask God, “What do I do?”


My heart feels as though it’s about to burst with love for our sweet Jesus. His goodness continues to astound me!


If there is something in your life that you are overwhelmed with, I hope you’ll reach out to me because I understand the feeling of hopelessness, and I don’t want another sister in Christ to struggle alone.
I love you friends! Abide with Jesus today! Keep your eyes fixated on Him and don’t look away! He is EVERYTHING you need!


Love, Jen

Happily Ever After?

I met Tim when I was 17 and he was 15. At first sight, brutally honest, I thought Tim was a dork. His hair was shellacked, and my Dad started singing “How Firm a Foundation” because of his size 14 shoes. The reason we met was because my sister and his brother got engaged and now a few members of the Hooper family came to our house to meet the soon-to-be in-laws. After spending time with their family, I grew to respect Tim for his gentlemanly attitude. I watched the way he treated his sisters and mom; and, I saw him as a good brother-in-law, but had no attraction to him. 

About a year later, Tim was about to head back to Germany (where his family served as missionaries). My family had just moved to a new church and because of the size of the church and the town, I felt like I would be single for the rest of my life (dramatic, I know). But, my only desire was to serve Jesus as a wife and mom. It was in that moment that I realized the only things I was not willing to give to God was staying single for the rest of my life and moving to China (because I have an aversion to the food). I immediately prayed and told God, with a completely surrendered heart, that I was willing to stay single and move to China if that was His will. Tim immediately came to my mind and I’m thinking, “where did that come from?” I told God, “If that was you, you’re going to have to take full control”. And BOY did He ever!! When Tim’s family came to our church about a week later, Tim and I walked around the corner at the same time and both of us new in that instant that God made us for each other.

But, the problem was Tim was going back to Germany and I lived in Iowa. Neither of us knew when or if we’d see each other again. BUT GOD, worked it all out and made it possible to talk to each other over the phone, and by a complete miracle, I was allowed to go with my sister and brother-in-law to Germany for 2 months to help them get settled. In that time, Tim and I were able to get to know each other and “fall in love”. It was heartbreaking to go back to the states, again not knowing when I would see him again.

Tim & me in the Bavarian Alps


As time went on, Tim called my Dad and told him we were getting to the point that he wanted to tell me he loved me, but didn’t feel he should without promising to marry me. My Dad gave him permission and Tim proposed to me over the phone. Soon after, Tim moved back to the states and proposed to me in person.


In March, Tim and I will have been married for 14 years. We’ve been through sickness and health, rich and poor, better and worse. We’ve seen the heartbreak of divorce, we’ve experienced the joy of children (4 actually), we’ve felt the burnout of serving, and through arguments, communication, getting raw, and having tough conversations – Tim and I are the best of friends. We look back and can see not only the miracle of us meeting, but also the miracle of 2 hearts, 2 different ways of thinking, 2 lives blending into one by the grace of Jesus Christ.


Chemo infusion during Breast Cancer journey

Marriage is hard, it’s not always a “happily ever after” story. Marriage is understanding the other person’s heart. When Tim and I have a disagreement, one of the biggest practices that have helped us, is to listen to the other person and understand their heart. This can actually apply to ANY relationship. If you understand their heart, it’s harder to nitpick their words. Speaking personally, it’s hard for me to get the words out just right (especially after chemo – “chemo brain” is REAL ya’ll). So, when you’re trying to look at things from their perspective, you’re less likely to get into a heated conversation.

Understanding each others’ personality (try taking the Enneagram test together) and love language (The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) has benefited us in understanding how each other’s brain works. 

No expectations! This is another aspect that has been vital to our marriage. Understanding that we are both human and WILL fail each other in one way or another is imperative. Our expectations should be on Jesus and Jesus only. When we narrow down the disagreements that happen, it usually has do with putting our expectations in the wrong place. Such as, assuming your spouse is going to bring you coffee in bed on your birthday or anniversary can start the whole day off on the wrong foot (if they don’t) all because your expectations were placed on a human being that may not have understood what your desire was. This is a small example, but we often put expectations on bigger areas as well, or maybe a bunch of little things that grow into something bigger.

One personal example. Tim was busy working a 9-5 job, on several occasions would work for another job on nights and weekends, worked on the bus Sunday mornings, was in school and splitting any time off he had between me and the kids. I was working as a seamstress from our home, we were visited by approximately a dozen people each week that needed alterations, I was homeschooling, and trying to keep up with the kids and house. Life was crazy! At the time, I had put the expectation on Tim to make me happy (give me my love language, etc.) One day he came home and I poured my heart out to him of how tired I was and needed to see him more. Well, he was so exhausted, he fell asleep while I was talking. This made me even more upset, until I heard that still, small voice saying, “Tim can’t fulfill what you need, but I can”. I got down on my knees and realized how much pressure I was putting on Tim instead of remembering that life is hard and as a human being, it’s impossible for Tim to fulfill my every need. BUT, JESUS can!! I realized that I didn’t need Tim to make me happy, Jesus was everything I needed. When I talked to Tim the next day, I wish you could’ve seen the wave of relief on his face. Without realizing it, it took off a HUGE weight Tim had also been carrying.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, but it takes work, patience, and a lot of understanding. I believe marriage is not 50/50. Instead, it’s giving YOUR 100%! Period. Then leaving your spouse in God’s hands. You may have seen the old visual of a triangle with God at the top, you at the bottom right corner and your husband at the left corner. As you both get closer to God, you’re getting closer to each other. This is such a beautiful image as each of you can be healthy and thriving on your own – complete in Christ! Imagine how much BETTER you can be TOGETHER!

What to do when you don’t feel peace?

2021 has been a doozy so far hasn’t it?! Phew! There is unrest everywhere you look. So how do you live in peace when it feels like everything around you is falling apart at the seams? The simple (not easy) answer is to keep your eyes on Jesus, not on the circumstances.


Personally, I’ve struggled with peace since Christmas. Chemo is done, my hair is growing back … I should be feeling excited, but I don’t. I feel depressed and anxious. Part of it is my hormone treatment I started taking right after Christmas. It really messed with my mind before it even had a chance to get fully into my system. I was walking on eggshells wondering what would happen if I got upset.

A little bit about the hormone treatment for those who may not know, is that it continues to help suppress the hormones that caused my cancer in the first place. Prayerfully, it will keep me from having a recurrence. The side effects can make you moody and have hot flashes (as if I were in menopause). I prayed about this carefully, researched and ultimately felt peace about taking this although I really didn’t want to.

Back to the matter at hand. Because of this hormone treatment, I was beginning to feel like everything has been stripped away from me. My hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and now my mental state. Basically I was having a pity party. I was diligently working through my battle plan of quiet time, worship music, speaking truth over myself, and talking to friends who were also speaking truth over me. It was while I was running the track a few miles from our house that it hit me … get active, then all the other things (listed below) started to flow. Without realizing it, God has been giving me the recipe for how to have peace for years. I’m always doing several of the things on this list, but if I’ve been neglecting some of them, I start to feel anxious. I tell myself I’m doing all the right things because I’m focusing on my battle plan; but then, I realize there are some other areas that also need attention. Such as, getting active or (cringe) releasing control.


Ultimately if we keep our eyes on Jesus, then we WILL feel His peace. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean things will go the way WE want, but we will feel peace in the midst of it. But listed below is my secret sauce, if you will – some practical ways you can make sure you’re staying healthy … mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Have you tried these things?

  • Pray

I know, we’ve heard this a thousand times. But, it’s true. How can you feel peace with out talking to the Prince of Peace?

  • Read your Bible

Again, yes I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. But, try reading Psalm 139. It feels like a love story that God wrote to us individually. Make it personal as you read. It was written for YOU.

  • Get quiet with Jesus

Just sit in His presence without saying anything except “Jesus”. Invite Him into the silence of your mind.

  • Worship Jesus

Crank up the music that always makes you want to dance like David did before the Lord. Songs like Power of the Cross or You Are My All in All are my personal favorites. Look up at the sky, around at nature and stand amazed at His creation.

  • Get active

When I’m in a funk, if I go walk around our property or run at the track a few miles from our house, it always amazes me how it completely shifts my mood. Also, yoga is a great way to get active. I love to turn on my worship music and worship while I’m getting active. It’s a twofer.

  • Love on someone

One of the best ways to feel peace is to get outside of yourself and think about someone else. Try asking God to lay someone on your heart that you can text, tell them you love them and then take a moment to pray over them. Make cookies or a meal to take to someone that you know is struggling.

  • Switch gears

When you’re in the middle of something and you’re making silly mistakes that you wouldn’t normally make or your brain keeps freezing up and you can’t seem to focus, try switching gears. For example, when I was in the sewing business I might be sitting on 20 orders at one time and I would always start with the one that had the earliest deadline. But sometimes one of the projects was more difficult to figure out and I couldn’t seem to make any headway. I remembered hearing “when you don’t feel peace, switch gears” (I don’t remember where I heard it), so if I could feel my chest tighten and I was no longer enjoying what I was doing, then I purposed to lay down that one project and pick up another that I was excited about starting. It also needed to be done so I was still checking off my to-do list, but more times than not, as I was working on the fun project I would figure out the problem to the other project and it would all flow so much easier. Sometimes rather than picking up another project, I would step outside for some fresh air or get something to eat. Maybe even lay my head down for 10-15 minutes. Whatever that is for you, sometimes you need to stop forcing a fit and switch gears.

  • Clean/Organize

This one might sound a little weird, but if my house starts to get out of hand with clutter or whatnot, I start to feel anxious. It can help me mentally when I’ve given the house a good scrubbing or organizing.

  • Release

This is probably the hardest of all because we like to have control … am I right?! Seriously though, if we’re not feeling at peace, something needs to give and that is more than likely our grip.


So, which of these has been neglected? Tell me which of these you’re going to start implementing and how this list helps you. My prayer for you in 2021 is that even though the world seems to be falling apart, you are at peace in your heart. I love you friend!

~Jen

Do you dare to have a vision after a year like 2020?

2020’s reminded me of an illustration I heard Priscilla Shirer give a while back. If you were to hold a full cup of water with your arm outstretched and someone came and bumped your arm, it’s going to spill out, right?! The same applies to the cups of our hearts when life bumps us – we’ve all been jostled this year. What spilled out of our hearts? 


This is usually one of my favorite times of  year. A time to reflect on the year and dream about the next. This year’s been more of a struggle though. I feel as though the last few weeks everything has hit me like a ton of bricks. 2020 brought A LOT of challenges … for everyone. Not only a global pandemic, unrest surrounding racial injustice, and divisive politics, but also personally being diagnosed with breast cancer and both of my grandpa’s going home to be with Jesus. In fact, we just finished live streaming my grandpa’s (on my mom’s side) funeral as I write this.


It’s been a struggle to put into words what I’ve felt this week. 2020 started full of ideas and goals. This year my mom moved in with us (although we knew this was God’s timing, we had no idea how much of a blessing this would end up being as the year unfolded), the pandemic hit, my youngest child asked Jesus in her heart, my best friend and I started a podcast, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my best friend was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, so many friends and family members came to visit and pray over me, my mom took a bad fall, I started this blog, and like I previously mentioned, lost both of my grandpa’s. Ya’ll through everything this year, our house has been filled with worship and praise.


So, why on earth after everything we’ve been through am I falling apart NOW when it seems like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel?? I believe it’s multiple reasons. I experienced a supernatural strength during my diagnosis and I believe God gives this to help us walk through difficult times. Now everything is hitting me HARD. The only way I know how to describe this is the supernatural adrenaline has stopped … it feels like a form of post trauma.

Yesterday as Tim and I went running, I poured my heart out to him about my identity being shaken, wanting to serve God and feeling like He can’t use me in recovery. He reminded me that we were made to worship. The boy, whose lunch fed the 5,000, went that day to worship Jesus – to BE with Jesus and to abide in His presence. He DIDN’T pack a lunch for 5,000. I’m guilty of stressing about the serving and this ISN’T the service Jesus wants! It sounds so simple doesn’t it? So why do I have to complicate it?? I don’t have to fear what’s next, what to write, what to say, or what this hormone treatment will do to me because my only job is to do what He’s put in front of me (pack my loaves and fish) and worship!


For 2021, my word is “Abide”. I’m choosing to live every day, one day at a time. There are many things in my life that I wish I could hurry through. I wish that my hair would grow faster, that my body would heal faster, that the next 10 years that I have to take this hormone treatment would fly by. But really, I don’t want to miss out on the journey. So that’s why I’m choosing this year to sit at the feet of Jesus and live fully in TODAY. Enjoy every moment. Yes planning is all fine and good, but as we learned from 2020, plans can change. Mine changed drastically with the 6 letter word C-A-N-C-E-R.


Tim and I always pick a word for the year and have a dream board night where we find pictures of things we want to focus on that have to do with mind, body, soul and spirit. I remember the first year we created dream boards was at the company Tim worked for. I had found a picture of 4 women linking arms (obviously friends) and I had made it my focus to have friends because, as I’ve shared before, that was not always the case. Well, years later, I can say God’s given me those friends. Not just because I glued a picture to a poster board, but because in setting my focus on “showing myself friendly” (Prov. 18:24) it was constantly on my radar. But, this year I’m having a hard time dreaming because I’m gravely reminded of how things can change – what can easily appear to be for the worse. So, this year my dream board is going to look a little different. It’s been hard to see the forest from the trees, if you will. So, Tim has been shedding a lot of light/truth over me and one of the many reasons I’m so thankful for him. He encouraged me to make my dream board more of a 5-year vision and for this year, focus on abiding/healing. I decided to put pictures and verses on my board reminding me of the things God’s shown me throughout 2020 and who He says I am! As difficult as this past year was, it was also filled with such sweet moments with my Jesus. I’ve never felt more close to Him than I have in this year. Now, I need to be reminded of this as I’m struggling mentally. I need to remember the things God has done this year to continue moving forward in my mind, body, soul and spirit.


So how do you dare to dream and what does your vision look like when you’re scared to dream? The answer I’ve found is simply in a question I must ask myself EACH day. When life’s going smoothly, is worship filling my heart? When I’m bumped, or jostled by life, will WORSHIP come spilling out? Am I abiding at the feet of my Jesus EACH day?


~Jen

Favorite Christmas Recipes and Traditions

You might already have all your cookies made and are hunkered down to enjoy the season. Or maybe you’re flailing around like a “chicken with its head cut off” trying to get everything done before Christmas (been there). But I couldn’t let Christmas go by without sharing a few of my favorites. I love baking all throughout the year, but this is definitely my favorite time of year to be in the kitchen. It’s also my favorite time to make extra special memories with my kiddos. So far, we’ve been able to go to a light show from our town that was phenomenal, made Christmas crafts, and watched 2 concerts – the Collingsworth family and the Chosen’s Christmas episode. Wow! Both of these are amazing! It’s still on our agenda to make cookies together. So, whether you could use any more ideas or not, I hope you enjoy looking through a few of my favorites. 


There’s nothing like waking up on Christmas morning to cinnamon rolls. This recipe is by far the best I’ve tried.

 A few of our favorite cookies are: Peppermint Mocha Cookies, Peppermint Meltaway Cookies, Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Iced Cookies, and Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies. I still can’t resist trying new recipes every year. So, this list always looks different, but these are my tried and true.


My husband has been trying to cut out white flour and sugar to help with inflammation in his back, so I’ve tried a few new cookies that he’s loved and are gluten-free. I replaced the sugar in these recipes with honey, but you could also use natural maple syrup. Oatmeal Cookies Gluten Free and Chewy Chocolate Almond Cookies (Gluten-free)


This hot chocolate is super easy to make and makes a fun addition to our Christmas memory making. I throw in some marshmallows & peppermint sticks and it’s super fun to sip on while making crafts or watching a favorite Christmas movie.


A tradition that we started a few years ago and has become one of my absolute favorites, is making a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake. Then we sing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas day. I never want my kids to forget what Christmas is all about and I’ve made it a tradition of my own to rededicate my life to Him in that moment since the only thing I actually can give Him is my heart. I made an Almond Cream Cake our first year and decorated it with chocolate trees like on this cake. Peppermint Fudge Cake was last year’s cake and I will be trying out a Lemon Gingerbread Cake this year. Not only is this recipe by one of my favorite cake ladies, but the idea of a gingerbread lemon cake reminds me of my Grandma. We lost my Papa earlier this year so it just seemed fitting. 


For Christmas dinner, a few of my favorite side dishes are Best Thanksgiving Stuffing and Ranch Roasted Carrots. I also love doing cinnamon apples. These are super easy to do and I make them without a recipe. Just peel and slice about an apple per person and then add a couple more for good measure because they cook down a lot. Add a couple tablespoons of butter to a frying pan. Sprinkle in some brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook the apples till they’re soft and voila!


Another tradition that I started last year was making ornaments or just random crafts with my kiddos. We have a pine forest behind us and have PLENTY of pinecones to be found. So, here’s a few of the projects that we had fun with: Pinecone Owls, Pinecones with Pom Pom’s, Snowmen, Christmas Trees, Balls. We strung all the paper crafts up and made a garland out of it to decorate the kids school room with. This Pom Pom Christmas Tree was super fun to make. The ornaments in the pictures I made out of plastic clear balls that I purchased from Hobby Lobby and then glued on some beads that I already had on hand. The other is jute yarn that I dipped in mod podge and wrapped around a blown up balloon. I let it dry over night, popped the balloon, then tied some more jute string on to hang it on the tree


Also, a couple Christmas shows that are really sweet that I let my kiddos watch are Timmy’s Gift: A Precious Moments Christmas Story and Annabelle’s Wish.


I hope you enjoy these ideas and get some use out of them, but most of all enjoy this season and the reason we celebrate. You can check out this post for further encouragement if you struggle with this season.

Feel free to connect with me over on Pinterest to find all these pins that I have linked and many more that I am still working through and trying out for myself.


I would also love it if you would connect by sending a message, commenting or find me on social media and share some pics of a recipe you tried or tradition you started.


I love you friend and hope you have a very Merry Christmas!


~Jen


*There are a lot of links in this post, but I am not affiliated with any of them. These are simply resources that I have found on either Pinterest or YouTube.

Be Fearlessly Authentic

One day, in the middle of chemo, I was having a particularly hard day. It was getting harder to publicly share my journey because I’m naturally a very private person. But I felt that I needed to open my mouth and share the good, bad and ugly of my breast cancer journey. The reason I wanted to share ALL of it was so that God would get the glory for ALL of it. For my quiet time that day I had escaped to my room, taken off my cap because my head needed a break, and without knowing everything that was going on in my heart, my mom came into my room with a sticky note that said, “Be Fearlessly Authentic” (that saying just so happened to come from a Dove chocolate, lol) and stuck it on my mirror! At the time my mom hadn’t seen me without my cap because I was still too uncomfortable to walk around without it. She gave me the biggest hug and told me how beautiful I was. Even though I still don’t feel beautiful without my hair, I understood what she meant … it was more than just about my hair. She encouraged me to continue sharing what God was doing and thought I needed this daily reminder. She was right! I still look at this reminder every day and it is a constant reminder to me to “Be Fearlessly Authentic” so that God gets the glory.


So far everything God has called me to do, has the convenience of me being able to use the delete button. When I write out posts for social media, a blog post, or a book, I can backspace as much as I want and even have my husband edit it. Or I have the blessing of the cut button while editing our podcast episodes when I’ve paused too long trying to figure out what I’m going to say next. (You can find our podcast here.)


Realizing that God loves me for me, without the delete button or cutting out stutters or long pauses … that He fearfully and wonderfully made me exactly the way He wanted me is hard for me to believe. I am my own worst critic. I still remember times when I said something that was so stupid, and I’ve convinced myself that the other person will never forget how stupid I was. Maybe they have forgotten, maybe they haven’t … the fact is, I’m human. I’m going to make mistakes. But, God loves me anyway. He remembers I’m dust. I used to be offended by that verse. Thinking that by God remembering I’m dust, He was constantly putting me down … that I’m nothing but dust. I knew, of course, that I am dust and God in Heaven is holy and perfect, but recently I read that verse and it meant something different to me. God in His holiness, remembers that I am dust so therefore He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He loves me for my flaws, stutters, and awkwardness. He loves me when I mess up. He died for my mistakes! Rather than feeling brought low, I feel forgiven, loved, ok to not be ok.


The beauty of my surgery story (coming soon) is that for once in my life I didn’t care how imperfect I was. I was only doing what I heard God tell me, in my heart, to do. I spoke His name over and over, louder and louder. This is how I want to live my life everyday … fearlessly, authentically doing what God asks me to do.


However, being completely authentic, I constantly live in fear. (I will be sharing another blog post soon about how “Fearless is Overrated”.) It is in my DNA to have fear. So, I want to walk forward doing what God asks me to do in the middle of fear … doing it anyway.


I want to encourage you, my friend, that God has a plan for you. He’s madly in love with you and wants you to live fully in your authentic self without being afraid that you’re not good enough because HE says you are good enough … in Him. I love how Holley Gerth wrote in her book Strong, Brave, Loved, “Whatever the future brings, our God is still holding the pen. He is the only one who gets to write, ‘The End'”.

~Jen

The Myths About Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of year! I’m the kind who listens to Christmas music all year long, dreams about all the cookies I’m going to make, and loves decorating the house and buying presents for others. With that being said, there can be so much hype around Christmas time. We watch the Christmas movies filled with fun, holiday activities: snow ball fights, making cookies together, etc. Have you noticed, though, that movies often don’t capture the mundane life stuff – like actually working their job?! As much as I’m a sucker for a good Hallmark movie, this is not reality.

My heart goes out to the reader who is frazzled and is lucky to get cookies made at all, much less get them picture-perfect or have the nerves to allow the children to help. I’ve been there. The woman whose husband lost his job and can barely make ends meet, much less be able to buy gifts for their children. Been there too. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one and Christmas just seems like an even more difficult time instead of a season filled with peace and joy. Friend, let me tell you … no matter your circumstances, Jesus is with you. 2020 has been a hard year on every one. So many people are on edge … afraid of offending someone or maybe feeling offended yourself.

2 years ago my husband and I found ourselves in a hard situation. We were still living without running water, and finances were so tight we didn’t have the money to spend on gas to visit family and could only spare $5 per child for Christmas presents. Although it was gut wrenching to this mama’s heart that loves to give, the memories made that Christmas were unforgettable! We took a walk in our backyard filled with pine trees and chopped down some little ones (affectionally calling them “Charlie Brown” Christmas trees) for the kids rooms. They decorated them with ornaments they made. We spent time huddled together in front of a space heater having a picnic. I will never forget the kids’ attitudes were what made that Christmas the most special. As little as they got for Christmas, they were happy! It made me realize that Christmas is what you make it! Christmas really isn’t about the presents or having the perfect decorations, cookies, or events. It’s about Christ!

If you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, spend time with other loved ones or friends that are close to you. Spend time reading the gospels and imagine yourself in the story of Jesus’ birth and think about the love and peace that Christmas represents. If you’re struggling to keep up with all the things, think of 1 or 2 simple things you can do with your family that would bring some joy to you and create lasting memories for your children. It could be something as simple as turning on Christmas music and dancing around the house with your children and husband. Take away the pressure of the “have-to’s”. In fact, my husband and I stopped doing Christmas cards. Yep, you read that right! It was causing so much stress to get the picture taken, create the card, hoping they arrived on time, make the list of family & friends and always feeling like I was forgetting someone, sending out the messages asking for addresses, getting the envelopes addressed and mailed only to have a handful of cards still come back to me! I’m tired just thinking about it! Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t mail Christmas cards; but, it just doesn’t work for our family. So, we decided to start a new tradition of creating a “Merry Christmas” video that we send to all our friends and family. But, maybe the thought of making a video stresses you out even more. The point is, think outside the box of something that will make your Christmas less stressful and more meaningful. For our family, we started doing an Advent book that has simply made my Christmas. Every story in Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp is such an encouragement and helps remind me why I’m celebrating, decorating, buying gifts, etc.

As I’ve said, Christmas is my favorite time of year, but I know it can be exceptionally hard for some people. Whatever your circumstance this year, my prayer is you understand that it’s not about the festivities. It’s about our precious Jesus who loves you so intensely that He took on human flesh, was born in a lowly stable, and suffered greatly to show His love is immeasurable! I pray this season you’re able to feel that peace and joy only Jesus can give. I love you friend!

~Jen

Fighting for Joy (part 1)

In December of 2019, I discovered a bump on my chest located on the right side that protruded quite a bit and would have been visible if I had worn a shirt low enough. I chalked it up to something muscular because of the location of the bump and the fact that I’d been struggling with some pretty bad knots directly behind it on my back. Due to an ear infection, I finally decided to go to the doctor and also ask about the bump. I was convinced that it was nothing. Maybe it was a cist or I was going to need some sort of needle therapy (thinking it was the knots in my back) … I HATE needles! My doctor sent me to UVA for a mammogram. Because of my age, they told me that they wanted me to get an ultrasound instead. It took a LONG time. Finally, he finished and said they also wanted a mammogram. At this point, red flags are starting to go up. After what seemed like more pictures than necessary, another doctor came in and told me they wanted to do another ultrasound and that when it was done they promised we would talk. Tears started to flow during this ultrasound knowing that this wasn’t looking good. He said that he didn’t like what he saw and that there were a couple other spots that looked concerning. They wanted to do a biopsy and I asked if my husband could come in with me and hear what the doctor had to say. Because of COVID19, it was a miracle that they actually let him in.

They scheduled my biopsy for the next day. I had no idea what a biopsy even was and I was terrified. I get super squeamish regarding needles or when you start talking about ANY kind of procedure. In fact, I passed out the first time they drew blood when I was pregnant with my oldest child. Even the arm rest they use over the chair didn’t hold me. Yep, I slid right out of that seat and onto the floor. Ok, so are you tracking?  Now, back to the biopsy. I almost had a panic attack walking into the doctors office. As I’m writing this, I’m starting to shake again, just remembering those feelings. BUT GOD, showed up in that room in a very real way. Not only did I feel like my doctor and one of the nurses was a christian, but they turned on worship music for me. One of the songs that came on was “In Christ Alone”.  As they started the procedure I had this amazing peace wash over me and I went from fidgety and feeling like I was going to pass out to completely still. I felt as if I were laying right at Jesus’ feet. And anytime I would start to think about what the doctors were doing, I would feel Jesus whispering, “No, I’m right here. Take my hand. I’ve got you!” And peace would sweep over me again. It was a moment I will never forget.  

I love how Becky Thompson in her book “Peace” explained that miracles happen. The feeding of the five thousand didn’t have an endless supply of bread and fish. There was an end to it. Along with many other miracles in the Bible. I believe this shows us that we will always have a continuous need for Christ. He didn’t give me endless peace. He gave me peace in the moment I needed it most. All that to say, when I got home it was a healing process that I wasn’t expecting. The nurse told me before I left that I was not allowed to lift over a half gallon of milk and that I COULD NOT STIR or any other repetitive motion. YA’LL!!!! Baking is my thing! I absolutely LOVE getting in the kitchen and baking cookies and cakes. Stirring is kind of a prerequisite for baking. But not only that, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling in my chest and and a squeamish sort of pain that lasted for several days. It was a constant reminder of what I had just been through and the fear of the unknown. What is it? Is it cancer? Is it benign? My family and friends were praying for the latter, but I was conflicted as to how to pray. I just wanted God’s will. Whatever He chose. Personally I didn’t want to go through cancer, surgery, or whatever else might be on the horizon. But, I had a feeling in my gut that wouldn’t go away. We watched a sermon that Sunday about finding joy in trials by Andy Stanley. A heaviness swept over me like I’d never felt before and by the end of the message, I couldn’t stop crying. Tim and my mom came around me and were trying to console me and tell me that everything was going to be ok. But I knew! I had cancer!

I felt so strongly that between our ministry at The Journey Home and our Enough podcast and my intense desire to encourage women in our identity in Christ, God wanted me to walk through this so I could feel it for others because this was one area that I couldn’t relate to until now. I knew I was to take note of my feelings and thoughts through this process. I felt the weight of what I was about to go through along with an intense gratitude that God was entrusting this journey to me. He was giving me a voice. Without realizing it, I had asked for this. Tim and my mom were praying that I was wrong. But the next day, May 18th, the call came. It was breast cancer. The praise was that my lymphnodes did not appear to be cancerous, but that the second spot (although it didn’t appear to be cancerous) still didn’t look right. My body was shaking uncontrollably like it knew what I was about to experience, but my mind was strong. I felt a wave of gratitude sweep over me and I genuinely felt that God gave me a gift and I felt honored that God entrusted me with this journey. God has given me a supernatural amount of strength and peace. I can only give praise to Jesus for my mindset during this time. I was ready to drop to my knees and give Him praise while also dreading what I was about to walk through. 

I don’t know what you are facing right now, but I can guarantee that Jesus is with you. You haven’t done anything wrong to deserve this, but if you keep your eyes on Jesus, then these could be some of the sweetest days filled with an intense amount of peace.

~Jen

Fulfill Your Purpose

Have you ever had a strong desire to do something? You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that kind of terrifies you?! But, you keep ignoring it because well … no one has asked you to share that story, write that blog or start that Bible study. Or perhaps its because many other people have said it before you … probably better than you could say it. I’ve been there … believe me! In fact, you’re probably not going to read anything new from me that you haven’t already heard before. But, let me tell you … someone needs to hear YOUR story in your unique way of saying it. You have something to give because God created all of us with a purpose. So, what’s that deep burning desire inside of you that always gets you excited … and terrifies you. Maybe keeps you up at night telling yourself why you shouldn’t, but wishing you could.

My desire is to love anyone and everyone, but especially to tell women just how loved they are and tell them what God thinks of them. Here’s why. Growing up and moving 30+ times made it hard to make friends because of how introverted I was. Others started to talk for me and I began to shrink back in my shell even more, telling myself that what I had to say was not important. Thanks to my very encouraging husband, he has pushed me outside of my comfort zone on numerous occasions. But it started with a ladies retreat. I had very high hopes for this retreat because I was determined to make friends. Instead of rooming with my sister (my comfort zone), I asked for a room with other ladies. I was positive that at least one of those room mates would become my new BFF. At the end of that retreat, I did not have a new BFF … shocker … or even the hint of a new friendship forming. Instead, I went home crying. Dramatic, I know. But, this was the very first time I put myself out there and did something hard for me. But, I felt like I failed. However, I believe because of my step of faith, months later I did start to see friendships forming. The next year, I decided to go back to the ladies retreat. Not only did I return home with one friend, but two! Do you see what God did there?

Anyway, here’s my point. Because I stepped outside of my comfort zone and told God I wanted a friend, it grew to so much more than just a friend for me. You see, the friends I made at the ladies retreat turned into going to a book club that amped up my love for digging into books like “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson and “Fervent” by Priscilla Shirer (more recently, I’ve been digging into “You’re Already Amazing” by Holley Gerth and  “Peace” by Becky Thompson). These set a fire deep in my soul … a burning passion. I wanted everyone to know what I was learning. Those many women that came to my house for fittings (that I referred to in my last post), I prayed that they would sense Jesus’ sweet peace the second they pulled into my driveway. I had so many sweet moments with these women and it was no longer about the sewing, but about the relationships. Then, God moved Tim and I to Virginia (that’s a whole other story for another day). Through that move I ended up closing my sewing business and wanted to go in full time with the ministry Tim & I felt called to.

There was one day specifically that God got a hold of my heart. I was driving home from grocery shopping and it hit. I had been praying that God would help me to love people the way He loved people. Ever since, I’ve had this almost strange sense of loving people that I know nothing about. I’m not saying that I’m perfect in this, but it’s become a burning passion inside of me to want to grab hurting women by the shoulders, look in there eyes and tell them how much God loves them. That might have sounded a little creepy. Sorry! Since then, God has given me to the opportunity to co-host on a podcast, write books, start this blog and some other things I’m currently working on that scare me to death.

Jen, where are you going with all of this? Ok, my point is, God has been working in you. There is something deep inside you that you are longing to do but maybe it just seems too scary. I want to encourage you, DO IT! Someone needs to hear what you have to say. Maybe you need to do some research first. Or maybe you can talk to someone that is an expert in that field. I want to encourage you to take the first step. Yes, you may go home and cry because it seemed like you failed. But, DON’T GIVE UP! If you need someone to pray for you or encourage you every step of the way, I’m here. You can send me a message and I would gladly become that someone to encourage you. You have a story to tell … a purpose to fulfill. God wants to use you … yes YOU, to bring Him glory.

~ Jen