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.


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