Pre-Order The Road To Becoming Today!

Hi Friends,

My first book, The Road To Becoming  (updated and revised edition!), is now available for pre-order on AmazonBarnes & NobleChristianBooks.com, or wherever you buy books. I could not be more excited about the release of this book and I hope you will join me in the celebration by being one of the first to pre-order your copy!

WHAT'S THE BOOK ABOUT?

It’s about that moment in all of our lives when leaning into the unknown becomes our only viable pathway forward. For me that moment came after an intense year of loss, and the abrupt ending of our band, Addison Road. As I watched my plans fall apart and my dreams crumble I had to ask myself, "Do I believe the Storyteller knows better than anyone else how to repurpose my story?" The Road To Becoming is my journey through those seasons of dead ends and detours, burying and lostness, waiting and watching as I was led into the unknown, God-designed future. The road to becoming is not easy, but it is here you'll begin to discover that new life—life abundant—is always, ever among us. Dancing on the horizon. 

JOIN ME

Your support continues to mean the world to me and I could not do any of this without YOU. So as a big “thank you” I want to offer some incentives for you to pre-order my debut book #TheRoadToBecoming.

PRE-ORDER THE ROAD TO BECOMING
Pre-order The Road to Becoming at AmazonBarnes and NobleChristianBooks.com or your favorite retailer.

EMAIL YOUR RECEIPT
Email a copy of your receipt (screenshot works, too) along with your name, email address, and mailing address to info@jennysimmons.com

EXCLUSIVE ONLINE CONCERT AND READING
Once we have your pre-sale info on file, you will be invited to a private online concert and book reading direct to your living room. Date is still TBD, but we will email you the details soon!

AUTOGRAPHED GOODIES MAILED TO YOU
Autographed book plate, quote card, and a bookmark (handmade by yours truly) will be delivered to your front door!

MY UNENDING THANKS
Seriously, thank you. I'm honored to share these words with the world and I could not do it without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Extra Credit: If you want to further help spread the word (and I could really use your help!) just use the hashtag #TheRoadToBecoming and TheRoadToBecoming.com on social media to help get the word out. For the direct link to Amazon, you can use the link: bit.ly/TheRoadToBecoming-Amazon

 

As always, thank you so much for all your support. I am forever grateful to make music and books that have somehow, someway found their way into your stories. What a gift. 

Much Love,
Jenny

 

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"Pre-order #TheRoadToBecoming, @jennysimmons's new book, and get some fun freebies! Details at theroadtobecoming.com"

Ripped Hearts and New Beginnings

Here's the thing about being a parent- it will RIP your heart out.

And chances are, your babies will recover faster than you. Their hearts bounce back, springy like tiny balls from quarter machines. My heart bounces back like putty. Slow and sticky and defiant.

You watch them pray all summer for a certain teacher. Then, they enlist others to pray, and this is how you know it is serious: they have involved the grandparents in this elusive thing called prayer that they don't quite understand yet but are willing to attempt under the circumstances. And the day comes to find out the teacher and the friends from last years class, or from the playground, that might hopefully be in the new class. And she wakes up giddy. She spends an hour- AN HOUR- putting on fake Lisa Frank press-on nails. Scouring jewelry buckets for the perfect bracelets. Brushing her hair and putting on her prettiest dress because soon she will go to the school and find her name on the list next to her friends and that one teacher she prayed she would get all summer. And you warn her: God doesn't always answer prayers the way we hope he answers them. And some things in life aren't answers to prayers at all. Some things are just life and God is with us in the midst of it all, but not every single thing bears the mark of God's divine intervention, even when we pray for it to. Weighty matters for little girls and for momma's and for all people who pray. And no matter what happens, it's going to be good. It's going to be ok, you tell her. And she brushes you off, confidant that the list taped to the red school door bears the things her heart has longed for. 

And for an hour she has gotten ready. So beautiful. So giddy. So much older than first grade. And this parent thing will rip your heart out. Because you walk to that school door and scour the list for your baby's name. And then you look up. It's not the right teacher. And there is not a name you recognize, except that one boy who hits and tells her she is stupid. And all the friends? They are together in a different class. All of them. And this class? This class she didn't hope for at all... you have to tell her about it and watch her little spirit crumple right there in front of the school door. And you would just about rather die than have to bear up under your baby's crumpling of heart. And she is strong, fighting back tears until we get into the car and they begin to slip down her face but even still she holds back until the house, where she quietly says she needs alone time, runs to her room, throws the fake nails off and sobs for nearly thirty minutes uninterrupted. 

And this is what the beginning of first grade will feel like. Sadness and bravery and broken dreams and promises of new ones instead. And I hold her two tiny fingers that she slides underneath the door for me. And we sit there, on either side of the door, holding fingers, both crying. Because this parent business will rip your heart out. And she marches into class the first day, willing to try. Brave and without bitterness. And I fight the desire to schedule a meeting with the principle to tell her that my daughter *might* be allergic to her new teacher and the new classroom and the new classmates. Terribly allergic. I fight it and bounce back, slow, like putty. 

She doesn't secretly need me to alter the course of her life because I am afraid for her or believe she deserves special privileges. She doesn't need me to make excuses for why her prayer wasn't answered the way she so desperately wanted it to. She just needs me to stand by her side while she faces reality and needs me to whisper to her that she can do hard things and she will never do them alone. But she already knows this. She said when she walked into her classroom for the first time she felt like someone was really close to her and hugging her. It was God, she says matter-of-factly, hugging me in my new class. And she knows Tessa now. She has decided they will be best friends and her teacher seems nice. Her birthday is next week and she is thinking she probably likes Target because "what teacher doesn't love Target gift cards mom?"

She bounces back springy and beautiful and strong and teaches me how to let go and move forward and be brave. Oh, this parent thing. It will rip your heart out. But when the heart mends back together it is rich and sturdy and lined with the spirit of our children who surprise us time and time again with their beautiful becoming. 

We're All Living Two Pictures



This time last year- this very week- I buried my grandpa. Three months before that I buried my Mamaw. In-between those major moments of loss I recorded an album, edited a book, found black mold in our rental property and had to find a new place to move into quickly, and a few other special life moments like finding out I had asthma. When Ryan and I's anniversary rolled around on August 10th we both sat on the couch innocently sipping coffee having NO IDEA it was our 12 year anniversary. We were exhausted and oblivious. As we sipped coffee, the Yahoo calendar reminder on our phones went off at nearly the same moment. We looked down, realized it was our anniversary, and both secretly sat terrified, convinced the other one had remembered and we were "that spouse." The one who forgot. Eventually I cracked. "Ryan- did your phone just tell you it was our anniversary? Because mine did and I HAD NO IDEA. I AM SOOOOOOOO SORRY." We breathed a huge sigh of release and we both died laughing. 

During Addison Road days we were always on the road on our anniversary. Usually playing for a festival and celebrating with all-access passes to porta-potties and our bandmates.  It was all kinds of romantic. This year we decided we would get away. We had more than a few missed anniversary years to make up for and I didn't want to wait for our 15 year anniversary because I am the most optimistic-fatalist you will ever meet. What if I don't live that long?!? I routinely tell Ryan that there are at least five reasons why, on any given day, I think I am dying. He tells me "Go in peace," and then smiles that cute, mischievous smile at me so I can't hit him.

So this week we snuck away to the beach. And it was almost perfect. The food, the drinks, the room, the weather, the rest, the time spent alone together. But the beach? The beach was- well- let's just say I concocted 15 different diseases that one could have acquired from that beach. At least. The usually turquoise water, was brown. Each wave weighted down with unending globs of seaweed. The seaweed, said the staff, was washing to shore by the ton. And the smell. Oh, the smell. Some mornings it was strong enough to make me gag out loud. Still- beaches are my thing. Like the ONLY reason we traveled to this place. So I refused to give up on it. Each day I sat under a cabana that was far enough back so I didn't have to make eye contact with the seaweed. My enemy. Each day I held my breath and convinced myself I could live with the smell. And each day I felt a bit sad about it all. Just a bit. I'm a beach girl. And this was not how I fully envisioned my "beach" vacation.  

I took pictures of the ocean each morning because there is always a way to find, shape, frame or create beauty. And today I woke up wanting to post about the trip and found myself picking the most beautiful pictures to show you. And then it struck me--- if I only show my pretty pictures, I am only telling half the story. The story I want to believe so badly for myself. The story I want to give everyone. The pretty version. The one where I spent a lot of saved up money to go to a beautiful beach and actually got to get in the water and enjoy the beauty of the beach. 

But the truth is- it was all very brown and sea-weedy. There were bulldozers hauling off the globs and guys with wheelbarrows and pitch forks working around the clock to remove seaweed as it washed up. The country has been dealing with it for 9 months nows. And for the first time in my life, I went to the ocean and didn't so much as stick a toe in the water. 

 

There will be more oceans. (Hopefully- you never know.) (Says the fatalistic-hypochondriac.) 

But what it got me thinking this morning and what I want to say about it all is this: Everyone is living in two pictures. The beautiful one they instinctively want to put on display. And the other one. With beaches full of seaweed and guys with pitchforks and wheelbarrows. 

No one wants to talk about the second picture. Maybe because, like me, I want to believe a different narrative. I wanted so badly to enjoy the beach. Maybe because we want people to think something specific about us. Maybe because we are truly optimists seeking to elevate the beauty and not the shortcomings. So we slap the first picture up there. The one that makes it look like we just had a *dream* vacation to the beach. And we don't talk about the seaweed. 

And then everyone walks around thinking that everyone else is living a perfect life. But the truth? We're all living in two pictures. Trying to make the most of the beauty and the disappointments. 

If someone only shows you one type of picture, be wary. 
Don't take too much stock in all the perfect pictures you see. Measuring your life against pictures that don't tell the whole story is dangerous. Because a single picture is never the whole story.

Chances are- somewhere in there- they have pictures of seaweed, too. 

It's Delicious

Ryan, Annie and I are in the process of church-hunting. No small task in a city with over 700 churches. While visiting a new church today, Annie decided to come to the front with us during communion. She was not going to take the elements, though many of the other children were, and was prepared to simply stand alongside us. However, the Reverend bent over to offer her the bread before I could stop it from happening. Annie froze, eyes wide, not sure what to do. In that split second the Reverend bent down, looked her in the eyes, smiled the most beautiful, joyful smile and said, "It's ok. Don't worry. It's delicious!" With a secret wink the pastor handed her the bread and moved on to the next person in our communion circle. Annie's eyes sparkled with mystery and awe. She held on to the bread, then shoved it into my hand where it eventually ended up at the bottom of my purse. And the Reverend's words? Well, they ended up in the bottom of my heart.

I can't shake the beauty of what that pastor gave my daughter. Not judgement, fear, heaven, hell, theology of age or salvation or annoyance that she didn't know exactly what to do or how to respond. She wasn't ignored, looked down upon or simply overlooked. What she was given instead were welcoming words of faith from a pastor that understands the heart of Jesus for his children. Annie was invited to take partake in the body of Christ, and with a wink, was offered a seat at the table of fear-not and it's delicious.

And the whole thing has me thinking of the beauty of a pastor willing to bend low, look us in the eyes and with a wink say the life-giving words 'don't worry' and 'it's delicious'.

Too often we leave our houses of worship with more fear than we walked in with. Too often we leave without an invitation to taste and see that God is good- the body of Christ is good- the world around us (made in the very image of God) is good. Too often we walk out the doors of our houses of faith without the invitation to come to the table and remember that this faith thing- well, it's delicious. The words spoken over my daughter have found a space in my own soul because everything else around me seems to be screaming THERE IS NOTHING GOOD. Nothing delicious. No place to be without fear. No room for peace. But this simply is not true, it is only what the frenzy of media, politics, Facebook feeds- and sadly some churches- would have us believe. But the brokenness is not our totality. As long as God is God, there is good. There will always be reason to taste and see and know the goodness and faithfulness of God that is on display all around us. So I am grateful for the Pastors and Reverends in our houses of worship that remind us, with a wink, that we need not be consumed with fear, worry, hate and politics. I'm grateful that they speak the words to us "don't worry". Grateful that they remind us, "Hey- this bread of Christ offered to GIVE YOU LIFE? It IS delicious."

Maybe today you need to be reminded of this too.

Speak Their Names

Last Wednesday night was one of the most magical nights I can remember. With my good friends Krista and Lori, and our daughters in tow, I sat at Rojo Beach Bar in Amerbgris Caye, Belize and watched the sun set on the turquoise water while Coldplay's song Paradise played through the speakers in the background. There was a breeze, no heat, a bottle of white wine, kids playing, hammocks swaying, feet on the table and eventually, three made-from-scratch-pizzas. All of that, plus a pristine ocean and a beach so far removed from most of the world's radar that it was empty and private and felt completely ours and the stage was set for one of the most surreal nights of my life. When it was finally time to head back to our  beach house, perched a mere thirty feet from from the Caribbean waters, we hailed a water taxi, took a boat ride through the dark night on the smooth ocean, got off at our dock, realized the stars were shining bright and laid down right there with our daughters to name constellations and find planets. In bed that night, Annie curled up close to me and said, "Besides Disney World this has been the best day ever and you have been the best momma to me in the whole world," and then she fell asleep in my arms. It was a perfect night. 

Rojo Beach bar. Ambergris caye, Belize. June 17,2015.

Rojo Beach bar. Ambergris caye, Belize. June 17,2015.

star gazing on the dock. June 17, 2015.

star gazing on the dock. June 17, 2015.

I woke up the next morning to a news feed of horror beyond imagination.

Nine beautiful people killed inside of their church by a young racist intent on starting a hate-filled war between black and white people. A thousand miles away from home, I read the news and felt physically ill. The night before had been one of the best nights of my life and yet it was another momma's worst nightmare. I wept bitterly that morning and have wept everyday since. I hope the tears do not dry up any time soon because the wounds in our country are deep and will never heal if we live unaffected in the face of intolerant, ignorant evil. So I grieve. I grieve for every life lost and every life left behind to grapple with the unthinkable horror that they or their family members experienced first hand that night. I grieve for the pain our brothers and sisters in the black community have continually experienced this year. I particularly grieve for Reverend Clementa Pinckney's wife, Jennifer Pinckney, and their two daughters Eliana and Malana.

On June 17, 2015 two Jennifer's from the south lived a completely different story and that will never be fair. The least I can do in light of the disparity in our stories is grieve with my sister Jennifer, allow righteous anger for the injustice that so many of my black brothers and sisters still live under, and let the world know that my soul is not unaffected by what has happened. It is affected and I pray it may always be so. As a daughter of Jesus Christ I cannot turn a blind eye to intolerance, injustice, oppression, bigotry or hate. Nor can I turn a blind eye to the collective tears of people in mourning or the righteous anger that rises up from that deep pain. May I always be affected and afflicted with groans of the oppressed and broken in this world.  

May I always remember June 17th, 2015. 

While I sat under stars with my daughter that night, Jennifer hid under a desk with hers.

While my 6-year-old daughter listened to the waves lapping against the shore 
Her 6-year-old daughter listened to the spray of bullets, screams for help and the eventual silence of death.

While my daughter fell asleep safe in my arms 
Her daughters fell asleep in a nightmare, their sense of safety stolen.

On Wednesday night June 17th, while Annie was given the gift of a carefree childhood, Malana was robbed of hers. Her innocence stolen as she hid under a desk with her momma and listened to her daddy being murdered. Malana was robbed; we all were. Violence and hatred effect us all. 

One week later I am still horrified.  
And angry.
And grieving. 

I told Annie about what happened that night because I want her to know Malana's name. I don't often know where to start or how to be a meaningful part of the larger conversation of racial reconciliation, but I will start where I can: in my own home.

I will tell Annie her name. Malana Pinckney. 
And I will tell her what led to the church massacre on June 17th that killed her daddy. Racism.  

I will tell her the stories of our own family. Of our own sin. Of our own pain. Of our own triumph.

I will tell Annie that my grandmother (her great grandma whom she adores) was spending the week with my family in high school, working outside in the yard and bringing loads of trash to the bins in the alley when a white neighbor pulled up and asked my Hispanic grandma how much she charged. I will tell Annie how deeply embarrassed my Grandma was and explain to her that for a long time people assumed a Hispanic woman bringing out the trash from a white person's home meant the Hispanic woman was a maid. A servant of sorts. I will tell her that we can never give into the un-Christlike arrogance of assuming something about a person because of the color of their skin. Never. Not their job, their faith, their work ethic, their political affiliation or their propensity towards good or evil. Skin color does not reveal the substance of a soul. It never has and it never will. It seems elementary, I will tell her, but there are arrogant pockets of people who blindly continue to label those around them and this becomes dangerous and deadly in the hands of the most depraved. I will tell Annie this is the opposite of our faith in Jesus Christ whose earthly ministry was hallmarked by dispelling labels that enslaved people and setting the oppressed free. 

I will tell Annie about my own papaw who helped ensure black students in Enterprise, Mississippi could walk into school buildings that were historically designated for white children only.  As the superintendent of schools in Enterprise during de-segregation in 1964, my papaw stood next to the front door of the high school for months on end, along with local pastors, and ensured that every student was physically able to walk through the doors. This was no small feat in a state where people physically assaulted black students trying to enter the halls of previously all-white education houses. While my Papaw and Mamaw received death threats and vandalism to their own home across the street from the high school, he remained resolute: No black student would be turned away on his watch. He oversaw the integration of the school system at a near record pace for Mississippi. I want Annie to know that this issue has mattered to our family for a long time. 

I have to tell her that some people see skin color and they think it is okay to make jokes, imitate, belittle, categorize, humiliate and in the worst cases hurt and kill others because of the color of their skin. I want her to know that racism is not only an ugly part of our history, but part of our present.  Sadly, a culture of people who routinely turn a blind eye to racist jokes, racial stereotyping, intolerance and injustice will always be marred and marked by the worst among them who take it "one step too far." Our tolerance for such words and deeds pave the way. We all have blood on our hands if we refuse to speak out against such ignorant hate. Sadly, there have been moments where I was not courageous or brave in the face of racism and I too have blood on my hands. I want Annie to know that we must fight ignorance so that when she has children they don't live in a country where cultural racism and religious fanaticism drive the most depraved to do unthinkable acts of evil. I want her to know that black lives matter. And brown lives. And ALL lives matter. She cannot understand this, because she does not see skin color. We were in Belize with her best friend who is black. Black lives matter? Of course they do. It is incomprehensible to her that this is even a question. It should be incomprehensible to us all. 

I long for the day when those of us who profess faith in Jesus Christ lean deeply into the words of the Apostle Paul who says: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Until then I grieve and will continue to speak their names. 

Clementa. Cynthia. Susie. Ethel. DePayne. Tywanza. Daniel. Sharonda. Myra.

Jennifer, Eliana, and Malana Pinckney—and all of those left behind.