I'm Pregnant. I think.

Hello, my name is Jenny and I'm pregnant. I think. 

If I were to walk into group therapy today, that's how I would introduce myself. I'm pregnant, I think. 

Last week I heard the heart beat and the whole pee-in-the-cup business continues to confirm that I am indeed pregnant. But while my stomach is slightly larger than usual (even that seems to fluctuate with the time of day and size of meal) and I get the occasional leg cramp in my sleep, these are the only vague indicators that something is growing inside of me. No morning sickness. No intense cravings for exotic or bizarre foods. Not particularly weepy or sleepy. And so far, no discernible movement from the baby.  

I am on the cusp of being 18-weeks-pregnant and don't feel much of anything.

My friends have told me about a place where I can go get a sonogram for only $100 and my sister has offered to mail me her at-home fetal heart rate monitor. The nurse said I could come in if I needed to hear the heart beat for reassurance and peace of mind. And I'm tempted to say yes to all of these things. YES, I WANT PROOF. 

YES, I want peace of mind. YES, I want reassurance.

But there's something I want more. 

I want to learn how to trust. I want to be a woman rooted deep in faith. 

While the incredibly kind and well-intentioned offers of my friends and family to 'put me out of my misery' are beautiful examples of their love for me, I feel as though God keeps whispering that this is not a season for short-cuts. This is a season to re-engage the hard work of faith. So while I sorely want to hear a heart beat and be instantly reassured that all is well with the tiny baby growing inside of me, I am choosing instead to repeat a simple prayer of faith when I feel frantic for proof of life:

I trust that you are alive. 
I trust that you were made well. 

These utterances are my simple acts of faith. Faith is a spiritual gift. But it is not my spiritual gift. I am a skeptic, doubter, thinker, mystic, over-analyzer and general 'I want proof' kind of gal. Faith doesn't always come naturally for me; it's a muscle I must routinely exercise, and even then it seems to be hidden away in that clandestine place where my ab muscles are mysteriously holed up. So I have a choice. I can constantly seek to relieve the tension of not-knowing or I can learn to rest in a faith that reminds me it is already known. 

For only $100! I can have a sonogram done at the drop of a hat and feel immediate relief from my discomfort. But this reinforces my reliance on hard evidence and proof. You don't need faith or trust (or pixie dust!) if you can get all the answers on demand. As long as my body is healthy and my doctor finds no need to do extra-testing, it's probably safe to say the baby is fine and I will hear the pitter-patter of her heart again in six weeks time. The question is more-than-likely less about whether the baby is growing as she should be, but whether I am growing into a life of faith, as I could be. In my own book I write, "As a person of faith I am invited to live in the tension of believing that God is present and at work, whether I see immediate evidence of it or not. I am invited to abide in the truth that the sun is still rising. Always rising. Whether I see it yet or not, there's a little bit of morning outside."

I will always be chasing these words, re-learning to live by them in each new season. 

In fourteen days we will get the regularly scheduled sonogram to find out whether we are having a boy or girl. To find out if the heart and brain and lungs are all accounted for and developing as they should be. 

Until then, when it suddenly hits me that I have not "felt" pregnant at all on a given day, I will take a deep breath, repeat my simple prayer, and allow the discomfort of not-knowing to propel me towards a trust and faith that is not built on immediate answers but on the knowledge that there is more at work in this world than my eye can see. There is a way of living that does not require proof.

Evidence will manifest itself in due time. Until then, I am learning all over again what it means to be a woman of faith. 

 

~~~

Further thoughts on Waiting and Lostness from my book
The Road to Becoming:

"The possibility of giving birth to a new person is both terrifying and exhilarating. And you realize waiting is not just an exercise for the sake of learning patience; waiting is for the sake of letting something grow. Learning patience along the way is simply a bonus. We wait because new life requires time to grow. We wait because there is a bigger issue at hand than just What will I do next? but rather, Who will I be when I finally get there?"   

"A person who is willing to inhabit their lostness has the faith of a great army. People who don't have faith don't allow themselves to get lost. They do not trust God to show up in the darkness and shine a light on the path that leads to being found."

"Jesus has become the guide, and the the Guide is teaching me how to move forward in the dark." 

"When I confidently trust that God is near and in the business of finishing what He started, I can wait with hope." 

"Sometimes life is all fat feet and waiting games." 

"Our aversion to patience, our propensity to hurry along the person who is waiting and preparing, speaks deeply to the state of our hasty, risk-averse souls. We would rather put someone out of their supposed misery than sit through the misery with them while they wait. We would rather cut short their time of growth in order to wrap up their tense moments of indefinite waiting with a pretty bow." 

"Incubating, growing, becoming. It is not a curse. It is a blessing." 

"That anything can be planted and then sprout, grow and bloom is holy." 

 

 

 

Mercy In My Underwear Drawer

One month ago I found out some pretty major news that rocked my world. I was emotionally reeling, Ryan was at work, and three real estate agents were lined up to come to our home that morning to talk about listing our home on the market. It was the first day of Lent and I was endeavoring to live with open eyes and an open heart. A man pulled into my driveway in an old beat-up white truck and came to my front door one hour before the first real estate agent was to arrive.

I always keep the front door open because I love to see the sunlight pouring in through the storm door. Also, we live at the end of a quiet, private cul-de-sac so it never feels intrusive or dangerous. The down side to this is, sometimes people in old, beat-up white trucks pull up to the curb and feel the freedom to walk straight to the open door and knock. In these situations, there really isn’t proper time to close the door and pretend you aren’t home.

He told me his name and his wife’s name. She was in the truck. He was in the neighborhood laying mulch for neighbors and had a pretty big load he still needed to get rid of. He noticed we had nice big flower beds, but no fresh mulch and wondered if I might be interested in his. It was top of the line- it would last all season- and he would give me a great price. Ryan and I had actually just made a short list of things that needed to be updated around the house if we were going to put it on the market. Mulch in the flower beds was one of those things.

“How much?” I asked him.

“$6.85 a bag,” he said.

“And how many bags do you think you will use?”

“Well, each bag is 50 pounds and it won’t take too much, ma’am. I’ll give you a good rate.”

“Ok, well I have realtors coming to the house in an hour, do you think you can be done by then?”

“Yes ma’am! And could I please have some cold water for my wife and I?”

I brought him the water and chatted with he and his wife as they began to work outside. I didn’t have the best feeling about the whole situation but they clearly needed the income. They were in worn-out ratty clothes, driving an old beat up truck, looking for work. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that maybe she was in a situation she didn’t want to be in. So now that they were here, I figured I might as well try and pour some love into them and make sure she was safe. The whole situation was bizarre and I was kicking myself for not just having the wits to say, “NO THANK YOU.”

A million accusations flooded my mind.

Seriously Jenny? Why are you such a sucker? Why can’t you just say no? Why do you answer the door? You can shut it in someone’s face, you know. It’s your house. I’ve been letting in Mormon missionaries and encyclopedia salesmen my whole life. Don’t even get me started on that one time a man selling meat from the back of his truck almost sucked me in. How much does mulch cost anyways? He sure does seem to be using a lot.

The first real estate agent and his greasy protégé showed up thirty minutes early. I suppose they were going to sit in the car until the proper time. But you know- I’m the girl that keeps the front door open- so they got out and joined the party in the front yard. I was dripping in sweat form anxiety. Already riddled from an emotional 24 hours, I just wasn’t thinking clearly. I got the real estate agents settled inside and went to tell the man out front that we had enough mulch.

He handed me a sheet of paper, freshly torn from the spiral notebook in his hand, that said the total price. I almost passed out. I thought I would have a heart attack. His wife was already back in the truck and horror stories instantly played through my mind of what might happen if I fought back and said, “absolutely not.” He already looked like he could kill a person with a shovel at any moment. The mistake was made and it was mine. I just wanted them gone and I wanted to feel safe. In my emotionally frazzled state, the safest thing seemed like paying and getting them to leave.

I still can’t even type the number that I wrote that check for without waves of shame and embarrassment. But you can do the math. Somehow our flower beds required 40 bags of mulch.

Please. If you feel the need to point out how cheap a bag of mulch is at Home Depot, trust me, I am painfully aware.  

The dread I felt in having to text Ryan and tell him what I had done was intense. We don’t have that kind of money laying around and I knew it would mean we would need to dip into savings to cover my monumental mistake. I was totally ashamed and embarrassed that I had made such a stupid mistake. I was angry at myself for always being a sucker. I’ve been a sucker my whole life. I texted him. “I made a huge mistake. I’m sorry. I know it was stupid. I can’t even talk about it right now because I might break out in hives. But you are going to need to move some money over from savings. I’m so so sorry.”

Ryan’s initial response was as expected. “You can’t be serious?” “No way Jen. There is no way he charged you that much and you paid.”

It wasn’t my finest moment.

I laid in bed that night crying my eyes out. But when I went to brush my teeth, the most amazing thing happened.

The man who laid the mulch promised me it would last all season!, and if it didn’t, I could just call him and he would come lay new mulch for free. He scrawled his name, Archie C., and his phone number on the corner edge of the notebook paper and the cost per bag. I showed Ryan earlier in the day. “Seriously? That’s his business card? This is all you got in return?” No. I got forty bags of mulch in return ;-). He laughed at the ridiculousness of it all and put the tiny piece of paper in his pocket.

As I went to pick up my toothbrush that night, I found Archie’s “business card” taped around the bristles of the brush. My dear husband, who always has a wicked sense of humor, left this gift for me. I died laughing. The next morning, I woke up and found his "business card" taped to the toilet seat. That night it was under my pillow. And the following morning, as I hurriedly got ready for meetings, I reached inside my underwear drawer, pull out of my favorite pair, and there ole’ Archie’s “business card” was. Taped inside my favorite pair of underwear. I have never laugh-cried harder in my life.

So I made a $270 mistake. It happens. Well, maybe that particular kind of mistake will never happen to you because you aren’t gullible. But maybe a different kind of mistake will. Or maybe you have a gullible person in your life too and they will make a stupid mistake. But here’s the thing----

In ten years, what I will remember about that day is not the mistake I made but the mercy I was given. Because after Ryan’s initial “YOU DID WHAT?” response, he quickly did what he does best. Offers grace. He didn’t make snide comments about the cost of mulch at Home Depot or my inability to just say no, he didn’t roll his eyes, comment on how much money I had just lost us or allow me to feel shame for a single minute longer than I needed to. He let it go and endeavored to help me do the same. He laughed. He brought joy and gave unmerited mercy.

Mercy doesn’t come with a side of judgmental arrogance. 

Mercy doesn’t come with a smirk and a declaration in your heart that “you would never make that kind of mistake.”

Mercy comes free. Without merit. In the midst of the mistake. Mercy is for those of us who make stupid decisions. It shows up taped to your toothbrush and in your underwear drawer. It comes on visitation days at the prison and in living rooms after affairs are discovered. It comes as you confess what you’ve been racking up on the credit card and in the car when you’ve yelled at your babies and they forgive you before you can ask out loud. It comes on a cross when everyone has gone home, hidden their faces and run away from the One they once called their beloved teacher and Lord.

Mercy comes running. And it sets us free. No strings attached.

May we know God’s mercy this Lenten season.

May we be quick to give and receive grace.

Quicker still to release our shame.

And eager to be lavish givers of mercy.

 

(And yes, Dad. I know you will now go and listen to Mercy Came Running by Phillips, Craig and Dean for the rest of the day. Let me make it easy for you. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2otwzdgDRw )

UpRooting and Re-rooting Well

For military spouses and others who uproot your family in service to others: I am in awe of your sacrifice and grateful for the hard work you do to establish roots where ever you go. Your ability to LIVE and LOVE no matter where your home may be located, inspires us to make the most of what we have. You uproot and re-root and do so with beauty and strength.

You are heroes too.


I spent this weekend with my sister Melissa, her husband Tim and their beautiful daughters in Lexington, Kentucky. They have been in the city less than three months and this is the fifth move their family has made for the Army since they got married ten years ago. But as we celebrated my niece's 4th birthday with an outer-space themed party, the house began to fill with people. And when it was all said and done there were twenty people in their home loving on that sweet little girl. Twenty people that, three months ago, my sister did not know. I was in awe. My sister re-roots well.

These are three things I've learned from Melissa and Tim about people who uproot and re-root well:

*They just start living. They don't wait until their houses are perfectly put back together or the moving boxes are all cleared out or they are completely settled in. Settling takes time, and their time is precious. People who re-root well hit the ground living for the day at hand.

*People who re-root themselves well don't have the luxury of picky perfection. I leaned over this weekend and asked Melissa where all these people had come from. Had our dad paid them to come to his granddaughter's birthday party?!? She laughed and said, "Nope. They are all from our new church!" New church already? It's taken us three years to find the right church here in Nashville. Maybe that's because when time is of no value, we often get lost in our freedom. But for people who uproot every three years, time is of the essence. And people who uproot well value every second they have. When Melissa and Tim arrived in August, they located churches near them, wrote a list, and began to visit the first Sunday they were in town. As it turns out, they didn't need the list, because the very first church they attended- they liked. And decided to stay. And it doesn't always happen that quickly- sometimes it takes a few months. But people who re-root well don't have time to laboriously comb through churches with their mile-long lists of needs that must be met. They hold some standards tightly and the non-essentials loosely. Knowing you have three years- or five- means you don't have the luxury of looking for a perfect family, you look for a good family with open arms and jump all in. We may all do well to follow this example. There is no such thing as a perfect family. But there sure are a lot of good families out there. They may not fit all of our needs or fulfill all of our dreams and wishes- but that was never supposed to be the church's job in the first place. People who re-root well don't wait for a perfect church family, they find a place with open arms and just get to it.

*Finally, those who re-root well are open to befriending a wide range of people. When we moved to Nashville my biggest concern was Annie having friends at her birthday party. I was a *wee* bit scarred by my own third grade birthday party, which happened several months after moving to a new city, and no one came. Consequently, I did not want my own daughter to experience the same thing (although she was only turning 4-years-old and probably wouldn't remember!). I lasered in on any human that had a child in their possession. And what followed was an unlikely group of women who graciously invited me and Annie into their lives. We were all VERY different, but I wanted friends and more importantly I wanted my daughter to have friends---so I was grateful for anyone with open arms. I still am. People who re-root well are not too picky about the open arms; they are grateful for each set and willing to befriend the most unlikely people. They make friends at the library, Starbucks, church, the playground and in their neighborhood. Currently, my brother-in-law has weekly tea with the new friends he has made in the program he is studying for-they are all from the Middle East. My sister has friends who are absolutely nothing like her, friends perhaps she would never naturally be drawn to, but has been welcomed by and that's what matters.

I sat at a birthday party this weekend in awe of those who uproot and re-root well. They don't wait to "feel" settled, they aren't picky about new faith families and they are open to befriending a wide range of people. Most importantly, they don't shut down and retreat---waiting with dread for the next move, not investing because they are afraid of the good-byes, hiding because it's easier than living. They bravely, boldly, sometimes just-for-their-kids'-sake start living the minute their feet hit the ground on new soil. As we honor Veterans this week- we also honor the spouses who fight for their families to have LIFE abundant in each new place they are stationed. Your ability to LIVE and LOVE no matter where your home may be located, inspires us to make the most of what we have. You uproot and re-root and do so with beauty and strength. You are heroes too.

(PS: Apparently people who up-root well know the potential a moving box has to become a spaceship. You up-rooters rock those multi-purpose packing boxes!)

A God Story

I recently received the weekend outline for an upcoming women's conference I am leading worship and speaking for. I have been a part of this conference, at this church, with these people before. It's the kind of place you want to come back to and invite your friends- the ones who don't like church (or most Christians for that matter)- because you know your friends are safe there. They will be treated like family and prayed over for months before they arrive. They will take in thoughtful, excellent content and be exposed to Jesus in the best possible ways. I trust these ladies and this church. And if you know me personally, you know that is saying a whoooooole lot. After having only been with them for a few short days two years ago they have remained my people and several of them have been deeply impactful voices in my life since that time.

So they asked me back and being asked back is always such a gift. And last week they sent me the outline for the weekend. The weekend's theme? Embrace the Life You Were Meant to Lead. Friday night starts off withRebekah Lyons and I. She wrote an amazing book called Free Fall to Fly and it's about being brave enough to fall so that you can eventually fly. It is beautiful and vulnerable and freeing. The first session? Embrace Brave.

That session starts with an interview, the outline says. An interview with me. The outline actually reads, "Becky interviews Jenny Simmons focusing on her life since her visit in 2013; asthma, death of her sister’s babies, loss of grandparents, etc." Then the outline references a blog from this year where I wrote, "How many times have I not done something simply because I wasn't brave enough to stick one foot out over the ledge into the unknown?"

I read the outline and thought, "Gosh. Brave. Who am I to talk about being brave? Sarah should be on that stage. She's the one that lost her babies and she's the one that has been brave enough to wake up each morning and take another breath. Brave enough to keep living. Brave enough to keep calling God her good and faithful friend. Brave enough to get pregnant again. She should be on stage. Not me."

I got teary eyed as I still do when I think about the loss of Maggie and Ellen. Almost a year later and I still cry at the tiniest thought of their short lives and the utter hell our family walked through this time last year.

I put the computer down determined not to cry. I got a text from Ryan a few minutes later saying he needed to go ahead and get airline tickets booked for that conference- were these the right dates?

October 2nd-October 3rd

My heart nearly stopped. October 2nd, the day I am going to be on stage talking about how God makes us brave? That is the one year anniversary of Maggie and Ellen's short lives and deaths. The day I flew to Oklahoma in a fury and mom and I sat with Ray and Sarah as those baby girls pushed their way into earth and then straight into heaven. 

 

No wonder the Holy Spirit told me only moments earlier... Sarah should be on that stage.

And so I called her and said, "I have no idea how you want to spend the girls' first birthday. I really don't, and any way you choose is perfect. Maybe at the cemetery? Maybe quietly at home? Or maybe in front of 1,000 women telling them how it is possible to live out your worst nightmare and find God to STILL be present, near, gracious, compassionate, merciful and full of love? What it looks like to keep living and how God keeps meeting you and making you brave? You probably don't want to do that. But Sarah I trust this church. I trust them with our story and with you. And you don't have to but..."

"There's no where else I want to be..." she interrupted.

"I don't even know if the church will want that..." I said quickly not wanting to make any promises.

And she repeated the same thing. "There's no other place I want to be. Yes. The answer is yes. I want to worship that night."

And the ladies at the church felt the same thing in their spirits immediately. This was bigger than us. This was orchestrated by God himself.

God continues to weave tiny glimpses of redemption and beauty into our stories. There are very few places I would entrust my sister to on this incredibly monumental "1st." It is no accident that I am at The Hills Church on Friday, October 2nd talking about what it means to stick one foot out in front of the other, taking God's hand, and choosing to be brave. No accident that I will lead women that night in the very songs that Matt Maher sang at the girls' funeral...

Lord I need you, oh I need you.
Every hour I need you.
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God how I need you...

No accident at all. Just another gift from a faithful God who shows up in the brokenness of this world and redeems and redeems and redeems. God restores our souls. God MAKES US BRAVE.

So on the one year anniversary of Maggie and Ellen's life you will find my family worshipping (with all kinds of tears). And women of all ages- consider this your personal invitation to join us that night in Dallas/Ft.Worth. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world that night. I am in AWE of how God has once again divinely touched our story with his mercy, grace and presence.

For more information regarding the Embrace Brave conference on October 2nd-3rd visit: thehillsembrace.org/home/

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

 

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