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"

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.