Dear Jenny, an open letter to myself

Dear Jenny,

First things first, you will not be a household name like you hoped when you are five. Lucky for you, technology will advance and you will get to pick up your own virtual microphone. You can host your own talk show through a platform called Instagram stories. And while you never become a fly girl, there will be this thing called Tiktok and you can dance for the world every Friday night.

Your first election win as third grade class officer is the beginning of the greater story of leadership your life will tell. Your passion to guide others will take on many forms but it’s in you girl—don’t back down. And when you get beat out by another girl in the sixth grade and you overhear her talking about you in the bathroom, hold your head up high. Losing can make you feel vulnerable, and this will be an ongoing battle for you. But it’s also the very thing that will make you become better. Recovering after taking the loss and getting back at it, builds character that will ensure that ultimately, you’ll win at life.

The boy that called you fat in seventh grade has no clue how wrong he would be. His words are remembered but didn’t stick for long because they are part of the story that has fueled you to become healthy from the inside out. In turn, you will help other girls with a sixth grade story own their worth beyond the scale and then lead them to create the physical health they want.

Highschool will be your happy place. The social dynamics and unlimited activity options will be in your favor. You are popular and well known. You make many memories, and it is the time of your life. This will also catalyze you into facing the pressure to compromise your values and deny what you know to be true in your faith. You will stand strong, and that will lead to rejection. The boy will break up with you, and the girls will exclude you. It is for your good and protection. But the sting of that refusal will make a mark, it will impact future relationships and be a fragile place in your heart that will need tending to in the years to come.

You will make a big mistake in college. It will lead you to the biggest crossroads of your life to date. The enemy could overtake your mind and heart with shame, lies and total destruction, or it could all be submitted to the hands of God. You chose God, and grace pours over you. This decision shifts the trajectory of your future and you leave your home in San Diego on mission to know God and make Him known. It is also on this adventure you become Jen. Jenny has brought you to this point. And now it’s time to grow into an independent woman.

This season of world travel, deep discipleship and radical evangelism in your twenties will cultivate your gifts, it will reveal your purpose and it will spark the passion for God’s people and His house that will burn your entire life. It will bring about the friendships that will last a lifetime. Cherish them, learn from them. They are part of your story for years to come. It will also bring about deep heart ache from a shattered engagement that will disclose the depth of how often you live your life for the approval of others. Let him go. You don’t really love him. He looked the part. But it’s a counterfeit to God’s best for your life.

You marry the right guy. His name is Marcus, and he reflects the goodness of God. The only catch, he is a pastor and the last thing you like is to be boxed in or defined by positions and titles. Embrace this. It’s going to be a long road. And you will often believe you are here “to do” good work for the church, and you will. But the church will be here for God “to do” good work in you.

The early years of marriage and ministry are better than you hoped. You decide to take the next natural step and have a baby. You first born daughter entered this world with an unexpected diagnosis that turns your world upside down and literally changes everything. Addison Grace has Down Syndrome and her seven-pound, precious life alters yours. Soak up every painful second. Her life, her diagnosis, her story reprioritizes everything, and she becomes the best gift you never knew you wanted.

You are radically changed. You go on to have Tatum, Brody and Piper. You cease the pursuit of other dreams or passions because of a clear word from the Lord to stay home. Believe it. Everything you do and all you achieve in the years to come will be an overflow of what happened in the four walls of your home. That decade was not “just mom” it was the foundation of the Jonestribe and the core of your future church plant, the reason behind the business you build and the deep understanding of your true significance.

Every pain will be the point of your potential. Your rejections, losses and even betrayals will be an opportunity to grieve with God and know Him more. All the scars will lead to deeper connection and ultimately your truest callings. You will always sit with a little need for approval, and you will never stop wanting to be number one. But you will get better at identifying the hustle and this awareness will move you to greater wholeness.

So my dearest Jenny, you will turn forty-seven. You will feel freedom on that day. You will sit in gratitude for the hard, and you will be in ah of all the good. You will be content, but not satisfied. And that is good. Because there is more. All you have is not all that God has, and His plans don’t end at forty-seven. As long as you have air to breathe and are committed to your growth in God, He is committed to growing in you. So keep enjoying the journey and be excited about all the ways the road might lead.