I don’t even know where to begin, really.  I’m a planner.  Since about age 3 (ask my parents), I have planned out my life exactly how it should go.  How often does it go according to my plan?  Never :)

Five months ago I wrote about the winds changing in my life.  I have my degree in Elementary Education, and I knew I wanted to teach once all our kids went to school.  Michael and I had talked about me going back to school to get my Masters in Teaching for Bilingual/ESL, and we figured now would be the best time to start. I began to apply to grad schools and move forward with my plan, happily telling everyone I came into contact with about what the next year would look like for me.  But little did I know God was moving (as always) in different ways and in things I couldn’t even imagine.

I attended a Leadership conference this spring with the Family Ministry team at our church, Jamey and Sarah, and I began to feel something happen in my heart about Leadership and what that looks like in my life. Jamey gave me a book by Andy Stanley called Next Generation Leader, and I had no idea how much God would use it to begin to shape me for the future.  Right inside the cover the tagline is, “Ready or not, you’re next!” I didn’t know how blatantly true that was. :)  This is the kind of book you can read 1,000 times and still get something new from it.  But for right now, the biggest revelation to me was “Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage assumes fear. Courage is the willingness to strap on your fear and move ahead. Courage is the willingness to move in a direction in spite of the emotions and thoughts that bid you do otherwise.” The fact that this was so meaningful to me also made me nervous because I thought, “oh no…what does God have for me and why is He trying to prepare me to be courageous?!”

I was in a season of waiting with God, and I really wasn’t sure what to do.  School programs were too full, or classes were offered too far away, and things came up in our family that made us reconsider grad school for the time being.  It seemed as if all the doors were closing, and I was getting discouraged. I found myself clinging to lines in songs I listened to like,  “even when my dreams have died, even if I don’t survive, I’ll still worship You with all my life..” and “I’m trusting You when hope is hard to find…” I was kind of stuck at a standstill.

There was one grad school that I decided to continue to pursue. I was awaiting their decision on my application when one August afternoon, I got a call from Larry, a pastor at The Orchard.  He said for about a year, The Orchard has been dreaming up a new role for Orchard Kids for someone who has deep passion for children and would help lead others to be passionate about children, and that they would love to talk to me more about it.

The following six or so weeks were composed of several hours of interviews and meetings with the lead team,  real and honest conversations, and an intense role-playing evaluation (I still can’t believe I didn’t pass out).  But in all seriousness, God made His presence so evident to me and my heart was undergoing serious transformation. I felt Him unwrapping this whole other confident and courageous side to myself.  It was then that I began to see HIS plan for me unfold. God orchestrated it so beautifully and way more gracefully than anything I could ever have planned on my own.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18  

In my Bible study I was studying 1 Samuel 16,

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” “…6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

God is doing a new thing in me and a new thing in my life.  I’m not a great and powerful leader with hundreds of years of experience as a Children’s Pastor.  Sometimes the ‘newness’ makes me afraid, and I feel like I’m not good enough. But God has reminded me that this is HIM.  He has called me and He will equip me; and I firmly believe that “the Spirit of the Lord is powerfully upon me!”

You know that feeling you get during a movie, when good is going to win out over evil?  The music gets intense with major crescendo and your heart just swells knowing deep down good will win?  That is how my heart feels for children.  My whole heart explodes with love for them, love for their genuine joy and spirit that hasn’t been hardened by the world yet.  I believe that children “get it.” They get what life is about, they know how to enjoy today and live in the moment. Children teach me so much about life, and even more about God.  I love the statement: “There is no ‘little’ Holy Spirit.  The same powerful Holy Spirit we experience, our children experience as well.” It is my joy and my honor to experience the mystery and joy of God alongside a child and to create a sense of wonder that invites them to seek Him more.  What a blessing to pass the torch on to children who have been equipped to be confident leaders of the next generation! Oh, my heart feels like exploding even as I type this! :)

Within a week of receiving my acceptance letter into grad school, The Orchard Community extended an invitation for me to join their team.  God’s direction was so clear to me, and this was my way to courageously respond and go forward, saying, “I trust You, God!”  I know God still has so much to do in me, but I am ready and willing with my arms open.  He is a good and faithful God, and He has given me an incredible team to coach me.

There is so much new happening at The Orchard Community.  I really see God moving and breathing new life into the people there and igniting passion and new direction. It really is quite exciting.  Church for me is about experiencing God through relationships.  I seek God through personal quiet time, studying the Bible with others, and constant conversation with Him.  Church is more about community to me, more about experiencing God with others through real brokenness that life brings and wholeness and beauty that the journey with Christ entails. God is constantly reminding me that He takes what is broken and makes it beautiful.  The Orchard Community is filled with stories of His goodness and beauty all over the place.  It is contagious and I can’t wait to see all God does there.

I’m nervous a little, but, I’m much more excited!  I truly believe in the truth my close friend encouraged me with: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.  I’m nervous because this is new to me, but I see God’s hand in the whole process, and I trust He will be with me each step of the way, which is precisely how you can pray for me.

Ultimately the cry of my heart is, Lord, may more children and families know You even more deeply, and may You be glorified through my life.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. #philippians4:13



6 thoughts on “new”

  1. I am so excited for you! Kids love you, and you are such a joy to be around. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use you in huge ways at The Orchard and with our families. Awesome!!

  2. JZ! Welcome to the team. Your passion for kids and families is so contagious. Can’t wait to see how God uses you in the days ahead! -SH

  3. Hey honey! I just finished editing a Home Training Lesson for BSF entitled “Hope for your child’s future.” Ok, you’re not my little girl anymore. But from all I can remember, dad and I have always prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life, for you to be wholeheartedly sold out to loving and serving Jesus, and for your life to be all about glorifying the Lord. WOW!!!!!! You are living that dream and that answer to our prayers for you (and Michael!) all these years. Remember too when you served Jesus at VBC’s Adventure Club and served as one of our small group leaders of Kindergarten girls? We will never forget how passionate you were for Jesus and for loving those little girls! When you stood up at church to give testimony, dad and I looked at each other and thought, wow, God has a huge plan for you in the lives of children Jen! And here you are! How cool is that! Just love your love for Jesus, your passion for children and families, and for all God is going to do in and through you JZ!!! Hahahaha love your new title too! Behind you all the way, always and forever! Love you!

  4. Jenni, I am so excited for you!! Your love or children has been evident for soooo long- how amazing that God was preparing this job for you, and preparing you for this job. Ps I recognize the lyrics you mentioned in your blog ;). I love you, friend!!!

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