Confessions of a first time author (part 1)

T-minus 7 weeks till book launch…

I honestly thought writing the book would be the hardest part. But dear Lord, let me write a million more books instead of promoting just one! I am an introverted introvert. I crave quiet and order; anonymity and alone time; jammies and soft pillows. And I am terrified of public speaking; answering on-the-spot questions; and small talk. Oh, and I have horrible handwriting. So basically I have no natural skill-set for what is to come over the next few months.

And yet even just writing those words makes me feel guilty. I mean, I know there are so many people who would trade places with me in a millisecond. Many waiting to hear back from publishers. Many who have been told “no” more times than they can count and are dangerously close to giving up on their dream.

So why the heck am I whining about seeing mine come true?

But maybe that’s part of the issue. For the fact is, my dream was just to write a book. And to touch people’s lives with the fingerprints of hope.

My dream was not to stand on a stage and talk about the book. Or walk into a bookstore and tell them about my book. Or build a social media platform to promote my book.

My dream was to wear fuzzy slippers and type on my laptop. My dream was observe the world around me and turn those observations into stories. My dream was simply to craft stories of hope.

And yet…what good would those stories be if no one ever read them? Or how would anyone ever read them if they didn’t know about them? And how are they supposed to hear about them if I don’t share about them?

And so, here I am. Less than two months away from the release of my first book—and smack dab in the middle of marketing and promoting said book.

And it’s hard.

And glorious.

Overwhelming and humbling.

Confusing and exciting.

It is all the feelings, tossed together and shaken until they come flying out in a torrent of laughter or tears.

I have never felt more vulnerable or more exposed in my entire life. I have never been more nervous or more excited. Or experienced such rapid-cycling emotions.

And at least once a day I fantasize about telling everyone “never-mind,” pulling the covers over my head, and hiding for a week. But that is simply not an option.

Nor is it really what I want.

Because while this part is indeed uncomfortable, it is important. And I am slowly accepting that. And while I will have to speak from a stage, make small talk with strangers, sign books, and post and comment on social media, I am finally starting to realize (slowly but surely) that this entire uncomfortable process really isn’t about me at all.

Let me write that again so it soaks into my thick head: This is not about me.

None of this is about me.

It’s about Him.
It’s about writing what God laid on my heart to write.
It’s about sharing the message of hope—a message He led me to see.
It’s about getting over myself so I can love people in His name.
It is all about Him.

And so I put on my big-girl pants. 

And I pray for strength and peace and endurance.
And I trust Him to speak through me.
And I depend on Him to provide answers and give me words.
And I even surrender my horrible penmanship to Him.

Then I let Him lead me away from my comfort zone—reminding myself that He is bigger than my inadequacies, stronger than my insecurities, and more powerful than my fear.

And I commit to taking time to ponder and treasure every moment of this beautiful, amazing journey.

Which I will remind myself daily—hourly if need be—really isn’t about me anyway.

It is, in fact, all about Him.

Much love,

Not to us (1).jpg

The antidote

There are moments when God clearly speaks to your heart. Not audibly or from burning bush or anything, but gently and quietly and straight to your heart.

Today was one of those days.

You see, I have been plagued with fear. Shocker right! If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you know fear and I go way back.

But this fear hasn’t been like the others. This fear doesn’t have anything to do with me not feeling adequate or capable or strong enough. No, this fear has been more insidious. Its tentacles wrapping around every good and gracious gift God has been giving me. This fear has been sinister in its taunts. Relentless in its pursuit.

This fear also plays dirty. Throwing past mistakes in my face. Manipulating and parading past struggles toward my present; making me feel trapped, and destined to repeat the same patterns.

This fear likes to ride the coattails of pride while it mocks, “You better not enjoy this ride too much or you’re going to get prideful!” Then it jabs with a right hook, “You know your heart. You know your past struggles. You don’t stand a chance!”

Ouch. Fear is a such a bully!

For the truth is pride is something I have struggled with for years. Although it didn’t always announce itself as pride (but really what sin does? What sin stands up and says, “hello, my name is sin!”) Sometimes it will show up as feelings of unworthiness, other times it sneaks in as self-sufficiency. Still other times it enters through the door of ambivalence. And then of course there are the times that it just struts through the front door as the ugly ol’ pride that it is.

And so I have been hypersensitive to my pride-o-meter as of late. Praying diligently for help in kicking pride—in all of its many forms—to the curb. Asking God to guard my heart. To convict me quickly. And to show me some kind of antidote to pride.

And He’s been quiet for weeks. 

“Surely you want me to figure this out Lord!” I would often mutter.


And so I would pray some more. And I would read verses and write verses and memorize verses about fear and humility and surrender and remembering the Lord.

I even reached out to our pastor and sought his counsel.

And yet something was still missing. My joy had been hampered. And my spirit has been restless.

Recently, my husband saw me skimming over an early review of JOEY . It was positive and precious and normally would have made me weep tears of joy. But I just skimmed it.

“Sweetheart, that’s incredible,” he beamed, reading the review over my shoulder. “That must feel so good,” he added.

But then he looked at my face, “Wait, what’s wrong?”

The tears fell before the words came, “I….I’m afraid to read them. What if…Maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t want to become….”

“Hey,” he said getting me to look at him, “don’t let your fear steal your joy.”

We talked, I cried (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!), and then he left. But his words remained. Swirling around my heart. Shining light into the depths of my soul.

And then today while spending time in prayer for the people on my launch team (something I felt God prompt me to do this morning), I started really praying for each one, by name. I prayed that they would feel loved by God and by me.

As I was praying I began to feel convicted. But is wan’t a taunting conviction like I am used to from the enemy. This was a soft, gentle, leading away from one thing and towards another. Like a parent pulling their child away from the edge of a cliff and into their arms.

Love. I felt the word settle into my heart.

Love my people. The words echoed through my mind.

The sweet conviction hit its mark. I need to love people better. I need to see people not as distractions, interruptions or potential connections. But as people. Beloved by God. Made in his image. And worthy just because they are.

And so I prayed. A lot. Asking God to forgive my ambivalence and to help me love his people just like he would—like he does.

And then as I prayed and pondered, I again felt a stirring in my heart. And like bubbles floating to the surface came a phrase: Love covers a multitude of sins.

“Wait! I know that verse!” I exclaimed rousing my dog from her nap. “Where is that verse?”

A quick google search revealed its location in 1 Peter 4:8.

A laugh escaped my throat. Not a haha laugh but a God-induced laugh of sheer joy.

For there, right beside me on the table was my Bible, already lying open to, of all places, 1 Peter chapter 4. I have been studying that passage in my weekly Bible study. I have read that verse countless times and yet today…today at my table with my sleepyhead dog beside me, it jumped off the page as if seeing it for the first time.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

That means love covers fear.

It means that love covers pride!

All of a sudden my vision cleared and I could see the truth:

Love is the antidote I’ve been seeking!!

But our all-knowing God, who knows I’m a little slow at times, again whispered through the pages of His Word:

Love my people Jen and pride will flee.
Love my people Jen and your fear will vanish.
Commit to loving my people from the stage and from the page and you will be free to enjoy the gifts I am giving you.
Don’t let your fear—especially your fear of sin—steal your joy. Don’t allow it to enslave you. You are free. Live free. Love free. Speak free. Be free.

And with those beautiful, powerful words I felt the chains that have gripped my heart for months finally break free. And I smiled. Then I laughed. And then I read every word people have written about JOEY and I gave God praise and I smiled more. And I delighted in my good, good Father who, for some reason only He can understand, delights in giving his undeserving children precious gifts—gifts that are not meant to be hoarded or fretted over, but shared and enjoyed and smiled over.

And so now, here I am breaking every blog rule I know! This post is WAY too long, too rambling and it is not sprinkled with cute graphics. But I don’t even care! Because I am free! and this long, rambling post is my stone of remembrance and my public declaration of praise to the God I simply adore! And my way of thanking him for every single gift (the delightful ones and the difficult ones) that he has given me.

I love you Father. And YOU are the greatest gift of all!

Much love,

Love Covers

Sometimes you just have to get out of the car

His body tensed, “I can’t do it. I just can’t.”

Doubts and fears were wreaking havoc on his mind. “I’m not ready. I’m gonna fail.”

Hormones were wreaking havoc on his self-esteem. “I look hideous. Everyone’s going to stare at me.”

It wasn’t just one thing, it was a culmination of many: being overtired, hormone surges, hunger, two tests, and the-ready-for-spring-break-blues. He was hurting, and nothing I said was helping.

We sat in the car and waited for the tide to ebb. Yet his distress only escalated. His fear paralyzed him. He didn’t think he could do it. He didn’t feel able to face his peers, didn’t feel ready to take his tests. He wanted to go home, put his pajamas back on, and retreat to his comfort zone.

I knew that could not happen—not if he was going to grow.

Realizing he was already late, I drove out of the parking lot and headed up the road to the donut shop. He stayed in the car while I went inside and got him some breakfast. He had forgotten to eat, which was certainly not helping his current mood. “Sweetheart, you’ve got to eat something. You will feel a little better, I promise.”

He looked at me with the skeptical eyes of a teenager, but his stomach won the internal fight and he ate. “Why can’t I just go home?”

“Because you have to face this. And you can face this. This is not as bad as it feels right now. You can’t always go by your feelings. Sometimes you just have to trust God to walk with you and know He’s got this.”

His body tensed, “But what if I fail?”

“Well, then you fail. But while you may fail by the school’s standards, but you will have succeeded to me and your dad because you tried. You will have trusted God to get you through this day. Let’s just say that for today, getting out of the car is more important than getting a good grade.”

He took a steadying breath, confusion etched on his face. “Why am I getting so upset?”

“Because you’ve held so much in for so long. Middle school is hard. Everything feels bigger and harder. You are changing from kid to grown-up and that process hurts sometimes. It’s ok to cry. In fact, every once in awhile it’s good to cry and let it out.”

He was breathing normally as we turned back into the school. “I love you,” he whispered.

“Oh my sweet boy, I love you too.”

I stopped the car, put it in park, and turned to face him. “Now…it’s time to just get out of the car and know that God is going with you. You are not alone. You are never alone. God’s got this. He’s got you.”

I watched with pride as little boy merged into young man right before my eyes. He walked into the school, prepared to face his fears.

Tears began to well up in my own eyes as I put the car into drive.

“My sweet daughter,” I heard in my heart, “Now it is your turn. Those fears you have, those doubts that are keeping you frozen in place. You need to give them to me. I am now asking you to just get out of the car and walk with me.”

“But Lord,” I replied, “What if I can’t? What if I fail?”

“You may fail by the world’s standards, but you will have succeeded to me because you tried. Trust me, hold my hand, and go where I lead you. But first, you need to get out of the car, and trust me to go with you.”

“Lord, why am I so scared and upset?”

“Because my precious daughter, you’ve held so much in for so long. This life is hard. Somedays everything just feels bigger and harder. You’re changing from self-focused to Me-focused, and at times that process hurts. It’s ok to cry out to Me. It is good to cry out to Me. I am here for you.”

“I love You,” I whispered through my own tears.

“Oh how I love you my sweet child. Now, it is time to get out of the car and walk with me. Know that you are not alone. You are never alone. I AM with you. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you.”

Get out of the car

Once upon a time a girl had a teeny tiny dream….

Once upon a time there was a girl (ok, so she’s really a grown woman who still thinks of herself as a girl) who had a dream. It was a nice dream. A good dream. A safe dream. Her dream was to write a book about a blind horse whose story had touched her heart. Her dream was to self-publish the book, selling it for $5 to the 25 or so family members she could convince to buy it, and then donate the proceeds to the ranch where the horse had lived. She loved her dream and kept it close to her heart, partly so that it wouldn’t float away, and partly because she was scared to share it with anyone. For the girl had never written a book before. In fact, the girl didn’t even know anything about horses!

“Surely my dream is just….a dream,” the girl thought.

And so she held her dream close, hiding it from those around her. Only pulling it out when the urge to write became stronger than fear of discovery.

She wrote and wrote, even though she didn’t know what she was writing.

Was it fiction? Or a true story? Was it for children? Or adults? Was it an animal story? Or a memoir?

So many questions, so few answers.

“Surely this is silly,” the girl thought. “Surely I should stop this nonsense,” she mumbled.

But the words wouldn’t stop coming. The thoughts tumbled out of her faster than her fear could hold them back. And so she wrote and wrote and wrote some more.

One day, the girl came across a literary agent offering phone consultations to help writers who had questions and needed answers. And although the girl knew she was not a real writer, she did indeed have a question. A question that refused to go unanswered. A question that grew louder and bolder than the girl’s fear could contain. And so one October day the girl bravely picked up her phone and spoke to the kind agent. The agent listened to the girl’s story. She listened to the girl’s question. And then she spoke.

“This is a powerful story,” the agent said.

The girl exhaled a breath she had been holding for years. Could it be true? She dared to believe. Feeling emboldened by the agent’s words, the girl was about to ask for recommendations on self-publishing. But the agent silenced her with her next words.

“This for sure is a book,” the agent said. “But it’s also a film.”

The girl had no words.


The agent kept talking, and planning and dreaming. Big dreams. Giant dreams. Dreams that the girl didn’t know she could dream. Dreams she would never dare to dream.

But the agent did. She dreamed and she dreamed. And within months the girl had a book contract. She felt dizzy. She often thought someone was going to realize their mistake and come and take it all away. But they didn’t. Instead they helped the girl to rewrite her story. They taught the girl. Encouraged the girl. Brought words from the girl’s heart. They helped the girl dream bigger dreams. They continually pointed the girl to the Author of every good dream. They reminded her often that when she pursues His dreams that anything is possible. The girl was still scared but she was beginning to believe them. And she was trusting the Giver of her dream. Her now much bigger dream.

And then one day the girl was given her dream, in the form of pages of a book. Her little dream was there in black and white print. Her dream was now a reality. Her dream was now ready to go and shine light onto other people’s dreams.

But the Giver of her dream wasn’t done, not yet. No, His dream was still bigger. There were more people He wanted to reach.

And so one day, as the girl was scrolling through her newsfeed, she saw a post. A post from a woman who was going to take her dream in a different direction. Who was going to give her dream new dimensions and brighter colors. The woman, a film producer, had posted about the girl’s book. The girl’s book that is now in development to become a movie.

The girl just stared at her screen. For she had known the producer had acquired the rights to make her book a film. She had signed the papers after all. But the girl had been too afraid to dream that big. Too afraid to believe it was real. And so she had tucked that dream safely away where the disappointment couldn’t hurt.

But as the girl stared at the post, she could no longer keep anything contained. Every dream. Every hope. Every prayer came pouring out of her. Dreams she had dared to dream now floated heavenward with her praise.

Tears of gratitude, humility and joy fell from the girl’s eyes.

How had she gotten here? Who was she to experience this?

She looked up from her screen. Her face bathed in the warmth of the sun.

“It’s all you,” she whispered through her tears. “It’s always been you,” she spoke aloud. The Giver of dreams, the Author of hope, the Grantor of grace was the One who had called her to write. He was the one who gave her just enough of a glimpse of His calling at each step of the journey. For He knew that if He showed her too much too soon He would have overwhelmed her, sent her scurrying away. And so He slowly, carefully led her along each and every step. Bringing just the right person at just the right time to advance her steps and reveal more of the dream He was growing in her heart.

His dream.
His calling,
His horse…His story….His girl.

His grateful, humbled, grace-saturated girl.

Much love,

ps-sorry it took me all those words to tell you that JOEY the book is in development to become JOEY the movie!!!! (what?!?!? Only God you guys, only GOD) Stay tuned for more details…..

The post I saw that day on facebook


Want to learn more about JOEY and the writing process? See First Joey Interview: On Writing, Horses, and HopeNews I can finally shareStarting OverJOEY (Available May 8th, 2018)


A lesson from Billy Graham: No ministry is too small

In honor of Billy Graham and the unmeasurable impact his life has had on our culture, this post is an excerpt from one I wrote two years ago after visiting a Billy Graham exhibit at the NC Museum of History. You can read the entire post Here

Yesterday I took my kids to a special Billy Graham exhibit at the NC Museum of History. It was moving and powerful. And somewhat intimidating as we stood in front of a wall that was illuminated with pinpoint lights.


Each light represented 2,000 decisions made for Christ as a result of one of Billy’s crusades. All together the lights represented more than 3 million decisions!


As I took in the breath and depth of his ministry I started to feel so small—so unimportant. (Isn’t it interesting how the accuser can accuse even in the middle of a deeply spiritual moment!)

My heart whispered, “God, I’ll never have this kind of impact. I’ll never be able to do anything like this for You.” My shoulders slumped. “Does my teeny tiny little ministry even matter?”

Yet, before the accuser could get another word in, the voice of Truth called out, “Look up.”

 My head raised on its accord. And what I saw brought tears to my eyes.


My two babies were standing in front of the wall of lights. Two souls standing in the Light. Two lives changed by the light of the Gospel. Two souls entrusted into mine and my husband’s care. Two children given to us to instruct in the way of God’s Word. Two little ones we had the joy and privilege to escort to the foot of the cross where they surrendered their lives to Him. Two souls who will live eternally with Jesus.

It was then God allowed me to see a very important truth:

Every single soul matters. Every. Single. One. Whether 3 million or just 1 person. Every heart won. Every soul saved. Every life changed by the blood of Jesus matters.

No ministry is too small for Him to use. No act of obedience is too mundane if done by a willing eager heart.

I do not have to worry or fret over numbers or stats because none of that really matters. I just have to walk in obedience, remain in His Word, bask in His Truth and then speak and write what He tells me to speak and write so that I can shine His light into this dark world.


I pray that today we might all find freedom from measuring ourselves by earthly standards and with earthly measures by instead looking to the One who loves us and has called us to simply serve Him. The results are not our concern.

Results, like glory and honor, all belong to God.


Much love,

Billy Graham

As a little girl, I used to preach to my stuffed animals.

I would line them up and then passionately preach the Good News of Jesus to them, just like Billy Graham. As a shy girl who loved Jesus, I was fascinated by the dynamic man who taught the Bible to thousands. As a teenager, I attended one of Billy’s crusades. And whenever anyone would ask the question “what person, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with” I would always say, “Billy Graham.”

Maybe it was the secret evangelist in me who longed to step into the light and boldly share my faith. Or maybe it was me simply wanting to be near someone who was so near to God. Or maybe it was his humility and simple upbringing that made this friend of world leaders somehow seem approachable.

I find myself reflecting on all of this today. This day when Billy breathed his last on this earth and opened his eyes to the Home he has spent a lifetime leading people towards.

And I grieve. I cry. I mourn our loss.

But then….

But then I realized that even in his death, Billy is pointing us to hope. Pointing us to truth. Pointing us toward Home.

In a time when our country is heartbroken, when the darkness seems too strong and hope seems like a fantasy, Billy’s life stands as a beacon for hope, for light. Today his message is being broadcast on every news station. His words, the words God ordained him to speak during his lifetime, are once again going forth among the nations.

Only God could bring life from death.

Today, someone is going to hear Billy’s message replayed on their tv.
Today, someone is going to hear the message of hope.
Today, someone is going to fall to their knees and surrender their life to God.
Today, someone will begin their eternity with Jesus.

Today, life will come from death.

And that is the power of the Gospel. The Gospel Billy Graham gave his life to preach.

What if today, as a way to honor the man who dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel, every single one of us who claims the name of Jesus, shared the hope of the Gospel with just one person. What a final Billy Graham crusade that would be!!!

Thank you Billy for always leading us to truth and always pointing us to hope. And now, even in death, you are still pointing people to truth and hope. You reflected the heart of the Father and now you are in His arms. And yet your message, God’s message, will remain. Continually pointing people to Jesus. 

Much love,


“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” I Thessalonians 4:13-14



The only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be

I reveled in the attention, as one stepping into sunlight after countless days of rain.

As a painfully shy child who found making friends difficult, my then six year old self delighted in the crowd of children who surrounded me. Each one there to admire the fluffy little bunny I cradled in my arms. My new bunny shook with fear. I trembled with the joy of acceptance.

Days later, my new friends still wanted to talk about my sand-colored bunny—appropriately named Sandy. After just one successful show and tell, I suddenly had something to talk about with people. I had a way to connect with kids I had never been able to connect with before. And I loved it.

But then….Emily got a bunny.

And I got jealous.

The same crowd that had surrounded me, now surrounded her. The same questions that had been asked of me, were now being asked of her. I envied her attention. I resented her bunny. I longed to once again feel the warmth of the spotlight.

And so I pouted. I wallowed. And I never went over to look at her bunny.

I still feel bad about that.

And granted I was only six, but what if…..

What if I would have walked over to her and said, “I really like your bunny. Maybe our bunnies could play together sometime.” Or “hey, you have a bunny, I have a bunny. Wanna make a bunny club?”

What if instead of seeing her bunny as a threat, I had viewed it as an opportunity to connect?

(ok, so maybe not thoughts a six-year-old would have, but certainly thoughts grown-ups could have!)

So much of my life has been spent comparing myself to others and finding myself lacking.

She’s prettier.

Her house is nicer.

She’s far more talented.

She’s a much better writer.

Her dog doesn’t act like a maniac when company is over!


What if instead of viewing each of those statements as a threat, I turned it around as a chance to connect?

What if I made an effort to get to know the woman behind the beautiful face? Her hopes, her dreams, her fears. For surely just because her face could grace a magazine cover doesn’t make her immune from insecurities, fears and…life.

What if I asked the lady with the nice house to share some decorating tips with me? Or what if I got over myself and committed to invite someone over to my house to extend the same hospitality that I was shown?

What if I decided to support another’s talent? Show up for her. Cheer for her? Encourage her to reach for her dreams?

What if I learned from another writer? What if I supported her work? What if instead of viewing her words as a threat, I shared her words with others? For what if her words breathe life into someone who is on my friend’s list? What if her words were meant to be shared through me?

And what if…well…what if I just hire the lady with the well behaved dog to come train mine!!! You guys, the struggle is real!

Each one of us has value, purpose, and meaning.
Each life is precious and sacred and important.

And yet, the only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be.

So let’s ask God to expose areas of pride, jealousy and doubt. And replace them with humility, love and trust. 

And let’s embrace the gifts, talents and abilities that God has given each one of us, let’s celebrate them in each other, so that we can all become who He created us to be.

And if you ever get the opportunity to form a bunny club…take it!!!

Much love,

The only place comparison ever takes us is away from who we are meant to be.

Exposing the puppeteer behind the curtain….

Over the last several weeks our pastor has been challenging us to trace the symptoms of our sin to the source of our sin.

Lying, stealing, disobeying, lashing out in anger….all of these are symptoms of sin—outward evidence of an inward problem.

So often I simply want to address the symptom without addressing the source.

But that’s like wiping an allergy-irritated nose instead of removing the allergen or taking allergy medicine.

Or like putting a band-aid on a wound that really needs sutures.

And so over these past few weeks as our church has been studying the book of Ephesians, I have been asking God to reveal to me the source of my sin(s). Not really the most comfortable experience.  Nor the most fun prayer request, but one God clearly delights in answering as evidenced by His quick and thorough response (almost to the point that I want to ask Him if we can take a little break! 😉

And while God has been revealing sources such as pride, self-reliance and flat out laziness (I’m telling you it’s been an eye-opener and making me SO thankful for grace!) The source that rises high above all the others is fear.


The great puppeteer of my heart.

Fear pulls the strings of my thoughts and behavior like no other.

Fear even sources other sources like pride and greed!

That last one really blew my mind! I had never thought of fear and greed as going together, but so much of my greed (my greed for a big savings account, the approval of man, my precious free time) all stem from fear! Fear of the future and not having enough. Fear of not being liked. Fear of having my “me” time encroached on.

The more I trace my outward signs of sin the more I find fear at the root, pulling the strings of my thoughts and behavior.

Perhaps this is why God tells us over and over again to “not be afraid” for He knows how greedy a puppeteer fear is.

“God, what am I to do?” I cried out as I drove to pick up my kids from school.

The puppeteer felt too big, too powerful, held too firm a grip.

“Do not fear, for I AM with you….” the words of one of my favorite verses (Isaiah 41:10) floated through my mind, settling in my heart—giving fear a little push.

The great I AM is bigger than my fear.

God is bigger. He is stronger. He is more powerful. And He holds my heart. He dwells in my heart. And He can cut the strings right out of fear’s hand.

The verse goes on to say, “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God says that He will hold me.

If I hold a Marionette puppet in a firm grip then whoever is pulling the strings would not make the puppet move, right? And… if I wanted to I could even cut the strings completely!

I will probably always struggle with fear.

The puppeteer will always lie in wait, seeking to pull the strings of my thoughts and behavior.

However, there is One greater than my fear, whose loving grip is far stronger. And He offers to help me, to strengthen me, to be with me.

So today I choose Him.

I choose to trust His grip over fear’s strings.

I choose to trust that His plans for me are good, that His ways are good. That He is good.

And with each decision to trust God, the strings of fear become weaker and weaker. 

What puppeteer seeks to control your thoughts and actions? Will you ask God to reveal it to you? And when He does will you measure that against God? For no puppeteer can stand against God…ask God to help you. Ask Him for strength. And trust Him to hold you tightly in His loving and firm grip.

Much love,

Do not fear for I AM with you; do not be dismayed for I AM your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

If you are struggling with a particular heart puppeteer and want some encouragement and practical help then check out this sermon series on Ephesians called Grace Unleashed

First Joey Interview: On Writing, Horses, and Hope

While my daughter and I spend some quality time on the sofa binge watching Psych while waiting for the plague an annoying head cold to pass, I wanted to share my first official JOEY related interview with you. (ok, so in full disclosure this is my first official interview about anything ever! In fact, the whole idea that anyone would want to interview me about anything is still pretty surreal.)

You can find the original article here:

Article on Writing, Horses and Hope

Or if you want the cheat sheet version here you go:

How did you become interested in writing?

Jennifer BleakleyI first became interested in writing as a child, exchanging letters with my dad. I was a shy kid who found verbal communication overwhelming. My perceptive daddy realized this and began writing letters to me—letters about his day, about prayers he was praying for me, upcoming vacations, really anything—but he always ended with an open-ended question and encouraged me to write back to him. I did and quickly discovered that I could easily communicate through written words.

But, because I had dreams of being in the medical field, I never thought about writing professionally. In fact, I probably have one of the most random author resumes out there. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, a master’s degree in mental health counseling (and worked for several years as a grief counselor). While I had always enjoyed writing—I even enjoyed writing term papers in college—I didn’t write professionally until about six years ago.

My youngest child went to kindergarten, and I found myself looking for something to do during the day. Following a conversation with a pastor at our church, I began writing children’s curriculum lessons to meet a need we had at the time in our church, and I found that I loved writing Bible lessons for children. And not only did the experience draw me deeper into God’s Word, but it also instilled in me a discipline that conditioned me to write almost every day.

What inspired you to write JOEY?

Joey by Jennifer BleakleyAbout a year in to writing curriculum lessons, a friend invited me to tour a horse ranch in Raleigh, called Hope Reins. It is a beautiful ministry that pairs hurting children with rescued horses in order to find hope and healing in Jesus. Although I’m not really a “horse person,” I was intrigued by the work they were doing, and I went to learn more about the ministry. That is where I met a blind horse named Joey.

From the moment I heard Kim Tschirret—the founder of Hope Reins—describe the circumstances that led to Joey’s arrival at the ranch, and how God was using him to help people see the light of hope, my heart was stirred to share his story. And yet, I had no idea how or what that would even look like—after all, I had only been writing for a year, surely I couldn’t write a book! And so I pushed the thought away.

But God kept bringing Joey to my mind. Every time I prayed, every time I opened the Bible, every time I drove by Hope Reins on my way to church, I would feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to write. Thankfully, God doesn’t let our fears and inadequacies deter Him, and He kept pursing my heart until I finally surrendered to Him and began to write Joey’s story.

What has been the biggest hurdle to writing in general – and writing JOEY in particular?

The biggest hurdle for me for writing in general (blog posts, curriculum lessons, articles, etc.) has been fighting the numbers game and comparison trap. In a culture that measures success by likes, shares, followers and platforms, writers can often feel as though their writing, or even their words, don’t matter. It can be discouraging to pour your heart out on the page or the screen, feel as if God poured His words in you and through you, excitedly post it to share with others the blessing you just experienced, and then have no one, or very few people, respond. (It is equally discouraging to write a book proposal, send a query letter or submit an article and never hear back.)

I have wrestled often with God over this issue. Yet, He always patiently points me back to His Word and shows me that over and over again that He simply calls people to obey Him—not to worry about the results. He will also gently remind me that one is enough—even if the one He uses your words to bless is yourself. And so for me, I constantly have to put numbers, likes and followers aside and simply write from a place of obedience and worship and leave the results to God.

Now the biggest hurdle in writing JOEY was that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing in the beginning! I had never written a book before—and it showed in that first manuscript! But thankfully my team at Tyndale—the amazing publishing house who took a chance on a new author—was so patient with me and helped me write and rewrite JOEY until it was ready to publish. (But I will confess that it took four complete rewrites to get there!)

Throughout the writing process, I constantly battled not feeling good enough or talented enough. And the truth was that I wasn’t, but God was—and I just love that my inadequacies highlight His sufficiency. And so now, four rewrites later, I have learned so much about writing and have already started working on another book.

How does your faith influence your vocation as a writer?

My faith has been the cord that has kept me tethered to God’s plan and His will. Faith that God has called me to write and that He has a plan for my writing. Faith that His timing is perfect—even when it is much longer than I would like. Faith that obedience to Him is more important than likes, shares, followers or platforms. And faith that He is always faithful and will accomplish the plans He has for my life.

What tips would you give to other aspiring writers?

The best advice I could give to aspiring writers is to just keep writing. It sounds so trite, but it really is so important. Write as an act of obedience. Write as an act of worship. Write for yourself, or write for one who is hurting. But just keep writing.

The second piece of advice I would give to those wanting to take the next step towards writing a book or writing professionally is to attend a writing conference. There are many great conferences to choose from—even many wonderful Christian conferences. Conferences can get you connected to other writers, publishers, agents and editors. The first conference I attended was where God really confirmed his call on me to write JOEY. That conference also helped me begin to navigate my way through the giant (and overwhelming) world of publishing. And also, because writing is often a solitary assignment, conferences help you realize that there are in fact others like you, people with the same passions, fears, struggles, sense of humor and love of all things books who can support you, pray with you and help you along your writing journey.

And my final piece of advice is to follow God wherever He leads. Exchange your plans for His, your timing for His, and your desires for His. His timing will most likely be different from yours. The story He calls you to write may not be what you thought it would be. And what He asks you to do may be harder than anything you ever imagined. But His plans, His purposes, are always—always—better, and always worthy of our surrender. And always remember that: “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

JOEY is available for pre-order from all major book retailers, and will be released May 8, 2018. You can follow Jen’s journey with JOEY and future projects through her blog at or through FacebookInstagram and Amazon.

Good advice from a good granddaddy

“Sugar,” he said, his Kentucky accent flooding my heart with warmth, his serious expression straightening my posture, “Never forget your roots. Never go so far that you can’t remember how you got to where you are.”

My granddaddy was a man of few words. But man could he say a lot in those words.

I adored my granddad. I once told him that, to my little girl mind, he was the perfect mix of Superman and Santa Claus. He had a quick wit, a quicker laugh, and a fierce love for his family. He was the kind of man who could share with you wise counsel and then make a joke about bodily functions. He gave the best hugs and could make anything from wood.

Fifteen years ago today I said goodbye for now to my precious granddaddy. And yet all these years later, his words to me about roots that day in his living room in FL still echo through my heart and mind.

We had been joking about something. And then I had shared that I was thinking about becoming a doctor. He told me that he knew I would make a great doctor; that I could in fact do anything I set my mind to. But then he turned serious. His eyes fixed on mine. I could feel the charge in the air as he urged me to remember my roots. I will confess to being a bit confused at the time. Why had he become so serious? And what did me wanting to be a doctor have to do with my roots? And what the heck were these roots anyway?

Granddaddy didn’t expand, and I didn’t ask. He didn’t explain, and I didn’t question. I simply agreed and we fell back into our light banter. But his words had become a seed buried deep into the soil of my heart. A seed that would quietly grow for many years, until it’s roots made their way to my consciousness. A seed sown by God, who happened to use my Granddad to speak the seed into existence.

I never did become a doctor—but given my aversion to blood, I don’t think my was surprised! But I did move away from home. And I did end up doing something harder than I ever thought I could do. And now as I sit just on the other side of my life becoming very different for a few months with JOEY getting ready to launch. I find myself reflecting a lot on Granddaddy’s words that day. And I can’t help but picture a tree, whose branches are stretching toward the sun, whose leaves are being blown by changing winds, and whose roots are holding it firmly to the ground.

Roots of faith in God’s Word and in His strength.

Roots of family and friends.

Roots of experience and education.

Roots of both precious and painful memories, both of which have served to shape the way I see this world and the way I try to love people.

And the roots of those who have loved me enough to speak loving truth  into my life.

I so wish that Granddaddy could have lived long enough to know my kids—oh how he would have loved them. (although he did live long enough to meet my son—something that I had begged God to allow, and will never be able to thank Him enough for granting. Granddaddy died hours after meeting my son).

I also wish that he could be there the day I launch my first book. (in fact, one Christmas I gave him the very first—and painfully bad—book I had ever written. It was a story about our dogs. I just printed it off my computer and stuck it in a document folder, but he acted like I had given him a Pulitzer Price winning book!) He was always so proud of his family!

But while my eyes crave seeing his smiling face at the launch party, my heart knows that he will be there. For my heart feels the roots of his love wrapped tightly around me—intertwining with the root of my faith in God—and holding me steadfast and firm.

Have you ever thought about your roots? What holds you in place when the winds of this life blow fierce? Maybe today take a minute to ponder your own roots and ask God to help you strengthen the roots of others. And if you happen to still have your Granddaddy with you, would you give him hug for me?

Much love,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes….” Jeremiah 17:7

Granddaddy and me at my college graduation
One of the many Christmas Eve’s we spent together
My first “book”