Revamping What It Means to Live Life Intentionally
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Jenn believes we need order in all facets of our lives to be healthy. She focuses on four areas: home, heart, health, and hospitality.
In the area of the home, she suggests many ways to keep order, not only making it easier to find items, but also clearing the mind.
“We all need simplicity, order, and a space that makes us happy and peaceful,” she says. “I believe we all want to be able to open up a closet -- or start a conversation, or begin a new relationship – and not feel chaotic when we see the clutter we haven’t dealt with. Whether it’s old hurts, old parking tickets, or old habits, there’s usually something shoved back somewhere in the dark corners of our lives and we need courage to bring it to the light. What I’ve learned is that clutter will only (and always) breed more clutter and chaos. No sense in hiding it, ignoring it, or pretending it’s not affecting you.”
To achieve order and organization, Jenn says we must understand two principles: generosity and stewardship.
As to the former, she states emphatically, “Keep only what you love, need, and use. Not only does generosity mean you’ll be serving and helping others, it also brings you more peace because you aren’t drowning in extra stuff you don’t need.” She believes we should pass on items we’re not using in the current season of our lives, and trust the Lord to provide them again if needed in the future. She also recommends selling unneeded articles online or in a garage sale.
Regarding stewardship, Jenn says she’s always been thrifty, and credits her mom for it. “I love a good deal, discounts, buying in bulk, working the system, and finding the best price for everything I buy,” she shares. She says that her family also purges unused items from their home regularly. “When you have less to deal with because you purge frequently, it’s way easier to maintain order and be a good steward of what you own.”
Another area of life which needs order, Jenn believes, is the heart. What we allow our eyes to view and our ears to hear should be characterized by purity.
She says, “Keeping your life pure isn’t a popular topic. We don’t really want to be challenged on things that seem small or insignificant, like the Netflix series we’re obsessed with or the stuff we’re looking at on our phones every day. We can kid ourselves and say things don’t affect us … but they do,” she says. To help with that goal, Jenn says we need to pay attention to what alters our hearts and emotions. “It could be depressing music, topics that trigger unstable emotional places, podcasts that fill you with aggression, or magazines that turn you toward envy. Don’t ignore conviction,” she warns. Jenn then offers three simple questions to ask about everything we take in:
- Would Jesus be proud of everything in this?
- Does everything in this represent how Jesus wants me to live?
- What needs of mine is this meeting in an unhealthy way?
- Why do I want to watch this?
Jenn returns to the title of her book, All Things Lovely, as a guide, which comes from. “I think the most practical advice is to turn your focus onto things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.”
The need for community is a main tenet of Jenn’s book, and a vital realization in her own life. “We are called to live transparently and openhandedly,” she says. “When we invite God into our every moment, thought, and decision, transparency is possible. Jesus modeled eating with people in their homes, face to face,” Jenn says. “At the table, we hear how people are doing. It’s intimate. Happy things are shared; struggle is shared and met with care, love, and prayer. We can talk about difficult things and the connection isn’t lost by trying to handle it via text.”
She then quotes 2 John 12: “Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made complete.” She believes that “being in the room with people changes everything.”
Jenn says we need to strive to establish a community of three circles: People we’re closest to, people leading us, and people we’re leading. The first circle consists of family and close friends; those who see us through thick and thin. The next one is comprised of those whom we let speak into our lives with wisdom and advice. The third one includes those we are mentoring, coaching, discipling, parenting, etc.
She offers a personal example of being led from an interaction with her well-known father-in-law, Bill Johnson, Pastor of Bethel Church. Years ago, she was riding in a car with him and her husband, Brian, on their way to a worship event. It had been a crazy day of travel delays and sick kids. “I was in a mood,” Jenn admits. She mumbled the comment, “Mother hat off, worship hat on.” Bill leaned over and kindly said, “The problem is … the worship hat should have never come off.”
Jenn received his well-intentioned remark and says it helped her perspective.
When Jenn and Brian married - at the ripe old ages of 18 and 22 – they talked about wanting to have children, and were open to adoption, if the Lord ever laid that on their hearts. Seventeen years and three children later, He did just that.
The Johnsons were watching a TV show about a family who’d adopted a child, Jenn explains. “I looked up at Brian and said, ‘I’d do it.’ And he instantly responded, ‘I would too.’ I was shocked! I couldn’t believe those words were coming out of his mouth and I don’t think he could either!” They prayed about it, received the Lord’s confirmation, and the next morning told their three kids, ages 15, 12, 10, who were ecstatic to hear the news.
Jenn and Brian started the paperwork the following day, were matched a few months later, and within weeks of that had a newborn son placed in their arms. They named their beautiful, bi-racial son Ryder Moses, which means messenger, deliverer. A few years later, in 2020, the Johnsons again brought a sweet, bi-racial boy into their home and named him Malachi Judah. When asked if they will adopt again, Jenn says, “Only God knows! But if God told us to, we would for sure do it, and these two wonderful little boys are SO loved by us, our oldest three, our extended families, and our community."
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