By JENN WALDEN – Hi. I’m Jennifer, but friends call me Jenn.
I was born in Nashville,TN, in the buckle of the Bible belt. I currently live in the outskirts of Nashville, and still find myself questioning if NashVegas is truly a thing. Each time I venture downtown, I realize that it is indeed a thing.
Growing Up: Not Beautiful
I was raised by wonderful parents to be a beautiful, southern Jesus loving girl.
Yet as I grew up, I didn’t feel beautiful; inside or out. More than anything else, I hungered for the approval of God, my church, and my family. Yet, I failed more times than I can count and personally never measured up to the standards I vehemently held. All of my religion didn’t bring wholeness, and I spent more time mentally feeling like a failure than I did successfully living out a Christian life.
In high school I stayed incredibly busy, finding worth in overachieving. This started a pattern of running from my internal struggles. Earning a degree in history and minoring in education led to a fifteen-year teaching career. I poured myself into my profession and students. I loved teaching, and never gave up on my dream of becoming a beautiful Jesus girl.
Falling in Love: Not Pretty
When I finally found my guy–who is good beyond good–he was not “pretty” either.
Kirk was a single dad, raising three kids on his own. To stick close to his kids during the challenges and shifts in their life, he left his job in Christian ministry and took a job at their school. This was not his plan B or C–he was surviving.
Kirk and I knew almost instantly, “we” were meant to be. We began as a family of five, but grew to seven in just three years. I still drive the minivan we bought when I was pregnant with Josh who is now twelve, because otherwise how would I listen to my collection of CDs?.
My family is my world, plain and simple. We have a big, messy, fun, blended family. As our older kids get married and the family expands, it just gets messier. Life is never boring. My son-in-law once said, “The Walden house is the happiest place on earth”–we try!
We can’t hide our junk. We can’t pretend to be the perfect, pretty Christian family–we aren’t.
We are spicy.
Waking Up: Beautiful
“It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”
― Bob Goff
It is ironic that in the scars, brokenness, and oh so real, I found worth. My value as a human was never in the perfection I craved or the expectations I set for myself and others.
My Bar Mitzvah, Fiesta de Quinceañera, Debutante Debut, Coming of Age, Rite of Passage, as a complete late bloomer, required that I push aside those external and internal voices telling me, “No, you aren’t ready or deserving.”
God loves to take our messy and in His incredible creativity, make something useful and–yes– beautiful. All we need is love.
This force of God-breathed love is the greatest power on earth. It can change everything. This love has become my great passion. It is in this love that I am no longer comfortable hiding behind religious walls. It is in this love that I find my true worth is in loving others.
It is in this simplicity that I’ve found my identity. It was never complicated, after all.
I am stubborn and passionate about stuff, and frankly I have always wanted to change that part of myself. Yet, now I am accepting the woman I am, realizing that when directed at the right thing–in love, my stubborn passion can get things done. I kind of like the gritty unapologetic woman I’m becoming.
As I hit mid-life, I realize that a casulaty of not seeing my own value all those years, was that I wasn’t truly seeing yours. This moment of looking into the mirror has opened my eyes to better see the incredible beauty of women everywhere. In seeing me, I can finally see you.
Hi. I’m Jenn, and I am a beautiful Jesus loving girl.