by Addy Rogers
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Most people move in and out of conversations relying on circumstantial context, asserting their intelligence by quoting articles, podcasts, or conversations they’ve had with “a friend” who also happens to be “an expert.”
But not Jenn.
First and foremost Jenn is curious. When you talk to her, her eyes light up with wonder, the same kind you feel when you’re mid-flight, looking out the window as you descend into a new landscape composed of interlacing textures and colors that simultaneously confound and delight your brain.
If you were to ask Jenn what part of her initiates this way of approaching people she’d probably laugh and say it’s not something she even thinks about at all.
Unlike those of us who decide to be better listeners or exercise better deliveries so we receive praise for good humor, Jenn’s curiosity is automatic, subconscious, and void of any ulterior motives. There’s no exact word for it, but the feeling you get is her soul leaning into yours.
Ironically, Jenn attributes a period of time where she leaned away as the reason people often characterize her as “different.” She’s being humble because the word most people look for is “luminary.”
The period she’s referring to started in 2007 when she stepped away from Church.
“For five years it was just me, my journal, and my Bible.”
The statement sounds romantic or maybe controversial, but living through it was neither.
For Jenn, the most accurate way to describe those years is lonely and painful. Her journals are full of heavy, chaotic scars made of ink. Manifestations of heartache she could trace back to her most adolescent memories.
But along the way, God became more than a mention in her journal. There’s a point when Jenn remembers His presence leaning in, listening, meeting her every time she opened it.
“The more I journaled, the more God spoke. He began to reveal to me that my injuries from the Church were actually wounds from childhood that had gone unaddressed. I had never been set free. I was locked from the inside out.”
Over the course of five years, away from the Church but submerged in the scriptures, Jenn and God talked about a lot.
“I continued to pour out my anger and pain and God continued to fill me back up.”
Fast forward to 2013.
The ink on Jenn’s pages began to look different. Lighter indents. Gentler adjectives.
God had stepped into her journal to repair her heart.
After five years, Jenn made it to the other side of the most intense parts of her pain. As her entries started to introduce themes of hope and redemption, God began to nudge Jenn back into community.
The next seven years Jenn spent volunteering at Seattle Union Gospel Mission, using her transformative experience of journaling and reading scripture to help others along their journeys of recovery and healing.
Then one day in 2021, she heard Christine Soule’s voice on the radio and God nudged her in a new direction.
It was time to transition and God was shining a spotlight over Providence Heights (PH). There was only one problem: Jenn didn’t know anyone at PH. At least not yet.
Three weeks later Jenn met Kristy Stevens while serving at UGM. A crossing of paths too providential to be a coincidence.
Although Jenn had already reached out to PH to start a conversation about how she could get involved, she recalls telling Kristy who had just applied for the program to “put in a good word for her '' during her interview.
A few months later, Jenn walked into the PH multi-purpose room to teach her first class back then known as “Devotions,” now called “Personal Revival.”
Kristy was in the front row.
Jenn’s classes—an inadequate term to say the least—leaves religion at the door but puts Jesus front and center.
I ask Jenn to walk me through a typical Thursday morning in her class.
She reverses even further, starting before she even arrives at PH.
“Of course, I start my day with journaling, and I ask God to speak to me first,” reminding me that scripture calls teachers to a higher standard and there’s no such thing as being too careful with her words.
On numerous occasions, God has revealed something to her in quiet solitude that someone in her class needed to hear. Oftentimes, the truth is so pinpointed, so relevant to circumstances, it leaves the recipient speechless.
What happens during class sounds simple: Jenn opens in prayer, then the class walks through a section of scripture, discussion commences and those who want can start journaling (a prequel to the homework), class finishes at the top of the hour with prayer.
It’s what happens after class defies that comprehension.
It’s also what makes it difficult as staff to stay in our seats on Thursdays when we see the difference between how program participants walk into class versus how they walk out.
Even more astonishing is witnessing shame, pain, and fear become vapor after a year of journaling with Jenn.
If you were to ask any woman who has graduated from PH what class has changed them the most, odds are they’d say “Jenn’s” with about one-hundred exclamation points behind it.
I tell Jenn this and she leans forward with humble shoulders to say, “the privilege is mine.”
Jenn is quick to refuse any credit.
“I’m just a street sign pointing to Jesus and then I get the heck out of the way.”
I’m tempted to convince her she’s selling herself short, but I think it’d be two against one.
If you’re interested in connecting with Jenn to learn more about journaling or running a workshop you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org