This is a story about a young woman finally realizing her worth...
This is a post about an answered prayer.
About a young woman finally realizing her worth.
If you have never met Jenny before, let me try my best to describe her.
Jenny is a girl with just a tad bit more sass than she knows what to do with.
She has a voice that is louder than 10 average people combined.
She is witty, smart, and quick.
She can be a bit of an extremist. If she loves you, she will love you till the ends of the earth. But if she doesn’t...well...she is working on that.
She feels all the feelings, all the time, to the fullest measure possible. Although she will try to hide this from you if she doesn’t yet trust you.
She has a smile that lights up a room and a laugh that is contagious to everyone around her.
She has a fierce temper....and is also working on that.
Jenny is full of life.
The definition of brave.
Loves to dance.
Loves to sing,
Loves working with children.
A nurse in training.
A natural born leader.
And one of my dearest friends.
I’ve known Jenny since I was in college and she was a little girl living at the orphanage. Even at a young age, I knew God created Jenny unique. I saw the gifts He gave her. Gifts to care for others. Gifts to lead. Gifts to be an agent of change in Haiti.
I told Jenny what I saw in her often. And normally my words would be followed up with her laugh, a grunt, a roll of her deep, dark eyes. She wanted to believe me, but she couldn’t. The father of lies had sent an army of people throughout her life to try to deceive her otherwise, telling her things like:
You can’t do that because you are a girl.
You aren’t worthy of that because you are an orphan.
You will never be good enough because of where you live.
Your past mistakes define you.
God could never use a person like you, forgive a sinner like you,
unconditionally love a girl like you.
And for a majority of her young life, she believed these lies. Wore them like a worn out sweater. Felt them in her bones. Took them for truths in which she never could escape.
For years I tried to encourage Jenny. Tried to give her the grace she couldn’t give herself.
“Jenny, you have so much potential. The world needs your gifts. You were made to lead. What is holding you back?” I’d say to her often.
We ran laps around the same conversation for years. But no matter how hard I tried, she couldn’t see what I saw in her. Where I saw the spirit of God, she only saw failure and shame.
Finally one night this past summer I asked Jenny what was preventing her from seeing her own beauty. “I wish you would sing for the church, Jenny,” I told her. Her raspy alto voice is heavenly. “I wish you believed you were made to lead.”
“Jillian,” she replied disheartened. “I am not a leader. And I can’t sing for the church. I don’t have the confidence to do such things.”
We had recently finished studying 2 Corinthians with the other girls in the house. “This is your weakness,” I told her. “And what did Paul say about our weaknesses?”
She hesitated to answer.
“That God’s power is bigger than our weakness,” she finally said under her breath.
“YES!” I said and pulled out my Bible to read.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.....For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10b
“This is your new goal in life, Jenny,” I said quickly before she had time to argue. “Your new goal is to find your confidence. To seek God, give him your weakness, and ask Him to make you strong.”
She agreed, even wrote it down in her journal. Then she asked me to make a list of scripture to inspire her. And you better believe I did. A full page back and front.
Fast forward a few months. In December I brought my friend Bethy to visit Emmaus House and together we led a weeklong seminar on spiritual gifts. Bethy taught why God gave us gifts and gave assessments to help everyone, both youth and staff, discover what specific gifts God gave to them.
On the last night we grouped everyone by their dominant gifts, and Jenny and I ended up in the same group. We matched each other to a T. Our primary gift was compassion, which was followed by administration. In other words, we care deeply for others and like to lead others to do the same.
Together with one other girl we sat and discussed how we have felt these gifts grow in us since our childhood. What talents, career choices, and passions we have that have manifested out of these gifts. How we can use them in our homes, communities, and churches. The more we talked, the more Jenny couldn’t stay still. I could tell fire had hit her bones. The Spirit was calling her. Confidence was finally taking root. God was taking her weakness and making her strong.
“This makes sense!” she said with excitement. “It is why I want to be a nurse, because my gift is compassion. It is why I like teaching children, because I have the gift to lead. It is why I can sing well, because as a leader people will listen to me. IT’S ALL A GIFT FROM GOD!” she went on and on and on, bubbling over with this newfound joy.
Finally she couldn’t keep it in. She stood up and basically preached a sermon to everyone at Emmaus House in the living room of the boys’ house. Once she was finished the youth gave her a standing ovation. She beamed. Took a bow. Gave me a hug. And I fought back all the tears.
Jenny. Sweet Jenny. She had finally realized her worth. Her beautiful, God-given worth. Not worth given by a boy. Or success. Or good grades. Or wealth. But worth given to her by her Creator simply because she is loved.
By the next month Jenny had started a new singing group at her local church and included two of the Emmaus House girls. The church now calls her maestro. Her group has performed for several church events and even helped lead the singing at the national youth retreat for the churches of Christ this past week. Jenny is thriving in school and becoming a leader to all the girls at Emmaus House.
To say I am proud of Jenny feels like an understatement. I get all emotional just thinking about her. I wrote her the other day joking, but half serious. “Why did you have to find your confidence AFTER I moved away? Why could you not find it while I was there because I want to hear you sing!”
In reply she sent me a series of smiley face emojies and promised she would sing for me in April.
Now let me be clear, I can only take minor credit for Jenny’s growth. She has had a
band of cheerleaders behind her at Emmaus House since the beginnng. Gerome, our Haitian director, has stood in as a fatherly figure for years. Ange Marie has championed her in her nursing career. Madame Richard, her house mom, has been her ultimate prayer warrior. Cassie, her counselor, has patiently walked her through how monitor her emotions and forgive others, including herself. And Tanya, our executive director, has been her loving mentor since the orphanage.
But this is what Emmaus House is. We are an organization, but at the heart we are a family. A Christian family teaming together to build each other up through thick and thin. A family encouraging each other to keep fighting the good fight, no matter how long it takes. A family striving to be the light in Haiti, but first striving to help each other find the light within our own selves.
I can’t wait to go hear Jenny sing in April. I can’t wait to hug her, my spiritual gift soulmate. My sister. My friend. A young woman who has finally found her worth.