“Freedom Is Not Free”

On this Memorial Day…


“Reflections of the Sacrifices”

Freedom Wall

When I was a young girl growing up in the late 1960’s (now you may figure my years of maturity…LOL) I clearly recall watching the CBS evening news as news anchor Walter Cronkite brought to us the daily happenings in our world.  I remember watching Dan Rather stand on a road called the Ho Chi Minh Trail in a far away place called Vietnam.  There, he stood with soldiers and a war happening all around him, yet he was determined and brave enough to keep the adults in our world informed of what was transpiring in the jungles of this strange land, in a war that my child mind didn’t quite understand.  All I knew that there was a war going on and U.S. soldiers were being killed or wounded.  All I knew was that I didn’t want my brother, who is 2 years younger than…

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“From a Pen of Sadness”

“There Are Not Enough Words”

Most people say Life is short, but I say Life is precious; Life is beautiful; Life is unpredictable.

Our tears are our prayers up to heaven.

Our hearts beat with hurt, pain, loss, confusion, wanderings, whys.

Our spirit pushes forward, yearns for  inner strength and peace.

Our natural bodies feel the drain, limp, weak, fatigue.

Our world is a ‘surreal’ world…Is this us?  Could this really be happening to our family?  Television news cameras, reporters, flyers, information needed, one of those families in search of a missing loved one…but wait!  It really is happening to our family.

The cries, the tears, the screams within, the agony of loss, grief, disbelief…There’s just not enough words…

On Saturday, March 10, 2018 my cousin went to dinner with her ex-boyfriend.  She was not heard from after that.  Two weeks of pleas for her return, flyers, TV media reports, social media postings, prayers were non-stop.  Then on Thursday, March 22, her remains were recovered.  On tomorrow, Saturday, March 31, 2018, my beautiful cousin will be laid to rest.  She was a daughter, mother, sister, cousin, friend to many. 

  ~Rest in peace Letitia.~


Much Love,

From the Pen of Your cousin, Jen


“Code Blue!”

“Jump Start Your Heart!”

In 1984 Tina Turner jumped back on the music scene with her iconic song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”…declaring, “What’s love but a second hand emotion”…“who needs a heart when a heart can be broken”…cb431cd9953d0ea9de29ccb2f9c46328(1)

Yet, in all that is said and done in our lives, we need that heart that beats and loves and although it will be broken at some point and several times over  (I raise my hand as a bona fide witness sitting in the front row).   Love is never or ever will be just a “second hand emotion”.  If we count it as just that, then some how we will become like the Tin Man in the ‘Wizard of Oz’.  An empty, hollow creature, who really desired to have what he knew he needed to feel like a human and that’s a heart to love.

From the spiritual viewpoint, Jesus said that everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from our love of God, others, and ourselves. (Matthew 22:24) 

By the time I post this, it will be Valentine’s Day.  For many it will be a day that will bring beautiful gifts of balloons, flowers, sweet candy, maybe even a ring from someone who wants to express their love to that special person in their life.  Yet, for some it will be just an ordinary day (in reality we really want it to move quickly, expediently on to February 15th).   Let’s keep it real with our thoughts and emotions, because some of us will be playing Tina Turner in our head just so we can get through V Day.

Nevertheless, I close with this stanza to the song, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey:

 “Tell your heart to beat again…Close your eyes and breathe it in …Let the shadows fall away…Step into the light of grace…Yesterday’s a closing door…You don’t live there anymore… Say good-bye to where you’ve been…And tell your heart to beat again”…

Jar of hearts

Be Blessed, Be Encouraged, Happy Valentine’s Day!f8ab215730021db6d036dcecd6c44b22(1)

Much Love to You



**Pictures courtesy of Pinterest

**Checkout YouTube for full video, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey







“Keep Stepping”

“Every Step You Take”

In July, 1969 Neil Armstrong climbed down the steps of the Apollo 11 and as he placed his left foot on our moon, he uttered the now famous quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  The United States and NASA had now successfully sent an astronaut to the moon.  

How many of us at some point in our life journeys see small steps or taking ‘baby steps’ as something towards a greater achievement or do we sometimes see them as unnecessary, nerve wrecking, or frustrating parts of the process to obtain something we want or to reach our goal for larger or greater gain?  You know what I mean, we want to lose 15 pounds or the doctor tells you to change your lifestyle or ‘couch’ habit so you can lower your blood pressure and/or cholesterol but adding ‘exercise’ to your already busy schedule doesn’t look doable.  You may have envisioned yourself moving into the entrepreneur arena but you think, “how can I when my current job is so demanding” and my bills say, “pay me now”! This list can be endless.  

Know this my friends, let’s use a little math and do part-to-whole.  Small steps maybe walking 1/2 or 1 mile 2 days out of the week (1 day will at least get you moving), exercise may be 10 squats or 5 planks each morning or before bed.  Small steps may be that non-credit class you desire to take just to learn a new thing/skill or grow another form of income.  Small steps can be making time to read or listen to an audio book (brain food), if only for 10 minutes a day, that uplifts, inspires, or just a classic.  If you are feeling the pull or desire to do your own thing (entrepreneur) then by all means start your research, write it down, attend some free small business classes.  Yes these are only a few small steps, but just start stepping!   Below is a picture of a small step for me.  At the end of 2017, I made up in my mind to work towards improving my credit, increasing my networth and decreasing my debts.  Currently I’m a teacher, so no,  I don’t have a great figure income (Yet!)  However, to help me get motivated, I have jumped into the “Penny Challenge”, yes I typed it correctly, “Penny Challenge”.  I started Christmas Day with an end in mind of saving close to $700 by this year’s end.  Now some one may laugh at my small steps to work on my finances, but this is motivating and uplifting to me!  It works for me!  It’s what I can do without feeling down if I don’t have a large dollar amount to put in savings yet.  I wrote the scripture, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17 NKJV) to remind me that I have to put some works with my faith.  I created my affirmation statement and each day I add the designated amount of pennies to my “I Can”.  I’m sowing seeds for a greater harvest.

My penny challenge


Like a baby who is growing and developing into a toddler with small steps, weaving, and wobbling, not sure of what he/she is doing (after all this is a new thing he/she has never experienced in their first few months of life).  That baby even falls down (quite a bit), but yet he/she will get back up, sometimes with tears  and sometimes with jovial laughter as he/she begins to master and becomes steady in their steps.  Then one day, that baby’s small steps will eventually become that of a toddler moving, running, and jumping with confidence!

I leave this encouraging quote with you  that I saved from Pinterest.  Be Blessed, be encouraged, and take those small steps for the good.

Much Love to You,

From ThePenofJen

Small steps


Inhale Exhale“And Breathe Again”

In 7 minutes my time (CST), I will step into a new year.  We will all move from one time frame and phase of our lives with just the movement of time.  I write this post as one of reflection and encouragement.  As we move into another year or phase in our lives, I hope you will take the time to inhale and exhale and breathe again.  Oh, I know you may say that’s what I do every second of my life and you’re right, and so do I.  Yet, I think back to a nice, beautiful day in November, a day that I had off from work due to an appointment.  After it was over, I decided to make some personal, quite time for myself at my favorite reflection spot at the local lake.

It was there where I grabbed my Bible, my notepad, and all my thoughts for I was going ‘fishing’ for words of wisdom, guidance, direction, and encouragement.  That day I breathed in my surroundings, that day I breathed in the warmth of the sun on my face.  That day I tuned my ears to absorb the sounds of the birds.  That day, I breathed in the relaxing view of the lake and the flow of the water.  I watched a fisherman hope to make a catch, the ducks floating along in their own habitat, and the plane in the distant sky, moving towards the Nashville airport preparing to make its descent.   It felt good to just breathe, to breathe deeply, and exhale!  At that point, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply and exhaled (glad for a few yoga breathing classes).   I mentally imagined that I was inhaling all things positive and exhaling all of the negative ‘crap’ that I breathed into my life.  I was inhaling my purpose, my strength, wisdom, health, my dreams, visions, and goals.  When I was exhaling, I was letting go of disappointments, hurts, wounds, miscalculations, mistakes, lack of faith, and other negativity that had been stirring around within me.  As I inhaled, I began to declare out loud, positive affirmations and for every exhale, I declared out those negative things that I knew I had taken in.  Sitting there, I knew I had to learn to inhale and exhale so I could breathe again, dream again, live again, and write again!!! :

I share this you, so that whatever it is that has set on your chest and has all but slowed your breathing to a shallow point, rise up, take a lot of deep breaths, Inhale positive, exhale (let go) of those things that are blocking your passageway to better and learn to breathe (live) again as we go strong into 2018!

I think I will follow up with more thoughts on this topic in a future post.  Until then, be blessed.  Much love to you!

From ThePenofJen

Happy New Year 2018


*Pictures courtesy of Pinterest

“My T is for…”

“It Begins with ‘T’?”

As we come to the late evening of another Thanksgiving holiday, I write this quick post with a thankful and grateful heart .  Thankful for my life, my health, my strength, and my family.  Thankful that there are those friends that have been here for me, sending up prayers or just keeping me encouraged.  There are those who continue to remind me that I have purpose, I am stronger than I often feel, and that I’m doing a good job at some of the most challenging needs that I meet for family.  The traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a few of my family members was on Sunday (courtesy of my daughter), so today I grocery shopped and broke bread with my sister and her family.  The traditional dinner again?  No, instead we ate a lasagna meal, something different.  It was really a quite day, yet in that I’m thankful.

Over the years, family dynamics have changed and so have some of what used to be (big family dinners, me cooking like crazy, loud banter, just fun).   So my ‘T’ is for tenacity in the midst of ups and downs, my ‘T’ is for tough when I face or withstand adversity, or hardships, my ‘T’ is for my tears that fall whether from hurt, joy or frustration, my ‘T’ is for tenderness when I really just want to go hard.  Most of all, my ‘T’ is for Thankful and a lot can go into that.  

So what is your ‘T’ for?  I pray you can find it in the midst of this busy, often crazy, negative road of life we travel.  

Be Blessed and Much Love to You!

From The Pen of Jen

Happy Thanksgiving

*Quote courtesy of Pinterest

“In Pursuit of My …..”


Last year a guest speaker was invited to talk with our 4th graders who were leaving their elementary world to move to that new phase in their education, 5th grade!  As he shared his upbringing and life obstacles that could have caused him to not move forward, he put this acronym out there to challenge them to think about their future, their goals, and dreams.  He challenged them to think about their B.H.A.G.–that BIG HAIRY AWESOME GOAL.  That one thing that they wanted the most.  I don’t know if our students really kept grasped this concept, but I hope at some point in their  life’s journey that they will remember it and ponder on it.  One thing I do know is that it has stayed with me.  

Since you nor I are 4th graders, I changed that acronym to fit our adult dreams, desires, or goals.   What is our own personal Big Heartfelt Awesome Goal?  What is our B.H.A.G.?  I know we may have many goals, dreams, and desires set before us.   Our minds or personal journals maybe full of ideas and dreams, but just think about one big thing that you feel deep down in your self, your soul, or your heart, that you would like to accomplish.  That B.H.A.G. that causes your face to light up, your heart to jump, your words about it to resonate with passion and excitement!

As for me, my B.H.A.G. jumped out of my “mind” box and came to life in the form of  this blog.  I had never done anything like this before, but I felt it with such a passion!   I expressed it to family with excitement, wrote it down and I was determined to work towards making it happen.   Then  came the God confirmation…BAM!!!  I gave it life!  It was a ‘heartfelt’ thing/goal.

Finding or identifying your B.H.A.G. may not come easy but I would like to leave a few nuggets with you as you pursue  your own big, heartfelt, awesome, goal:

  • Write your vision and make it plain.  Write it! Write it! Write it!  In the Old Testament, God charged the prophet Habakkuk to “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (Hab. 2:2 KJV) verse 3 tells us that the “vision is yet for the appointed (future) time It hurries toward the goal (of fulfillment); it will not fail (AMP).  We may see this verse of scripture as related to “church” only, but how much more can it help us in our personal life movements.
  • Create your own personal “Vision Board(s)”.  Last year my sister and I held a vision board party at our church and it planted the seed in those who participated.  A seed to give a visual to their own personal goals and aspirations.  I must be honest and say that I didn’t finish all of mine, so that is going to be a B.H.A.G. for me to do.  If you’re not sure what to do, just research on Youtube to find various videos and one that works for you.  (My personal favorite is one by Terri Savelle Foy).
  • Network, read, and research if it is a dream or goal that requires you to be in the ‘know’.
  • Look for “free” yes “free” classes, materials, seminars, workshops, on-line webinars.  Invest in yourself and your B.H.A.G.  I just didn’t sit down and start writing this blog, oh no!  I actually found a published author/professional blogger (from his Facebook ad) who offered a 4 hour ‘how-to’ webinar on blogging.  I sat for 4 hours in front of my computer, on a Saturday, listening, learning, and taking notes before I put one word into my blog.
  • Refine your image.  Check out your pics on Social Media …ijs
  • Above all pray, meditate for divine strategies, favor, connections, finances, what ever is right for you to pursue/flow with your B.H.A.G.

I could keep flowing with writing this and maybe I’ll continue it in another blog post or better yet in a chapter in the book I need to start writing 🙂  However, I want to leave this excerpt with you that I read:  

Movement helps to build courage.  Just get up and do it.  Whatever it is that you’ve been afraid to do, now is the time to do it.  The movement adds to the creation of our personal journey, and the only way we’re going to achieve our dreams and goals is to start moving.”*  Matt Mayberry

May you be blessed and encouraged as you work on your B.H.A.G.


*Quote ‘TACKLE THIS TODAY’ from the book, “Winning Plays”, by Matt Mayberry, 2016.

(Yes, I have the book!)

*Photo insert created by me, Jen.



“The Sun is Still There”

Move the Cloudsovercast days

The sun is shining, a gentle breeze is blowing through the trees, the temperature is expected to be at least 90 degrees with that southern humidity.  It looks like it is going to be an absolute beautiful first day of July, however the local weather people have warned us that the clouds are moving into our area in the state and with it will come a 70% chance of rain.  Wash out?  Who knows, but the clouds are coming.

 Just before the end of the school year, there were some days that were cloudy and some days just plain overcast.  My students would ask or beg (LOL) for  an outside recess.  However, from my limited view of the sky, all I could see were clouds that looked like it would rain at any minute so my response for the time was “No outside today”.   Yet by lunch, no rain had made an appearance so outside we went.  This triggered the thought in my mind about the difference between a ‘cloudy day’ and a ‘overcast day’ and how it affects our lives, moods, decisions.   I researched if there was a difference and learned something I didn’t know.  ‘Cloudy’ skies are “70-80% covered, you may see a separation in the clouds and it may or may not rain in” whereas, an ‘Overcast’ sky contains “90 to 100% clouds, it can cause low visibility, the sky is dull and gray, but it doesn’t mean that precipitation will fall, chances of rain or snow may happen, it’s one big cloud.”*  The one positive thing about an overcast day is that during a Winter day, “it will act as a blanket and hold the heat in, making it warmer than it looks. 

Like the beginning of this day so it is in our lives.  The day, month, year, or season may begin with sunshine but along the way of our journey, clouds of life move in if only for a short period of time.   There are times when it’s just ‘cloudy’ but we can still see the Sun or light (our breakthrough, relief, change) is coming.  Then there are the times that are ‘overcast’ and we just don’t know when the sun will shine for us again, it’s just “dull and gray” although we know the sun is there high above that blanket of clouds.   How do we see things based on what seems to be a bleak time or season in our lives?  Where is the break in our/my clouds?

That’s a question to ask within ourselves and in our faith, belief, our God.  My vision of what the weather was really like was limited by my view from the small window in my classroom.  Waiting later and taking a look outside from the larger windows in the lobby gave me a new view/perspective and allowed us to enjoy the day even under overcast skies.  We couldn’t see the Sun but we could feel it’s warmth so we knew it was somewhere in the sky, shining bright behind all those clouds and eventually those clouds would move.

Let us be encouraged that regardless of what may seem to be an “overcast” or “cloudy” time in our lives, wait, pray, look, and believe again,  that those clouds can’t stay forever, the day won’t always be overcast, that”The Sun is Still There” and is shining on us.  

May you be blessed and much love to you.

From the PenofJen

cloudy sky

*Cloud Facts from http://www.thoughtco.com “What Is an Overcast Sky”? Rachelle Oblack

*Photo inserts from Pinterest


“Freedom Is Not Free”

“Reflections of the Sacrifices”

Freedom Wall

When I was a young girl growing up in the late 1960’s (now you may figure my years of maturity…LOL) I clearly recall watching the CBS evening news as news anchor Walter Cronkite brought to us the daily happenings in our world.  I remember watching Dan Rather stand on a road called the Ho Chi Minh Trail in a far away place called Vietnam.  There, he stood with soldiers and a war happening all around him, yet he was determined and brave enough to keep the adults in our world informed of what was transpiring in the jungles of this strange land, in a war that my child mind didn’t quite understand.  All I knew that there was a war going on and U.S. soldiers were being killed or wounded.  All I knew was that I didn’t want my brother, who is 2 years younger than me, to have to go to war.  In my child eyes and mind, I thought this war would go on forever, so I knelt and prayed that he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam because I didn’t want to lose him.  All I thought was that I wanted this war to end before it would somehow claim him too.

Although this war was more than 5,000 miles from us, yet it was so close.  I grew up in a small southern town, yet, all around me there was more than just the news reports from Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather; there were conversations and real people in my world that this war touched.  My grandmother’s neighbor, Ms. Katherine’s son had been taken captive as a P.O.W. during the Vietnam War.  She often shared updates, with tears, on what was happening with him (and yes my child ears were listening).  When the war ended, I remember she shared the joyful news with my grandmother and mom that he had finally been released and eventually he returned home alive to live with her.  Then there was my grandmother’s other neighbor, Mrs. Lula, whose son became a fallen soldier when his helicopter was shot down and crashed in those jungles.  All I remember is seeing his picture, the overflow of people who gathered in his high school gym to bid him farewell, and a flag draped closed casket.  Her later conversations with my grandmother and mom would often be pierced with tears as she mourned the loss of her handsome son.

Yet, the strongest memory for me was that of my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Gower.  One day she received the news that her son had been killed in the war.  As 7 year old students, we probably didn’t understand the intensity of her loss, hurt, and pain but it was most definitely there as she continued to teach through this dark period in her life.  I remember her standing at our classroom window letting the tears flow as we lined up for lunch each day, and if my memory serves me correctly, we no longer said the Pledge of Allegiance or sang patriotic songs as this just invoked more grief and tears.  

Today, many in the United States will come together to celebrate this 3 day weekend or Holiday that we call ‘Memorial Day’.  Many will gather with family and friends for grilling good food, laughs, and what we call family time.  There are those who will stand on the public square or plaza in their local city to honor the memory of the fallen men and women who valiantly gave their lives in combat, and some will see it as just a much needed extra day off from work.    As for me, I salute those who sacrificed much.  Let us always remember that our “freedom is not free” for someone paid the ultimate price.



Memorial Day

*Note: The Freedom Is Not Free picture was taken on my visit to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington,  D.C.

“Cruise Control”

3f7e0698b4eb83f18d545d88a90ee0e2“Solo Rolling”


I know it was the pent-up stress, the urgent need to regroup, release, and relax that turned me into a bold, courageous Road Runner.  It was an unknown journey to a place I hadn’t gone before.  I truly had never been this way nor tackled an adventure like this in my life!!!  If you would have told me a month ago that I would be bold enough, desperate enough, foolish enough to book a room, pack, and drive to a vacation spot I had only heard about by myself,  I would have said No, not doing it!  I’m not that crazy or bold enough!  Yet, here I was, alone, driving myself down that long stretch of I-65 South, with all roads taking me straight out of my home state of Tennessee, through Alabama and leading me to Ft. Walton Beach, FL.  

Somewhere between Huntsville and Birmingham the radio/CD player decided to stop keeping me company, so the hours going and coming would be without any manufactured music.  There I was making melodies in my head, keeping time with my thoughts, and having personal conversations with God.  My directions were a little faulty, putting me extra miles out-of-the-way I should have gone (that’s a message/lesson to teach by itself),  but somehow (with a lot of prayer and asking when I stopped), I arrived at my destination.    After hours on the road, this road runner slept well, sat on the white, sandy beach on Okaloosa Island, wrote my name in the sand, breathed in the crisp air, and watched the foamy waves from the Gulf wash over my feet.  I basked in the sun, allowed the tender breeze from the Gulf to stroke my face and during this quite time I felt the tension, stress, and weariness from the busyness in my life wash out with the tide.  On that day I sat in a new place and marveled at the fact that in my desperation , dire need to get away to reboot, I had gathered my courage, hushed the spirit of fear, and took a journey that was more than just a natural road trip.  It reminded me that sometimes there will be journeys that we may have to take alone, our directions or paths in life may not always be clear, sometimes there is silence through various phases, and that we need God’s divine protection and guidance as we move through our life.

Those are only a few of the insights, thoughts, and nuggets that I gathered from this adventure and I know God smiled and laughed as He gave me another chapter for me to write for my book. However, those will flow from my pen to share in more details in due time and in the words/song by Bessie Smith, “It’s a Long Old Road”(humming it as I drove).  Be blessed!

Much Love,


P2- MOTIV: Smith, Bessie, FOTO: SVT BILD

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