Author Archives: Jen Chapman

About Jen Chapman

She is a wife to Shawn for 22 years and counting, and a mom to Noah, and together they live out their story in their tiny town of Barboursville, WV. She is a freelance writer and a blogger at girlmeetsgrace.com. Flowers, bookstores, and people are what make her smile. She has seen God’s grace redeem her big-time and wants everyone to know it and experience it for themselves. She wants more than anything to give praise and honor to Jesus, and point people to Him.

“Chimpanzees and a Promise from our God”

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“Chimpanzees and a Promise from our God”

For one of our recent date nights, Shawn and I had dinner then watched a documentary on Disney Plus called “Chimpanzee.” We really know how to live it up.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KokQL4aLfrI

The movie starts out with Oscar as a newborn chimpanzee born in the African rainforest, and we watch him grow from an infant to a toddler chimp, climbing on the back of his mom, Isha, and struggling to learn how to use rocks and sticks to get food.

We get to watch this group of 35 or so chimpanzees work together and live in community. It was easy to become attached quickly. Before long we see another group of chimpanzees come along, which I called “the bad ones,” though Shawn reminded me they are animals and this is nature so they aren’t exactly “bad ones.”

 However, at some point in the film, Isha, becomes separated from Oscar during a confrontation by the aggressive group. I felt some intense anxiety, but still thought I was safe. I said to Shawn, “This is Disney. They won’t show us a movie that kills off the parent.” To which Shawn replied, “Really? Lion King . . . Snow White . . . Bambi?” He had a valid point. Disney is all about that.

And this is a documentary, after all. It is a real-life story. Life always has times that are seemingly stinky.

It’s easy to forget that. It seems like there would be a pretty good formula –
Good Choices + Jesus = Easy Life.

But that formula is a big fat lie.

In Scripture, lots of God’s peoples went through struggles; some a seemingly unfair amount. Paul, who devoted his life to Jesus after believing in Him, talked about being beaten over and over, lots of prison time, hunger, thirst, cold, and a scary time of being shipwrecked. He didn’t have it easy at all (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).

And it’s especially difficult for us when the hard times come rolling in one after another. I know I’m not alone in experiencing this. We get to a point where we wonder if we are strong enough to handle one more thing. And honestly, alone we probably aren’t. But we aren’t alone. That’s the promise that Scripture gives us.

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”
Hebrews 13:6, ESV

The Lord is our helper. We aren’t alone. We aren’t relying on our own strength. When those difficult times come, and they will, we do not give up because God is our helper.  

I won’t lie – life can be hard. But it isn’t something we have to fear because we are not alone in any of it. Our God is faithful. And in an amazing twist, He can also make something beautiful from our hard times. 

The Disney documentary ends on a brighter note than the dark spot it took us to, and our lives will too. If we know Christ, the end is going to be amazing. But we can find joy in this current part too, because our God is with us.

3 Left Turns

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“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

A few days before Christmas, we drove a long with our children’s pastorm his wife and another volunteer to take about 20 kids to see the holiday lights at the St. Albans City Park. It’s amazing how long a 45-minute trip can seem when the vehicle is bursting at the seems with elementary students. The lights were beautiful though, and hopefully there were some good memories for all of us. After our drive through the park, we were taking them to get dinner. Not all that familiar with St. Albans, I Googled for directions to the closest McDonalds.

The traffic leaving the park was pretty congested, and kids kept asking, “How much longer?” What started out as 8 minutes, turned into 15, and the hungry kids asked every 45 seconds, “How many more minutes?”

My navigation app wasn’t doing its best, and as I directed Shawn to go straight across the bridge, suddenly the app showed me that we should have turned before the bridge. Now the directions said to keep going across the bridge and make a left, then another left, and then another left.

It’s been said that two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.

I can tell you those three lefts suddenly took us from 2 alleged minutes to 8 alleged minutes left, and our kiddos, not to mention us, were less than thrilled.

It’s a new year, and a new decade for that matter. It is a time when we tend to take a look at our lives and become inspired to fix some things we aren’t happy with. Maybe it’s our eating habits, or our organizational efforts, our exercise routines, or our prayer time. Those sorts of things tend to get some extra attention this time of year. We make the decision to do better, and then we usually do – for a time. But the weeks pass, and on a rushed day the frozen pizza is easier to grab for lunch than chopping a fresh salad, and oversleeping causes us to skip out on the quiet time with God, and we have a decision to make.

Do we give up because we messed up, or do we make those three left turns to get us back in the right habits we know are best for us?

It’s easy to get down on ourselves and determine that we can’t follow through with the plan we had. We might mess up, but one day or one week or one whatever doesn’t mean that we have failed. We are a little off course and need to make some adjustments to get back on track.  

So don’t get discouraged. If there are things you are wanting to change to make life better, make the decision every day. And if you mess up, make the right decision again tomorrow. Every day is a new opportunity to get it right.

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Nick Fewings

One Thing I do Know

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In John chapter 9, we learn about a guy who was blind. We don’t know how he felt and we don’t know how old he was, but he was a grownup. Had he spent days questioning his purpose? During this time, the opportunities for those with physical challenges were slim. People, even Jesus’ disciples, wondered what sin caused this. Did the man feel like he had done something to deserve this? Did he feel like he was given a punishment he didn’t deserve?

I won’t lie, there have been times I have questioned why I am here. I have questioned why my life matters, when I feel like the impact I am making on the world is so minimal and the gifts I have to offer it are so tiny. It seems I forget it’s not supposed to be about me. It should be about doing what I can to bring honor to Jesus.

For this guy, all his days led up to this moment. This moment when Jesus was walking by and taking notice.

It seems the guy didn’t even ask for anything, Jesus just went to him. He fashioned some mud out of spit and dirt and put it on the guy’s eyes, then told him to take a trip to the water and wash. The Bible doesn’t even say if Jesus told him any more than that. Was that all that needed to be said?

He went.

How he got there, we don’t know. Did he know the way? Was it close? Did he have people with him that could lead him there?

What we *do* know is that he went, he washed, and came home seeing. (v. 7)

At this point, the man didn’t even really know who Jesus was. He was asked a few verses later by his neighbors how it happened.  He summed it up – “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash.”

Then he gets to the outcome:

“So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

Then these guys take him over to the Pharisees to be interrogated. He had to wonder why. This great thing had just happened to him, and instead of everyone being so thrilled for him, they were grilling him on all the details to get the scoop on Jesus.

The Pharisees not only asked him, who told them the same thing they had told the others, they fetched his parents and interrogated them as well.  The parents kind of wimped out, afraid of the repercussions if they got involved. They basically said, “He is a big boy; ask him.”

So they questioned him again, “Tell us the truth – We  know this man (Jesus) is a sinner.”

One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture comes next –

“He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25

There are so many things in Scripture that I do not understand. One thing I try never to do is to give a pat answer to someone’s question about the Bible. We are people who are constantly growing and learning and I don’t believe for a second that anyone fully understands everything in Scripture. But I do think people sometimes try to come across as though they do, for fear of building up doubts in the minds of the people questioning. My favorite teachers are the ones who will say, “I don’t know.”

This guy’s answer? “I don’t know, but I’ll tell ya what I do know. I was blind and now I see.” Perfect.

Our testimony, our own stories of what Jesus has done for us, can go so much farther than a guess of something to satisfy someone’s question.

This is the Scripture my mind goes to when I begin to worry about if a verse means this or that – Where did Adam’s sons find wives? Is the earth only 6,000 years? Did the flood cover the whole earth?  I don’t have to know these answers. What I have to know is what Jesus has done for me. *That* I can tell you.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t study Scripture – It’s one of my favorite things to do. There are just some things we aren’t going to know for sure, and we can be okay with that until we do. But we must be okay with sharing our stories.

Take some time this week to really think about your story and what Jesus has done for you. You never know who might need to hear it.

Kicking and Screaming

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I froze for a second, then quickly decided to “go check on something” in the car.

More than a decade ago, Shawn and Noah were not seeing eye to eye, and seemingly everyone at the snowtubing park was watching it play out. I was trying to find my way out of there. Noah was convinced he couldn’t do it, that something terrible was going to happen if he made it to the top and set off down the snowy hill. His father was convinced that he would be missing out on the greatest fun if he didn’t.

I am wired with many decent qualities, but my overabundance of fear and caution isn’t one of them. Noah has inherited it from me. He didn’t see any way the possibility of pleasure was worth the probability of a disaster. His dad knew if he would just try it, Noah would see that he had worried for nothing. He would probably even enjoy it.

So, kicking and screaming, my husband dragged our son to the top of the hill to give it a go, when all our son wanted was to go home.

They made it to the top, and crying all the way down the hill, my son slid past me. Just above his boots and snow pants, I could see his head peeking out of the innertube and noticed a smile across his face. “I want to do it again.”

He had been so sure it was going to end badly, and he was so wrong. I couldn’t count the times he went back to the top and slid down the hill. Let’s just say we got our money’s worth.

I feel certain God often must look at me like we looked at Noah. He knows what is best for me, but my fear spirals out of control, and God either lets me sit it out, and miss out on the thing He had planned for me, or He drags me kicking and screaming to obedience.

“I can’t do it, God. I’m too nervous. I must be hearing You wrong. I’m not qualified or capable for this sort of thing. This is never going to work.”

But I don’t want to miss out on a single great thing that my Father has planned for me, and certainly not because I am too scared. Scripture says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10 (ESV)

I do know His name and I trust Him, because I know He doesn’t forsake us. He won’t leave us to go it alone. He is with us, always. And when I start to wonder if that’s true, I have to remind myself of all the ways He has been faithful to me and my people. That usually strengthens my grip enough to hold on to the hope. And again and again, when I follow through with what God is directing me toward, 100 percent of the time, it is worth it.

If you, like me, are going kicking and screaming or if you’re going with a heart full of peace, always follow Him. He knows what is best.

Trashy Jennifer

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(How cute is this Oscar the Grouch pin?! Available on Etsy by clicking on the picture…)

He is one of my favorite first-graders at church. Jayceon is smart, enthusiastic and completely endearing. For a glimpse of him, I’ll share his prayer last week over the snack: “Thank you for this food right in front of my face and thank you for our bodies.” He is precious.

Then this week, I was walking our small group to their snack time and he said something about Miss Jennifer. He can’t seem to ever remember which teacher is which, so I said, “Jacyeon, *I* am Miss Jennifer.” Then he said, “No, I mean *Doctor* Jennifer. You are Trashy Jennifer.” And then he kept walking.

I stood there in freezeframe, no doubt with my mouth hanging open.

Trashy Jennifer? It didn’t exactly sound like a compliment.

I then burst out laughing because I hadn’t expected that.

I’m reading my Bible from the beginning to end for the first time in all my decades of loving Jesus. It has taken more than a few years for me to do it, occasionally slacking off, occasionally skipping around. But the next day after learning my new title – Trashy Jennifer – I opened my Bible to the next chapter I was supposed to read in 1st Corinthians and smiled when I got toward the end of chapter 4. “To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” (v. 11-13)

Refuse: noun, matter thrown away or rejected as worthless; trash. (Google Dictionary)

Paul was basically Trashy Paul.

And he wasn’t one bit sorry for it. He was writing to the church in Corinth, and a couple of verses before this he was letting them know that while things were looking pretty good for them, being a follower of Jesus sometimes means we have hard days. Paul and others participating in the ministry were working so hard to share Jesus and to encourage and mentor the churches, things were difficult, but they continued to show the love of Jesus regardless of how they are being treated. Some of their difficulties were from their efforts in serving, and others were because of people not taking it well. Satan undoubtedly had his hand in some of it too. But Paul knew that his “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Our comfort in this life is not our goal. I should get this tattooed somewhere as a reminder. I tend to go for comfort when possible. But instead of comfort, our goal should be sharing Jesus and living our lives in a way that best points to Him. Sometimes that means situations that aren’t easy.

Sometimes people, perhaps with good intentions, see prosperity as a benefit of serving Jesus, but Paul was a living example to the Corinthians that this is not how it always works. 

Serving Christ sometimes means hard things, sacrifices and the testing of our character. But it also means we are never alone, that we have the power of the Holy Spirit to get us through anything and that we have the contentment that comes with following the One who knows the way.

In light of this, and though I for sure am not worthy of it, I would be honored for someone one day to see me as Trashy Jennifer.

Let Them See Love

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I have a new favorite pastime – estate sale shopping.

I’ve always been too intimidated to go. I imagined going inside someone’s home, looking around and being unsure of what is actually for sale and no prices anywhere. Figuring it would be a lot of, “Is this for sale?” and “How much is this?” and pretending I’m still thinking about it while I determine I have held it long enough to not seem rude, when I really want to look at them and say, “Are you kidding me? $25 for a warped pot?” I don’t even like yard sales when things aren’t clearly priced.

But I tried it. My sister convinced me to go with her to one and I have been hooked since. I’m getting so comfortable estate sale shopping now that I’m a little worried I’m going to be at one of your homes and just start going through your cabinets out of habit.

We spent four hours Saturday pilfering through the belongings of three different strangers and I came home with a picture frame, 3 cooking magazines, a cake stand, a pitcher, an ironing board and a serving dish. We also learned some things about a fellow shopper. While in the spare bedroom, we saw she is a huge NASCAR  fan, a quality she shared with the recently departed. In the family room, we found out she is a mom to three boys, a grandmother to seven, and a great-grandmother to four, with one of them recently adopted and there is a hope for the younger sister of this one to soon be welcomed to their family. She was thrilled to tell her story – almost as thrilled as she was when she stumbled onto the racing jackets.

But another story I learn as I’m shopping is the story of the one who has passed one. You can’t help but put together a picture of the person’s life. Books are always where I spend the longest at these sales, and I think you can tell much about a person by what they are reading.

Classics? Paperbacks with a woman draped with a sheet that is blowing in the wind? Books about God and Christianity? A variety of religions represented? Well-worn Bibles? Love stories? Or maybe just a few untouched odds and ends books that I figure were purchased as gifts? I can imagine the coziest room in the house and picture him or her with a blanket on a chilly day getting lost in the words of whatever it is that seemed to interest them.

At one sale there was tons of fabric and sewing supplies, along with multiple patterns pinned to cut-out fabric pieces, and I could imagine this lady getting enjoyment from creating something beautiful for her or someone else right up until her last days.                                                                   

It got me thinking (and not just me – I heard other shoppers echo this thought) about what people might say about me and all my stuff. But even more than just based on my stuff, what about those who know me – either knowing me well, or just as an acquaintance – what would their take on me be when it’s all over?

And now, while I’m still here, a more important question is, What do I want them to say about me?

All the choices I make, and boy have I made some bad ones, help to determine what people will say. I want the choices I make today to show love and compassion. Kindness and joy. And all the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit while I’m at it. I want my life to point to Jesus.

Jesus laid it out pretty simply in John chapter 13 saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (34,35)

My life will point to Jesus if I love.

When I talk to my friends and family, my tone and words and meaning should be drenched with love. My coworkers – love. My neighbors – love.  People on Route 60 – love. Someone who hurt me – love.

Some of those are easy, some seemingly impossible. But thankfully we aren’t doing it alone. The Holy Spirit guides us to choose love.

As people one day will be fumbling through my closet of clothes in 6 different sizes, my tote of newspapers, and my pile of scarves, I hope that there will be hints of Jesus. And I hope that the people who know me best will be able to say with confidence that I loved Jesus and showed that love to others. I hope they can say it about all of us.

Stop Second-Guessing Your Spanish Shoebox

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Stop Second-Guessing Your Spanish Shoebox

I spent hours with a shoebox and crayons creating a spectacular bullfighting diorama to represent Spain, complete with an arena full of spectators for my 3rd grade “nations parade.” In the center of the box, I had a representation of a bull, played by our Little People cow, and of a fighter represented by a doll that was likely a hand-me-down with bright pink hair, sunglasses, and zebra-striped tights. Scaled to size, the pink-haired, trailblazing matadora would have been just shy of 10 feet tall.

This box was going to be secured to my 18” stubby Alf skateboard, which I would pull proudly through the halls with some random string/shoelace attached near the wheels.

Pictures from Google to help you see what went into the Spanish shoebox diorama 🙂

But sometime between finishing up the night before and displaying it for all my classmates the next morning, I started doubting.

Maybe I saw another student’s box and felt insecure about my own work, or perhaps someone said something I can’t remember all these decades later, but I do remember the confidence draining.

So when the teacher gave out the opportunity for students who weren’t finished to continue working on their projects during recess, I jumped at the chance like someone had just offered me one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.

I did some quick research with an Encyclopedia Britannica and found that Spain is known for some impressive architecture, so with construction paper, a tissue box and 20 minutes, I fashioned some kind of building, relieving the cow and the doll of their duties, and covering up all the spectators with Scotch tape and sheets of green and yellow.

To this day I can remember the disappointment on my teacher’s face when I asked to change it up. She knew the box I started with represented a lot of effort and watching me doubt it and haphazardly change things out of fear certainly left her disheartened for me. I received a good grade, but deep down we both knew the first plan was better.

Sadly, that’s not the last time I have wimped out because of doubts and fear and uncertainty. When I am convinced I have a purpose or a calling or an assignment to do, I can start out full force. I am excited and feel passionate about it. Then something happens. I start to question if I have what it takes or whether it’s really something that’s needed. I wonder if it’s something other people will support. I start seeing myself falling flat on my face.

Priscilla Shirer, in Discerning the Voice of God, says “You will know God’s voice because it will bring encouragement along with conviction.” God speaks with conviction, while the enemy speaks with condemnation, she says. “When (God) speaks to you, His words will carry the continued hope of intimacy, friendship, and reconciled relationship.”

Those thoughts I have, mentioned toward the end of the paragraph before last, certainly don’t fall under the category of intimacy, friendship, or relationship. They are harsh and damaging and meant to tear me down.

So, when I am hearing the Holy Spirit guide my heart toward a new purpose or passion or calling and destructive thoughts come my way, I have three jobs to do:

1.       Pray – I need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew the excitement I had when He first led me to this new thing and ask Him to make it so very clear if it is not a thing from Him.

2.       Remember – the power/talent/resources I need to do the thing He is asking me to do are from Him and He will make sure I am equipped with them. He doesn’t leave us empty handed.

3.       Get on with it – I must ask God for the first step of my assignment and do it with enthusiasm and delight, then listen for the next step.

So, join me. Put away the construction paper and let’s walk that parade with confidence. If He has asked us to do it, we are as equipped and prepared as we need to be.

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)