Monday, February 29, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Jenna Simmons

Friends, today I have the privilege of introducing you to an amazing woman. Her name is Jenna Simmons, and she is quite a gem. She and I have many mutual friends, and we met when I led a small group through BCM a few years back for college small group leaders. We would often see each other at the same events and run into each other in the strangest places. Last year we had the joy of actually getting to know each other by celebrating the wedding of another friend, and I just love her sweet heart and her infectious smile. You will love her words and her heart, too.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I'm Jenna. I recently got married to a man that I truly believe God made for me, even though I don't believe in "The One". I am a UGA graduate, hallowed be thy name, where I immersed myself completely in the world of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. I am passionate about missions, stories, adventures and the arts. I love dancing, singing and climbing tall things. I hate cold weather and wearing shoes.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home and my parents faithfully took me to church throughout my childhood. I understood that I needed Jesus in the 4th grade, and I prayed for salvation and was baptized then. I truly came to know the Lord and his merciful character in high school after experiencing an abundance of grace over my rebellious teen years. In college, my walk with the Lord deepened as I learned to live out his love and experienced the joy of walking in obedience and faith to Him. Each season of my life has given me a unique opportunity to know Him better and my faith is always growing.

What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?

For me, the phrase "Home is where your feet are" has been my mantra to remind me to live missionally right where I am. After years of thinking I needed to be on the international mission field in order to be influential, I finally started to learn that God has called us to share His love with those around us right where we are. Seasons change and our location and our spheres of influence change along with them, but there is always purpose to be found and ministry work to be done wherever we are. For me, that meant stepping up into leadership at BCM in college, and discipling some local high school girls one one one. When I've been on international trips, it meant teaching and preaching to word of God to locals. The past few months have been a struggle for me, because we've moved to a new city where I've been working from home. Without a church or a workplace to love on people each day, my apartment has become my "sphere of influence", meaning I've been doing my best to love and support my husband and be satisfied in that. Long story short, it means being content and effective where you are and digging deep wherever you are, instead of wasting your days wishing for a new place or a new situation.

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through photography?

The most obvious way He's allowed me to use photography for His glory has been taking photos of missionaries and their work across the world. Evan and I are working on building a nonprofit that will allow us to capture the stories of God's work happening around the world, and ultimately to teach missionaries how to share their own stories.
In the meantime, He has blessed me with a growing wedding and portrait business. I try to focus on building relationships with my clients, and truly getting to know them so that I may not only serve them well but let them see Jesus in how I work. One portion of my business is doing "glamour" portrait sessions with women. This is one of my favorite ways to help women feel beautiful and comfortable in their skin and celebrate the way Jesus has fearfully and wonderfully made them!

{Claire Diana Photography}

What is the best piece of marriage advice you have been given?

"Never go to bed angry."
Jk. That's just the most frequent.
Someone once told me to have a date night every single week. So far, in our 5 months of marriage, we have done that and I believe it is crucial for us. Each week we reserve one night to do something fun, creative, romantic or adventurous together. If we ever settle for a movie or tv show, we create a theme for the night and make fun food and drinks to go along with it. It gives us something to look forward to in the midst of a long work week and keeps us growing and having fun together. I can see how easy it would be for the romance and fun to fizzle out of a marriage if a couple doesn't intentionally make this a priority.

What advice would you give to twenty-something women today?

To be patient with yourself. This advice was given to me by a mentor in college. I saw how effective she was as a wife, mother, mentor, minister, and woman of God and felt like I would never live up to be that kind of woman. I believe we all struggle with comparison and it's easy to get discouraged when you're constantly striving for perfection. She reminded me how much older she was than me and told me that I was way further in my spiritual journey than she had been at my age. Not that I should compare to others my age, but it was just a reminder that God is working in His perfect timing and we all have room to grow, but we need to enjoy the journey!

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

"If I take the wings of the morning, if I dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." -Psalm 139:9-10
This has always been my favorite verse because it reminds me that no matter where I am, physically or spiritually, God is holding me and guiding me. I find it to be comforting and encouraging in almost any situation.

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

You are loved.
So simple. So powerful.

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

COFFEE. Hands down.

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