Jenna Anderson wears many hats. In addition to dreaming up, coordinating, and leading the Story Team, she serves at Westside as a pastor and writer. She has led and ministered in Africa, spending five years there as a missionary. She wears the title “child of God” with confidence and humility. She is artistic, creative, loving, intentional, and grounded. But there are two roles that for her are the most cherished; Wife and Mother.
As a child Jenna dreamed of the family that she would one day have. She would go to college and be married at 23, with three children shortly after—at least according the autobiography she wrote at school in 3rd grade. Her expectations of white picket fences may not have stayed in her heart through the years, but the dream of being a wife and mother endured. This hope, however, was not just a schoolgirl’s daydream, but a promise she knew God had planted in her heart. It was a promise sure and steady—an inevitable part of her future life and calling.
Time passed, and 23 came and went. Jenna graduated from college and her commitment to “be about the Kingdom” led her to become a missionary in Africa. God did powerful things in and through Jenna in these years, and though the steady hope and yearning for a family of her own remained, she was committed to valuing her singleness: “God took me to Africa for 5 years to squeeze out all that He had deposited in me-not wasting but accepting my singleness as an offering to Him as I trusted Him.”
Though her circumstances may have seemed misaligned with God’s promise, Jenna was determined— no matter how difficult— to lean in to her faith all the more.
“Reality threatened the very words God had spoken to me, so I constantly had to choose to believe what God was saying in light of contradicting circumstances.”
Trusting God with His promise to her became a sort of litmus test for her relationship with Him—in her mind at the time,“if I couldn’t trust God with that, it meant I couldn’t trust Him with anything”. Though she strongly believes that “just because you’re struggling or hurting doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong”.
Jenna returned from her years on the mission field and joined the staff at Westside Church. More time passed. And then came Trey. Completely unexpected and at just the right time, a casual friendship through church developed. Friendship turned to feelings, and after some time dating, Trey proposed. Trey and Jenna married and would have their first child, Henrietta, within the next year. All of a sudden, Jenna found herself with a life that God had told her she would have— right in the middle of a promise fulfilled.
Did the years of waiting and wondering have their purpose? Absolutely, says Jenna. The value of the lessons Jenna learned in those years are not lost on her. “He is the same God here in this season of marriage and motherhood as He was in the village.”
“I’m so glad I’m this version of me for this. I worked through so much and am able to bring to the table things that I wouldn’t have been able to. The pain of waiting is still there, but if we pay attention, God can say ‘this is why’.”
Though Jenna now has the family her heart yearned for, it does not minimize the difficulty of years past. “The waiting was agony. But it also created a depth of thankfulness for God and His redemption and faithfulness.”
There is a beautiful understanding of paradox that those who have walked through the fire seem to hold with ease. The acceptance that the pain of their trial was real and raw and nearly broke them down. But here they stand; stronger, more compassionate, wiser, more empathetic. The pain and the beauty remain just as true at the same time.
Jenna walks with this understanding, knowing that God didn’t waste a single year, and with a humble heart bursting with gratefulness for His words brought to life.
“I didn’t earn the family He has blessed me with. But I do think that my choice for 34 years to trust, remain steady in faith and walk in obedience positioned me to receive all that He always had in store for me. In the meantime and in the waiting-with questions unanswered and doubt close by-I made the choice again and again to keep my heart soft, give the painful parts to Jesus and be about the Kingdom.”
Written by: Kate Schaber || Photos by: Erica Stubblefield, Tony Gambino, and Brooklyn Wagner