You may not know Jenny Simmons by name, but there is a good chance you know her music. Songs like What Do I Know of Holy, Hope Now and This Little Light of Mine have found their way onto the airwaves and into the hearts of a generation of Christian music listeners. A lover of music and people, she has a knack for seeing God’s redemptive hand at work in the world around us, even when the world around us feels awfully broken. Jenny doesn’t shy away from the hard questions of faith. Like what happens when the miracle you pray for doesn’t happen? Instead, through her own grief and loss she stands as a bold reminder that God is never absent; God is always at work healing and making us well. Even if the miracle we pray for doesn’t come to pass. Her ‘half-baked’ miracle stories make me laugh and remind me to be on the look-out for God’s healing touch which so often comes in completely unexpected ways. It’s a grace to welcome Jenny to the farm’s front porch today…
My dad’s mom died in April as they were painting her toenails.
It didn’t matter if Mamaw was ever getting out of that bed again or not; there would be nail polish and perfectly primped hair.
Three months later, my mom’s dad was next. Losing Grandpa wrecked me.
Life can be so deathy.
After Grandpa’s funeral my mom said, “Enough with dying, on to living!”
We turned our attention to my baby sister Sarah, who had made peace with the fact that her one biological daughter would probably be the only child she could give birth to. She and her husband were pursuing adoption and waiting to be placed with a child when they found out they were pregnant. With twins.
Two beautiful baby girls were on their way and our family was ecstatic.
But three weeks after Grandpa’s funeral, Sarah’s water broke. She was only seventeen weeks pregnant.
Although the babies were given little to no chance of survival, the doctors began aggressively treating her with antibiotics to ward off infection, hoping to keep the girls in utero longer. After nine days of treatment and no improvement, the doctors said it was hopeless. It would only be a matter of days before labor began and the girls passed away.
But labor never began.
For six agonizing weeks the girls lived. They grew strong, hiccupped inside their momma’s ever-widening belly, and kept us on our knees praying for a miracle.
We were told if they could hang on, there might be a chance.
Everything in me begged, pleaded, and bartered with Jesus for a miracle.
On the morning of October 2nd, Sarah woke up at death’s door. When her water broke, it left her highly susceptible to infection, and her body had finally succumbed to the possibility. She was riddled with infection and so sick she could not be operated on.
She had to give birth to the girls naturally, knowing that at twenty-three weeks her babies would die as soon as they came into this world.
Maggie Jane and Ellen Olivia were born at 7:30 p.m. on October 2, 2014. They died moments later in my sister’s arms.
The miracle we prayed for hadn’t happened.
I came home from Maggie and Ellen’s funeral unsure of how to step back into normal life.
The better part of the year had been spent on dying, and it felt daunting to relearn how to start living.
Five days after the funeral, I told my husband I was probably not a good candidate for a date night. Perhaps he could ask a friend to go see Paul McCartney with him instead of me? But Ryan insisted. He knows how deeply music impacts my soul.
We made our way to the tippy-top of the arena to find our nose-bleed seats. They were the only tickets I could afford when I bought the surprise Father’s Day gift ten months earlier.
And that’s when a girl walked directly up to us and said, “Hey! Are you guys excited about the concert tonight?!”
We had no idea who she was or why she was talking to us.
Ryan smiled politely. “Yeah. Can’t wait. How about you?”
“Are you big fans?” she asked enthusiastically, with jazz hands.
I was so annoyed.
Pretty-happy people are the worst when you are grieving.
Ryan began to rattle off the names of songs and albums. Then she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Great. You looked like the right couple. Take this and go fast—these are much better seats. Floor seats!”
She thrust a white envelope into my hands and disappeared. Floor seats to the sold-out Paul McCartney show—was this really happening?
We made our way to the bottom, found an older man serving as an usher and I handed him the unopened envelope.
He pulled the tickets from the envelope, and a huge smile broke out from ear to ear. “So you are the lucky lady in the house tonight!” he exclaimed.
And with those ten words my heart stood still and the tears came spilling out.
I looked at him and shook my head ‘no’.
He didn’t need to know the pain I was walking through—how five days earlier I watched my dad carry Maggie and Ellen’s tiny casket into the rain, kneel down on a green tarp and lower his grandbabies into the wet ground.
I apologized for the tears and simply said, “It’s been a hard week.”
“Well, tonight is your lucky night then, honey! Before our biggest shows they send an intern upstairs to give away a pair of front-row seats. Front row! Out of fifteen thousand people, they picked you.”
His words rang in my head. They picked you.
God whispered back, I picked you.
Some people are made well through running, baking, painting or hiking.
I listen to music— it heals me.
So I knew in that moment, this was the most extravagant way God could reach down from heaven, scoop me up, and begin to bandage my wounds.
For three hours, some of the world’s most famous songs like Let It Be and Here Comes the Sun, washed over me like medicine. A blackbird was singing in the dead of night, reminding me to take my broken wings and learn to fly.
It wasn’t the miracle I prayed for, but it was a miracle all the same. A completely other kind of miracle.
Something in me began to mend in those moments. The way a Band-Aid placed on a wide-open cut immediately begins to bring the wound together and bind it, the songs began to bind broken bits back together in my heart.
It seemed God Himself had orchestrated an evening for me in a way that only the Great Physician could. Emmanuel showing up in the hardest moments, holding my hand.
Sometimes healing happens in ways we never imagine.
While it may seem like a half-baked miracle—the one that comes without the physical cure we so often hope and pray for— the miracle of healing is that we can be made well and whole regardless of what happens to our bodies or the outcome of our life situations.
Healing happens all the time, even if a cure doesn’t.
We are invited to be made well even when the broken things don’t get put perfectly back together.
After the divorce, the funeral, the abuse, the lost job – after the miracle you prayed for doesn’t come to pass.
Even in those spaces, wholeness can come again and we can be made well.
I know what happens now when the miracle you pray for doesn’t come to pass.
Healing happens — if you let it.
Jenny Simmons is a dynamic storyteller and lover of people who sees God’s redemptive hand at work in the world around her. She is a sought-after musician and speaker who has garnered a devoted following. As the lead singer of the former band Addison Road, Jenny traveled the country performing alongside her husband, Ryan, for over a decade.
For anyone struggling on the journey toward wholeness, Jenny Simmons offers a resting place and a friend along the way in her book Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments. With personal insight into emotional pain, she invites you to encounter a God who is working out your restoration–often in surprising ways. Her humorous and inspirational prose lights a path toward wholeness. I believe this is a needed must read for many of us.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]