Happily Ever After

When God begins working something in your life that changes your course it sometimes can happen so fast it makes your head spin. That is how it was for me at the start of 2015.

When a horse ranch just a mile from our farm went up for sale, my husband and I enquired about the asking price and that is when God brought a gust of changes all at once. At first, I thought it was time for me to put down my pen (…or keyboard) altogether, but writing will always be a part of me. I won’t have the time to sit at my computer and pour my heart and soul into a story for Chttanoogan.com each week, but I will occasionally ‘blog’ on my website jenjeffrey.com.

The changes are good because I do live in KY now and I am embarking on new adventures and a new business that keeps me busy with another passion of mine – horses. We will close on the ranch next month and I will run a horse boarding business starting off with four thoroughbred mares. Three girls who own horses attend MSU’s equine program and they take Eventing and Dressage classes out at the ranch from the trainer who is selling the property to us.

There is also a house on the property and three female MSU students currently rent it and also help work the ranch. When we take over in a few weeks, we will keep four boarders at the stables and the renters will continue living in the house. My twins have talked about possibly moving to Kentucky down the road and they would then rent the house and help with the ranch.

When God brings showers of blessings we want to honor Him with them and give back to Him serving. I had talked to Jason about using the ranch (after we acquired horses of our own) for equine therapy. My first thought was how much Smokey had helped me heal after going through so much and I wanted to reach out to other women who could benefit and become empowered by learning leadership skills, confidence and just being in the presence of horses. What also came to mind was people of special needs. There are many benefits in the health and spirit of those with special needs who are around horses.

After throwing out a few names for the ranch to Jason and telling him my thoughts for the future, one Sunday at church while we were singing about God’s grace, he leaned over and whispered to me, “I have the name… Grace Reins.” I knew immediately that God placed that name on Jason’s heart. It was perfect and we will own “Grace Reins Ranch” in a few short weeks. If you have Facebook you can keep up with posts and videos of what takes place on the ranch.

As all of this has been unfolding, I have been going to the ranch and seeing how it has been operated so that I can continue to run it in the same way and it is wonderful being around horses again!

In fact, Jason and I are getting a couple of horses of our own in a few weeks. We went to Dover Tennessee to look at Tennessee Walkers and we fell in love with a colt and filly we will bring to ranch after they are ready to leave.


I want to thank my editor John Wilson for allowing me to share many stories with readers of Chattanoogan.com and for taking me under his wing and being my mentor. I want to thank the people who took time to let me interview them for the Growing Local series and the People Profile articles. I also thank co-writers and editors for their friendship and all their help and I especially want to thank you who have followed my stories and found them interesting and many of you who would write to me.

As I begin my new journey and to have closure with what I have enjoyed the past four years, the best way to end this is how all great stories end… “…and she lived happily ever after.”

The End

Get Along Little Doggies!

Today was such a beautiful sun-shiny day that when I walked the Greys I wanted to let them be out a little longer and to do something a little different. And… I wanted to see just how they would react being around horses. I remembered how Spec whined on a hike when we met up with cows grazing in a pasture. There was no telling how he would react being up close to a horse.

When we came back to the garage I left their leashes on and went in the house for my keys. As I came back out they heard my keys and when I grabbed their leashes again they got excited! “Where are we going mommy?”

I wanted Spec and Sweetie to get out of their spoiled and routine environment and we piled in my Jeep and headed to the ranch. Some of the girls who board their horses at the ranch were there and so were their pooches. The first test was to see if prima donna Spec would be okay around other dogs without a fight ensuing.

Two black dogs came up to us – one was very friendly and I knew she would not be a problem, but the shorter male dog seemed to be sizing us up suspiciously. Spec let out a little whine as if to say, “Mom, I know I am the alpha and but I really don’t want to have to fight…” I held my breath as the four canines smelled each other. After they got acquainted I petted the other dogs and we headed towards the barn where the “big dogs” (horses) were. I held their leashes tight because I KNEW they would not get along with the barn cats.

Spec had to whiz on a couple of the planters that lined the driveway and then he saw a horse standing with her owner at the front of the stables. The horse bent his head down and smelled my two pals. Sweetie decided she liked what she smelled (I like the smell too) and she even kissed the horse on his muzzle.

Spec was a natural around the horses. He didn’t whine or act afraid at all. It was the other male dog that Spec was more worried about as he was still quite curious around us and kept Spec on guard.

We walked passed the horse and went through the barn where Sweetie and Spec’s hound instincts went crazy as they sniffed all the wonderful barn smells! “So this is where mommy has been going everyday!” I knew they would like it. We came through the other side of the stables and headed out toward the lesson ring and first pasture.

Spec spied the first large mound of poo on the grass and he did his little kicking thing where he tried to cover it with grass. I laughed out loud, “Spec, you didn’t do that – quit trying to claim it.”

Then he and Sweetie both saw several more piles! This was very different from the occasional deer poo or coyote poo they have to treasure hunt for. Why this was a landmine of very large poo piles! How would they be able to ‘mark’ each and every one of them?

By golly, they sure tried! Spec and Sweetie saw how much work had to be done so they reserved their void and only squirted a few drops as we walked passed all the piles. After the first ten piles, I think they got tired and realized it was a lost cause and marking horse poo was just not their job and it was okay for them to be left unmarked.

As the two black dogs romped and played together we newcomers watched the horse and rider in the ring as trainer Candy McCoy (the current ranch owner) called out specific instructions. What beauty! I could be out there all day.

The little black male dog still came around to sniff Spec and Sweetie again, but all the pooches seemed to be fine with each other.

I want to take riding lessons from Candy myself, but will wait until after we buy the ranch and all the paperwork goes through. There is quite a bit of information to take in about running the ranch and the boarding business. I have been studying resource material when I am at home at our farm, but I really love the ‘hands on’ learning when I go to the ranch.

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks we will have “Grace Reins” up and running with an LLC. My own business! And … with HORSES!

I have read in scripture where God wants to give us our heart’s desire, but that was something I had not believed for many years. Then when I finally came to that place in my life where I knew I was where God wanted me to be and when I ‘understood what He was teaching me’ all these years, I believed He would give me my heart’s desire in a mate… but NEVER did I think my perfect-for-me soulmate and I would ever live out our dreams together and so quickly (and to have them fall in place so easily).

Jason and I know that God has plans for us with all that he gives, and we feel honored to be a part of His plan. When we don’t tap into the riches God is ready to give us and we forfeit our blessings because we just don’t believe God cares about our inner most dreams – we really don’t have any idea just how much God is willing to do in our lives. I was just happy to find my ‘happily-ever-after husband, but while living obediently, God has showered us with such love and Grace it is sometimes overwhelming.

Spec and Sweetie took to the ranch nicely and had big smiles on their faces. Yes, yes, I know… Greyhounds always seem to have a smile on their face, but I could tell with their breathing, their relaxed eyes and happy wagging tails that they loved the ranch as much as I do. It blessed my heart to see that the horses and other pooches at the ranch …get along with our little doggies.

He Wanted Me There

Over the past few years of being single, I have taken my time where romance is concerned. It took me a while before I took the plunge to even go on a date, much less attempt a relationship. When I did finally decide to date, I reserved the right to stick my toe in the water and pull it back out.

There was even a story I wrote in the Chattanoogan called “50 First Dates” where all it took was one date and any potential romance was over before it could begin. It was partly my decision and partly theirs. If I liked a man and was willing to see him again – he might have had a problem with me. Either I was not the size two he wanted, or I wasn’t tall enough.

Maybe it was that I wasn’t rich enough or that I didn’t attend an Ivy League school.

And sometimes, I fear that my faith rubbed a few the wrong way. Whatever was ‘wrong with me’ to them, didn’t bother me and it was easy to move on and not let it hurt me because I was secure in who I was and I knew that they just could not see the ‘treasure’ in me because they were not who God wanted for me. Only God could give eyes to see me the way He sees me to the one man He truly has for me.

This worked the same with the ones who did like me enough to want something more, but I was the one who didn’t feel that connection with them.

My Daddy always taught me to be honest about what I like and don’t like – he told me to be true to myself. So, I made a point to let men know upfront if I wasn’t interested in them for more than just a friend. Either I flat out told them if they asked me or I gave obvious signals that I was not going to put effort into a relationship with them. And if they were the ones who didn’t seem sure or were wishy-washy about it, I was out of there. I didn’t play the game “I like you, but let me just see what else is out there while I enjoy you.” No. I am all or nothing – 100 % or 0%.

And the worn out ‘cop-out’ we all have used or that has been used on us, “It’s not you… it’s me” isn’t really being true to that person or to ourselves. The fact is, it isn’t about them or us. It is about what is destined.

As a believer, I feel that God places in my life exactly what He purposes. Either it is temporary and for me to give something to that person or for them to give something to me, but I know God has a blessing somewhere whether it is ‘meant to be forever’ or not.

I guess that is why I love so easily and unashamed. Maybe feeling that I was ‘in love’ with a man who I attempted a relationship with is a bit strong, but I have thought I was in love until God showed me. Then I realized I just loved that person ‘as a person’ and they were exciting at the time that I thought of the possibilities of a future with them.

But the good thing in all my relationships whether it is just friendship or casual dating or more, is that no matter how much excitement I felt in the beginning, I always knew when God showed a red flag or caution sign, telling me to back up or slow down.

I thank God that I have been able to listen to His voice in that. As much as I love or give of myself to someone, it would be easy to get heartbroken if I didn’t hold back. I have had much heartbreak in my life, but over the last few years, I knew that God wanted me to use those past heart breaks and be wiser. He gave me wisdom to know what was right for me and I exercised that wisdom. I feel good about where I have been and what I have learned as well as what I have given and what I have not given.

Whether it be emotionally or physically – whatever I held back, I knew that I was supposed to – even if I hoped that a relationship would be moving forward and grow. If I felt that God showed me it wasn’t right for me, my heart was protected and it didn’t hurt like it would have if I had given all of me. “All of me” is priceless and not just anyone can have that from me.

God revealed to me my worth as His daughter and it changed everything for me in my decisions choosing love. Just as it had nothing to do with me ‘not being good enough’ for the men who didn’t choose to ask me on a second date, it also had nothing to do with the men ‘not being good enough’ for me when I was the one who didn’t want to pursue a relationship any further.

There have been beautiful men in my life who had a lot to offer. Good men with good hearts.

It wasn’t that they were not good enough for me if I moved on, it was just that God said “no”. It could have been that it wasn’t that ‘right time/right place’ for either of our lives for things to fit like a glove where you know it will only get better and better.

We can’t try to fit that square peg in a round hole. We can’t wait for that right time… or that place in our life in which we strive to be… either it is or it isn’t. Either we are or we aren’t.

So after dating here and there and then not dating for a while; and after trying on a relationship or two or three… it was all good for me and each person crossed my path for a reason. I have no idea ‘for certain’ what the relationship I have right now will bring tomorrow, but I have my hopes. I have my eyes and ears and mind and heart all tuned into what God wants me to know. I feel good about the person in my life right now. If something changed it would be okay, because God is with me all the way. But this is the first time since I was married, that I have given all of my heart to a man.

With this man, I am not holding back. With this man, I trust completely. Why him? I know him. I know him inside and out. I knew him when he was a baby, a child and now after many letters, phone calls, the time we have spent together – this man is like seeing myself in male form.

There have been no warning signs, no waiting for me to be something he wants or waiting for him to be something I want… we are exactly where we need to be… we are exactly who we need to be.

Why do I belong with this man? Because he wanted me there. He made the effort to show me where I fit in his life right now. He made the effort to show me where he fits in mine. He saw my worth as I am right now as well as seeing my potential in all that I want to be. He sees that I have the same eyes for him. I want him exactly where he is and I will to support him in where he wants to go.

Only God can do that. It has nothing to do with any one person being good or not good enough. It has to do with God’s purpose.

If I am wrong in thinking there is nothing more to know about this relationship before deciding it is right, then God will show me and, I realize that this would be a gut-wrenching heart ache if it wasn’t – because this man has all of me. No holding back – this is right for me and right for him and I take comfort in that.

As responsible and grown up that we have to be to be a part of everything else in our lives, I still know that I do not want to live my life without him. I have given my heart fully to where I no longer feel whole without him. And that is a sacrifice I haven’t made since I was married.

This love is very special. This man is in my heart and I am in his… and the best part is …he wanted me there.

Another Mama Saga

When the holiday issue came out a few days ago of a magazine that I write for, I asked Mama if she wanted to go to the mall with me to get a copy. It was evening and Mama doesn’t normally like to get out at night – but she knew I wanted her to be with me so she complied.

I had just put a vinegar based tonic on my hair when I had thought of going out, so I pulled my hair back and threw a hat on. Mama grabbed her sweater and we were out the door. As we headed to the mall, I realized how stinky the tonic could be in a closed up area and I asked Mama if she smelled it. She said no at first, but then said, “Now I can smell it”. I thought I would just run in real quick to get the magazine and come right back out so I didn’t think I would offend anyone with my odorous hair.

I asked Mama if she wanted to go in, but she said she would just wait in the car. I locked her in so she would feel safe and I planned to just be a minute. When the bookstore had not gotten the new issue yet, I came right back out – but because it was dark, I could not find my car. I knew approximately where it was and headed toward where I had parked, but my black Jeep was camouflaged in the darkness.

I grabbed for my keys to press the lock button so that would see hear my horn and see the flashing lights. Yes… I knew. I knew after a few seconds of my plan that it just may scare Mama… but I did it anyway. I kept pushing the button and the Jeep lit up like a Christmas tree and played a loud symphony.

When I came close to the Jeep, I could see Mama through the windshield and I got the reaction that I wanted. She was looking all around her for the person that must be trying to break in and she had a worried look on her face. I casually got in the Jeep and she gave me ‘the what for’ as any southern Mama would do. “Jenny! I thought for sure someone was trying to break in and I was stuck inside! I didn’t know WHAT I was going to do!”

I couldn’t help but to laugh as I pulled the deer-in-headlights look and replied, “What? I couldn’t see the car and I had to find it…” Then Mama started laughing because she knew it was funny.  I didn’t tell her that I sort of did it on purpose, but I am sure my number one fan will read this story and give me ‘the what for’ again.

I think because I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh, my mean-streak has to do with getting people to laugh at themselves or a situation – I promise I don’t harm Mama.

We stopped at the drug store because earlier that day, Mama had gone to pick up her medicine at the drive-through and had stolen the basket from the drive-through dispensary. She didn’t mean to, but it was one of those ‘oops moments’ for her to laugh at herself for driving off with the medicine basket. When we drove up to the drive through, I returned the basket to the woman at the window and she laughed too. Isn’t laughing just great? And it spreads from one person to another – our common thread … just like music.

As we headed home I told Mama I would try to get the magazine another time and that I was sorry that it was a waited trip. Mama came out with a reply that had me laughing even more. I had forgotten about my vinegary hair until she said, “Well at least it was long enough to blow the stink off!”

Mama said that she needed a new phone and asked me to go with her. I had planned on buying her a new phone set for Christmas. I told her that since she wanted that now, then I would have to figure out something else to get her for Christmas and she said, “I just get tired of this phone by my computer not working and having to get up and go in the living room to answer the phone. I said, “Why don’t you tell all you kids to call your cell phone and just carry your cell phone around? They are the only ones who call you anyway.” She said, “Well, I get other calls too…” And I sarcastically said, “Yeah, from another country!” Quick as a whip, Mama replied back, “I know, but I want to be able to hang up on them!”