We caught up with Jenny Simmons to talk about her new audiobook Made Well. The interview was recorded and can be played below. Enjoy!
ANNOUNCER: Welcome! You’re listening to an exclusive author interview brought to you by christianaudio.com.
VICKI MORGAN: Hello, and welcome to the conversation. I’m Victoria Morgan interviewing for Christian Audio and today we’re having a chat via Skype with author, musician, speaker and Bible teacher Jenny Simmons. She’s written a powerful new book called Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments, and we’re honored and excited to be the publishers of Made Well in audiobook form.
As the once lead singer and lyricist of the former band, Addison Road, Jenny Simmons knows how to tell a story. Addison Road’s most popular songs such as Hope Now, What Do I Know of Holy, Fight Another Day and All That Matters continue to inspire Christians everywhere with uplifting, introspective messages of redemption.
After a series of hardships on the road, some serious losses and the eventual disbanding of Addison Road, Jenny’s focus took a remarkably interesting turn. Her burden is now for those who suffer, and all of us do suffer to some degree, but those with cancer, homeless people, grieving people, the oppressed, the lonely, those in human trafficking and above all, the hopeless. If you are in this fellowship of intense suffering, you need to hear Made Well, because we all need healing. Fans and listeners around the world love Jenny’s voice and I’m sure they’ll be excited to hear how she interprets her burden verbally on audiobook. And she’s going to talk about that in a second.
Jenny and her husband Ryan have been married for over twelve years. They have a daughter named Annie, and a close-knit church family in Nashville, Tennessee. When she’s not on the road, Jenny enjoys kickin’ it on the back porch with a cup of coffee, just watching the birds. She also loves glitter crafts with her daughter, reading memoirs, eating Mexican food and she loves the company of her friends, neighbors and family.
Jenny, thank you so much for being here with us today!
JENNY SIMMONS: Thank you for having me, Vicki.
VICKI MORGAN: So Jenny, the title of your new and astonishingly personal audiobook is Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments. You dedicate it to those of us who, as author Margaret Feinberg puts it in your book, “are walking through dark seasons of pain… along rugged roads we never thought we’d travel.” And you also dedicate it to, and I’m paraphrasing it a little bit here, “every person who fights daily to be made well, who faces devastating trauma, impossible odds, and unspeakable evil.” Then you go on to refer to our suffering as “holy work.” Those are very comforting words to those of us that are in unspeakable torment.
JENNY SIMMONS: Yeah, thank you. I hope that this book will be a comfort to people. I think we’re really good at coming together after we’ve been healed or made well and sometimes it’s hard to find a safe place to land, to walk in the midst of the suffering and walk in the midst of the places that aren’t healed yet. And so I do hope people will read this book who are perhaps walking through those seasons and find a safe place to land.
VICKI MORGAN: Well, you sound like such a cool person. And in an effort to get to know you better, I started pouring through some of your recent blogs. You’re not one to hide your feelings. You share your grieving with us, of the state of the nation and the suffering of people all over the world. In fact, you adapt a somewhat sobering attitude as you relate it all to Scripture. In your blog you wrote:
“I would say that without hope, the people perish. A hopeless society is far more deadly than any war, atrocity or dictatorship. When the bleak, despairing voices of fatalism and defeatism threaten to overwhelm a society, bold advocates of resilient hope, faith, optimism and joy must fight all the more to be known.”
And I know that your audiobook is going to help us fight through that optimism and joy, but how can we fight to retain our joy and our hope and our optimism when we do feel so overwhelmed and even defeated, especially in this day and age?
JENNY SIMMONS: You know, I think when I was growing up I thought it had to be these big bold things, like I would go out and one day just change the world. And the older I get, the more I realize that the best way to fight to retain joy and hope is it starts very small. It starts in my own living room, in my own mind. Some days it just looks like me turning the news off, or shutting down Facebook or Instagram when the storyline in my head becomes, “Everything is Hopeless” or, “Everybody has more than I do and I’m lacking in some way.”
And so I think a lot of the ways that I encourage people in this book and just in general to fight back with hope and joy is to start really, really small. And I always go back to John 10:10, it’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible, but Jesus is so clear in this verse, He says, “The thief is the one that comes to kill and steal and destroy.” That’s what he would love to do is to destroy and steal away the storyline of redemption. And so going back to what follows, Jesus says, “But I have come to give life and give it abundantly.” And so I think just waking up each day and saying I refuse to buy into the one who would like to steal and kill and destroy and instead I’m looking for God’s displays of life and redemption and hope today and I believe in that.
VICKI MORGAN: And you are well acquainted with that spiritual battle. So let’s bring this back to your own experience. In a recent interview you shared that your former band, Addison Road, endured a very tough touring year, a car accident … you had all your equipment stolen twice. It must have taken some kind of toll on your family and your marriage. I’m guessing that you all must have needed some kind of healing after that experience. So, is that how God inspired you to write Made Well? And if not, what did inspire you?
JENNY SIMMONS: That was the starting point. And I remember thinking in those days, “Wow, this is as hard of a journey as I will have to walk through.” As you read the book, the readers will come really quickly to see that. Right after that season, I actually walked alongside my little baby sister who was pregnant with twin girls, Maggie and Ellen … and she lost them at twenty-three weeks of pregnancy. And it was just this series … it felt like blow after blow after blow. And honestly, this book for me came out of that season for me. But also I’ve been in ministry on the road doing music for almost two decades now, and I meet a lot of people who are in these moments, they never thought they would walk through.
And I think we have this idea of this is how God is going to redeem it and restore it and make it better. But the truth is I meet so many people that the marriage ended in divorce or the cancer ended in death. And it’s not healed the way we thought it was going to be healed. And I sit with these people and I pray with them and I hug them and we cry together. And I have to say in the midst of that is, is God still good or not? Is He still a healer or not? And so this book is for those people who are not seeing their life healed or restored in the ways that they imagined or the ways that they dreamed, this great, big redemptive flashy miracles which is what we all so desperately want.
What does healing look like after the babies don’t make it, after the marriage ends, after you lose all your stuff in a fire and bankruptcy … and what does it look like? Is God still good? Is He still our healer? And I very much believe He is and that He’s at work redeeming and restoring. And so this book is for those people.
VICKI MORGAN: And you do have such a desperate desire to see people healed. But in your audiobook you also reveal to us very candidly, I might add, your own internal need for healing. You say:
“Darkness is inside of me, to be sure. Monumental mistakes, regret, shame, fear, worry, and that testy temper of mine are all there, fighting to take over my insides, rushing for the reins to rule my mind and body. My brokenness is well documented in the caverns of my soul; my sin nature is fastened well into place. But before and underneath that, the very core of my essence is not darkness, it is light.”
So how do you think your audiobook, Made Well, will help people, so well acquainted with this darkness, find and focus on that light? In fact, how do you keep your focus on that light?
JENNY SIMMONS: Good question. I write early on in the book, I think probably chapter three or four, about the moment I realized that I was loved by God and delighted in … that He actually liked me as a person. Not just tolerated me, not just forgave me, or put up with me, but took deep joy in who I was as a human. And I hope that people will begin to focus on that light by first realizing their belovedness and I write that … that before God ever invites us to be healed, He invites us to be loved and to be known. And so one of my prayers for this is that people would hear these words and they would begin to realize that they serve a God who heals and makes things well and redeems and restores out of this core of love.
And I do, it sounds maybe cheesy or trite, but at the heart of it, once I realized, “Oh, God delights in me, there’s something in me, deepen in me, that He created and knows and calls good, and because of that He’s drawing me to be a whole person, to be a healthy person.” And I think when I focus on that, that helps me to get my eyes off of my own brokenness and refocus my eyes on what I was created to be in the first place. I really believe we were created well. We were created in God’s image and that that is what He longs for us to be is whole people.
VICKI MORGAN: And that brings me to my next point. There are certain individuals who suffer very special kinds of loneliness, mental illness even. And we all need healing. We all feel lonely and even a little crazy sometimes.
JENNY SIMMONS: Right. Right. Exactly. You know, I especially have a heart for people that suffer from mental illness. I have mental illness and I talk about it in one of the chapters in the book, about having it since I was a little girl and I wasn’t diagnosed until after college. I turned the book into the publisher and she said, “Are you sure you want to say this?” And I was like, “Don’t ask me that. I’ve already put it down. Let’s just go forth!” But I say that to say I do hope people find a place where they don’t feel so alone. And I think so much of our brokenness … it goes unhealed because we feel such a degree of shame about it.
And I wish that in our Christian faith family that we could just develop these safe places for people who aren’t fixed yet and who maybe never will see the type of healing for their mental illness or their physical illness that they’re walking through until the other side of this earth but still that we would find a place where we can come together and share those things and not feel shame about it but seek healing together.
VICKI MORGAN: And you made a good point. Jesus doesn’t heal physical and mental ailments the same way every time, but He does heal the soul the same way every time.
JENNY SIMMONS: Yes, every single time. And I say in the book that I’m looking for these great, big flashy miracles and all the while sometimes Jesus is at work doing this little half-baked miracles and it frustrates me because I think, “Gosh, I know your power, God, and I know what You’re capable of doing.” And I don’t know … this book is not going to answer for anybody why God heals or doesn’t heal physically. It’s not going to answer that. What it is going to point people to is that even when the thing that we want so desperately to happen doesn’t come to pass, God is still at work even there — bringing about small, tiny moments of grace and mercy and miracles that just don’t always look like the thing that we prayed for.
VICKI MORGAN: So in speaking about that uncertain future, let’s offer some comfort to the person who is facing an uncertain future. I hope I’m not touching on a sensitive subject, so please stop me if I am, but in a recent blog you shared that you thought you were pregnant. You tested positive for pregnancy, but other than that you had no evidence that there was a life inside of you. You didn’t have the usual morning sickness, no cravings, no sleepiness, no discernible movement from the baby.
But instead of getting the proof of the life inside you, which would have been easily obtained through a one-hundred-dollar sonogram, instead of getting that peace of mind, you said you wanted something more. You wrote that you wanted to learn how to trust. You wanted to be a woman rooted deep in faith. And I must read this because it has everything to do with your audiobook. You write:
I feel as though God keeps whispering that this is not a season for short-cuts. This is a season to re-engage the hard work of faith. So while I sorely want to hear a heartbeat and be instantly reassured that all is well with the tiny baby growing inside of me, I am choosing instead to repeat a simple prayer of faith when I feel frantic for proof of life:
I trust that you are alive.
I trust that you were made well.
JENNY SIMMONS: Ah! Well, I’m so glad you found that blog. I forgot that I’d written those words. I think we live in a society where we can get anything we want at the drop of the hat, and that just doesn’t translate well for people of faith because so much of our faith is a waiting game. So much of our faith doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not instant. There are certainly times throughout the Bible and throughout history where we see God has made somebody well or He has healed somebody and it has been instantaneous. I immediately think of the woman who has been bleeding for years and years and years in the New Testament and she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and immediately she’s made well.
And I wish that all of our healing was like that, but it’s not. And so I do hope for people that have been long suffering that hear the words of this book, that read the words of this book, that they would be reminded that there’s hard work to be done in healing and it’s not a quick fix and it’s not overnight. And I think because we’re so ingrained in getting what we want when we want it at the click of a button, I don’t even have to leave my house for groceries! Amazon can give me everything I need from my couch. I don’t ever have to even get up. That’s unfortunately not how faith works. And so while I think we would love for these short-cuts, just make it better and fix it God, restore it, redeem and do it right now overnight, there’s something to these long roads where we learn to be people of faith through the slow process of being made well. And I think it’s a slow process.
I’m not going to be made well tomorrow. I’m not going to be completely made well this side of Heaven. And so what does it look like as people of faith to journey day in and day out and grow deeper and deeper and deeper roots into a God who is gradually and slowly in His own time in a way we don’t know or understand — making us well.
VICKI MORGAN: Jenny, I love that you’ve chosen different ways of expressing this burden that God has placed on your heart. One is through the written word, and one is through your gripping new album To Be Well, and I say gripping because the lyrics just took root with me instantly. But then there’s the spoken word, your audiobook. How would you say the expression of written word or song compares to your actual reading of Made Well? Do you have any thoughts on that?
JENNY SIMMONS: Yeah, I was really surprised as I recorded this book, what a moving experience it was for me. Originally, when I’d found out the book was going to become an audiobook, they offered for somebody else to read it and I thought, “Gosh, this is such deeply personal content, I can’t imagine someone else reading this.” And so I didn’t know what it would be like to get into that studio and say the words out loud, but it was a profoundly moving experience to read as an author what you’ve written on paper. I don’t think a lot of times we as authors do that to read the words out loud and to hear the story.
And so I was able to say the words in a way that they sounded in my head and I realized, “Oh, this may not read this way on paper.” So to have the privilege and the opportunity to speak it out loud, to speak my story out loud and these words over people, I just thought was an incredible experience.
VICKI MORGAN: Jenny, your audiobook, Made Well, is written for people struggling towards “wholeness.” It offers hope to those who feel like they’re coming apart at the seams, to those trying to maintain their relationship with God in the midst of a frantic culture, to those trying to navigate their families through this world, to those struggling through divorce and sexual issues and depression and all kinds of things that have just been tossed into this gray area. Your audiobook is healing for all of us, not just for those suffering with grief or illness. So as we immerse ourselves in the healing balm of your words, how can we keep in touch with you, read your blogs, listen to your music and feel that fellowship of suffering you talk about?
JENNY SIMMONS: I would love for people to join alongside. You can always go to my website. It’s Jenny Simmons, J-E-N-N-Y, S-I-M-M-O-N-S, dot com. But I also just do a lot of interacting on Facebook and so my Facebook is facebook.com/jennysimmonsmusic. And especially as the book draws near and these months of bringing forth a book and a baby, which are both due within six days of each other! I spend a lot of time on Facebook just interacting with people. In fact, I would say there’s at least five pivotal stories in this new book, that I’ve created relationships with people through Facebook. And so their stories and the ways that we’ve interacted began there. So I love it when people join me there. And we do … we have this fellowship of not just suffering but rejoicing in life and gathering together in this place to be made well together.
VICKI MORGAN: Well, Jenny, it has been a real pleasure talking to you. We at Christian Audio can’t thank you enough for allowing us the privilege of publishing Made Well in audiobook form. Thank you for listening to God’s direction and for crafting words that glorify Him.
JENNY SIMMONS: Thank you so much for having me, Vicki.
VICKI MORGAN: Get Jenny Simmons’ new audiobook Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments at christianaudio.com. If you’d like a free audiobook sent to you each month, just join our mailing list. I’m Victoria Morgan. Thanks for listening!
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