My Name is Jenn, and This is My Ah-ha Moment.

What an honor it was last month to receive an invitation to participate in Mutual of Omaha’s Ah-ha Moment campaign. What a surprise to find out the campaign’s tour would be scheduled in Winston Salem on June 10th, my 35th birthday. Without hesitation, I quickly accepted the offer with both gratitude and enthusiasm. This would certainly help make my day memorable.

What exactly is an Ah-ha Moment?
Mutual of Omaha describes it as:

It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.

Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and we think, worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha celebrates and honors these moments and the people who act upon them. We’re proud to have the products and services that can help people insure their possibilities.

A few weeks after accepting the invitation, it started to sink in that this was really going to happen! I needed to prepare. I researched the campaign, and debated which of my life’s many ah-ha moments would I choose to share. The more I anticipated this somewhat surreal situation, the more nervous I became. Am I really worthy of this invitation? What IS my ah-ha moment? Does anything I say or do really inspiring others? Finally remembering that I also had to renew my license on June 10, I considered contacting Mutual of Omaha and gracefully stepping down.

How many invitations were given out? Would backing down from this opportunity be a huge mistake? I continued to review my life, searching for something that would be meaningful. I knew that I had many moments of clarity in my life, but one alone just didn’t seem to hold the value of all of them put together. Then it hit me. There is something pretty amazing about my journey. It is like a giant puzzle. Could this realization be the ultimate in ah-has?

I started to make note of my time line:

  • At age 4, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
  • Age 18, I entered art school.
  • Age 22, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
  • Age 24, I was victim to my first layoff.
  • Age 26, I fell victim again.
  • At age 30, I was burnt out. Tired of ‘corporate America’, I desired a job that meant something. I wanted a job that made a difference. I looked to the medical field for a solution, and enrolled in nursing & coding courses. In September of that same year, I had officially retired from Graphic Design and was employed in a medical office.
  • At age 32, I realized that even a job in medicine doesn’t always make your life fulfilling. That, and I really missed being creative. I looked for opportunities to freelance, but I still sought something more. I dove into volunteer work with well-known charities. Although I gained a lot of knowledge working with these nonprofits, I was heartbroken at how some ran their organization like a corporation. Yes, a corporation – the same thing I fled from two short years before.

 

I had spent the better part of the past three years fine-tuning my freelance business into JennB.Creative. I wanted my creativity to be used to a maximum, while assisting nonprofits and start-up businesses. I wasn’t in it to become rich; I just knew the struggle of wanting to get a business off the ground. I aspired to give them the opportunity to have professional marketing material on their budget. I did all of this while working full-time for a local hospital and searching for the right nonprofit that best suited my beliefs.

As you read last month, my search is over. I am now happily involved with Invest Hope, a faith-based mission seeking to end poverty in Haiti by providing means for Haitian businesses to get off the ground. I never saw the entire correlation between my life’s desires and Invest Hope until I was forced to search for my perfect ah-ha moment. I think it’s pretty awesome to see things come full circle. It reminds me that there IS a purpose to my life, and it is unfolding at just the right speed.

Today, after renewing my license, I pulled up to a Silver Stream travel trailer parked outside of the Old Salem Visitors Center. Still a bit nervous, I walked up to a petite blonde sitting under a canopy, and introduced myself. It was time to share my moment with the world. I was still very nervous… okay, beyond nervous. Even with words of assurance from the Mutual of Omaha crew, I could feel my chest turning red with anxiety. I was escorted to a bar stool in the front of the travel trailer, and prompted to tell my story. I was probably too enthusiastic about it, but the emotion overwhelmed me. Anxiety turned to appreciation, and I was overcome with happiness. This experience was, in fact, my biggest eye-opening moment. Ah-ha!

I was told the video should be posted on Mutual of Omaha’s YouTube channel in roughly 14 days. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to see my video, I am really looking forward to it, checking out the other videos taped in Winston Salem, and to see where the tour stops next. I am forever indebted to have had this experience. Happy 35th to me!

Mission Statement

It seems as though I have had some struggles lately… pondering my life’s purpose. I was on a mission to determine how I could make the most of my years and figure out just why God has lead me down the path that He has.

I woke up one day – figuratively – when I realized that graphic design wasn’t satisfying my desire to help people. My solution was a job in the medical field. Certainly that service-oriented career would appease me. After going back to school and receiving certifications in Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Coding, and Nurse Aide, I quickly realized how badly I missed the creative release found in my previous art positions. Still trying to find my niche, but forgetting often to pray for guidance, I spent the course of 5+ years becoming more involved in community groups and national nonprofits.

Each year I donated more and more of myself, from designs to cash to time. I spent hours folding tshirts, selling ads, and raising money. I fell in love with the idea of turning this new-found hobby into a career, and started to apply for area organizations. With my marketing experience and my years of volunteering, I was called in for some interviews but all-in-all was unable to secure a position. This made me start to question my involvement… was I donating myself for the right reasons? …were the nonprofits I helped close to my heart? …did the money I raised or donated truly go towards the purpose I had intended?

After establishing my freelance business, I felt like I should start focusing more on faith-based or small local organizations, especially start up nonprofits. I was disappointed with the way larger nonprofits lost their focus and were filled with too much drama. I wanted to help on a smaller scale, in hopes of making a larger impact.

Jump ahead a few months. After making a VERY difficult decision to walk away from my most comfortable nonprofit (and the group of folks who I felt had become an extension of my family) I began praying that I would be introduced to whatever it was that was meant for me to serve God the best. I knew only He could provide me with the organization that would pull all of my strengths and fulfill my passion to help others. I was tired of trying to make things work on my own. I was bored with the limitations. I was annoyed with the drama. I was ready for a change. I was ready to make a significant difference!

Today I received a phone call from a friend. A friend, whom I have actually never met… and was only introduced to six short months ago. He (JW) was calling on behalf of his sister Ginny, whom I have also never met and have known for even a shorter amount of time. It’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve known them longer than I have, and I just never stop to question it.

Ginny lives in Haiti. She is an RN from Ohio who has put a halt on a comfortable life here in the States to serve in a third-world country  devastated by earthquakes in Jan 2010 – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Ginny spent most of her time in Haiti working as a Missionary Nurse for a nonprofit based out of the midwest USA. During that time, she was introduced to and later granted guardianship of her daughter, Odessa. The first time I heard her story, I actually was a bit jealous. A nurse, living on an island, helping people – AND the adoptive mom of one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. I joked that she was living the life that I thought would best fit mine!

However, the more I learned by reading her blog, the more I realized how strong Ginny is and how weak & unprepared I am to take on such roles. My biggest set back was that I never finished nursing school due to financial reasons. I didn’t feel that I had anything to contribute, even for a short-term mission. However, I couldn’t help but feel like she and I had been introduced for a reason.

The phone call today was brief, but covered a lot and can probably be considered life changing. Ginny has decided to start her own mission in Haiti. She wants to offer microloans and vocational training to Haitians as a way to build their trade skills and boost the economy. Initially I was asked to design the logo and assist with social media marketing. Before I could jump at the chance to scream YES! the conversation went a little further. I couldn’t believe what JW was asking. He said that Ginny wanted me to sit on the mission’s Board of Directors, if I would be interested. He said that if I agreed, Ginny encouraged me to start planning a trip to Haiti within the next year and explained that her mission would be built around the principal that everyone has something to contribute to the country. Having lived in Haiti for the past 3 years, Ginny has seen first hand the need for more than just medical and construction missionaries. In this 10 minute phone call, everything practically fell into place. God not only puts people in your life for a reason, but He uses them to answer our prayers.

I am so excited to see where this adventure takes us all. I hope that it will provide a chance for me to meet these friends, to gain new friends, to travel, to advocate, to help make a difference in Haiti, and most importantly to serve God!

Our first step is to actually name the mission, and establish the board members so that we can request nonprofit status and a 501c3. I’m sure I will be posting regular updates as this thing unfolds. Please keep Ginny & Odessa in your prayers, as she is the heart of this mission & the only one on the board living in Haiti, and pray for our mission.