Sis. Jennifer Lisenbey
What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to interview my own mother for the strong women series. My mom, Jennifer Lisenbey, was born and raised in Redfield, Arkansas. She is the youngest of three children. She met my dad when he started attending her church in 1983. They were married in 1991 during her freshman year of college. She graduated from UALR with a degree in English. In 1996, they had my brother, Caleb. In 1997, while still living in Sheridan, they began to pastor the Jesus Name Church in Plainview. In 1999, they received their greatest gift from God, me. Soon after my birth, they moved to Plainview full time to pastor. My mom is currently a high school English teacher at Two Rivers School District. Anyone who knows her, knows she is powerful and full of wisdom. I have no doubt that the words you are about to read will minister to you in some way.
What is a piece of advice that has affected your life?
I think the advice that shaped me the most was given by my dad. When we were preparing to leave our home church and come to Plainview, we were voicing our concerns about leaving our positions in their church unfilled. We did a lot of work in the church and for the church, and we were concerned that they would be left high and dry by our leaving. My dad told us, “No one is irreplaceable.” What? Are you saying you don’t need us? We were pretty flabbergasted by this amazing statement, but my dad explained to us a concept that we have now stood on in our own ministry. No one is irreplaceable. Don’t get too big for your britches. Someone else can do your job. That doesn’t always mean someone else should do your job, but someone else can. The job will get done if it’s the will of the Lord. One person isn’t going to stop it. My mother was fond of saying, “One monkey don’t stop no show.” Not grammatically correct...I know, but the concept is the same. When we left Junet, they didn’t die! Someone else rose up and took the positions that we vacated. And that is how it should be. We were not irreplaceable. And we still aren’t now! That isn’t to say that we are looking to leave; we are not. But we shouldn’t be prideful in thinking that we’ve done this, and no one else can do it. False. God uses whom he chooses. You are valuable in the kingdom, but you are not the only one who is. If we become prideful, destruction will be on the horizon.
What is a great piece of advice you were given as a mother?
I feel as if I give advice to mothers, but I don’t really remember someone giving me advice as a mother. About the only thing I can think of is that my mom told me that those babies were mine, and I could do whatever I wanted to with them. That is to say, I didn’t have to take anyone else’s advice in relation to my children. An example would be sleeping...some told me that co-sleeping was amazing while others told me it would ruin my children. As a mother, you get to make the decision on how you bring up your child. This is the advice I give to new mothers in our church. Whatever works for you, your baby, and your family is what you should do. (Interesting side note-whenever we think about motherly advice, I always see small children. I guess it counts for teens and adult children too.)
Is there a boundary in your life that is non-negotiable?
I stand on the doctrine, and that is non-negotiable. Boundaries are very important to me. I read Jerry B. Jenkins’ book Hedges years ago. This book was written for men, but, of course, its message is for everyone. Jenkins proposes that if you love your spouse and are committed to your marriage, you will create hedges (boundaries) that are non-negotiable. I have plenty of boundaries, but one that I will share here is that I will not watch an R-rated movie or anything that I feel will not please the Lord. I believe that the eyes are the windows of the soul, so whatever I see enters into my soul. I cannot unsee what I saw as a child or teen, and the enemy will use that against me sometimes. An image will appear in my mind, and I have to cast it down and not dwell on it. I teach teenage girls in my Sunday School class and I tell them that they must be careful about what they watch. You can unwittingly allow things into your spirit by simply watching a movie, a tv show, Netflix, etc. Everyone must create boundaries in their lives. We give our kids boundaries, and we are no different. Guard your heart.
What scripture have you stood on in your life or has meant the most to you?
Psalms 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
My favorite scripture is from Psalms 28:7. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. I know it seems a little “fluffy” after some of the amazing scriptures the other ladies posted, but this one is mine. The Lord is my strength. He is my shield. I trust in Him, and that helps me. So, I rejoice and praise Him with my songs. This scripture sums up my life! No matter what happens, I’m going to sing His praises and trust in His help because he is my strength and my shield.
Where do you pray? What are your study habits?
Sis. Nadene often encouraged me to get up early and read and pray. When I was a young mother, it just didn’t happen much. But as I got older, I realized the wisdom of my sister. I now read my Bible first thing when I wake up. I read in our living room or on the front porch if the weather is pleasant. As far as studying goes...I’ve never been good at it. Even when I was in school, I didn’t study much. I’ve always read, and when I read, I think and contemplate. But I haven’t set out on a specific course of study. I read the Bible, and I read books. My favorite authors right now are Levi Lusko and Mark Batterson. I love to talk about what I’m reading with Eva and Anna (when I am fortunate enough to be in their presence), and I talk to Jessica and Jordan here at home. I tell the ladies at our church about what I’m reading because I think it’s important to share what we are learning and how we’re growing. And I pray in my bathroom. Weird. I know. But it’s one of the places where I am truly alone (now that my kids are grown). I’ve done it for so long, that now when I walk into my bathroom, I feel as if I’m stepping into His presence. Not every time! Sometimes it’s just a bathroom, but sometimes it’s the throne room. (OMG)
What do you think makes a strong woman, and is there a woman who embodies that quality to you?
I believe that strong women control their thoughts. They know what they want and they go for it, and they don’t give up until they have achieved their goals. That might sound too cutthroat...what I mean is no matter what comes your way, a strong woman will keep going. My mom, Virginia Michael, is who I see when you ask about a strong woman. During my dad’s sickness, my mom never gave up hope for his healing. Even during rough times, she and my dad were full of faith and encouraged those people around them. When we lost my dad, my mom was a tower of strength. She confided in me that she had moments of weakness when she would have to get hold of herself and remind herself that my dad wouldn’t want her to be sad, and she would remind herself that the Lord didn’t want her to live like that either. My mom has learned to be in control of her thought life. She was able to cast down imaginations and stay strong. Then she was struck down by a stroke. Even after a massive stroke that has taken her speech and strength from her right side, my mom is still one of the strongest women I know. Her determination to recover after her stroke is inspiring. She has maintained a good spirit, and I believe that even in her diminished capacity, she has control of her thought life. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” I have used this process to control my thought life. When I am overwhelmed, I realize that I have to control my thoughts. I think about the next thing that is important. What do I need to do first? I concentrate on that and try to compartmentalize what I have to do. Cue the music “Do the Next Right Thing” from Frozen II. I can’t help it. I remember times when I have been counseling someone and they’ve told me that they just want to quit/give up. I always ask them, “What will that accomplish?” “Where will you go?” Quitting or giving up is just a cop out. It doesn’t solve anything. Whatever you’re scared of facing is still going to be there. You have to keep going. There’s no stopping in life. As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming.” Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Would I like to hide away from the world sometimes? Sure, but that isn’t an option. I just continue on. It’s not glamorous. It’s not amazing. It’s not life changing. It is life. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the goal. I believe that is what my mom does as well. She just keeps going. There is no other option. We used to sing a chorus that said, “You’ve got to keep on walking. You’ll get to heaven someday, if you walk the right way.” That could be my life motto. Keep walking. Stay the course.
Do you make free time for yourself? If you have free time what do you do?
I do make free time for myself. Not tons, but when I can I enjoy a little time alone. I grab a good book, run a bath, and stay there for an hour. I need time by myself because that is when I recharge. I love people, and I’m a people person. But I need to have alone time too. It keeps me sane. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t want to be around people all the time. My mom always told me I was grumpy when I came home from staying over at someone’s house. When I would get home, I would go to my room and just be by myself for a while. (Emily is like this too.)
Besides Christianity and marriage, what was the best decision you ever made?
I can think of a few decisions that affected my life for the better. The first is one I tell kids at school. Getting braces changed my life. It sounds silly, but braces allowed me to smile. I smile a lot. You might think that’s crazy, but it is something that wouldn’t happen if I hadn’t had braces. Another decision was moving to Plainview. It was the hardest decision of my life. We consulted other people we trusted, and most of them said, “Go for it.” I had plans to raise my family in my home church at Sheridan and live there for the rest of my life. My whole family lived within five miles of one another and ate dinner together about three times a week. I didn’t want to live away from my family. But we moved. It was the hardest season I had walked through at that time. But God was faithful to me through that time. He helped me through that season and gave me support from friends and family to ease the transition. I guess I could have told Stacy that I wouldn’t move to Plainview. I could have resisted the blessings that God had lined up for me and my family. But I am thankful that I didn’t do what my flesh wanted at the time. We would not be reaping the blessings we’ve been given here if we had not followed the leading of the Lord. I’m thankful that I didn’t let temporary feelings affect a permanent decision. Stacy always preaches, “Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances.” I think that the Lord was pulling away some of the things I counted on instead of Him. He separated me and caused me to lean on my husband and create a better prayer life. There’s always purpose in pain. Growth doesn’t come without pain. Separation is painful, but look at what I got out of it. We have been blessed here at Plainview, and I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else. I believe that we were (and are) in the will of God, and He’s blessed us for following after Him. That season was hard, but it taught me great things. And He’s given me a huge and loving church family.
Was there a season in your life that contributed to your strength?
The hardest season that I’ve ever walked through was losing my dad. He was the single most influential person in my life. He grounded my whole family. I could never have imagined a world without my dad, but here I am living in it. He was the compass for all of us. We didn’t know what to do without him. We discovered that he had already paid for his funeral, decided who would do it, and who would sing. Again, he had directed us without our even knowing. (My mom knew about it. And was not happy about it. She felt like paying for that was faithless, but I know that because he had taken care of that beforehand, he made his passing easier on us.) Maybe we depended on him too much. I don’t know why the Lord decided to take him when and how he did, but I see that after that event, we all had to turn to Jesus fully to direct our lives. It affected us all...it made us all stronger. I knew that at that point I had more to go to heaven for than I had yesterday. I don’t get how losing someone turns people away from God because it had the opposite effect on me. I know where my dad is, and I intend to see him again.
Strong women control their thoughts.
Words fail me when I try to explain how awesome my mom is and the way she has impacted my life, and the lives of others. I owe it all to my mom. As the poem says, “Oh what a difference it’s made for me. I have a mother who prays for me.” Today I honor you, Mom. You are the image of class, grace, and beauty. You are the perfect example of a God-fearing woman, a faithful wife, and a loving mother. You are the strongest woman I know. I love you, Mom.
Today for Mother’s Day my mom preached about one mother from the Bible, but not the mother we all expected. She preached about the life of Bath-Sheba. You may remember her as an adulterous woman, and yes, that was a part of her story. But it isn’t how her story ended. Later on in her life, we see the Prophet Nathan seek her counsel and King Solomon, as well. In 1 Kings 2:19 it says “Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.” The King rose up and bowed before Bath-Sheba, though it wasn’t required of him. Not only did he bow, but the wisest man in history sat her at his right side (the place of power) because he recognized the wisdom she held. The passage of scripture that we often refer to concerning women is Proverbs 31. It speaks about a virtuous woman. King Lemuel wrote this passage, who is believed to be King Solomon. And what virtuous woman was in his life? His mother. The once adulterous woman is now someone who women everywhere model themselves after. Strong women don’t let failures define them. They control their own story.