I’d like you to meet a young woman I’ve come to greatly admire, Jessica Clum Gardner. I first met her when she was about 10 and watched her grow up in the years that followed. She was in the first graduating class at my former Christian school, and I was privileged to have her in my own English classes. She is also the daughter of my best friend Nancy. (So this story is kind of a sequel to Nancy’s story, which you can read here.)
Last year I saw firsthand Jessica’s tender ministry to her dying mother. She would read to her, sing to her, sit by her side while Nancy dozed–she just provided a quiet oasis of calm wherever she was in the house. As I wrestled with how to describe Jessica, a verse kept coming to mind which I think says it best: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.” (Proverbs 31:29)
Jessica was shy as a little girl. She preferred books over people at times, though she had
many friends and participated in all our school activities. And she had a heart for God even then. I remember one night her mother went to Jessica’s room to put her to bed and came back out with the task undone. “She asked to stay up a little longer. She’s reading her Bible and going through her prayer list. What mother could say no?”
Since Jessica’s parents were the type who were in church whenever the doors were open, she grew up going to junior church, Sunday school, and youth group. Our church took advantage of the great youth activities provided by Word of Life Bible Institute in Schroon Lake, NY. So Jessica attended several snow camps there. We were all surprised when quiet, little Jessica returned from one snow camp having signed up for a WOL short term mission trip. She ended up in South Korea for the summer! And that trip was only the first of many. God had impressed upon her that He wanted her in ministry, sharing the gospel through songs, children’s Bible clubs, and any other means.
Jessica’s married now. She and her husband Jesse (Yes, they’re Jesse and Jessica. Cute, isn’t it?) and their children live in Langhorne, PA. Together they’ve received great training for ministry. Jesse graduated from Pensacola Christian College with a major in Pastoral Ministries and a minor in English. Jessica graduated from Philadelphia College of the Bible with a major in Children’s Ministries and focus on Biblical Studies.
Jesse commutes to Rainbow Media, right outside Penn Station in NYC, where he is a product manager working closely with AMC and WeTV. He’s also an Associate Pastor at Oxford Valley Chapel, where Jessica and Jesse head up a college/career ministry. They call their group the YAMs (Young Adult Ministry) and have them over often for parties and other activities.
They also help with the Awanas clubs for kids. And this past June, Jessica and a friend started Mom to Mom, a ministry to young moms with children aged newborn to 5. They began by studying Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp and have moved on to Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo.
Now I’ll let Jessica answer a few of my questions in her own words . . .
Jesse worked with me at Northern Dutchess Christian School when he and Jessica first met. So I got to observe a bit of their courtship from Jesse’s point of view. I asked Jessica, when did you know Jesse was “THE ONE”?
“When I first met Jesse, I actually was not interested at all and even tried to get my friend interested in him instead. That didn’t work out. So we began talking via email and instant messaging. Pretty soon we had become very good friends. It wasn’t long until we began dating. Before I knew it, we were engaged!
In deciding if Jesse was ‘the one’, one of the biggest things for me was that we had the same goals in life. We both had a passion for the Lord and ministry. Plus, our families were so alike that we both fit in easily.
We had a few opportunities to serve in ministry together before we were married. It was during those times that I really knew Jesse was the one that God had hand-selected for me. We worked together effortlessly–as if we had known each other for years.
We have been married now for over five years, and I still feel the same way. I love serving alongside him and wouldn’t trade it for the world. And now being able to watch him as a dad is especially neat. He is a wonderful dad!”
Jesse and Jessica’s first son was born with a cleft palate and at age 2 has already undergone several corrective surgeries. He came through them beautifully and is a happy, healthy, busy boy. I asked Jessica, what are some of your favorite things about being a mother?
“Well, let me just say that I absolutely love being a mom! It is the hardest and most rewarding job. There are many mommy moments that make all the difficult times worth it. When Ethan hangs on my neck, squeezes me tight, gives me a sloppy kiss, and says, ‘Mommy, I love you!’ my heart melts, and all the hard times drift away. God has clearly had his hand on Ethan since birth with his cleft lip and palate issues. He was a trooper through all the necessary surgeries, and God taught us a lot in and through those surgeries as well.
I love watching Ethan grow, learn, and discover the world that God has made. I have also learned what a huge responsibility it is to give Ethan a glimpse of who God is by what I teach him. He is 2 1/2 now and it is so neat to watch him talk about what he is learning, and see how he understands things. He keeps us on our toes for sure! It is also a challenge for us as parents to diligently teach him, as Deuteronomy 6 talks about.”
Jessica’s mom passed away a year ago this month, on February 4th. And a year later, Jessica gave birth to a second child–a girl–just a few days ago on February 11th. They named her Anna Jean, after her grandmother Nancy Jean. Jessica shared this about Anna Jean:
“I am super excited to have a daughter. I am looking forward to being able to have the same relationship with my daughter that my mom had with me. I also think it is special that God gifted our family with a girl so close to when Mom passed away. He knew we needed a little blessing amidst the heartache. God’s timing is always perfect, and this is just evidence of it!”
I asked Jessica if she wanted to share anything else about her family, and she replied: “I love my family! My brother Mat (he’s in Army Ranger School right now) is a lot like my mom. He’s the voice of reason amidst whatever life brings our way. My dad and I have grown closer during and since my mom’s passing. I learn a lot from my dad and admire his strength and reliance on the Lord.
“And my mother–there are so many words that I could say about my mom . . . so many things I have learned from her. Mom and I were very close and shared many wonderful memories together.
One of the things I have enjoyed since she passed away is reading her beloved books. I have learned a lot about her and her love for the Lord through them. I can’t believe it has been a year already. But God is good. Although it has been a hard year, He has given us many blessings throughout.”
Thanks for reading Jessica’s story. I hope it’s encouraging for you to see Godly young people living lives that please Him. I know it is for me!
And, BTW, the winner of the $10 Gift Certificate to The Pink Ribbon Store is Alisa. Alisa, you can email me at reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com if I don’t contact you first!
I have a second $10 Gift Certificate to The Pink Ribbon Store to share with someone today. Anything you buy with the gift certificate will fund mammograms to help women in need. (Jessica’s mom died of breast cancer.)
Or maybe you’d like to pick up a few things right now. If so, here’s the link to The Pink Ribbon Store.
And now a few more photos before we say good-bye . . .