LaTan Roland Murphy
What I Learned From Jennifer Kennedy Dean
It’s been a year since meeting my dear friend, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, at Nashville Airport. After excitedly hopping into her car, we drove to our writing hide-away to drop off our luggage, and made our way to the grocery. Giggling like a couple of silly school girls, celebrating the promise of five glorious days of collaborative writing, dreaming, and planning.
Throughout the course of the week, ideas flowed, with talk of conferences, retreats, and logo designs Jennifer's graphic artist daughter-in-law would create.
A few weeks before, I’d called Jennifer to share my new book idea.
She loved it! Capturing the bigger, broader vision-right away. Originally, I thought the book idea was intended for Jennifer to write, as a solo author. But, much to my surprise, Jennifer called back, saying:
“Ok. I love your book title and your ideas! So ... it’s either yours, or it’s ours.
But, it’s not mine, alone.” And, after a short laugh, Jennifer's tone went serious:
“LaTan, you do understand what I’m saying, right? I want to be very clear, It’s yours, or, it’s ours; but, it’s not mine alone.”
Jennifer Kennedy Dean, certainly didn’t need a co-writer; but, she genuinely wanted to co-write - with me!
Our writing days began at 6:30 am. Ending most days, anywhere between 6:30 – 9:00 pm. An anointed time of encouraging one another in our individual ministry assignments, and looking forward to all God had for us, together, in the future...
By the end of the week, we had completed a book proposal we were both thrilled with. Because the idea was so unique, Jennifer expressed her belief, by saying: “We will self-publish, if it doesn’t get picked up by a traditional house.” And, I was profoundly touched by Jennifer’s firm belief that the world needed to read it, no matter how we went about it. Her sold-out-for-Jesus mentality broke all traditional barriers, Leaving me inspired by her abundant mix of excellence and humility - all rolled into one beautiful servant heart.
A woman unencumbered by people’s opinions.
A woman completely surrendered to consecrating every gift to God’s perfect will.
A woman who dedicated her work, lavishing God with ultimate glory for any and ALL accomplishment.
And, for those five, glorious days, I soaked in all her beauty and grace - wanting to learn everything I possibly could...
On day three, Jennifer mentioned her desire for me to meet a dear friend of hers—Leighann McCoy. Jennifer's personal friend, a Pastor's wife, speaker and writer. (see: leighannmccoy.com)
“Maybe we should cancel and stay focused on our work since we are in a flow?” Jennifer said, stopping by the door. Then…looking up towards the ceiling…after quickly shaking her head "No" she continued: "for some reason, i feel you two are suppose to meet.”
Leighann and I were kindred spirits, right away! Our conversations rich and deep, even though our lunch meeting brief. As we said our goodbyes and parted ways, Jennifer turned to me in the parking lot: "I'm glad we did that! I still don't know why i felt so impressed that you two were to meet."
Jennifer went to be with Jesus, suddenly, only four months later. And, amazingly, it was LeighAnn McCoy who called to share the sad news. “LaTan, this is why Jennifer felt so impressed that we were to meet that day in Nashville. You needed to hear this from me, instead of finding out through social media.”
How great and loving is our God!
Tears fell like rain and continued flowing - most of the week. But, i knew the loss of my dear friend was surely Heavens gain. And, i felt so blessed to have been her friend and even more blessed to have been 'seen' by such a Godly influence. I believe it was a true God assignment for me to experience Jennifer's confidence in me as a writer and speaker - like the passing of a baton - from her praying life to mine.
How Jesus brings kindred souls together.
How He's always ahead of us.
How powerfully accomplished one can be when writing from sunup to sundown,
To appreciate sharing projects and book titles with a trusted heart.
How a Godly woman guards creative ideas of others-like a pit-bull.
And, I learned how humble my sweet friend truly was when if I suggested she use my ideas for her own ministry. She’d smile and say: “That’s yours. God gave that to you, LaTan! YOU must write it!”
I learned how to live and work with integrity by Jennifer's Godly example.
Jennifer wouldn't dream of taking someone’s book title, or book ideas. She knew God had enough creativeness to go around. I loved how she celebrated my recent book, Courageous Women of The Bible, insisting we have pictures made and create short video's promoting each others work.
It was my absolute honor to endorse Jennifer's, Pursuing The Christ book.
Jennifer's life was a praying life; but, it was also a teaching life. Teaching in unspoken ways:
How to confidently celebrate others in ministry.
How the best personal value one can acquire is to know and value Christ, alone.
How to listen well.
How to study God's Holy Word to find wisdom for living.
How to be quiet and enjoy the company of others.
How to speak boldly when there's truth to be shared.
Of all the things i learned from my precious friend, I will treasure:
Times of pausing to share from our hearts.
Prayers prayed for: our children, grandchildren, and our individual ministries. (The presence of the Lord was so real).
Prayers prayed for the book project we were working on.
How Jennifer asked God to bless my life—to fulfill His good purpose and that my children experience all that He is.
I took special notice of:
How an accomplished woman, like Jennifer Kennedy Dean, never boasted about her many, powerful books published.
How she never once bragged about the hundreds of mega-platforms she’d taught from.
How she knew, without a doubt, It was her life platform that mattered most.
How she valued God's wisdom, rather than man's knowledge.
How her eyes lit up with joy when sharing about her three sons, their beautiful wives, and precious grandchildren.
How she glowed when Face-Timing at the sight of her family.
How she stopped everything to chit-chat with her granddaughter’s. How they laughed, excitedly, when promised they could brush Jennifer's hair when she visited the upcoming weekend.
Random Fun Memories:
Before parting ways, we made one more run to Five Daughter’s Bakery.
I say ONE More, because Jennifer was hooked on Five Daughter's Doughnuts from first bite, like me! We sat outside, on a bench in the sunshine, relishing every morsel of sugary yum and recapping sweet memories made.
Taking time out for massages. So awesome!
Feeling a sense of accomplishment for all that had been completed, we planned our next meet-up. So much good came from our time together, most of which I will never be able to adequately express - ever.
Trust me when I say: My life will never be the same, because of Jennifer Kennedy Dean. I learned so much from my introverted friend who loved spending time alone in God's presence and wrote thunderously anointed words because of it. Words that continue to pierce the hearts of millions. Jennifer’s passion for studying God’s Holy Word caused me to want to go deeper, too. And, so, i find myself hungry for more...
Thank you, Jennifer, for your beautifully inspiring praying life! I miss you, my friend; but, I promise to finish my race - as courageously as you!