Hi! I'm Jenny Forks. I have never been one to force someone to believe in Jesus. I am a big believer that by simply planting the seed, people will have the opportunity to create their own bond! For me, the seed was planted by stories (and a bit more, which you can read below).
This is my story. Feel free to read it, but if you are not big on reading, or just want to learn more, click on the link below to hear an episode of Jesus Talks podcast, produced by our good friend Karl Douglas Hayes.
I am the owner/founder of J.Forks Designs, a Southwest-inspired jewelry and graphic tee-shirt manufacturing company, and women’s boutique based out of Boerne, Texas.
I grew up on my family’s small ranch in South Texas outside of the small town, Beeville. I spent my days outside -- hunting, camping, playing softball, hiking, riding horses, fishing, etc. I was a tomboy through and through.
Sidenote: The time I spent outside had a large impact on my life, sparking my interest in stones. In junior high, I started to teach myself how to make jewelry and gifted items to my friends and family. My interest was reinvigorated later in life.
God and His Role in My Life
God has always played a major role in my life. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, the same one my mother’s parents took her to when she was a little girl. I would attend Sunday School, participate in the children’s choir, and every summer I went to vacation bible school and church camp.
Looking back, I was always incredibly fortunate to have had entertaining teachers/mentors spark my bond with Jesus at an early age. As mentioned above, this happened through "stories". (In efforts to make the bible more relatable to an eight year old, I was told that verses were stories. It worked!)
I quickly realized that God gives us these “stories” (in the Bible) so that during different seasons in our lives, there is always something we can relate to that can guide us.
As a little girl, my favorite Bible story is found in the book of Jonah, the story of Jonah and the Whale. Imagining a whale swallowing a person just blew my mind. The lesson from this story stuck with me -- the person riding around in the whale's belly wanted an escape from God and thought that he was hiding. But we cannot hide from God. God is going to direct our steps whether we realize it or not. And once we realize that and admit, “Okay, God! I see you, I hear you!” the stress just melts away.
Family and Work
My family also played a significant role in my life and taught me a strong work ethic. For over 40 years, my father has been a volunteer firefighter (and is currently the Beeville Fire Chief). In the past few years, both he and my mother have retired from their full time jobs. In addition to owning the small ranch, for 55 years my grandparents owned a moving and storage company. I have fond memories of my grandmother teaching me how to reconcile books, answer phones, and interact with the public.
By the time I was 16 years old, I was hired at a local restaurant running the cash register, preparing food, cooking, and serving.
God Had a Plan
When I was a senior in high school, I was gearing up to go to college with aspirations of playing softball. But God had a different plan.
During the first semester of my senior year, at 17 years old, I got pregnant. For a while, I was able to hide it. But inevitably, my parents, friends, and teachers found out. I remember the school administrators sitting me down trying to encourage me to finish high school at the alternative school campus, but I knew I did not need to. So I stayed at the traditional high school and on May 25th, 1999, I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. I was 18 years old and eight months pregnant. Then, exactly one month to the day, on June 25, 1999 I gave birth to my daughter, Hallie.
My grandparents and parents both offered to raise Hallie so I could go to school, but I declined with, "God gave me this baby. This is my child and I need to take responsibility." So, right after high school, I rented a trailer house on family property, and under a scholarship enrolled in the local junior college and worked two full-time jobs. I took classes in the morning, worked at a bank in the afternoon, and worked at a restaurant until 11:00 pm every night. Needless to say, I was exhausted, and ultimately, I did not get to spend any time with Hallie. I remember thinking, “Something’s got to give!”
So, I turned to God. I did not enroll in the next semester of college, I resigned from the bank, and kept the restaurant job. This change gave me the opportunity to spend my days with Hallie and pay my bills. But this also gave me the opportunity to start my jewelry company, and the rest is history. (Okay, there is a lot more to this story, which will unfold via The Lighthouse’s blog.)
J.Forks Designs is sold in over 450 stores in a total of six countries. My parents are still in Beeville and my immediate family is a part of the J.Forks Designs' team! My husband, Cody Ackel, hand-tools and makes the leatherwork. Hallie is our full-time graphic designer and designs all of our graphic tees. And my son (who will come up in later stories), Tristan, works here part time while not in school and in between football and track practice.
Though I have never been quiet about my story, I was never super vocal about it, either. But this past year (summer of 2020) I joined a new church, and after telling my story to our Pastor and his wife over dinner, our pastor, Nick, looked at me and he asked, “How did you not lose God through everything you have been through?” I responded with, "People will fail us daily. It is not their fault! We are human and we have all failed someone at some point. God, however, has never ever, ever failed me -- and He is who guided me through."
Soon after that dinner, the inspiration behind The Lighthouse was sparked, and Karl Hayes requested that I share my story on his podcast.