The Water That Escapes Me

The Water That Escapes Me

Leaking slowly from this anxious heart;

The future has too many uncertainties

Torrents come as we say goodbye;

work is unknown, staff we love gone

Quiet and unseen they roll; as I see, hear, 

and feel Jesus holding me close

It pools in moments spent outside;

Sunshine, walks, and picnics heal

Hot they come quick, when frustration 

takes hold; so many hours locked inside

Gently they fall when I watch my young

children; innocent and uncomprehending 

Sobs shake this weary frame; so much

loss, crouching waiting to pounce

Laughing is welcome and unexpected;

her tears soothe my soul

The birds sing their song; demonstrating

the ability to live one day at time

The water that escapes me; 

it comforts, stretches and shapes me

I am who I am; 

difficult circumstances bring out the real me 

Let the water flow

What I learned from a different crisis, and how I hope to face this one

I’d love for you to read this. I know we’re all sort of glued to various news outlets, social media, etc for information regarding all this craziness, but come and take a little break. Lean in. I’d love to share something I’m trying to do differently in this crisis, perhaps even a little better, than the way I handled the last crisis I went through.

Two years ago, the place I was living had a revolution. And what does living through a revolution mean, you might wonder?  Well, I’m sure it can vary, but here it took the form of an uprising, and it meant daily life was filled with road blocks, fires, riots, shootings, marches, kidnapings, food & fuel shortages, and no one left their home. We only left for the essentials, similar to what we’re all facing right now.  And this went on for months.  Then, because of all that, tourism halted and an economic crisis hit. And, if I’m being honest, I was rather surprised, and even a little  embarrassed how I handled it all. Uh, the unhealthy things I did to deal with the stress! And oh, oh how I judged other people! Oh the mistakes I made. Honestly, it wasn’t pretty.

So, I am asking myself, what am I going to do this time? Will I learn from the mistakes I made?  If you too have been through a crisis, a really hard event or situation, I think it might be helpful to ask yourself the same questions. Let’s both examine the hard things we’ve been through and reflect. Then let’s figure out what we can do better.  

 Well, here is what I’m thinking, for me, as I face another crisis. And maybe, if I can honestly share where I blew it and what I’d do differently, we both might be able to learn a few things and face this crisis with a different perspective.

1. I’m going to give myself more grace. I am going to allow myself to feel all the feelings. Because, 24 hours might go by, and my range of emotions is all over the place; I’ll go from laughing at the ridiculous, to slight panic, to worry, to stressed out, to yelling and snapping at people, to being sweet as honey. I am going to let myself feel the way I am feeling, and bring those feelings before the Lord. I’m going to invite Him into how I feel, and ask Him to be with me in those very real moments. So I don’t mask them. Or cover them up. Or ignore them. But I want face them. Admit them. Work through them.

2. I’m going to give more grace and kindness to other people.  There are very few experts out there, the vast majority of us are just doing our best. We will all say and do some stupid things before this is over, I promise you, so I plan to hold my tongue more often and give grace and kindness freely-more freely than I give my opinions and judgements. Oh ya, and more kindness for the poor souls I’m stuck inside with might be a fan-freakin’-tastic idea. 

3. I’m going to (try!!!) to stop judging others. Oh this one is huge and really hard to do. I was so, so judgmental of people when they didn’t handle the crisis the way I did. If they felt differently about it, I judged them. If they chose to drive to this place or that, I judged them. If they didn’t leave their house at all, I judged them. If they did, I judged where they went an why. I put up my own boundaries for myself and my family, and thought anyone else who did anything different was, I am embarrassed to admit it, dumb. Ignorant. Too easily scared. Being manipulated. Not scared enough. You name it. I thought it. Have you found yourself doing the same? And even now, I feel those same thoughts creeping up, as I hear, read, and see first hand the varying degrees of people’s differences and the way we each are handling this. And I have to stop myself. I have to remind myself, that what might work for me, won’t work for my neighbor. My family is my family. Yours is yours. Our beliefs, our medical histories, our existing problems and fears, they are all there. All those things effect how we’ll make our own decisions. Maybe some of us are over reacting, maybe our problem is under reacting. But the truth is, we’re going to get some of it wrong.  Because none of us have been through this before. So let’s remember that when we want judge anyone else who is handling this differently than we are.

4.I’m going to read/listen to the news less. We did this one poorly two years ago. We were glued, I mean guh-luhed to our phones. We read every article we could, we watched everything on the news, we scanned Facebook and Instagram for updates and the latest. We told ourselves it was to be smart, to keep ourselves informed. And, believe me, there is in fact some truth to that. But, oh my goodness, when it’s what we’re fixed on during this time of crisis, it will start to permeate our hearts and minds in a very unhealthy way. I only can say from experience, the hype and the fear that the media tends to portray, will dig into your heart and soul. (Also, side note for those with kids: oh their sweet ears and hearts are hearing all this too. Last time, we didn’t have to worry too much because our kids were young, our youngest being 5 at the time. But even she picked up on words and phrases and things we said and she’d ask us later about them… so clearly they hear things and can’t always make sense of them). I’m trying to figure out how to be honest with my children about what is happening without worrying them or scaring them. They’ll still get mixed up though, as I told them it’s most dangerous for people who are already sick and who are older because that night my daughter prayed, “Jesus, please help people not to get sick, especially the older people. Like 40s 50s”  Yikes. Wow. Apparently 40 is old?! 

5. In that same vien, I also want to be and stay informed. I am going to figure out how and where to get REAL news, real truth, and seek it out. I am going to educate myself on this virus. I am going to educate myself on what is needed and necessary for me and my family, not just what my neighbor/family/favorite celebrity/ thinks is needed, or is doing.

6. I am going to spend more time with Jesus. We joked, sadly, last time that if we would have spent 1 minute with Jesus, for every 5 minutes reading the news, we would have  tallied up a grip of time with Him. Why is that? What is that? Maybe because in a time when it feels like we should be doing this, or preparing that, or helping with this, or heck we’re all stuck together at home and can’t find one minute alone, it feels like time with Jesus is so, so,  elusive. I somehow told myself it wasn’t as important as staying up on the current situation. And, I told myself, time with Jesus is certainly too hard because I’ve got kids in every corner of my house vying for my attention. But trust me, that is a lie that I believed last time. And you know what happened? The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, and I sort of just stopped spending time with Jesus. I am not doing that again, I will not.  The good news is, I am starting at a much better place with Him that I was two years ago. But even if you aren’t in a good spot with Him, the amazing news is you can change that right now. 

7. I want to thrive in this situation, not just survive. I barely survived the last crisis we went through, and I intend to do it better. I think the above listed changes/ideas that I’m mulling over in my heart will help move me in this direction. I do believe we can go through hard things and actually do it well.I went through something hard two years ago, but I didn’t do it well. I barely survived. My marriage barely survived. Our business barely survived. Some important relationships suffered.  My parenting was less than great. Sure, sure, I survived, I made it out on the other side, but the damage I had to mop up over the following months and year actually, was extensive. 

8. I want to find ways to help and encourage others. I’ve noticed, when I’m drowning in a sea of my own fill.in.the.blank, I can’t even think about helping anyone. Cause heck, I can’t even get my own act together.  Sometimes, we are barely afloat. Sometimes, we are barely surviving and that’s the truth, because sometimes, that is life. But when we we’re better,  when our feet feel like they are back on solid ground, let’s take a deep breath and actually look up and take notice of other people. Look around. I want to have eyes that see people around me. People who need real and actual help, or an encouraging word, or that last roll of TP I’m reaching for (people, what is the deal with the shortage of TP?!) Anyway, if I can keep my heart soft before the Lord, I know He’ll show me exactly who I am supposed to help and in what specific way. Because even though we’re all sort of in survival mode right now, I can promise you there is someone who desperately needs some help.

All I know is this: God is faithful. And when I take a moment to look back at hard things in my life, I can see how He has brought me out of them. Through them. It hasn’t always been pretty, some hard things that I’ve survived, I’ve come out burned. Scarred. Some of it was because of the actual situation, other times it was because of my sin during a hard time. It hurt. And there are plenty of things I’d do differently. But, I am the woman I am today because of the hard things I’ve gone through. The hard things God has pulled me out of. Either because I finally cried out for help, or the hard thing was over, or He removed me from the hardship. I know you too have gone through hard things. I encourage you to ask yourself, what did you learn from those things? How would you like to face this new, difficult, strange thing? Better than you did the last hard thing?  The past is the past, sure, but we can learn from it. And as I have spent time reflecting over the many, many hard things I’ve gone through, I am actually able to see God in it. Either all the way through it, or out on the other side. But He’s been there. He is faithful. And it does my soul good to remember that. Because as I face this new hard thing, I can tell you what I don’t quite understand: I face it with a new perspective. I face it with Jesus, and the calm and peace that I feel (even when I still feel uncertain and afraid at times!!) changes everything. 

I’ll leave you with my gal Lauren Daigle’s words in her song “Remember”:

In the darkest hour

When I cannot breath

Fear is on my chest

The weight of the world on me

Everything’s crashing down

Everything I had known

When I wonder if I’m all alone

I remember 

I remember

You have always been faithful to me

I remember

I remember

Even when my own eyes could not see

You were there

Always there 

Silence of the Soul.

Where do you find quietness? Are you in a season of life where the noise is actively around you, in the shape and constant hum of small children? Or maybe your season lacks quietness because it’s nothing but work work work? Or perhaps your season of life finds your home more, perhaps with actual quiet, but no less busy.

Moments of quietness for me are rare, like a rainbow colored unicorn with wings; the times when two kids are in school and my littlest is playing alone, the dog isn’t barking, someone isn’t ringing the doorbell, my phone isn’t beeping, I’m not trying to make a meal, or put in another load of laundry. So I try to seize the moment, to start practicing the art and discipline of being still before Jesus. But then, in that perfect quiet comes a different noise; the noise and distractions in my head, and I feel disappointed and frustrated that while my surroundings are momentarily silent, my head is not. 

So I sit, and I wait.

I wade through what’s stressing me out about the upcoming day, then what I need from the store, next I think of all the things I could be doing right now, then someone pops to mind. In the middle of all that, noise, I try to find Jesus. I close my eyes, I open them. I sit down, I lay down, I kneel, I stretch my hands up. I turn music on, then I turn it off. I try to find a place and position that will usher me into a quiet moment with Him. I think about a verse I found the day before, saying it from memory as best I can, hoping that will help. Maybe I should just read the Bible, this sitting quiet doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much. I feel like I’m putting too much pressure on myself, I’m forcing the issue. (It’s been like 3 minutes).

And then two things occur to me. First, this is a habit and discipline I’ve fallen out of, so, I believe it will take a little practice to figure it out. The not doing, the not talking, the not journaling, the not devotionaling, the not worshiping. Listening. Because, secondly: 

“His voice demands the silence of the soul”

That quote is from an amazing little book called ‘Streams in the Desert’, by Mrs. Cowman. It’s about Isaac in a passage in Genesis we’ll look at in just a moment, “God spoke when there was no inward storm, He could not speak when the mind was fretted, His voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the hush of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God sweep by. Be still and know.”

There you have it. I need to learn how to be still.

No wonder it can be so hard to hear from Him sometimes, I’ve lost the ability to be quiet; in my surroundings, my mind, my heart, and my soul. 

You wanna know the rest of that passage, the first part of the story about Isaac and what was happening? There was a quarrel over water and wells, and Isaac chose the hard work of breaking down his tent, for the 3rd time, (anyone who has camped, ever, knows how unpleasant that process is) and found another location, away from everyone and drama, and the noise, and found a new spot. And God again gave him water, this time free of arguing since it was so far from everyone, and the verse says, “And the Lord appeared to Isaac that same night”. 

I don’t think that was a coincidence. 

He kept moving away, to get to some quiet. To get to some peace. His surroundings were filled with fighting and arguing over water, and the guy was just plain worn out. He didn’t want to move, again, to dig another well, and have someone lay claim to it, again. But he did, and in that final and last act of exhaustion, the Lord came. He met him there.

I know we are exhausted. Life is full, busy, not quiet. No matter who we are, where we live, what our jobs are, what our home life is like, life is not quiet. Too many things grab and pull for our attention, affection, concentration. 

I’m convinced quiet will not come find me, I have to seek it out. And guard it. Protect it. Nourish it. And invite Jesus into it. And I know, I believe, I have seen, God to be faithful; so that when He sees us trying to make a quiet space, He will meet us there. We can learn to be still, and we can know God better and more fully through that stillness. 

So I will not give up. I will keep looking for that sparkly rainbow unicorn, stillness of my soul, and hope that the more I look for it, the more I seek it out, the more I guard it, and feed it and make time for it, the more it will appear. 

Is my sin controlling me?

I came across a verse the other day that caught my attention. “Those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” Dang. That feels pretty clear and direct in a way that feels sort of harsh. But also simple. Here’s the whole passage:

Romans 8:5-8.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God…That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”

It’s that last line that really hit me. “Jess, if you are under the control of your sinful nature, you can never please God.”

Let’s break that down a bit. I don’t believe it’s talking about having sin in your life, or messing up. It’s speaking directly to being under the control of sin.

Is my sin controlling me?

It’s a real personal question, and one that can immediately make us feel defensive. Or, possibly worse, we can quickly answer a resounding no. Denial can be think, trust me, I was swimming around in a vat of it for a while. So thick and deep was my denial that I probably would have answered no to that question. Because, I’d sin and mess up, ask for forgiveness, and move on. I was truly sorry. I’d truly ask God for forgiveness. I mostly intend to stay away from it, but I didn’t really put things in place to really root it out. And then I’d keep doing it over and over, I’d go back to the same behavior. I had let sin into my heart and ultimately my mind, I was letting my sin control my mind. I couldn’t have articulated that at the time, but that was indeed the case. And because it was in my mind, it was deep in my heart, and by nature, that meant it was hostile to God.

I think what is confusing about all that is during that time I still chatted with God. I had quiet time with Him. But my actual heart and mind were at war with Him because of my sin, and I was like an ostrich with her head in the ground. I wanted to think that didn’t matter. I wanted to believe I could compartmentalize my sin, like ‘Hey don’t look over there at that trash God, it’s no big deal. I’m taking it out Tuesday. I know it smells, but I’ve got the lid on it. And if it gets worse, well, next Tuesday is coming around soon, and I can just take it out again.’ And God’s probably thinking your trash doesn’t bother me or scare me. Your trash is why I sent my son to die. But you’ve got to let me help you so your trash doesn’t take over your life. Or ruin it. So it doesn’t control you.

So based on that verse, I was not pleasing God. Period. No matter what I was doing, what verse I was reading, who I was helping, where I was serving, how much I was giving. I was not pleasing God.

That statement scares me, because I can see it so clearly now. Over a year later, I can see just how thick my denial was, and just how far from God I really was.

And I guess I wanted to chat about it here, because, well, it’s awkward. And I promised I wouldn’t shy away from the hard and awkward things. And really, a small part of me hopes that if we can talk about it honestly, maybe just maybe, as you read this you can be honest with yourself. Because I wasn’t. I know what it’s like to shrug off your sin, to think it’s not a big deal. For too long. And it wasn’t good.

So I ask you, from a humble position of having been there, is your sin controlling you? If the answer is yes, I encourage you to root it out. Don’t passively ask God to forgive you and stop there. Maybe find a close, close friend who you can share it with. Confess it. Say it out loud. That worked for me. Sin doesn’t like light, it sorts of shrinks back. And so when I put a shit ton of light on my sin, well, it didn’t like that. Of course it was hard, and uncomfortable, and awkward, and embarrassing to confess my sins. But it was, life giving. When we confess, there is no room for shame. There is no condemnation in Christ, and we can begin to taste freedom. We can begin, once again, to please God.

Sigh, a New Year is here.

I want to be excited for a New Year. I do. But I can’t seem to shake the more predominant feeling of, well, exhaustion. The last month has been a lot, amiright? The blissful and yet exhausting non rhythm of no school, the Christmas events and traditions, the decorating, the wrapping and un-wrapping, the cooking, the baking, the assembling of toys, the go go go of traveling, all the togetherness, the eating of all things holiday and glorious, the taking down of decorations, the traffic, the staying up late and not sleeping in. It takes it’s toll. And it doesn’t help that I get email after peppy email about setting goals, and resolutions, and all this annoyingly upbeat talk about the New Year.

My heart isn’t ready yet. I’m tired.

Because, I think through it all, for all of us, a few things get neglected. For me, it’s usually my alone time, and my work out time. And when I go too long without either one of those, well, I’m just not as nice of a person. True statement; I pity the people who have to put up with me when I forgo those life giving choices.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you too have had a lovely but full and exhausting last few weeks. And maybe it’s left you wanting to be excited and ready for the new year, but how do we drum up excitement when we’re just plain o’l beat down tired?

(I bet you’re hoping this next line would have 5 simple, get your energy back tips huh? Sorry, I’m looking for the same thing too!!)

So while I don’t have any super secret inside tips or tricks for facing a new year, here’s what I’ve been doing. Not sure if you’ll find it helpful, but maybe it will be an encouragement to keep on, keeping on. To know that you’re not the only one feeling beat down, run down, on the verge of getting sick, plain ol worn out.

~Rest. Nap it up. Go to bed early. Confession: I went to bed last night at 8:30 and it was glorious.

~The whole family took Vit C shots this morning.

~Exercise. I went for a run yesterday and barely made it two miles, so I tried again today and just barely walked. At a saunter, on my treadmill, cue the eye roll. But I keep telling myself it’s better than nothing. -right?

~Find some alone time. Beg for it, trade for it, just get it. Use it, gasp, not to accomplish anything, but to just sit. To be alone with your thoughts. Perhaps even with Jesus. Maybe read or work out. I am doing so right now, and even though I feel slightly guilty, I’m doing it. (How do I even feel guilty after we’ve been together 24/7 as a family for like 13 days straight? I don’t know, I’ve got issues.)

~Stop with the holiday eating. Ha. Easier said than done. I ate cookies and more cookies for dinner last night, I’m a real classy lady. (my husband suggested a cleanse, which I want to do yes, but I am also thoroughly enjoying my sugar binge.) Hmmm maybe this excess of sugar isn’t helping this exhaustion…

~Spend time with Jesus. He’s been getting the shaft lately, due to A. me not wanting to bring my heavy Bible while traveling and B. just not making time for Him while out of my routine. So I’m trying. I’m finishing out the Chronological Bible, which I should have finished Dec 31, but alas, I’m a few weeks behind. Keep on, keeping on!

We can do this. We can face this New Year with excitement, energy, and heck, even joy. I think a good start would be taking the time to self reflect. To think about the good and bad of last year, and what we desperately need to change. Adjust. Add. Walk towards. Embrace. Endure. Or, take away. Cut out. Run from.

Just a warning though, it might be hard. It might not be all fun and exciting; this dream making, pruning, changing. It will be hard work. But I do think it will be worth it. Good change always is. It’s almost always a lot of work and heck even scary, but life giving in a way that’s essential. It has the potential to change our day, our week, and ultimately our year. One day at a time, one change at a time. One goal at a time. When we are ready, when we’ve rested, when our minds are clear, and our hearts are better.

We can do this.

And the winner is…

I told you I’d pick a winner December 20th, and then we were traveling for Christmas, and I couldn’t get it together enough to post who won the drawing! Traveling with everyone else near Christmas time is wild, especially with 3 small kids.

In my defense, I did draw a name on December 18th. In the airport. I cut up names and put them in a ziplock bag, and pulled out the lucky winner. I just didn’t have internet the next few days in order to post and let everyone know! So sorry!

So, the winner of the beautiful, floral, stunning 2020 Cultivate Powersheets is…

Drumroll…

ALLISON WILSON !!!

This is a screen shot of the video I took, of my daughter picking the winner! (I can’t post the video here for technical reasons. IE I’m not technically savvy and don’t want to pay more to update my blog to allow me to post videos!)

Congratulations Allison. I will be getting your brand new, floral print, 2020 Cultivate Power Sheets to you very soon! And thank you, so much, for each of the women who entered to win. And thank you, so much, for those of you who referred my blog to friends. I appreciate it SO much!

Also, I’ll be posting some tales about our travels in the travel section. If you are looking for advice/help/what not to do/encouragement whilst traveling with littles, come check it out!!

Two days left to win…!

There are officially TWO days left to get your name entered to win the Cultivate Powersheets (that retail at $60!!!) Simply refer a friend here, and if they sign up to receive emails, your name and their name gets entered to win! (Contest ends December 17th at midnight!)

So here’s how to get your name in the hat:
1.Share this blog, jessicastone.org, with a friend/mother/sister/cousin/co-worker.
2. Encourage them to sign up to receive emails from Jess.
3.WHEN that person signs up to receive emails from my blog,  AND they put YOUR name in the little box that says ‘who told you about this blog” THEIR name AND your name gets put into the hat. (you’ll get an email where you need to confirm your sign up, check your spam folder just in case!)

**BEST PART: If two of your friends sign up, your name goes into the drawing TWICE. Or more…for as many friends as you refer…!!

And it isn’t just pretty on the outside…!!!

Ready…GO. Two days left! Contest ends December 17th at midnight, Nicaraguan time. (hmmm, that’s basically US Central time) and I will announce the winner December 20th!

Let me tell you, I bought this book last year, and absolutely loved it. If you want to read more, directly from the source, just click here.

But let me tell you personally what I love about these Cultivate PowerSheets. Because, well, I just can’t help it. I think they are absolutely amazing, and they have dramatically changed the way I think about an upcoming year, and helped me to get organized to see some goals all the through to fruition. Here are some quick bullet points highlighting their fantasticalness:

~The first 60 pages are incredible. They focus on you. Who you really are. Breaking your identity box, evaluating all areas of your life, naming your fears, lessons you’ve learned, what you’re grateful for, what will matter when you’re 80. These pages help you cultivate what matters, and (bonus!) through all those questions you’ll uncover your goals for the upcoming year.

~Each month has space for planning, dreaming, and making detailed daily, weekly, and monthly lists.

~Every 3 months you stop and reevaluate. You have the space/freedome to drop a goal, adjust it, or move it to another time. (Cause hello, life happens!)

~One of my favorite features I didn’t know would be my favorite feature is the last page of each month. You fill it out at the end of the month, and it’s a time and space to reflect with questions for the month like, “I am especially grateful for…” and “someone I’m grateful for…” favorite memory…” and “a good lesson learned…” also, “what I’m saying yes/no to…” It’s SO good.

I already ordered my new book for 2020, and I cannot wait to get started. And you know what was SO fun about ordering mine this year? Ordering one for somebody else. YOU. One of you. Because, I told you as I am making changes to this blog, I would be giving away some of my favorite things, and so here we go! (I know they aren’t big Ellen Degeneres giveaways, but still pretty fun!) I am so excited to see who wins this very special goal planning book.

Good luck!