Is your machete ready?

When I drove through my neighborhood last week I was in a bit of shock. The entire area looked like a hurricane had come through, trees just splintered apart everywhere, but this wasn’t an act of nature. It was done deliberately, and it made my heart sick. You see, I love trees. It probably comes from the fact that I basically grew up in one. I had a best friend who lived two doors down from me, and we spent every minute together, and often in that tree. So I’ve got a bit of a soft spot in my heart for trees. 

And there are tons beautiful trees in our neighborhood. They are stunning. (the one pictured on my home screen is right from my back porch!) But apparently the time had come for them to be trimmed down.  The trees get tangled in the power/telephone/cable/internet wires, since they all those wires are above ground here. So every few years, a crew of guys with machetes goes around cutting the trees way back so they don’t have to worry about it again for several more years. Therefore, they don’t get lightly trimmed. They get hacked apart. They are cut quickly and unmethodically, and it looks like a tree massacre. Shards of branches are sticking up in every direction, some trees have one entire side cut off of them, leaving it off kilter. One roundish tree was cut right through the middle, like a hairdresser with a razor to the middle of ones head.

This isn’t pruning. This isn’t trimming back so that it will grow back more beautiful, or healthier. Some might not be able to grow back at all, some will always remain slanted and bent in a new direction. Some look sad and pathetic. Some look like they belong in a creepy horror movie scene. But sadly, something has to be done, because if the trees aren’t cut, then we’ll lose power. It happens often here, with a strong storm or high winds, the branches end up falling on the power lines. And I happen to like having power; I sort of like having lights at night, I appreciate the internet, and I really really enjoy having a fan to cool me off while I sleep.

But it got me thinking.

What if one of those trees represented my life? I’m just growing, giving the world oxygen. Doin’ my tree thang. Being the best tree that I know how to be. But, what if there was one part of me that needed to be cut? Maybe cut back because I was a danger to myself. Or others. What if, I had something called sin. Depending on what my sin was, I’d decide how to handle it. Confront it. Ignore it. Hide it. Mask it. Lie about it. Deny it. 

 If I am able to step out of denial, that means I can probably confront it. And if it’s a more serious issue, a habitual sin, an ongoing sin, a sin of the flesh, I might have to do something more drastic.

Like hack it off with a machete.

Maybe it’s only a few small branches. Maybe it’s the whole freakin’ left side of me. I might end up looking like sideways, bent, crooked, tree. And there is no way to make it sound or look pretty, because, it isn’t. I might remain in my hacked up state, but would I be better off since I got rid of the sin in my life?

I’d like to say yes. I really really would.

But I don’t like it. I don’t particularly know what to do with the verse that says, “and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Um, are you kidding me? Really Jesus? 

And I feel like He’s saying, uh, yes, daughter of mine. That sin in your life, that sin that you guard, protect, hide; it is poison. You are drinking from your shiny glass of poison and it’s killing you. It is keeping you from Me, it’s tainting your view of reality, it’s hurting your family and your marriage, and it most certainly is a big deal. And so when Jesus tells me He thinks it’s better to gouge my sin out, hack it off, quickly and immediately before it kills me, I think He’s serious. I think He knows I won’t look as beautiful without my eye (even if I cover it with a cute eye patch) or my branches. 

But, He gently reminds me, He is more concerned about what my heart looks like. 

And so while I still feel sad about the state of these trees, I feel like I am seeing them in a different way. It had to be done. Until we get power lines under the ground, the cutting had to be done. So maybe it’s the same with the way that God sees me; it had to be done. The sin had to be cut out.  It is as simple as that. Not easy, heck no, but simple. The incredible part is, He doesn’t see the hacked up parts, the broken off parts, the bent or crooked me. 

He sees my heart.

He sees my new and beautiful, spotless heart. My heart that has found it’s way back to Him. My heart that can truthfully see it’s faults, issues, and sins. My heart that has confessed, repented, and even had do some hacking along the way to make sure nothing will grow back. Nothing.

 Now I will live with my scar, my shards sticking out, and move on. Knowing, that even though I’m not exactly as beautiful or majestic as I once was, I am alive. And I will remain alive, next to Jesus, for the rest of eternity. And that seems a little more important than the embarrassment of being hacked apart. Of admitting my sin, of coming face to face with it and saying enough!  I want to chose the bold, hard, scary path of confronting and hacking my sin to death, because it brings life. I chose life, from a tenderhearted Father who gives it freely.  

Choose kindness.

I am fairly confident I say the words, “be kind, choose kindness, or you are kind” 1,000 times a day to my kids.  And sometimes it feels like we’re not making a lot of progress in the kindness department. I mean, when will things ‘click’? What is happening? Well, I’m not entirely sure yet, but I have an idea or two.

Yesterday I had a chance to chat with a teacher who heads up several unique programs for our school, he seems like a pretty great resource. So I asked him, specifically, how I could work with my daughter on being kind. 

And as we chatted I realized that I hadn’t really helped my children define what kindness is. Or what it looks like, or feels like. I mean, think about it, it’s pretty abstract. I can hardly give you a good working definition as an adult. When I stopped to think about it, all I could come up with was, “being kind is, well, being kind.” 

That isn’t exactly helpful to a small child.  

The dictionary isn’t much help either, “the quality of being friendly, generous, or considerate.” 

Can a child articulate what is being generous? Or considerate? Probably not very easily. Perhaps with some prompting. 

I decided it would be helpful if I could work through this with my children, and so we’ve begun practical conversations about what it means to be kind. We’ve talked about examples of it, what it looks like and feels like, and naturally, what it does not look like.  

Turns out, there are so many great resources out there. We came across several great charts on Pinterest. I also came across a FANTASTIC book, and I’d love to share it with you. This book, Be Kind, by Pat Zietler Miller, is amazing. (It’s right here on Amazon if you wanna check it out) It’s a story about how a little girl spills grape juice on herself, and what another little girl thinks about it; she wonders what to do, how to help her, how to deal with it. And how when we are kind to just one person, that kindness spreads. (Spoiler alert: one idea she has is to spill juice on herself to make the other little girl less embarrassed and alone-it’s so sweet!) 

 And I have a feeling, it’s not a matter of things just clicking one day, and suddenly they will be kind. It might be, that the road to kindness is, well, a road. A journey. And perhaps, if I am being honest, I’ve got some unrealistic expectations of my children and how they behave. Do I expect them to be kind all day, ever day, with me, their siblings, their friends? Gulp. I think I do. I mean, I don’t, but I do. I’m hurt, or annoyed, or offended that we have to have the same conversations about being kind every single day, all day long. But why?

I had to stop and ask my adult self, am I kind all the time? 

Uh, nope. No I am not. Not even close. So, then, perhaps as we continue to have these conversations about kindness, I can remember that it’s a process. I am work in progress, as are my children. And just as I am thankful for God’s grace with me in my process, I can also chose to have grace with my own children in their process as well. 

So yes, bring on the books and the charts and the ideas, but also, bring on the grace. I’ve got to let go of my unrealistic expectations, and chose to continue down the ever exhausting path of correcting, directing, disciplining, reminding, and encouraging. And we’ll continue to have these discussions, and read great books, and remind ourselves that kindness is a choice. And sometimes we don’t make good choices, but, but we can keep trying.

Finally, a make over.

Lean in friend. I’m making some changes to this spot, and I’d love to share them with you…

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older, but life seems a little more complicated, a lot harder, certainly more stressful, and not as black and white as I once thought it was. And with this realization comes this deep sense of needing a space to be, to think, to write, to chat about it, to create. Partially because I don’t think I’m alone in this thing called adulthood, a place where the cares of youth are no longer blissfully blinding me.

I know that I value honesty, and being authentically who I am. But I can’t be who I am when I’m too concerned about what others think of me. So, in light of that, I’ve created this place, a place to be really who I am.  I have said goodbye to social media, for the last 8 months and perhaps forever.  Because I got lost, in more ways than one. And so in this place, I hope to actually create something that is real, lasting, true, and honest. 

I’ve been thinking about this spot for months, what I’d like it to be. I’m also wondering what I think you, the person reading this, might like it to be. And the truth is: I’m still unsure. Because, well, frankly, that seems like too big of a question. And since it feels so big, and I don’t know what my tiny role in it all might be, I’ve let a little seed of fear grow, and it’s prevented me from even starting.

So let’s start with what I do know:  I know what the rules of blogging/websites are, both spoken and unspoken, and I’m just going to have to break them. I cannot pick a theme, and I cannot tell you exactly what to expect when you come here for a visit. Because, well, that’s not who I am. I cannot organize my life and my thoughts into categories, or really in any way, so how would I ever be able to do that here?  But here’s something you can expect:

~Encouragement. I sort of think women are amazing, and often times we need a little encouragement to remind us of the badass women God created us to be.

~Honesty. Even when it’s awkward, I’m in. Like double in. And not pretend in, like I’m actually going to be honest and real and it might make us both a bit uncomfortable. (Sorry. Just writing that line made me feel squirmy)

~Skin care talk. Let’s talk about it all! I’ve been an Esthetician for 16 years, I can’t not talk about skin care! Ooo, and make up to!

~Book talk. I Love books. And I love hearing and reading other peoples favorites (even if/especially when they make me venture outside of my favorite genres) and I will for sure share mine. 

~ Honesty about Wifehood. Motherhood. Sisterhood. Daughterhood. Friendhood. All the thoughts, all the feelings. Ladies, we wear so many hats and it’s good to talk about how awesome and hard that is!

~Unmotherhood: Some talk and thoughts on infertility too, because gosh dang it, I might have 3 kids right now (which, since I’m being honest, often makes me feel like I don’t dare talk about infertility)  but we tried for five years to have kids and it was the.hardest.thing.ever.

~Favorite things. I’m no Ellen, man she’s fun! But I am someone who wants you to have my new favorite thing too! So, keep your eyes on this section for some-much-lower-budget-than-Ellen give aways.

~Travel ideas/tips. My husband and I love to travel. And we said we wouldn’t stop if/when we had kids. So we haven’t. But, well, can somebody just admit it’s changed things, and  it’s so much harder traveling with them?! So, this section we’ll chat about it all. Tips. Tricks. Ideas. Mistakes made.

Is any of my rambling so far giving you some idea of what might go on around here? Would a mission statement help?  You see, my husband, has this very practical, analytical mind, and he suggested I create vision/values/mission statement. I laughed at that idea at first, but he was onto something. (Shhhhh, Don’t tell him,  it will go straight to his head)  So, here are those things for this blog:

I envision a world where women truly believe they are strong and beautiful daughters of the King and they act like it.

I envision the church to be a place that cultivates and encourages women to be a have significant role in how we bring glory to God.

I envision a place where women audaciously love others because they fully see, feel, and accept their value and worth in Jesus.

My mission statement:   Jessica exists to encourage women.

Okay, okay, you’re right, there is more to that actually. Here is the whole thing. I held back, because, well, every time I read it out loud, it either makes me laugh or cry and I just don’t know what that means or what to do with that information. So, fine, I’ll share the whole thing, here you go:

Jessica exists to encourage women, so that we believe in the person God made us to be- full of love, courage, kindness and a little badassery –so that we can boldly bring Him glory in the unique way we were created to.

I want to encourage women so that we honeslty believe that we are loved by God and are precious to Him, and that belief just might change everything. I want to encourage women by reminding us that God thinks we are stunningly beautiful, intelligent, and always enough. And instead of looking to our friends, husbands, or strangers for affection and affirmation, we can start believing God, living our lives like we believe Him, and glorify Him as we do it.

Straws, napkins, plates, oh my!

Straws, paper napkins and plates. Disposable diapers. These things aren’t great, I know that. But because of this plastic straw movement, I feel like a horrible human being (stop with the shamming already people!) every time  I use a plastic straw. Which is pretty much every damn day, because I make a smoothie for me and my family every day for lunch. I used to use plastic straws, I did. But a few years ago, after my kids had these strange coughs for weeks on end, someone told me a secret. She leaned in close and said, investigate your straws.  Say what? So I looked at my straws, the ones attached to sippy cups and the free floating ones I used for plastic cups with lids. What was living inside was like a science experiment. There were bumps and fuzzy things. Apparently, which I didn’t know or realize, if you don’t wash out straws with a teeny tiny special little straw brush, they grow things inside of them. This is especially true given that I live in basically a green house, and don’t have a dish washer.

That day, several years ago, I threw away all my re-usable straws, and didn’t look back.

Until recently. Now when I make a smoothie, I try to locate my plastic straws. The ones that are bent and chewed on. Because, hello, kids. I pop them in my mouth, re-bite them trying to make it circular again, so the smoothie can flow through it.  When they are done, I then have to locate the special teeny tiny wire straw brush, grab the liquid soap under the sink, and proceed to wash both ends of the straw to make sure my kids aren’t sucking up mold with their next smoothie. I’m all for protein rich smoothies, but that could be a bit much. And fine, this extra step might only take me another minute while washing the rest of the dishes from lunch, but it puts me over the edge.

Maybe it’s because of the guilt. And the shamming.

img_2095

Probably because it doesn’t stop at straws.  I have these beautiful cloth napkins, lovely floral things, but do I use them? Nope. I use wet wipes, at the dinner table, every single day, because  a napkin can’t touch the sticky mess that is my kids when they are done eating. And I tried using wash clothes but they end up smelling like funk in 2 seconds, and that doesn’t help the laundry build up issue. And when we have friends over, and I envision using my beautiful white dishes and pretty napkins, you know what I end up doing?  Wait for it, I bring out paper for my guests. While I love having people over to my house, I also think it’s a lot of work. I didn’t used think that, but I guess age will do that to you. And I have three kids under five so trying to wrangle them while simultaneously filling chip bowls and drinks is, well, tiring. So at the end of all that, I would rather not have to do a huge stack of dishes. Or more laundry. Because I want to always have people over. I love having people in our home, and so if using paper products means I’m a little more excited about it, then hello 200 count paper plates from Costco. Let’s cozy up.

Because I am letting go of guilt.

And you wanna know why? Because as I was filling out my #powersheets,  from Cultivate, (click here to check it out) one question was “As you work through parts of your life that need to be cultivated, what are you letting go of?”

Immediately I knew my answer. I’m letting go of guilt.

Will it be easy? I doubt it. Will it be overnight? Certainly not. Will it be absolutely life giving? I think so.

But if I’m ever to even dream about letting go of big guilt that is holding me back from certain hopes/goals/dreams, then I should probably start small. And for me, right now, that means I am using straws. And disposable diapers. And paper plates when I have friends over.

So, I’m sorry beautiful mother earth. I will love on you and protect you and care for you in other ways, and hopefully do better in a different season in life.

Let’s do some of the things we’ve always wanted to do

It’s probably just as easy to start new things, set fresh goals, make some changes any ol’ month out of the year. But here we are in January, the designated start fresh month. And I’m okay with that idea, admitting that there is nothing special or magical about a new year, but sometimes it’s just what we need.

IMG_1822

So this year, I’m trying something called Powersheets by Lara Casey. I must admit, I did gasp a bit at the cost ($60!!) But I am only 1/3 of the way through this book (well something like that, I’m not very good with fractions…?) and I am in love. It’s already money well spent, and I haven’t even come to the goal setting part yet!!  I have spent the last month mulling over the first 30 pages, as there were many thought provoking questions, like these:

“List what worked in the last year”

“List what didn’t work last year.”

“People I’m grateful for”

“What I am saying NO to”

“What I am saying YES to”

Fill in the blank, “I am afraid of _______because ___________. And she gently guides you through these fears, guiding you through how to step out of that fear and into what you were created to do or have always wanted to do.

“Pick a Word for the year” (after pages of helping you how to find your word)

“It’s OK to grow slow”-Lara Casey

She drops some serious encouragement when she says things like “You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should do them.”  Geeze Lara, you are nailing it!

“Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything. Keep your eyes on your purposeful path, celebrate others.” -Lara Casey

She gives space and tools to evaluate many areas of your life on a numbered scale, and then has you check on those numbers and re-evaluate every season.

I could go on and on, but how about if you’re interested in more, just click on this link and go check out her website.

I’m only just recently learning something about myself, I do well with setting goals. I do even better if I set SMART goals, I check in with myself on my goals (and next level is if I have someone I’m chatting with about them and we each are holding each other accountable). I used to think that made me scatterbrained. Or unorganized, or maybe even a little lazy? But the reality is, this is who I am. I am a person who, if I want to accomplish something, change something, fix something or correct something, I need to write it down. I need to be reminded of it. I need to reflect and remember and go back. Adjust. Put more heat on my goals, or heck, take some heat off.  Prioritize, change time frames, but not to give up on them. I think the point is this: Setting goals is a fluid thing. And as I’m learning from these #Powersheets, it’s okay to set some goals this months, and then re-evalute next month. If I set a goal that feels too big, it’s okay to say that it needs some tweaking. In the past, if I’ve set a big goal I can’t get seem to accomplish, I usually just quit whatever it is I was after. So, I’m learning to take baby steps. To think about the goals I have for the YEAR, and then break them down into bite size pieces that I can chew on each week, each month.  So I’m pretty thankful for this girl I just met, Lara, who is helping me do this, one question at a time, one encouragement at a time, one page at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time.

So here’s to 2019.

May we do some of the things we’ve always wanted to do.

 

 

 

 

Gather.

I was hoping to share with you an article I got published in a magazine. Instead, it’s an article I wrote for a magazine, but they in fact decided not to publish it. I’ve set some writing goals for myself, among other goals, and writing articles was one of them. Turns out, just like the all the real authors say, there is a lot of rejection associated with writing. Not cool. So, while this article was in fact rejected, I have to giggle to myself because I think it’s pretty good. Okay, I’m clearly biased, and maybe it’s just barely decent.

ButI hope you can see how special you are, my dear reader, since I feel like I can in fact share this article with you. It was tempting to tell myself because it wasn’t good enough for a magazine, it’s not good enough for anyone to read. But, I’m choosing to believe that isn’t true. I’m choosing to believe that perhaps it wasn’t the right article for them, but it’s still an article filled with truth, real life, and one woman’s thoughts on gathering.

The topic was simply “Gather.”  How appropriate with Thanksgiving just a month away!

Here is the article….

Gathering is essential. Our need for heart to heart connection is vital to our survival. And it is a silent and powerful way of demonstrating that no matter what we believe,  where we stand politically, or who or what we worship, that we love someone. We value them. When we gather, we are saying that even though we have differences, and life is hard and complicated, being together and making time for each other is bigger than those things.

Sadly, I recently lost sight of that. Just this past summer we visited our extended family in California. My husband and I braved the expensive and long international flights with our three kids so we could gather with our family and closest friends. And we usually have a pretty great time. But this particular trip, well, it was a cluster. I am not solely referring to the standard cluster we normally are as we travel internationally with 3 kids under five; as we lug around 3 car seats, 5 pieces of luggage, backpacks, strollers, sippy cups and snacks falling behind us like we’re Hansel and Gretel. People see us coming and they give us either sympathetic nods or annoyed side ways glances, praying we aren’t on the same plane.

No, I’m more specifically referring to the actual time with our families that was just not as great as it usually is, and it’s usually pretty amazing.  I still am unsure what exactly went wrong, but I think it was a combination of poor communication, bad planning, and not nearly enough grace for each other.

So, I finally decided to talk to the Lord about it, perhaps rant is a bit more accurate, and He listened. Then He held up a mirror to my heart, in the tender way that He does, and showed me my culpability. He showed me how desperately I lacked kindness and grace.  Grace. One thing I desperately needed on that particular trip, but sadly wasn’t able or willing to give. I was too consumed with my own stress, my own life, my own little family.

I knew I had to apologize. And I had a feeling, deep in my heart, there was something else God wanted me to do. My pride was telling me that time would heal this wound, and maybe we’d just not visit again for another year, or two. Because I knew if I wasn’t ready for another visit, they too probably weren’t too thrilled about us coming back so soon. But the Lord was prompting me to take a different route. He wanted me to repent, extend grace, and take the path towards reconciliation. And He also wanted me to book plane tickets, and more specifically, not in two years from now.

So, I finally listened. We are going to visit my family this Thanksgiving, and we put another trip on the calendar to visit my husband’s family next spring. Sure it means we’ll spend more money traveling, we’ll use all our vacation time visiting family, and we’ll be going back when our hearts are still a little tender from the last visit.

But we are going to do it, because I know what else it means. It means we are sowing peace, and choosing love. These next two trips are an olive branch, the best way I can tangibly demonstrate my love for them. I want them to hear me, loud and clear, when I say that I love you. Even when I act selfishly, even though I’m probably not always easy to love. Even though there was hurt and misunderstanding on both ends. Because I am learning it’s essential to choose love, and give grace freely.

So as I prepare for this next gathering, I want to be a little less concerned with what I’m packing, and spend a more time preparing my heart, asking the Lord to fill me with more of Him, and less of me. It’s only with the Lord’s help that I can do that. Because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to brave another international flight with my adorable but legit hot mess of a crew, that’s the only way I want to arrive. Full of grace and love, and perhaps a few half chewed goldfish stuck to my pants as well.

Making a list.

I’m doing a little research, and I’d love your help.

The topic is obedience. Don’t shy away from that word, because I know some of us sort of cringe when we hear it. Doing what someone else tells me to? We are adults for goodness sakes. But obedience to the Lord is a key facet of following Him, we all know that. And we also know there are so many reasons why we don’t do it.  It’s hard and complicated and has the potential to put us in awkward situations!

I’m making a list of all the reasons why we don’t obey the Lord. I’ve had some help from Priscilla Shirer, she shared some answers that her followers shared on Twitter. I thought they were pretty good! But I would also like to add to the list. So, could you do me a favor and read over her list? And if you have anything to add, leave a comment! I’d so appreciate it!

  1. Fear
  2. Pride
  3. Laziness
  4. Stubbornness
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Lack of trust in God
  7. How do I begin?
  8. I’m too unsure
  9. Impatient with God’s timing
  10. Too busy
  11. I might be hearing Him wrong
  12. Previous disappointment
  13. Doubt that I’ll like His response/what He asks of me
  14. Procrastination