It isn't always easy.

“Just because God has a plan doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy…I’m scared”. A quote from Mary, in the kids movie, The Star. A pretty simple and yet profound statement coming from an (amazing) animated movie about Christmas.

Why is it that we tend to think the opposite? Maybe it’s just me, but deep down in my heart, I sometimes think if I’m following God, obeying Him, serving Him, loving on others, that life will be easy. Or easier I guess. After all, there are deep seeded beliefs in my mind, that tell me, if I do all those things, follow God’s plan and direction for my life, it will go well for me. If I’m where God wants me to be, it will be easy, smooth, there will be no doubts, no problems, no hardships, no safety concerns, you name it.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true anymore. I don’t know when exactly the shift in my thinking began, but it’s been a slow and gradual shift over several years.

It’s why verses like Acts 14:22 make me feel squirmy. “We must suffer many hardships to enter the kingdom of heaven.” I don’t like that verse. It’s not very catchy; I have yet to spot that on a banner at any church! Who wants to sign up for something knowing ahead of time that it’s going to be really difficult?

Expect hardships, Jess, when you follow Jesus. Expect suffering. Expect to be let down, to loose, to not understand, to be betrayed, to be hurt, embarrassed…whatever “many hardships” might encompass. I think it might be broad on purpose, so that we are not surprised when it comes. So we don’t turn away, blame God, shut Him out. Cause if we’re being honest, that’s our tendency isn’t it? Or we turn around and think we must be out of His will if hard things come our way. What IS that? Why do we believe that? Why is that our default when things get hard? We should expect that life will get a little harder when we chose to follow Jesus.

I’m pretty sure life wasn’t exactly peachy and perfect for Mary and Joseph. They had clear and direct information from angels. But trying to explain a virgin birth to family, friends, strangers? Mary, knowing she was giving birth to the Messiah and she can’t even get a room or a bed to do that in? Having to flee for their lives, and travel with a newborn, because King Harod wanted to kill Jesus? And that’s just the beginning of their story!

So as I watched the story of Christ’s birth unfold in this children’s version in The Star, it made me feel, well, like a stinker. Cause I was sitting on my couch thinking, oh my goodness, if that was me, and I was pregnant with God’s son knocking on doors to try and find a place to birth His child that is actively trying to come out of me, I think I’d loose it. I’d for sure be questioning God’s plan, why He didn’t seem to be providing, if I heard the angel right in the first place.

But when God told Mary the plan, He didn’t say it was going to be easy.

So I’m thankful for the reminder. I’m thankful to be reminded that God’s plan for the birth of Jesus and the whole amazing Christmas story wasn’t easy. But it was God’s perfect plan. And if His plan for His very own son wasn’t easy, then I need to remember that the plan He has for my life probably isn’t easy either. And the plan He has for your life probably isn’t a skip and hop through easyville. Maybe you’re living smack dab in that not so easy part right now. And that is crappy, and maybe even feels unfair. But, it’s His perfect plan, and it’s what He created you to do. And just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place. It might mean, you’re exactly where God wants you to be.

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Hot glue.

Is there a person or an animal in your life that happens to think you’re the best? Who is always sad to see you go? A loyal dog who whines or digs holes when you leave? A feline friend who scratches things they shouldn’t? Perhaps a child who cries or gets upset?  

Lately, my three year old has been hysterical when I leave the house without her.  It feels like it comes from a heart that has a lot of love for her mama. Now, I can’t always see that fact, seeing as how if she takes it up a notch to actually throwing a fit, I’m making that sideways head tilt while trying to remain calm. But there have been moments, several in fact, where she just sits in my lap and cries, begging me not to go. No fit, just tears; because she genuinely just wants to be with me. 

All the time. Every single moment of every single day. 

And that kind of love and attachment is beautiful, when it’s not a little suffocating. 

Sometimes I need the reminder that this is a sweet, sweet thing. That this time of her always wanting to be close to me, at all times, will end. I know it will. I want this time with her before I have to share her with school. And she is equally jealous for my time as well. 

 The last time I drove away with the other two kids in the car, my 6 year old said, “wow mom, she really loves you.” And, well, it got me thinking. Like Holy Spirit convicting me type of thinking, the best and worst kind of thinking.

Do I love Jesus that way?

Do I just want to be with Him? Right next to Him? Like, all the time? Am I genuinely sad when we are not spending time together? 

Well, dang it, not really. And these questions nibble at my heart, because I don’t know what to do with them. It’s probably why I’ve always had a hard time with the Martha and Mary story. I did an entire study on it, “Having a Martha heart in a Mary World” (I’d highly recommend it) but I still struggle with, how do I make Jesus a priority in my life when life is, life. Every single one of us has responsibilities, work, obligations. And so when Martha drops it all to be at Jesus feet, I hate that I can so relate to Mary’s annoyance (and clearly edited out heavy sigh and eye roll) “Lord, tell her to come help me” I get it. There.Is.Work.To.Do. We cannot do all the things we have to do, and sit at Jesus’ feet at the same time.  Just like I cannot possibly sit down with my 3 year old and play with her all day, as she’d have it. But I can invite her to join me. Of course she would rather we played all day, but she’s just as happy to join me in what I’m doing. Chopping veggies? She’s right there. Making lunch, I’ve got my helper. All the things, always together.

So, I had to stop and ask myself, why don’t I always treat my time and my day with Jesus the same? 

We’ve all heard about having a child like faith, but what about having child like love? 

What if I acted a little more like my toddler than the busy adult that I am? What if I saw Jesus the way my toddler sees me? Hmmmm. Strange concept I know. But, I am the world to her. She comes to me for everything. When she is happy, she comes to share it with me. When she gets hurt, or is scared, she runs to me. If I am sitting near her, she automatically comes and sits in my lap. Out in public, she is that child who is clinging like hot glue to her mama’s leg. And, truth be told, sometimes I just wanna shake her right off. (I know, I’m the worst, but you guys, it’s like 1,000 degrees here) But lately, I can see more than the threat of tripping over each other. I see a little girl who trusts me. She knows I am safe, when in her mind, everything and everyone else is unsafe. And being the jaded human being I am, I am okay with her hiding behind me as long as she’d like.

So what if we started living our moments like that? Since we adults know the world to be a rough, unforgiving, scary place, what if we ran to Jesus? What if we starting desiring to spend more and more moments with Him? Not just our quiet time moments, but our natural, living, every single day moments. Sometimes I get stuck sitting in quiet time with Jesus, which is beautiful, essential, life giving,  but I don’t ever just sit with my toddler all day long. (homegirl hardly sits still!) But rather, we walk hand in hand as we do things together. And I feel like Jesus is saying, “sweet daughter, take my hand. I want to be with YOU, all the time. In every moment, in every good thing you encounter, in the scary times, and hard situations, in the temptations, in the questions, in every everything, I am here.” 

So, let’s ask Jesus to show us what following Him around looks like, since it has been a long time since any of us have been toddlers. Because the intimacy He desires with us is unique to us, it will look different for each and every one of us. But if we let it, I think it has the ability to change how we see Jesus. He is our Father who loves us, cherishes us, and delights in us.  And His love is so unconditional, He loves us no matter what, even if sometimes we throw our own adult sized fits. 

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.

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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.

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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.