A little while back I shared how, or rather why, I got my butt into gear last year and actually started writing. Consistently. It was a combination of A. filling out a Dream Guide (more about this in a sec) and B. having friends who held me accountable.
So, in light of it being the typical time of year we all like to think about the upcoming year, and perhaps set some goals, I thought I would share a pretty great tool. You see, I’ve never really been one for resolutions, I guess for a few reasons. One, I would set some pretty lofty ones, and therefore never attain them. Two, I didn’t ever share them with anyone, so I didn’t have accountability and my personality is such that having someone to gently ask “how’s that ___ goal going” really does me good. And three, I just kind of wrote them down and that was that. I didn’t set aside a chunk of time to think about it, and I certainly didn’t pray about them. And I loved the idea of actually praying about categories that weren’t “spiritual”…like praying about what work things to pursue or not, or how exactly was I going to be intentional with friends both local and far this year. What projects did I want to carve out time for, and speaking of time, I needed to think through that and be intentional about working out because that does not happen naturally for this girl! (side note: that did change however, after setting great work out goals last year that I actually stuck to!!) And fourth I didn’t re-look at them through the year. I didn’t check in with myself and see how I was doing, and what needed my time, attention or effort, and what goals could perhaps be adjusted or changed half way through the year.
Some dear friends last year introduced me to the Dream Guide. It’s put out by Jennie Allen and can I just say how much I LOVE it? (and not just the dream guide, I also happen to think Jennie is a pretty amazing woman who clearly loves the Lord! I say her first name only as if we are BFF’s, but its more like I’ve heard her speak at IF, read some of her books, and think she has a heart of gold!) Her Dream Guide is kinda great because it’s simply about thinking through the next year, reflecting on the past year, praying over everything, and how to be intentional as you set goals. And she breaks things down into categories, giving help and guidance because for someone like me, setting goals for the year can feel like an overwhelming task!
Since I loved it so much last year, I am going to do it again this year. This time I’m hoping to rope Brandon into it. I thought it might be kind of cool if some of our family/parenting/eating/financial goals lined up too. Could be pretty awesome to write those together…!!! And, honestly, since it was so impactful for me last year he is pretty excited to sit down and do one himself!
So I’d like share it with you in case you’d like to try it out too!
Here it is!!! Click HERE.
Hope you love it as much as I did!!
There’s something lovely about a Christmas card. I think I enjoy it even more since we are becoming such a society where everything is online. A real, paper, in the mail letter is kind of a special treat don’t you think? (So a big bravo to those who were able to get one out this year, and if you didn’t don’t feel any guilt- be free!!) And even though I feel this way, it still took me all month and then some to get mine out. Yes, we do have a newborn, but I feel like there is always, well, life, that happens and makes it hard to do such a simple but grand thing! (In fact, most years my letter is sent out after Christmas!!) One year I even labeled them New Years cards! But in the name of tradition, I had to be sure I got these babies out! So, they were a tad late, but here it is in web version. I post it here because A. some of you live in places where getting mail is either not possible or very difficult B. I didn’t have your current address or C. my now mush brain completely forgot to send you one and for that I’m SO sorry. Forgive me?
Dearest family and friends,
I do realize Christmas has passed. Believe it or not I had our ghetto diy photos done and stuffed in the envelopes, but this letter was the culprit. With sleep deprivation being a real thing around here, every time I had a free moment to write, I chose instead to sleep. Being a big fan of tradition, I just couldn’t let it go. However, don’t expect any coherent sentences, seeing as how at the very end of the day yesterday, I realized I had two very different earrings on.
Three kids three and under. Three kids when we truly thought we couldn’t have any! It’s wild. It’s blissful chaos. It’s fun and frustrating. It’s tender moments mixed with humbling ones. It’s also exhausting. I’m convinced there is a reason some cultures have kids in their teens. Because we are two tired looking parents in their mid thirties (When did that happen?) trying to figure out how to parent when we’re outnumbered. Brandon says man to man defense is out- suggesting then zone defense- and calling dibs on the upper zone…two kids in diapers is a bit much for him.
Eliana just started in on the sassy “threennager” thing, which is completely baffling, and keeps me on my knees before the Lord. Thankfully, she still is so sweet, doing things like pulling curtains open in the morning and shouting “It’s a beautiful day!” She also literally stops to smell the flowers every time we’re out for a walk, and she asks me talk to Jesus with her about things that scare her-top on the list being Texas’ house shaking thunder!
Hudson. He’s just like his daddy, easy going and laid back. He also loves to laugh and giggle; he is thrilled by the little things in life, his laughter and excitement is contagious. His favorite things in life are nakey nakey time, cars and trucks, books, snacks, and riding his bike. He is infatuated with his big sister, always making sure he is in sight of “Ana”.
Audra. She is a delight. I find myself in awe, once more, at how tiny, beautiful, and snuggly newborns are. And I’m savoring every moment, knowing she will be our last newborn. After incubating a child or having one attached to me for the last 30 out of 48 months, we’re ready to say three biological children is perfect for us.
Brandon. Poor guy continues to try and find activities to replace his first love-surfing. Off road bike riding, fly fishing, and running have become the recent attempts, my favorite being latter, not just because I get alone time with Audra, but also because he’s kind of a stud pushing around 60lbs. Work is work, and since it’s been about two years we are feeling a little bit antsy, so we’ll see if we’re still in Texas come 2017.
Even though my free time with two kids was limited, I was still finding time for things I love- writing, running, and seeing Esthetician clients. But free time with three is pretty elusive, so for now I am enjoying the park. There is one on every corner here in Katy, a place I wasn’t so sure about until I realized how essential fresh air is to my sanity. And our affection for Katy has greatly increased, because once again the Lord has graciously provided great friends and true community, and that makes any place feel like home… no matter how far it is from the ocean.
To you and yours a very Merry Christmas!!!! (okay, more like a Happy New Year…)
Love, The Stone family
Have you ever had too much of a good thing, and then just the thought of it kinda makes you gag? Like maybe you overdosed on In n Out, or your favorite ice cream flavor, and you literally can’t have any for a while or even smell it?! I kind of feel that way about writing right now. (I know, I shocked myself with that realization!) I think I wrote so much, so often, in every spare moment I had that I’m kind of over it for now. I have been trying to think why on earth I haven’t posted for almost two months and I think that’s why. I haven’t even sat down to work on my book at all either. (double gasp).
But strangely, I don’t feel guilty. I am okay with the idea of taking a break. I think writing that book proposal took over life as I knew it, and while it was fun at the time and exciting to see what I could accomplish with all the free time I didn’t realize I had, I think it’s time for me to put the pen down so to speak. Just for a bit. I’m letting some ideas simmer, sketching out some outlines and book ideas still, but most certainly taking a break.
However, the downside to this break is that I miss you! I miss blogging, sharing everyday moments and hearing from you as well. So, I will be taking a break from book writing, but not from here anymore. Sorry to leave you kind of hanging.
It’s not really possibly to sum up the last two months, life was filled with the exciting (a delightful trip back home to California to visit family and friends), the mundane (a whole week of Hudson pushing two molars and his whining killing everyone), and everything in between (starting back up at MOPS, having fun play dates with friends, finding and settling in at a church -you heard me right, more on that one!, joining a small group, and finally being able to go back outside again thanks to the weather dipping below 90 all week last week, getting the house and spare room ready for our third addition, trying to get Hudson’s baby book done so he won’t be able to razz me his whole life how as the middle child he got the shaft and has no baby book! As a middle child myself, with my baby book having the only the first page filled out (and harassing my mother my whole life about it!) I will finish this book!
So, I’ll be back with something witty, inspiring, sarcastic, or heck, just whatever is on my heart, to share very soon!!
Church shopping, in my limited experience, can be a bit like finding your favorite grocery store. After living in the 3rd world, and truly coming to terms with having NO grocery store at all, any store that sells food on polished and clean shelves, all neatly lined up, with TONS of variety, is incredible. Truly, it’s a gift. But now that I’m back in the US of A, I enjoy variety, I appreciate my options. I love Trader Joe’s. But I can’t get everything I need there. So I also go to Sprouts. And Costco, and Target or HEB. Sheesh. So the me that used to live abroad would pry slap the me living in suburbia with my endless options and still finding something to complain about. Still looking for the perfect grocery store, cause heck, who likes to frequent four grocery stores?!
That’s kinda how I feel about church shopping. There’s so many choices, here in Texas, it’s unreal. Shouldn’t we be able to just pick one and be happy? As long as they believe in Jesus, and preach the Word? Maybe…when choices are limited. But when choices abound there is a weird thing that happens. We think we can have it all. We want everything we want, and we don’t settle for less. Mainly, because we don’t have to. We can just drive down the street and find the next church that has what we want.
It was with sad hearts we left our last church, just two months ago. We called that church home for over a year. We immediately took the classes to become members, began volunteering, got involved with a committee, and co-lead a small group. We jumped right in, knowing how much we desire and crave community and didn’t want to waste time- we wanted to get to know people and make friends! We met some amazing people, and I know God wanted us to connect with those specific families and couples. And we didn’t leave over any sin issues, nothing black and white. It was more so a subtle, but significant opening of our eyes to just how differently we viewed leadership/missions/ communication/shepherding/outreach than the pastor. Something we wouldn’t have discovered until we got involved. And when it’s a small church, with one pastor and no other staff members, it became obvious that our outspoken, confrontational natures (yes, both of us are that way!!) weren’t good for the church. It wasn’t helpful for the pastor to hear, often, what we didn’t agree with, what we didn’t like, why we wanted ___ to change. It was his choice, he was the pastor after all. So we either had to get on board, or get off the ship.
And both choices were kinda crappy. To go along with many little and big decisions that bothered us, or didn’t make sense to us, were hard. To always be the one raising a little hand that questions this and that and the other isn’t healthy for a church as a whole, it’s divisive. And we didn’t want to be that. So, we asked ourselves, “what about coming alongside of…as some changes are, I’ll be it ever so slowly, trying to be made?” I mean, isn’t that what we are called to do, to stick with one another and bear through things as brothers and sisters in Christ? I very much believe so. Sigh. But I also believe that if, down in our hearts, we didn’t support the leadership and the decisions being made, then it was in fact time to move on.
Just that phrase, “church shopping” is so, icky.
Looking for a new church sucks. Everything about it. I find I’m being so skeptical, so judgmental the moment I walk through the door, I hate it. And even when I actually stop and ask the Lord to clear my heart and mind of all judgements, so I can see what He wants me to see and if this is the church and body of Christ He wants us to belong to, I still struggle.
A fog machine, really? Bright neon lights, is that necessary? The ushers are in suits, and no one is wearing shorts or flip flops? (flash back to Haiti and if you don’t dress up you can’t come to church) Yuck. Fancy coffee? Lame. No coffee? Lame. The congregation doesn’t stop to greet each other? Lame. The congregation shouts out, ‘amen’ all the time? Weird. No programs at all? Limiting. A group/program for every stage/age/issue in life? A bit much. 15 men and women all leading worship? Feels like a concert. Two people on stage leading worship and one is off key? Authentic but also distracting. A pastor wearing a scuba suit for effect? Count me out. A pastor droning on in monotone? Help me.
Different programs for the whole family? Hmmm. Not sure. I didn’t care last year. But after attending our small church Sunday mornings, and another church for MOPS, and another for parenting classes, and another for mid-week Bible studies I decided that actually was important to me to be involved in one place, at one church, building relationships in that one spot. Missions? Yes, please. We have such a heart for this, and don’t see that changing. When we started going to our old church a year ago, we knew they weren’t very into missions, and we thought that wouldn’t bother us. But we were wrong. God has really burned a hole in our hearts for missions, locally but especially abroad, and we decided we really long to be a part of church that has a heart for missions as well.
And it’s of course a bit more, um, strange to have to bring kids along in this. Thankfully they are too young to comprehend, but they are also so young that when we visit a new place each week, sometimes the looks on their sweet little faces is like, “Where are you leaving me, again?? Who are these people?!” Usually a little bribery does wonders, but it still can be hard leaving them in the care of strangers!
But we continue the hunt. I think once we can find a good spot, we’ll settle in for six months or so and make sure it’s a good fit. Cause, obviously, you can’t know or see much on just a few Sunday visits. And every single church has it’s issues, it’s silliness, it’s dirt, it’s oddities, it’s gems. So we’re just hopeful that the next church we pick, and the issues we find ourselves facing will be ones we can work through and make peace with in our hearts.
Expectations. I struggle with them all the time. From bigger events such as my birthday (since I was raised to believe you were Queen for that day, anything less than that feels like a let down!!) to everyday encounters where I am let down, or disappointed, only to realize it was just because my expectations were probably just a tad too high.
She Speaks. The conference I signed up for, a conference for Christian women who write or speak publicly, or are simply trying to develop their skills in it. I really, really tried to have zero expectations. It was hard, since the cost of such an endeavor, plus the flight, hotel, etc was pretty high for us. But it was most certainly one of those things that God seemed to be pointing me to. So I went. With my expectations in check.
And I was amazed.
First of all, I was surrounded by 800 people who all feel led, called, asked, burdened to do the exact same thing I am. Or wanting to. That factor alone was worth going.
Secondly, as a wise friend told me, it’s all about networking. And she was right. I met some pretty delightful women that weekend. Some of these women I met from afar, on stage as they shared from their hearts and life experience. They encouraged us to stay true to our calling, to be bold in the telling of our stories and what God has placed on our hearts to share. They exhorted us to be aware that satan would love nothing more than to discourage us from finding or remaining on the path we are on…and he will do it in any way he can, using our deep rooted insecurities to stop us. Thoughts that creep in when we share our stories, and open our hearts to others. “Who do you think you are, what do you have to say that’s so special, or who wants to listen to you?” And on and on it can go. She Speaks spoke right to that issue throughout each session. Dispelling lies and replacing them with truth. We are daughters of the Most High, and we are here to give Him Glory and to tell HIS story. Period.
There was so much to take in. Since I am new to pretty much the entire writing scene, and everything it entails, I felt like an over-soaked sponge. I was full, and trying to glean as much as I could from the wise women around me.
So here is one, huge, game changing thing I took away from that weekend:
I had a pretty incredible, clearly God orchestrated encounter (as I grabbed my lunch I asked Him to show me who to sit down next to, which I rarely ever do!!!) with a woman who loved Jesus and spoke frankly, right to my heart, and she offered me advice and even a suggestion about my book. After hearing each others stories, and why we were there, she said it sounded like I had more to say than what I was saying. As if I had only begun to scratch the surface on what I was trying to get out through the writing of this book. Because I was articulating (and envisioning) that the whole book would be about infertility, and living in Haiti. But she saw that the under lining theme was more about saying YES to God. Even when I didn’t want to, even when He was saying “no” or “wait” to having a family. And she was SO right. Like couldn’t stop the tears right. I felt like I had so much more to communicate, more than what I had articulated and outlined in the book proposal I worked on non-stop for the last two months. But I didn’t know what it was, couldn’t quite figure it out. But she helped me figure it out. So I want to write about that. I want to write about how often God puts something on your heart, asks you to venture into new and uncomfortable position, asks you to talk to a stranger, give more of your time or money, invite others into your hearts, asks you to move you somewhere you don’t want to, and we have a choice. We can say YES. To those little things He quietly whispers to us. We can say say YES to those big things He asks of us that require stepping out and trusting Him in a way we never, ever,ever have. And there are so many things we learn from saying YES. So many ways we grow. So many unexpected gifts that come from an obedient and surrenderred heart to Jesus.
I want to write a book about that!!
So I am. I am going to start over. Ish. I really only had about 4 full chapters written, the rest were vague outlines, ideas, etc. Yes, it’s a bit hard to think about all the time I spent over the last two months working on that book proposal. All the evenings I forwent watching Netflix, not going to bed early, not reading… all so I could write. Or I think about all those nap times the kids slept, and this pregnant mama desperately wanted to also, but instead I wrote. Or heck, all the evenings, hours, dates, runs, parks Brandon took the kids to so I could have time to write. But alas, all is not lost!! I learned two valuable things from that:
1. I have more free time than I thought!!! (I mean, I truly believed I hardly had any free time with two young children. But turns out, as I restructured my day, and simply made writing my number priority for a while, I had lots of time to do it)
2. My husband is pretty amazing, and supported me in a priceless way stepping up his game and taking care of the kids even more than he already goes (oh, and watching the laundry pile up, eating random put together meals, and dealing with a less than clean house for those two months too was just as hard for him!!)
But we did it. We pulled together and we did it. Which shows me that I do indeed have more support than I realized. And I can indeed find the time to write. And I also am not on a deadline anymore, so life can (phew) resume at it’s normal pace.
SO…I’d love to invite you into this journey with me. As I think about writing about saying YES to God, I can’t help but think it’s obviously something we never “finish”. It’s a constant in our lives, the choice to say yes to Him, or no, or heck often we tend to just ignore what He’s asking. I battle with it often, still, even though I know, have seen, and understand how important it is to say YES to Him.
So, can I ask, what have you recently said YES to God about?
Was did He clearly put on your heart, or ask you do to and you did it? Was it finally talking to the neighbor and inviting them over for dinner? Was it pulling over to help someone? Or maybe opening your home for something? What about giving money to someone/something when you didn’t particularly want to?
I’d love to hear from you. Because I’d love to be encouraged. I know when I hear how other people are being obedient to Him, it makes me want to pause and ask myself what He’s asking me to do.
I have been wanting to write this book for a long time now, about six years to be exact. Over the years, I’ve sat down many times and couldn’t really put to words how I was feeling. You see, that is because the topic is very dear to my heart.
This book is about infertility. It’s about the four years we tried to start a family. Since I had to write up a synopsis for this conference She Speaks, I will just go ahead and share it with you. (It switches to 3rd person, don’t let confuse you!!)
A Synopsis of the Book.
Through her four years of infertility Jessica has developed a heart for women who are confronting this issue. In her opinion, it is a silent topic, and only as she began to share her own story did she discover how many women around her were also carrying the burden of infertility, almost completely alone. Her hope is that by divulging every detail of her story, especially through the sharing of intimate journal entries she kept during that time, other women can find solidarity, and perhaps even a renewed sense of contentment and purpose in their own journey, as she did.
Her own experience culminated as her relationship with Jesus deepened, and in her difficult season of waiting, she began to ask the Lord, “If I’m not supposed to have a family right now, what do you have for me at this time?” And the wild part was, He answered. His answer took her and her husband to the ends of the earth, or more like Haiti. (She still had to look it up on a map!) Through that journey she found contentment and purpose in her life. She came to learn that only the Lord can satisfy. Only He can fill empty achy parts of us, even if those empty parts are eventually filled with the things we dreamed, hoped, and prayed for. It still is only Him.
There you have it. Since I am still in the very beginning stages of putting this all together in the form of a book proposal, it’s still very fluid. Everything could change, but I hope you get the idea.
I will be at the conference for a few days…I would greatly appreciate any prayers for guidance, wisdom, and confidence. I also am meeting with two publishers, and get a chance to tell them about my book!! It’s a long shot, but just the fact that I get to meet face to face with two women who work in the field is a pretty amazing opportunity. I can hardly believe it. (Don’t worry, the amazing back story on that one to follow)