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There is freedom

There have been times the Lord has prompted me to share my shame.

There have been times he has prompted me to share things that have long been hidden, things I have tried to convince myself did not happen, things I have tried to forget and tried to block out altogether.

And each time a part of me was fearful to share.  Would they understand?  Would they judge me?  Would they see me differently?  Would they love me still?

In those moments I reminded myself of His Word and His truth.

Be strong and courageous, for He is with me.

I am loved with an everlasting love.

Perfect love casts out fear.

I am forgiven.

And with His encouragement, I shared.  I shared my painful past.  I shared my horrible mistakes.  I shared in complete honesty and with complete vulnerability.  I shared because He directed me to.

And miraculously, I felt better. Miraculously, I felt peace.

The chains that kept in darkness, the chains that held me captive, the chains that announced my shame were broken. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

And what’s more, most of them didn’t judge.  Most of them could relate in some way.  Most of them felt compassion for me instead.

And what’s more, most of them did, in fact, see me differently.  They saw me as better than I was before.  They saw me as brave, as vulnerable, as authentic.

And what’s more, they loved me still. In actuality, some of them loved me more so.

2 Corinthians 3:17 states, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

Even with the darkest, most shameful secrets freedom can be found.  God has the ability to forgive you.  He has the ability to free you. He has the ability to give you a new life in Him.

Yes, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

Pieces of Jessika ©

Perfectly imperfect

I bite my nails.
My ears stick out.
My knees are always hairy.

I have big feet.
My belly button is abnormally high.
Just thinking of a squat makes my quads grow in size.

For years I’ve struggled with these imperfections.
I’ve tried to live with them.
I’ve tried to correct them.
I’ve tried to alter them.

Polish to deter the biting.
Hair down to cover the ears.
Knicks and bleeding to try to get the hairs.

Shoes that make my feet look smaller.
Hiding my belly button altogether.
Avoiding squats. Period.

I am imperfect.
Oh so imperfect.

But I am perfectly imperfect.
That’s right. Perfectly imperfect.
Perfectly flawed.

And now I embrace it.
Or at least I make a conscious effort to.

Why?
Because I am His.
Because I was created in His image.

Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Let that sink in.
Made in His image.

The creator of the Universe made you in His likeness.
The Perfect One made you in His reflection.

He created every part of you intentionally.
There is no mistake about you.
You are a masterpiece.

Sweet friend, may you be reminded today that you are perfectly imperfect. You are beautiful just the way you are, flaws and all. I pray for your healing from the hurtful, criticizing, and shaming words spoken to you by others. I pray for your healing from the hurtful, criticizing, shaming words you may speak to yourself. Friend, you are a masterpiece. Yes, you. You may not believe it, but Jesus does. I pray you come to know your worth in Him. I pray you see yourself as He sees you. I pray you live life fully loved— loved by Him and loved by yourself. Completely. Totally. Unconditionally. Perfectly imperfect.

Pieces of Jessika ©

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Taste and See

The sweet smell overwhelms me, stopping me in my tracks.

I close my eyes for a moment. I breathe it in. I breathe it in deep. A long, intoxicating, full-body inhale. One of those breaths so deep you can feel the peace and calm overcome you, almost transporting you somewhere else.

A serene smile stretches across my face. A warmness seems to soak into every pore of my body. And the smell. The smell lingers beautifully in the air. I realize I don’t want this moment to end.

It’s breathtaking. And it’s beautiful. It’s a glimmer of what I imagine heaven will be like.

Psalm 34:8 poetically states, “O taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Taste and see.

It’s been years since that experience, since that encounter and yet those three simple words immediately bring me back to that moment.  I’m brought back to see–to see the grandiose magnolia tree.  Its tall stature. Its full, lush, green foliage. Its gigantic, white, perfectly-round sculpted buds.  And I’m brought back to taste–to taste its sweet, intoxicating fragrance that fills my nostrils, my lungs, my entire being.

Oh, I have tasted. Oh, I have seen. The LORD is good and the beauty of His creation is the undeniable, tangible proof.

God of creation, may we awake today with fresh eyes to see your beauty and your greatness.  May we awake with a spirit open to take in, to taste, and to experience your goodness and your presence.  May we slow ourselves so that we may properly revel in the wondrous glory of your creation.

Pieces of Jessika©

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Being in His will

We desperately want to hear from God.

We know the importance of being in His will,

The importance of being on the path He has laid out for us.

 

But how often we want to hear from Him on our schedule.

How often our souls struggle with being still,

How often our souls struggle with the wait.

We want answers,

We want direction,

And we want it on our terms.

We want it immediately,

We want it now.

 

So what do we do?

We take matters into our own, self-sufficient hands.

We cut corners; we take the shortcut that best serves our needs.

We selfishly squeeze a limitless God to fit into our limited box.

 

And before we know it,

We’re justifying.

We’re convincing.

We’re fooling ourselves into thinking our ideas are all part of His plan

when in reality, it’s just us taking the pencil out of the hands of The Creator,

boldly claiming we can write the story faster and better.

 

And no matter how smart we might be,

No matter how creative, how inventive,

No matter how successful and driven,

We will always fall short in comparison to the ways of the Lord.

Our own plans will always fall short in comparison to what He has for us.

 

So no matter how much our flesh may fight it,

I pray we can hold tight to the words of Proverbs 3:6-7,

“In all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.”

 

Friends, I pray for our obedience. I pray for our trust and belief that He is sovereign and in complete control of all the details of our lives, if we will just stop wrestling with Him and allow Him to be. I pray that we can muster the courage and the discipline to wait patiently, to be still, and to await His voice and direction knowing that He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

 

Pieces of Jessika©

Seeking approval, Seeking acceptance

Knowingly used by others.

Manipulated for their desires.

Used for their needs and then thoughtlessly discarded.

Used in the workplace.  Used for ideas, for income, for growth, for my name and for what I had achieved.  Used and then quickly forgotten, quickly replaced.

Used in relationships.  Used to fill a void, used to serve a need, used to fulfill a fantasy, used to satisfy a desire.  Used and then quickly forgotten, quickly replaced.

Why did I allow myself to be used? How could I knowingly allow it?

Perhaps I allowed such mistreatment because sprinkled within it there were brief moments of worth, brief moments of happiness. Although the moments were fleeting and easily extinguished, they temporarily satisfied deep desires within me to feel seen, to feel accepted, and to feel loved.

Proverbs 29:25 warns us, “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.”

Over the years I have learned that neither the validation nor the approval of others will ever equate happiness. We are a fickle, selfish people by nature. In the eyes of another we will never measure up to perfection, we will forever fall short. To be expectant of the validation and approval of others is just setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

But friends, there is hope. Proverbs 29:25 reveals the key to freedom with eight simple words.  If you trust the Lord you are safe.

When we find our worth and our identity in Him we are whole. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.  Let that soak in. Despite our imperfections, our sins, and the daily mistakes we make, God sees our worth. He sees our worth and loves us so passionately that He sent His only Son to die in our place so that we could have eternal life with Him. Friend, you are priceless. Your worth is without measure.

When we see ourselves as the Creator sees us we are complete. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27. The One who rules heaven and earth created you and created you in His likeness. Can you even begin to fathom something so enormous? The Creator of this beautiful earth and all the things that inhabit it, created you and created you to mirror Him. The majesty of it all is wondrous.  Friend, you truly are a work of art.

When we trust what He says about us we are set free. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14. When we repeat His words over ourselves, when we believe them, when we let them sink into our souls we are forever transformed. When we learn to trust Him we learn that He does everything on purpose.  God does not make mistakes.  Friend, you are no exception. You were not a mistake. You were created with a specific purpose.

Friends, while we may be tempted to believe the fleeting promises of love and acceptance the world offers, I pray that we trust the Lord. I pray we open our hearts to Him and welcome the peace, love, acceptance, and freedom only He can provide.

Pieces of Jessika©

Blessed are those who mourn

Loss.  Heartbreak.  How on earth could any good come of such sadness?  How on earth could one ever be grateful for such devastation?

Matthew 5:4 tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

But it doesn’t make sense at first.  It doesn’t make sense when you’re walking in it.  It doesn’t make sense when you’re living it.  How could such pain be considered a blessing?

God loves to step into our mess.  It’s in the mess that He does His best work.  It’s in the mess that His glory can be seen.  It’s from the mess that He loves to make a masterpiece.

He comforts us, He truly comforts us. His presence can overwhelm us, wrapping us in His love and tenderness.  He is near to the brokenhearted. He collects each tear and weeps with us.

He strengthens us. He can reach into the deepest crevices of our broken heart and mend them.  He can stitch us back together. He takes the weight of our burdens. He teaches us to rely on and trust in Him.

He loves us with an everlasting love.  He can amaze us with His all-consuming, overwhelmingly personal and intimate love for us.  He can show Himself to us in the most beautiful of ways. He keeps His promises to us. He has wonderful plans for us.

Yes, blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed are those who trust in Him. He loves us and He cares for us.  He will bring us out of the storm.  He will restore our brokenness. He will make us new.  He will give us a beautiful future beyond what we could ever imagine.  He is good. He is perfect. He loves His children dearly.

And He especially loves you. Have faith, friend. He sees you. He hears you. He knows exactly where you are right now.  He has got you.  Stay the course with Him. He will bring you into the light.  Believe it.

Pieces of Jessika©

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The Backstory

pieces for the potter

November 18, 2016 I hit rock bottom.

Over breakfast my husband delivered news that hit me head on like a reckless driver with no regard for human life.

I lowered my fork. I shifted my blank stare from my crispy bacon to the eyes of the man who I promised to spend the rest of my life with.

I didn’t throw my orange juice in his face. Instead I felt a calmness.

Shock. I must be in shock.

I made my way to the bathroom to be alone. My hands instinctually lowered to my protruding belly. I gently cradled the life growing inside it as my knees gave and I fell to the floor and the tears fell from my eyes.

THAT. That very moment felt like the end for me. Surely it was. How did one recover from this?

But that beautiful slideshow…the one they say plays out in front of you at the end? That beautiful slideshow was not what I experienced.

I lay on the tiny bathroom floor, not to be dramatic, but because it was the only room in the house that had a working, locking door. That small, 5×10 rectangle, while cold and often dirty, had become my refuge, my safe haven.

It was the wee hours of the morning and while the rest of my household appeared to be sleeping soundly, I was fighting one of the toughest battles of my life. Alone. In the bathroom.

I lay broken, shaking on the floor. My eyes clamped tightly shut, in a lame effort to keep the tears from pouring out.

It was not all the beautiful moments that played in my mind like a movie. No, instead it was all the hurt I had experienced. It was all the mistakes I had made along the way. It was all my brokenness. And it felt like an “extended version” movie clip.

Their divorce.

Feeling unloved.

Rejection.

Molestation.

Feeling replaceable.

An eating disorder.

Promiscuity.

Failed relationships.

Using others.

Allowing myself to be used.

Feeling numb.

Craving acceptance.

Abusive relationships.

Feeling lost.

I cried through it all, through every painful, dark memory. I relived every single one of them.

Faces I hadn’t seen in years appeared, some of their names I had forgotten. But regrettably, what I hadn’t forgotten was what has transpired between us.

It haunted me. They haunted me.

I thought I had buried these experiences deep. I thought I had convinced myself that some of them hadn’t actually happened. I thought I had moved on. But there they were, they all came to the surface. They stared me in the face and there was no escaping them.

I was face to face with my actions, with what I had done in my life, and my mind was spinning. Spinning out of control.

How did I get here? How did I lose myself? What had I done?

The shame overwhelmed me. The guilt consumed me. The burdens had become too much to bear. I could feel the weight of it all pushing me down.

Down into the darkness.

Down into the hopelessness.

Down to rock bottom.

And it was there that, at long last, I felt my head go down. I felt my head go down, not in giving way to the darkness, but to do something completely foreign that I had never truly done before.

I bowed my head. And I bowed it to pray.

Pray? Me? Really? Now? YES.

In that moment, at absolute rock bottom, I prayed out of desperation. Absolute desperation.

I didn’t worry about any sort of logistics. I didn’t worry about any sort of rituals. I didn’t worry about my awkwardness in never really having done it before.

I cried out.

My soul cried out. It cried out in anguish. It cried out in hopelessness. It cried out in tears. In so many tears.

And in that moment I begged. I begged for my life.

God. Help me. Please, help me. Please help me, God. I’m begging you. Please help me.

I repeated it over and over again.

I repeated those words through the tears. I repeated those words through all those shameful memories of my past. I repeated them through the mess I found myself in that moment. I repeated those words through my absolute brokenness right there on that floor.

God. Help me. Please, help me. Please help me, God. I’m begging you. Please help me.

I repeated them over and over again until I fell asleep there on the cold, hard bathroom floor.

Exhausted.

At the mercy of God.

Broken pieces for the Potter.

Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8, NIV

Pieces of me, Pieces of Jessika

I am that girl.

I am that girl who has been lost.
The girl who has spent years searching.
The girl who has tried everything to fill a void.

The girl who has been broken.
The girl who has been used.
The girl who has been defeated.

The girl who has a long list of regrets.
The girl who has done things she is not proud of.
The girl who has made the same mistake over and over.

Yes, I am that girl.

But I am also that girl who has been redeemed.
The girl who has been restored.
The girl who has been made new.

I am that girl who now loves herself.
The girl who knows she is a catch.
The girl who knows she has so much offer.
The girl who knows her worth.

I am that girl with childlike vision.
The girl who dreams of her future.
The girl who faithfully trusts in His plan.
The girl who faithfully trusts in His promises.

I am the girl who lifts her eyes to the heavens.
The girl who sees the wonder and beauty.
The girl who gives thanks each day for this new life.

And I am that girl who sees you.

The girl who understands you.

The girl who used to be you.

I am that girl who wants to speak life into you.

The girl who wants to encourage you.

The girl who wants to remind you.

Friend, it’s never too late.
No matter how empty you feel.
No matter how much you’ve messed up.
No matter how far off-track you’ve gone.
No matter how much shame you might feel.

It’s never too late to find your freedom in Christ.

It’s never too late for Him to make you new, too.

Pieces of Jessika ©