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Bondage can be deceiving

Bondage can be deceiving.  It doesn’t always look like we think it will. 

Bondage doesn’t always look like a cold, iron cuff clamped around our ankle with chain link after chain link leading to a heavy iron ball at the end. 

No, bondage can look very different. It can look much different because the deceiver knows we are more likely to recognize his schemes when they come in the packages for which we have prepared our hearts and our eyes.  So, because we have gotten smarter, he has gotten craftier.

Now he disguises.  He wraps his same old schemes in new packaging, more alluring packaging.  And this new packaging is exactly what gets us. If we were to see the ball and chain, we would surely make every effort to turn and go the other way.  But now his instruments of bondage are disguised as harmless things, good things, and even as useful and commonly accepted things.  

Little by little he infiltrates.  He slowly blurs our once 20-20 vision. He slowly grays the once black and white areas. And before we know it, he has got us where he wants us. Clink. The cuff closes around our ankle. He has successfully established his stronghold.

And it’s usually at this point when we see through the false packaging.  We see that this seemingly harmless thing, can in fact be harmful.  We see that this seemingly good thing, maybe isn’t so good after all.  We see that this seemingly useful thing, maybe isn’t the most useful in hindsight. We finally see through the packaging and see the instrument for what it is—the ball and chain that has enslaved us.  It consumes way too much of our time.  It distracts us from the things that are important. And it leaves us feeling empty and unsatisfied.

In what area of your life can you feel the enemy closing in with the iron cuff in hand, ready to slap it around your ankle? What tool is he using to distract you? What tool is he using to make you feel empty and unsatisfied? 

Pieces of Jessika ©

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What If We Changed Our Posture?

As featured on, Encouragement from Women Who’ve Been There. 

“What If We Changed Our Posture?”
By Jessika Sanders

Genesis 3:10 “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Matthew 18:3 “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not eventer into the kingdom of heaven.”

The girls were at it again. In a tug-o-war, fighting over toys. Screaming, yelling, vying to be heard and seen.

I sat and watched, exhausted from this very situation that seemed to happen day-in and day-out.

And that’s when my husband stepped in to tackle this one. As I sat this one out I was amazed at what I saw unfolding before my eyes. He sat down so that he was eye level and face-to-face with the girls. He was ready to confront them of their wrongdoing and to lovingly discipline.

They both stood before him but with radically different postures. The oldest assumed the position–head hung low, avoiding eye contact. She couldn’t bear to look him in the eye, she knew she had disappointed him.
And the tears were already welled up in her eyes even before he uttered a single word.

And it reminded me so much of our ancient beginnings in the Garden. It reminded me so much of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:6-10 and what feels like our instinctual way of hiding in our shame. It reminded me of how often we want to flee when confronted with our wrongdoing and sin.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

And he said, I heard they voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

But as I sat and watched the scene play out, the youngest assumed a radically different posture.

While the other hung her head in shame and avoided eye contact, the youngest looked my husband in the eye and raised her arms to embrace him.

I watched her do this three separate times.

He confronted them of their wrongdoing,
voiced to them his sincere disappointment, and reminded them of our foundational values.

And each time she looked at him with love and adoration, lifting her arms to hug him.

And then it hit me.

This precious little 3-year-old child was teaching me such a powerful lesson,
She was reinforcing the truth found in Matthew 18:3.

“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not eventer into the kingdom of heaven.”

Friends, what if we mimicked the latter posture, the latter attitude? What if in our moments of sin we didn’t hang our head in shame and hide from our Heavenly Father who loves us? What if instead we drew near to him, fixing our eyes on Him? What if we heard Him out, listening to the difficult truth? What if we assumed a humble posture and the pure heart of a child? How might our relationship with our Father be different if instead of hiding from Him, we went running to Him, reaching out to Him with nothing but pure love and adoration even in our moments of discipline and correction?

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Less about the words

A few months ago, my stepfather gave his life to Jesus. He humbly stepped out in need, raising his hand at the end of the church service to pray the sinner’s prayer with the Pastor. 

 

And together we smiled. We wept. We rejoiced.

We thanked the Lord for changing his heart and calling him near.

 

And while his walk with the Lord is new, while it requires daily discipline, it also requires grace.  It requires the grace and understanding that must come from us, his family. And it also requires the warm blanket of God’s grace and God’s love that my stepfather needs to cover himself in.

 

I know his need for grace because I’ve watched him turn down the opportunity to pray, passing it along to someone he considered more experienced, more well-versed.

I’ve watched him self-consciously rush through a prayer, worried that something was missing from his attempt.

I’ve watched him say a prayer in the form of a phone call to God, thinking his comedic approach might relieve him from being asked to pray again in the future.

 

But I’ve also watched him pray from his heart, getting choked up in the moment and unable to finish his thoughts except for a humbled and tear-stricken “Amen.”

 

And you know, of all these examples mentioned I have no doubt that God’s favorite, the one that touched His heart most was the last. I have no doubt that the imperfect, unfinished prayer was His favorite because it was in that moment that my stepfather’s true heart was revealed.  He may not have been able to finish his thoughts, but you can believe that God knew how to fill in the blanks.  You see, if there is one thing I have learned it’s that in prayer God cares less about the words you use, and more about the condition of your heart.

 

Pieces of Jessika©

 

 

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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©