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Sinners yet forgivers

my girls

Sometimes
they raise their voices at each other,
they yank a toy from the other’s hands,
they smack the other in anger and frustration.

 

Yes, sometimes they have their moments.
In fact, they frequently have many moments.
And quite honestly, not all of them are pretty.

 

Although we’re bringing our children up as Christians, as Christ-followers, the truth is our sweet little children are naturally sinners at heart. They can’t help but default to instinctual egocentric, selfish ways.

 

But the good news is in a matter of minutes
they can often be heard laughing,
they can often be seen cuddling,
they can often be seen playing harmoniously,
and they can often be seen hugging and kissing.

Why this sudden change?
How can they hurt one another and then be so quick to forgive?

 

I’d like to think our Christian morals play a fundamental role in this. I’d like to think our daily conversations about Jesus and what He would do in similar situations are formatively shaping their hearts. I’d like to think that as a result, their hearts are open and their hearts are tender.

 

And these open, tender hearts are thereby allowing for His loving redirection. These open, tender hearts are thereby allowing for His loving correction. And this is why they always seem to find their way back into each other’s arms and right back into His loving arms, too.

 

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

 

Pieces of Jessika ©

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Harsh, unsolicited advice that lacks love and compassion.

Ignorant, senseless assumptions that threaten to make your blood boil.

Arrogant, hateful judgments that hurt your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

Tactless, opinionated comments that cause the breath to expel loudly from your lungs.

Unfortunately, social media is full of them,
full of our keyboard-brave friends with little to no regard as to how their words impact others.

Sometimes we read the comments in passing.
We read the comments directed at
everyday people in the news,
celebrities in the public eye,
and complete strangers.

And other times we read the comments that boldly catch our eye.
We read the comments directed at friends.
We read the comments directed at ourselves.

And let me tell you, sometimes I want to retaliate.
Sometimes a barrage of quick-witted quips come to mind.
Sometimes I feel the urge to just set people straight and put them in their place.

But it’s in these moments that I literally use my fingers to clamp my mouth shut.
It’s in these moments that I physically prevent myself from typing back a response.
It’s in these moments that I restraint myself because

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Pieces of Jessika©

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Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes: A Birth Story

I had dreamt of an at home waterbirth for over a decade.  I had dreamt about the peace, the comfort, the beauty of it all.

 

And here I was, hours away from realizing such a dream, and peace, comfort, and beauty were nowhere to be found.

 

The news of his infidelity coupled with our already volatile, abusive relationship led to the destruction of our marriage just one month prior.  With that devastating news, I spent a tumultuous night laying on my cold, bathroom floor, cradling the life in my belly and crying out in despair. When I awoke the next morning, with no more tears to cry, I accepted the harsh reality that I would most likely be everything I vowed not to be—divorced, single, and alone.

 

So, here we were hours away from welcoming new life into the world and things weren’t at all like I had pictured them for us.  We weren’t speaking. We were in separate rooms. Literally and figuratively, we were worlds apart. We were angry. We were hurt.  We were at each other’s throats.

 

And here I was, in labor.  Here I was, about to bring a baby into such an unhealthy, chaotic environment.  I was crushed.

I was devastated by my current circumstances, by my glaring failures. I felt like I was living some cruel nightmare.

 

And like a slap in the face, it hit me. On an emotional level, I would ultimately be doing this alone—I would be birthing our child alone.  My husband had offered to let my mom take his place in the birthing process. He had offered to relinquish his position to someone he originally had objected to having at the birth. This broke my already shattered heart, as I knew this expressed the severity, the finality of it all. He didn’t want to be there to support me. He didn’t want to be there to welcome our baby.  I felt unwanted. I felt unworthy. And I carried that burden for the baby in my womb too, as it felt like he wanted nothing to do with it either. He despised me with such a passion that for the first time, I clearly saw how narrow the line could be between love and hate.

 

As the contractions intensified, all my hopes of a peaceful, comfortable, beautiful home waterbirth washed away with each silent tear that fell from my eyes.

 

Although he eventually came to my side as I labored, I couldn’t help but feel alone. The words he spoke to me felt empty, distant. The rubbing of my back felt impersonal, foreign. The consoling he offered felt cold, calculated.

 

But out of all this pain, out of all this adversity, something was stirring in the depths of my soul. A strength I never knew I had was taking root and was beginning to bloom.

 

It was me and this baby. We were in this together.  We needed each other.  Each other was all we had.  So, with each painful contraction I gripped the countertop, silently swaying left and right to quiet the pain.  With each painful contraction it felt like my bones were physically breaking, mirroring the pain and anguish of my simultaneously breaking heart.  

 

But once I stepped into the water, the warmness enveloped me. And like a rushing wind, she came fast and she came hard.

 

And when I held her to my chest in the warm waters, when I stared at her in complete awe, she began to fill in the spaces of my broken heart.  The strength that had begun to bloom from inside me was slowing beginning to open, to blossom.

 

No, the at home waterbirth I had dreamt of for over a decade didn’t happen the way I had planned it, it didn’t happen the way I had envisioned it.  It was preceded with devastation. It was filled with brokenness and heartache.  But it ended miraculously, it ended with a beautiful blossoming. Although it wasn’t what I would have chosen for us, looking back I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s our story. It’s our story of beauty coming from ashes. It’s our story that continues to unfold—our story of strength, of beauty that comes from adversity, our story that continues to blossom in each season of this life.

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” –Isaiah 61:3

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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.

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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©