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Just as He intended

I look up from my work and there she stands.

A little sugar,

a whole lot of spice—

exactly as He intended to make her.

There she stands.

Squinting eyes that twinkle with joy.

An adorable, kitty cat dress.

Sweet. Girly. Proper. Polite.

This. This is the sugar.

But there she stands, a whole lot of spice, too.

Spice so feisty it can’t be overlooked.

Spice so feisty it can’t be contained.

Yes, there she stands.

An ornery, crooked smile.

A gleeful giggle bubbling to the surface, just seconds from erupting.

And that headband.

Let’s not forget that headband.

A dainty, red and white polka dot accessory adorned with a bow,

meant to perch atop a head of tamed, manicured locks.

A headband meant to be the cherry atop a sweet little sundae.

Yes, let’s not forget that headband.

It crosses her forehead, no bow in sight.

It tries to contain her crazy mess of untamed waves and curls.

Instead of the cherry atop a sundae it looks more like the iconic accessory of Rambo.

Yes. A little sugar, a whole lot of spice.

But I can’t help but smile.

I can’t help but laugh.

This girl is one-of-a-kind,

This girl is made just as He intended.

This girl, like us all, is fearfully and wonderfully made.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” –Psalm 139:14

Pieces of Jessika©

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God-filter loading…

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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

(((God-filter loading…)))

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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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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.

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