Season Of Miracles

Lately I’ve been thinking that Heaven would be much easier than life; especially in the wake of the merciless killings of so many innocent children in Connecticut.  I’ve been living under this thought of “life is hard and painful and I’m over it. Jesus it’s time for you to return.”  Sounds awful huh?  Especially considering that I love my kids, I love my husband, I really love my life – usually, but I’ve been missing some of the joy aspect of it all this holiday season. 
As the newness of this next chapter of my life wears off and reality has begun to set in during this past year, I’ve been increasingly guilty of taking on too much responsibility for the happiness and well being of everyone involved. Ryan jokes that my head must be a mess at times because I am emotional like a woman but a fixer like a man and I feel that pull often.   I want my husband to be happy and my kids to be happy and this question often thumps within my brain, “Are they all doing ok? Am I missing something with any of them?” And this heavy weight that I’ve placed upon my own heart that beats out this false presumption that it’s all on me and if something goes amiss it must be something I did wrong or didn’t catch.  
I know I’m not the only person in the world who feels this way, and I know that many times it is those of us who have gone through some pretty deep trenches of grief and despair who take these heavy loads as we seek out the answer to the eternal question, “What is this all about, this life, our lives, why can it be so hard?”  I find if I become stuck in this environment of feeling despair or overwhelmed my focus is quickly taken off of my Redeemer, and  I become very easily disheartened and often tempted with self-medicating techniques, various vices, little foxes (as my favorite author John Eldredge affectionately calls them) used to numb the pain and confusion. These small, seemingly insignificant habits that can so easily creep into our lives and begin to take over: pain medications, sleeping pills, food, sex, alcohol, crude movies or television, Facebook, video games, chat rooms, soap operas (no, I don’t struggle with ALL of these!) anything that we feel can help us in the moment drown out the reality of our lives. 
No, “jess” is nowhere near perfect but much closer, in fact, to the name I go under on this blog – jess is so often a huge, gigantic mess who despite my first born know it all attitude in life doesn’t know half the time how to just stop trying to fix everything and just start giving it to her Maker.  God has been working on my heart recently with some of the things I turn to such as zoning out online instead of being present with my family; something many, many mothers struggle with or watching that movie or comedian that we would never let our children watch but for some reason the moral standard is different as an adult… but should it be?    
This advent season is different for me than ones in years past.  God is speaking to me, retraining me on how to find joy and peace in Him and in the little baby boy he sent to be our Savior thousands of years ago.  He is telling me to feel – feel the joy, feel the pain, feel the hardness that life often brings and feel it all with every cell of my being, not numbing it with the internet or one too many glasses of wine, or a worthless movie, but to feel what only He can fill in my heart – His peace and His joy.   It can be a difficult task because in feeling there is growth but in growth there is freedom and that is why a Savior was sent to a broken and frail humanity, to free us from the bondages that these little vices can so often wreak upon our lives in subtle and sneaky ways. 
I’ve had strongholds in my life that had firmly embedded themselves during the hardest few years of my life and they became weeds chocking out so much of my potential to become the wife, mom, and person He had in store for me, but those strongholds have been broken through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. He was sent “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—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” (Isaiah 61:1).
This season of miracles, this season of advent, God has been showing me that I don’t have to self-medicate with mischievous little foxes, I don’t have to soothe my pain, and I don’t have to wallow in the past.  Because of Christmas, I am FREE – we are all free!  This is the year of the Lord’s favor, I have been comforted by the great Comforter, I don’t live in a heap of ashes anymore, I have been given a crown of beauty and a garment of praise and in The name of a little baby born in Bethlehem, I will not live under a spirit of despair for my sin has been washed away and my heart has been wiped as clean as snow (Isaiah 1:18) all because my Heavenly Father loved me so much he sent his one and only son. Merry, Merry Christmas from the whole crew at Jessplusthemess!
Just keep livin!!

Throwing People Through Walls and Other Vices We Have

Ryan’s found some inspiration in the past few weeks to write so I’m going to be sharing my blog with him, especially during the busy holiday season when I could certainly use the extra time to get stuff done around the house!  Who knows, maybe this will turn into ryanandjessplusthemess in time, hint, hint, honey…  He’s had  a lot of thoughts lately on different subject matters, I know weird for a man, so I thought I’d share what he has to say once or twice a month.  Enjoy!

I’m a whiner. Most of us are whiners and complainers, never satisfied with what we have. I have found that the older I get, the more pessimistic I become. I used to be that crazy guy that always had a positive outlook on anything and everything to the point of being darn right annoying. Most people would have called me naïve or even childish and over time, I have learned my lesson so to speak. I’m not that person anymore, and I would give anything to have that frame of mind back. A child-like faith is much more difficult to embrace when we allow life to persuade us otherwise. Not only am I a whiner, but I’m also a hypocrite…that one stings even seeing it on the page. It hurts me because I despise my fellow hypocrites. I try not to be but I often look at myself in the mirror after judging someone elses weaknesses (or speck) only to recognize the log that is nearly blinding me. God has been convicting me of a number of things this last year and I have been restless and unsure of myself more than ever. He is greatest when we are weakest, right? I can put on a smile probably better than most even when my heart is beating out of my chest and I want to throw someone through a wall (I’m not talking about my wife, love you babe:) I am learning to share my emotions and feelings which is not an easy task for me because I have always buried them so deep I thought they could never come out. Jessica has been the lucky one to dig up these treasures and often suffer some of the repercussions. The worst part is it rarely has anything to do with her. Enough about my feelings… The latest news is no doubt directed at the Connecticut shooting. My heart aches for those families but as I caught up on all the news and reports I realized how ridiculous we “Christians” have become, and I admit that I am just as guilty as the next one. I read about gun control and laws that should have been passed and raising children better and more intense background checks and on and on and on. As I was reading all of the negative publicity, I probably looked like a bobble head. It makes me sick. I got so caught up with everyone else about whose fault it was I lost track of what was important. Children were lost, sisters and brothers, grand kids, nieces and nephews. I think the biggest question that believers and non-believers alike can agree on is “Where was God?” We can say “God Bless” all of them or like facebook statuses about putting God back in school or make sure and forward any uplifting messages that come our way but do we have an answer for such a tragedy? Don’t get me wrong, I know our country has done everything in its power to take “In God We Trust” away from us. Just remember, God hasn’t gone anywhere, He’s just waiting for us to screw our heads back on and probably wondering why He thought we could handle the freedoms we were given from Him or our founding fathers. I feel terrible for all of the families involved including the family of the shooter and more importantly the shooter himself. I don’t feel bad for those that were lost just those left behind. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that each of those children is in no pain and playing their innocent little hearts out in Heaven. I can’t say for sure about the teachers who paid the ultimate price, they were adults and they had to choose a side. As for the shooter, I have to assume he is in a much darker place and most would say it’s what he deserves. If you believe that, you’re right but be careful what you wish on him because there isn’t a single soul on earth that deserves to sit at the right hand of God. I am a sinner as well and I also don’t deserve what God has so graciously offered me and you and anyone else who is willing to accept His gift. Our world is lost, but it’s not hopeless. One evil being can destroy many innocent lives in this dark and fallen world but the God I serve redeems those who follow Him with an eternity of sunshine. Take heart, this life is just a glimpse but remember that your eternity is decided inside this small bubble in time. That’s my 2 cents:)

Just keep livin! 

Kids, Cleaning, and Hanky Panky

I’ve been following an online debate for a few months that has sparked intense controversy and elicited some very strong opinions from both men and women.  A woman blogger wrote a post attempting to educate men on what married women think about sex – basic information like a woman’s needs involve communication, affection, and faithfulness. A male follower commented agreeing with what she said and then went on to suggest that if a woman is too tired for sex she is taking on too much responsibility and in caps said loud and clear, “YOU ARE DOING TOO MUCH.”  He then suggested that if we women uncomplicated our lives by eliminating some of the stresses that we encounter like our careers, overspending habits, over obsessive ways about house cleaning and over scheduling our children where we feel like we need to have them in every sport and activity under the sun lest we hinder their opportunities to become professionals, THEN – we may have a little more energy for some hanky panky at the end of the day. Many women were not thrilled with this perceived attack on their lives and they adamantly declared their right to do these activities in many contended responses. I am apparently in the minority among my sex because I whole heartedly agree with this man who was courageous enough to spell it out loud and clear for my kind. This is not to say that I haven’t struggled in some of these areas as well but he hit the nail on the head with his response.  I would go so far as to elaborate on the last point he makes about our children often becoming the center of our universe when we give birth to these precious little beings.  It seems, in general, as soon as these priceless blessings enter our lives we are so completely enamored in our love for them that we begin to devote all of our moments catering to their needs and desires. It is within this process that our husbands are often left in the dust wondering when and where they got stuck at the bottom of our priority lists. As moms we have this mistaken idea that we need to do everything for our children because they aren’t capable of completing the tasks themselves. This is wrong; especially as our children grow and age.  It is our job to train them as the Bible so clearly points out in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The word train means “to developor form the habits,thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction”   As parents we are not told to bend over backwards and do everything for our children but instead we are admonished to train them, develop them, teach them by discipline and instruction because it is our highest calling as Christian parents to enable and prepare them for a world that is often harsh and not prone to catering to those who follow the name of Christ.  It is our job to make our kids a tough breed of people who can withstand and hold firm to the teachings that we have in scripted upon their hearts in a world that does not often look favorably upon those who proclaim the Most High God.  This is what we should be doing but we often don’t. Why don’t we? I think many of our reasons are connected to an aching gap in our hearts to feel needed and wanted; it’s a gap that cannot be filled by our children or our friends or even our husbands.  It is a gap that can only be filled by our Creator. When I had four kids I was more apt to cater to each child’s individual needs, especially seeing that they arrived one at a time in my life, and I was able to adjust slowly to the arrival of another child.   When I met Ryan and I immediately became mom to 3 more and he became dad to 4 more we noticed very quickly that this extreme hands on parenting technique wasn’t going to work real well.  For about a week we would get up with all of our kids and as we had done in our previous lives ask them each individually, “What do you want for breakfast?” and then proceed to run around with a mad, crazed look in our eyes as we became a make shift kitchen, scurrying about, providing for each child’s individual taste palate for that particular morning and landing exhausted in a heap with coffee in hand at the end of the morning.  Like I said, that lasted about a week and then there were no more options.  Mom now decides what’s for breakfast and if that option isn’t appreciated there is always the fruit option in the bowl.  It is our job as parents to raise our children to be independent of us someday, to be able to stand on their own two feet and to not come running back to mom and dad as adults whenever the slightest bit of trouble rears its head. Our measure of success will be whether or not they are ready to face the world head on successfully as fully grown people. Our kids should be required to take responsibility for their actions and if they don’t, there will be consequences – period; just like the real world.  We are rewarded as adults for a job well done and there are consequences when we fail.  This is also true biblically.  God promises blessing for those who obey his commands and hardship, toil, and consequences for those who don’t.  For the gentleman brave enough to tell us women how it should be I commend you and you have my agreement and support.  We women often do not prioritize our husbands like we should and we need to take a step back and eliminate many of the activities that prohibit us from having the additional 10 or 15 minutes of energy that the men we married desire from us. Shame on us for not making our husbands a priority in our lives and shame on us when it could be as simple as making our children step up and accomplish some of the daily requirements and tasks on their own; especially when Christian parents are called biblically to do so.
Just keep livin!!

Karate Kid, Football, and Heaven

I’ve had nothing this week. I have not had a single thought to write about lately and as I was praying this afternoon about this very problem I heard…. nothing.  So I said to the Lord, “Lord, then I’m not going to write because I’m not going to write filler just so there is something to read,” and I was prepared to not write until I was inspired.  That is until… I came downstairs this afternoon and noticed two pages on the counter full of writing. I hesitantly picked them up, thinking for a moment that perhaps my husband had written me a note or something, but he hadn’t.  He had written an entire blog post on his way to work, by hand, something he never does.  I guess the Lord had to shut me up to work through him.  
God says we will suffer over and over in His Word. I find myself wondering why? Why should we have to suffer especially if we are doing our best to follow Him and His will for our lives? I have struggled with this topic often and have come to a bit of a conclusion- in my own understanding of course. I believe we are in training and the amount of suffering we will have to endure depends on how God wants to use us. The most difficult part for me is not knowing what I’m training for. In the movie “Karate Kid” (sorry, it’s the best example that comes to mind:), when Mr. Miyagi is teaching Ralph Macchio the basics of karate, he makes him do some ridiculous things including painting his house and waxing his truck. Some of you might remember the famous line “wax on…wax off”… Finally, after what seems to be weeks of these outrageous tasks, Ralph speaks up and wants to know when he will actually learn how to fight. Mr. Miyagi recognizes that his student is exasperated with what appears to be insignificant chores and explains that he has been learning how to defend himself all along. Like Ralph, I don’t handle not knowing as well as I would like to but I have improved over the years. Now that I am aging, I have realized that I must stretch before even shooting a basketball or throwing a football with my boys or I will regret it; often for weeks. But, I know what needs to be done and why to prevent painful consequences. With God’s will, it’s not so simple, at least for me. I am in training for something that only God knows and until I have been properly prepared, it will not be revealed. I am learning to be OK with that but it is a process. Now, back to the thought that what we do with our suffering or training might determine how God has decided to use us. On numerous occasions in the NFL, quarterbacks have been drafted after phenomenal college careers and never live up to their super hero expectations. They thought they would retire from football in their late 30’s hopefully with their brains still in tact and live out the rest of their lives on a very quiet golf course somewhere in Florida. Thus feeling like all of their training and suffering paid off. Many are cut before they ever even throw a football on the field as a pro. They thought they knew why they had endured the intense preparation but now they must face some hard truths. Will they have to get a normal job? Will they become a coach or broadcaster? Or will they sulk and be bitter the rest of their lives because it didn’t turn out the way they had planned? Sadly, many of them will fall into the trap of dwelling on what they lost and not what could potentially be an opportunity for a very rewarding career and life. God opens doors and He closes doors and nobody likes a closed door. Our lives, all of our lives consist of an endless hallway of doors and we can either bang our heads and spend all of our energy and sometimes our entire lives trying to pry open a door that can’t be opened, or we can walk to the next door. Who knows, even if our first opportunity seemed like the best possible scenario for our life, it is possible and often likely the next one could be even better. There is no guarantee that the next door won’t have some heartache but it will allow life to begin again. Dwelling on our hardships is much easier than trying to surpass them and the longer we hold on, the harder they are to let go of. Life will be full of hardship and defeat but Heaven is the ultimate reward. My mantra is to try to find as many open doors as you can while you can until you find yourself standing at a very tranquil stairway… that’s my 2 cents:)
Just keep livin!