desk1Remember the old metal table I had my eye on in my husband’s junk pile

awhile back?

It’s not an old metal table anymore! Not only has he masterfully restored it to a beautiful new desk, but he’s also masterfully restored an old barn on our property into a quiet space for me to write and practice yoga.  Continue reading “A New Desk and A Podcast Debut”

lovedbaby.jpgA baby gone too soon.
A beloved family member diagnosed with cancer.
A dear woman battles emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband.
Children beg for food in third world countries.
Ten year old girls lose their innocence and their humanity as they are sold as sex slaves.

It hurts like hell.
It stings
It all falls so painfully short of what we feel this life should be
It aches like betrayal on a massive scale
A world wide scale
And we, humanity, are the victims left in the wake.
A big joke played on all of us
by a bunch of pranksters residing in the Heavenlies.

And we numb the pain with drugs
With wine
With anger
And sleep
Or hurtful silences
Or busyness
Or denial
We numb our cells to the best of our ability
To avoid feeling
To avoid the reality
To avoid the ache
But when the numbing wears off
It still hurts
And we rage against our Creator
Our cells scream
We groan from the never lands
We weep for the lost tomorrows
And forgotten yesterdays
And the vacant presents
And there are still no answers
The Creator is silent.

The baby remains absent
And grandma starts chemotherapy
And the “C” word enters our children’s vocabulary once again
Along with the “D” word in regards to their unknown sibling

And our eyes spill in response to their tears
And children still starve
And that woman still aches for a loving spouse
And girls are raped again and again
And that is the reality of what we call life.
And that is why our hearts ache for something purer
And bigger
And more beautiful
We ache for more
We need more
We yearn for a hereafter
Where all the pain is gone
And every tear is wiped from our eyes
Our hearts scream for some sort of redemption
Something that makes it bearable again
All of creation grapples with the injustice we’ve been served
And we shake our fists in righteous indignation towards the pain we have endured in our fallen nature.
Our souls search through the fragility of our humanity for something deeper.

The “Whys?!” we scream
Why is a Godly woman ravaged by an insidious disease?
Why a baby, an innocent child who has harmed not one, taken so early?
Why!?!?
We scream to the Heavens
To anyone who will turn a listening ear towards our anguish

These were some of the words I wrote in response to losing my beloved baby in December of 2013 http://jessplusthemess.com/index.php/my-blog-old/entry/love-and-loss-and-bethlehem .  I felt so incredibly alone, lost, scared, fearful and full of despair and so I hid.  I hid behind words.  I hid in my house.  I hid behind a fake smile plastered across my face that told the world I was just fine.  But I wasn’t fine.  I thought I was being punished for some reason.  I could not understand why God couldn’t grant me the desire for a healthy baby – especially after all I had been through – especially after obeying what he had called me to in blending my family with another family and raising 7 beautiful children.  I deserved this baby!

In hindsight, God used the next 9 months of waiting to become pregnant again as an opportunity to birth something beautiful in my marriage and heart as Ryan and I gained a deeper intimacy through the pain and revelations that preceded the conception of our 8th child who would be our beautiful daughter Annabelle Ryan.  God is good. All the time, but man, sometimes it hurts like crazy to walk in obedience to his plan.

I was honored to be a part of the launch team for Sarah Philpott’s book Loved Baby.  In all honestly, I have never read a book on losing a baby that impacted me quite like this one did.  She is honest. She is vulnerable, and she is realistic in explaining step by step, what to expect, how to process all of the feelings, and how to slowly release the pain and agony to your Heavenly Father as you allow him to help carry your burden; as you choose joy over fear when you are blessed with another child, and it is a choice to be made – wishing “we could be filled to the brim with delight about the new life blooming in my womb. But the little thing called memory prevents us from pure elation,” and her wise counsel, “When fear seeps into our soul, let’s combat it with joy.”

This book will be such a blessing to your life and to anyone you may know who has walked through this difficult terrain, AND…. I have a copy to give away! Comment here (sorry, I know it’s a bit like Fort Knox to be allowed to comment on the blog – you can thank the trolls for that) or comment on Facebook or Instagram about why you would like to win a copy. I’ll draw a winner Sunday evening.

Just keep livin!

FullSizeRender.jpgI’ve been married for almost 16 years… total.

The first ten years were spent with my late husband Jason, and the last six years (officially in April) have been with Ryan. Having loved and lost at a younger age (33) has granted me a unique perspective on marriage. My first marriage was good. We were young – early twenties. We had valuable time to spend together before building a family and focusing on our careers. We possessed a deep love and commitment towards one another. One of our strengths as a married couple was being able to fight through the numerous battles sent our way in life; two of the biggest battles being our unborn son’s terminal diagnosis and later Jason’s three year battle with brain cancer; both of these faith journeys portrayed in my memoir, Sunlight Burning at Midnight. Through all of the upheaval and stress, we managed to stay unwaveringly committed and in love with one another, but in hindsight, as a wife I could have been more productively diligent in making my husband feel loved and appreciated – especially during those periods of intense hardship.

In my second marriage to Ryan I have valiantly attempted to right the wrongs that I naively produced in the first marital relationship. They say “ignorance is bliss,” and I suppose that I was ignorant the first time around; however, having my eyes wide open through a second opportunity has changed my perspective on life and love. A few of my initial struggles were cemented in my identity as a strong willed, first born, young wife, and often included a lack of respect towards my husband (I knew best, of course!), and one that goes hand in hand with the respect issue, a lack of grace. I usually assumed the worst if he did something that I felt was unwarranted or unjust. Maybe I was just emotional, maybe I was hormonal, maybe I was just being a brat, but I assumed he was intentionally trying to hurt me or make my life difficult if circumstances weren’t exactly as I felt they should have been in that moment. This isn’t to say that he was perfect; no, this is just to say that although our marriage was positive in many aspects, we could have worked harder in other ways, and I have taken ownership of mending many of those ignorant mishaps in my present situation.

Enter the second marriage in 2011. Ryan and I married each other with HEAPS of baggage: grief, seven children, a handicapped child, grieving children, a blended family, loads of new family and in laws, and opinions on how we were doing anything and everything right or wrong but mainly wrong, you name it, we probably had it, but – and this has made a big difference in the marriage from the beginning – we had both loved and lost and had learned, the hard way, that a lot of the petty issues that can be so irritating and oftentimes such joy stealers in a marriage are just that – petty – and not really worth the stress that they so often create or are allowed to create.  

I recently had the opportunity to “meet” a new author on social media, Jen Weaver. As she and I became acquainted through our pictures and words, my interest was piqued about her upcoming book, A Wife’s Secret to Happiness which was scheduled to launch in March, actually today, March 14th to be exact. When her agency offered an opportunity for bloggers to review the book, I jumped at the chance! I am consistently drawn to self-help books, particularly faith based books on marriage and family life. In my situation with a blended family, eight children, some adopted, one special needs, a few teenagers and a toddler, dogs, chickens, cats, and on and on and on…., we need all the wisdom we can get. I love to study most books on marriage and family life, and any insights or wisdom I am able to glean from another’s experience is always appreciated.

A Wife’s Secret to Happiness is a quick, easy, interactive read. The Lord has used Jen’s experiences and her writing ability to outline and explain many prevalent truths for wives – especially married women who are still trying to figure out their role as a wife and how exactly this role shapes their identity as a woman, a helpmate, and as a follower of Jesus.

One section that particularly hit home for me included these words in regards to our husbands: “Reflect upon your beloved. Where is he in this season of life, in his career, ministry, and walk of faith? Contemplate what he enjoys, where he falters, and who God created him to be” (161).

I never did this well in my first marriage. Although Jason and I communicated about life in general, our dreams and goals for the marriage and the family, I was much more me centered, “How was the marriage serving me? Or meeting my needs?” I have come a long way from this me centered attitude through love and loss. I’m not perfect, but I do take inventory of Ryan’s needs often. I reflect on him. I ask him deeply personal questions about his faith and ways that I can better serve him or pray for him. Jen’s book will take you there as a wife and hold your hand through the process as you begin to seek out ways to gain a deeper intimacy with your husband.

Honestly, reviewing another author’s book is a brave new world for me, but this was a fun opportunity and not only for my own personal gain (free books, yay!) but y’all are going to benefit as well! Jen has graciously given me a second copy to give away to one of my readers. To enter, simply comment on this post, either here or on one of my social media sites, with a truth that you feel is important for a healthy marriage. For example, the word communication. Or something like, “not neglecting intimacy.” Simple enough. I’ll draw a winner Sunday evening – March 19. In the meantime, get yourself a copy of this book! Or check her out at www.thejenweaver.com. You won’t be disappointed.

Just keep livin!

Hello friends,

I’m here to interrupt your regularly scheduled Facebook drama and political controversies to involve you in an ongoing debate between my husband, myself, and this innate object –

You see, this controversy began on our second official “date” when Ryan brought me to his hometown in Oklahoma, and we ventured out to the local Walmart where he asked me to “grab a basket,” and I actually grabbed a basket, you know the smaller receptacles used if you only need to get a few items instead of the bigger receptacles (called carts) used if you have lots of items to purchase.  That was my first experience with a cart being referred to as a basket. While we lived in Michigan, our debate was limited to these two terms (cart or basket), and then we moved to middle Tennessee where I called it a cart and was looked at like I lost my mind, and Ryan called it a basket and he was looked at the same way and that is because apparently folks out here refer to them as buggies.

 The cart/basket/buggy issue needs some resolution once and for all so let’s visit dictionary.com to help us out.

Cart – 

1. a heavy two-wheeled vehicle, commonly without springs, drawn by mules, oxen, or the like, used for the conveyance of heavy goods.

2. a light two-wheeled vehicle with springs, drawn by a horse or pony.

3. any small vehicle pushed or pulled by hand.

4. Obsolete. a chariot.

Interesting…  number 3 seems to fit the description of the above object perfectly.

Basket –

1. a container made of twigs, rushes, thin strips of wood, or other flexible material woven together.

2. a container made of pieces of thin veneer, used for packing berries, vegetables, etc.

3. the amount contained in a basket; a basketful: 

4. anything like a basket in shape or use: 

5. any group of things or different things grouped as a unit; a package; package deal: 

6. the car or gondola suspended beneath a balloon, as for carrying passengers or scientific instruments into the atmosphere.

I suppose an argument could be made for number four, but I think we’re pushing it a bit there. 

And lastly,

Buggy –

1. a light, four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage with a single seat and a transverse spring.

2. (in India) a light, two-wheeled carriage with a folding top.

3. baby carriage.

4. Older Slang. an automobile, especially an old or dilapidated one.

5. a small wagon or truck for transporting heavy materials, as coal in a mine or freshly mixed concrete at a construction site, for short distances.

6. Metallurgy. a car, as for transporting ingots or charges for open-hearth furnaces.

7. any of various small vehicles adapted for use on a given terrain, as on sand beaches or swamps

There you have it.  Feel free to draw your own conclusion. Thank you and you’re welcome.

Now we can all get on with stressing over the bigger issues of life.

Just keep livin!