Throw an Arrow at the Board

I struggle with the “you’re so incredible!” sentiment I often hear. I’m not all that different from anyone else. I asked my mother once if she saw anything in me that would have given her an indication about the woman I’ve become, and she smiled and said, not really but you asked a lot of questions and always had a bright idea you were dragging your younger brothers into! My family likes to joke that my tombstone will one day read, “Jess had an idea.” It would be accurate, to say the least.

In all honesty, I’m simply a mom who was determined to make the world a little bit more accommodating and aware for herself, her child, and her family, and in that determination, I moved toward change. Nothing I’ve created or accomplished happened overnight. NOTHING. I’ve slowly trudged through the muck for everything I’ve seen turn to gold. Getting my Bachelor’s Degree took 5 years. My Masters, 10! My first book, 12 years, and the second, 4. The Unseen Documentary also took 4 years to complete and for The Lucas Project, it was during the fifth year (2023!) that things finally took off, and we received the funding needed to be a “legit” nonprofit.

Anything worthwhile takes time, but in the meantime, if you’re not moving and grooving, your “thing” isn’t either. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t even take much intelligence. I’m not all that smart (B student through undergrad), but I am extremely curious and consistent. I consistently work toward progress, and when I get stuck, I curiously seek out answers or solutions. I’m also a huge believer in throwing darts at the board. Gosh, for every dart that has stuck, I’ve probably witnessed 50 fall to the ground! But – you don’t ever receive the joy from the one that sticks if you don’t throw a few. You gotta try, right?

And you absolutely must become okay with the word “NO”.

No is not personal. No is simply, “this is not for you right now or maybe ever.” No can be a massive layer of protection against something that would not be good for you when viewed through the rearview mirror. I had lots of no’s in my early years that turned to yes’s later on. Yes’s, that if they had been granted early on, might have been extremely detrimental to my new fragile family that was struggling with blending, adoption, special needs, and grief; however, many of those no’s later turned to yes. Yes’s when those in authority witnessed my consistent determination which led to progress which led to whatever the thing might be: book, film, nonprofit, or podcast. People change their minds all the time and are drawn to those who don’t give up easily. The darts that do stick sometimes open big doors like the dart I threw at the board in 2018 when I broadcasted my big idea for a documentary on Facebook. That dart not only stuck but provided an opportunity to throw a bunch of darts at close range which has led to many recent yes’s which will lead to awareness and change for caregivers.

I want to encourage you today to throw a dart. Release an arrow into the world and be completely ok with the response. And in the meantime, do the next right thing towards progress, and do it every day. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your dart board begins to fill up.

Just keep livin.


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It Is What It Is.

I realize that Mothers Day is a difficult day, and it is for me too.  I have 3 children who lost a mother. Thats hard. I wrote about the complexity of the day in my book Blended with Grit and Grace.  I hope you enjoy this excerpt. 

Mother’s Day arrives every year without fail and this memorable day is laced with loads of emotion for many. Some grieve the loss of a mother, whether literally or figuratively; others rejoice in the wonderful relationship they have with their mother or a motherlike figure; and still others, like myself, agonize over the numerous complexities this day presents.

Ryan will inquire, every year, “How do you want your day to look?” I usually reply, “My deepest desire is to enjoy a bubble bath without one single person asking or telling me anything through the door—a good thirty minutes is all I ask.” (But then that would make me not a mother, right?)

Usually, this day is okay—peaceful, solid, void of any huge amounts of drama, as everyone is a bit on edge trying to make me feel special or scrambling to create a unique gift so that it doesn’t look like they completely forgot. But this day is also a constant reminder of a gigantic ache for three of my children, and that makes it difficult and bittersweet. We try not to dwell on the agony of our past tragedies. We share memories with our children about Mom and Dad in heaven, we recognize their grief, and we respect their conflicted feelings on this day. Ryan and I do our best to model joy and not use the past as a crutch. Horrific events did occur, but we move forward in praise for what we have been given. We recognize that this life is fleeting and acknowledge God’s faithfulness.

When my biological children were younger, they would embrace Mother’s Day with joy and giddiness, and shower me with 500 billion homemade cards and pictures. As they’ve aged, this has changed, and now Mother’s Day involves last-minute runs to Dollar General to purchase a card and Milk Duds—Caleb’s go-to gift for me. Yes, I love Milk Duds. Generally, my adopted children are also excited about what the day represents and fully participate; however, I know that the day is also a painful reminder of what they’ve lost.

One Mother’s Day, this loss was extremely evident in the behavior of one of my children, who was not at all excited to celebrate the holiday. This child was angry and had been for a week, and I noticed the angst every time a commercial aired about the upcoming day. The other kids would run to make me some thrown-together picture declaring their love, or they would hurry outside to pick another beautiful bunch of weeds, but this child would sit quietly, not meeting my eyes, not saying a word, just silently aching because of the loss. And I didn’t know how to make it better.

I couldn’t make it better, and that is incredibly difficult as a mother. My momma heart wanted to fix the hurt somehow, to be enough—so much so that the loss wouldn’t sting, and in numerous ways, I knew I was a good mom, but it didn’t erase the ache and how this day was a blatant reminder of that pain. As a mom, I wanted to take away the agony, take away the void, maybe even erase the memories because then it wouldn’t be so painful, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t because at times I questioned God’s decision in the matter. As a biological mother, I have a difficult time understanding why he would choose another woman over the mother who gave birth to Tate, Mya, and Jada and loved them. Who wanted them.

It doesn’t seem like the best decision, but then God’s ways are not my ways, and he doesn’t owe me an explanation. It only makes sense that his ways are higher than I can comprehend, and I don’t believe that our comfort is always a top priority here on earth. No, I believe that our comfort often takes a back seat to his ultimate plan or purpose. And I believe that his plan probably resembles an adoption proceeding more than a biological conception—a choice to love others as ourselves rather than an instinctual connection, a choice to love God and choose his ways over our sinful nature that yearns to have everything our own way, a choice to lay down our lives and become more Christlike to those we live with.

This child and I got into a spat the night before Mother’s Day, as we do occasionally, since we both view the world in a similar way, with a black-and-white tendency that needs to be right and each of us storing up arguments to match that desire. There was outright disobedience—something that had never occurred before. We aired our frustrations and mourned our losses and reaffirmed our love for one another, and I held my child and offered reassurance of my love, saying that I would continue to strive to be the best mom I could possibly be.

And isn’t that all we can do for our children—those of our wombs and those of our hearts? Simply be the best we can be for each individually and collectively, relying on God’s grace and mercy as we stumble and then pick ourselves back up. We pray that somehow the pain and loss and ache will be gone one day, and it will make perfect sense when we end our race here on earth and come face-to-face with the One who orchestrated it all, our Abba Father who has graciously adopted each of us into his eternal family.

Just keep livin.

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It Is What It Is








We live in a world
Where the truth will not set you free
In fact it’s quite skewed
For you, me, and we

And for those like my son
Who can’t talk, walk or run
Disabled from birth
And told he was done

Told there would be no life
For him or for me
But we hung on to hope
Of what we prayed we might see

My boy grew & he grew
With a burden to bear
He surpassed every odd
But he needs total care

We’ve walked hand in hand
As I’ve been his guide
Through every choice
I’ve been by his side

And now he’s 18
An adult so they say
He gets to choose!
What he wants day by day!

He’s competent now!
There are those who will preach
Some even say
Stop being a leach!

Self determination! They yell
For all he will be!
But how does this work
With a lack of ability?

It is what it is
A major defect
Caused prior to birth
His lot had been set

That he would need care
For all of his days
And require a voice
To direct all his ways

And so says the court
When it quickly picked me
And appointed me boss
To carefully oversee

Yes, we all want to self govern
But some simply can not
In America’s melting pot

My son is unable
To care for himself
So that’s why I do it
In sickness & health.

Our world has a problem
With facing reality
We simply cannot say
What I want, shall it be!

It’s a form of absurdity
To think it be so
To ignore limitations
And cultivate woe

We must speak the truth
For our disabled loved one
And enable a future
As bright as the sun

Yes, speaking the truth
Might be a great dare
But a small price to pay
To ensure continuous care.

Image of me becoming Luke’s forever caregiver & guardian over zoom.

Imaginary Problems

I’m really good at anticipating problems and then creating solutions for my imaginary problems. I think a lot of women are particularly skilled in this area, and maybe some men too, although I haven’t met many.

A plan for a plan for a plan is my motto (along with “just keep livin” which some unknown actor recently claimed as his own). 

For example, when Luke was diagnosed with a stroke in utero, I got to work. I researched all of the potential problems that could arise from hydrocephalus, all of the worst-case scenarios, and then once I had a firm grasp on what that scenario might look like, I researched the therapies, treatments, and options to mitigate the possibility of the worst case scenarios and instead ensure that he (and I) would live healthy, normal lives.

That was my one and only plan.  

I poured oodles of time into anticipating every problematic scenario imaginable and then the appropriate solution to the imaginary problem in case it occurred.  I did this for months, and then the Lord said nope. That’s not MY plan for your life or his. 

I did not avoid one single issue I had planned for; instead, I received the equivalent of the worst-case scenario which I had learned about during my months of pre-planning.  The worst case scenario in the eyes of the world, but the best case scenario, in the eyes of my Savior who above all else wanted to use the experience of being Lucas’s mom to make me more Christlike and bring glory to his name.  

I acted the same way after my late husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and then again when I became a mom to 7 children and again as Ryan and I confronted a lifelong addiction, and again, most recently, as we’ve walked through a difficult period with one of our children. 

Each time I become a little less obsessive and throw up my hands in surrender a little bit earlier than the last time and declare, “You are God and I am not, blessed be the name of the Lord” as the Lord convicts, yet again, of making my imaginary problems a form of idolatry.  Yes, anticipating problems can very easily turn into an idol.  As I worship at the altar of “Jessica’s grasp for control” rather than submitting and surrendering to his ultimate will, it is exactly that – an idol.  When my faith in Google replaces my faith in God, that’s a problem.  

A BIG problem. 

I’ve been convicted time and time again about certain idols in my life, and this issue of control seems to top them. These are hard and holy lessons I’m constantly learning as I become more like Christ, which is the goal, right? As believers, we long for others to see our Savior’s love through us and around us, and in order for this to occur, we must become less and he must become more because only then, will the light of true surrender lead to peace. Only then are we able to release our imaginary problems to the one who is truly able to control any situation.  

Just keep livin. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7



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