Monday Musings – I Miss Writing

I miss writing.

Over the years, a handful of worthwhile endeavors have quietly stolen time away from my true passion; endeavors like creating a nonprofit and renovating a farm for my disabled son or necessary obligations like marketing and social media, or fun “let’s stretch Jess a bit” type of activities such as hosting a podcast, speaking engagements, or creating a documentary. Good endeavors, life-giving endeavors, but not THE endeavor that makes my heart sing. Not writing.

I resigned from teaching for the same reason. Teaching was a stable, worthwhile endeavor but not my endeavor and teaching left little time for writing. Life is full of complicated choices that involve either this or that and the choice must be made because otherwise neither this nor that can be done very well.

All I ever wanted to be was an author. As a young girl, I poured over Hemingway, Faulkner, and Graham Greene while my friends competed in sports and played spin the bottle. I was always a bit of a complicated soul who resonated with the likes of Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson; tormented writers, although my life was far too normal and suburban to be all that tormented.

Instead of living vicariously through small squares on Instagram, I lived vicariously through characters. Books provided an education to my naïve homeschooled life; an education about the world and human behavior including intimacy, sex, and desire. Yes, mom, I read smut by the light of the moon.

I penned my first poem at age 9 entitled When God Created the World and wrote Missy May, my first work of fiction, around 11. I KNEW they were brilliant, but no one else seemed all that impressed. In fact, my younger brother, the one who would become an attorney, he received most of the accolades when it came to writing, or intelligence, for that matter.

I didn’t care. The misguided affections simply lent credence to my theory that I was a tormented writer whom no one understood.

In 1999 I excitedly enrolled in college eager to enter the world of higher education which I was sure would affirm my talent, and again, no one had much to say about what I wrote. My professors often stated something to the effect of “There is so much potential here; however, you need to slow down and develop the content.”

Slow down.

Develop the content.

The Devil, most certainly, is in the details.

I am very much a “good enough” person. Good enough has gotten me far enough in many situations, and good enough was good enough at that stage of my life. I enjoyed the free time that the Bs allotted. I enjoyed not having to work so hard for A’s, and then there came a day when I had to give a speech.

My first speech ever.

It was called “All of my Heroes have Died,” a story of courage and valor, a story that retold the Columbine tragedy which had occurred only a few months prior. I read detailed notes as I clutched the podium, and then as I read the last sentence, I exhaled to calm my racing heart. I lifted my head and nervously looked out onto the room and met the gaze of approximately 20 faces and saw that most of them were wiping away tears.

And then I understood. Storytelling just might be my sweet spot.

That’s where I did enjoy the details.

That same year I showed up at an ex-boyfriend’s house and flung a bunch of poems at him – poems sharing the agony of my broken heart, poems like a bird stuck in a cage and chewed up gum under my shoe, overly dramatic hormonal ridiculousness. There’s no other way to describe it, but I do experience a smidgin of glee when I let my imagination run wild and allow myself to become a New York Times best-selling author. I imagine that maybe he still has those poems, and I wonder what he’d do if he realized that I had become famous. Or as famous as an author can be.

Another time I shared my poetry with a skeezy older guy I met at the gym, and the next day he asked if I was ok. I said then, (as I say now) yes, I’m fine. The thing is, I’m observant. Most of what I write is not about me. Most…

After college, I married Jason, a man I met at that gym, and we built our dream house for our dream life which included a third-story attic (my dream) where I would pen the great American novel, or so I thought. I occasionally sauntered up the stairs to put pen to paper, but then the birth of babies and special needs and brain cancer took over, and my manuscript gathered dust. I did write late into the evenings as I shared personal stories on my blog while my husband labored to breathe in the next room over.

Jason died in 2010, and a year later I packed up that dream house that had been built for a dream life that was no longer viable. I stuffed a pile of notebooks with half-written stories into a crate and began a new dream with my husband Ryan and our 7 children. I resumed a graduate program that I had begun years earlier, and on the last day, I handed in my final assignment; a paper that had become intimately intertwined with my own grief. Day after day I listened as the discussion dissected the hardships that many of the characters had endured; eerily familiar hardships like mine. I whispered an opinion a time or two but slowly let my voice fade when it faltered and then resigned to simply listening. For the final assignment, I wrote The Whiteman Road, one of the most deeply personal essays I’ve ever written, and the feedback I received agreed, “this paper is easily among the best, if not the best, in the class.” This admission made my heart soar, and I realized I still had words to write.

Our crew eventually moved to rural TN where I lived many of my stories and where I was asked to write my first real book Sunlight Burning at Midnight! I almost DIED of joy – a publisher wanted my story! That book was released, and I was asked to write another on blended life which I did in the middle of a global pandemic and then a poem went viral and reached millions of people, and that’s when I understood that not everyone was going to appreciate what I had to say. In fact, my truth might trigger responses in somewhere they would wish me dead. That was a hard lesson to learn. But my skin toughened up, as most skins do with scars that eventually heal, and I was asked to write another book, a book on marriage, but a nonsugar-coated book, which was just my specialty. My philosophy is “tell the truth or don’t waste your breath.” Nobody’s life is changed by reading sugar-coated spam, and if I agreed to write a marriage book, it would expose our scars. Healed over scars but deeply forgiven wounds, nevertheless.

I wrote that book, Lovin’ with Grit & Grace, and now we wait.

Ryan and I expectedly await your reaction.

And as we wait, I return to my first joy, my passion, writing.

These shall be called my Monday Musings, and they will arrive in your inbox weekly. They will hopefully be spirit led but sometimes the ego gets in the way too – that’s how it is with these human suits of ours. Some musings might be brilliant and some might be “good enough” but I hope they inspire you to lean into life, love deeply, be present, face hard things, make changes when necessary, and pursue joy above all else.

Just keep livin.

Pre-order Lovin’ here.


Ryan and I were talking the other night about photo albums because we have many of these books from our previous lives up on a shelf in our basement.  I was sharing with him how initially in our marriage I would often look through these books to try and get a feel for what his life and the kids’ lives were like before I entered the picture.  I also wanted to try to get an idea of how the family clicked before me, what their mom was like, how I was different from her or similar to her, really probably just being a nosy woman but trying to sort it out, nonetheless, on my own.  He, on the other hand, has never even looked at my picture books.  I’m not sure why it’s so different for men and women, but I think because as women we are emotional. We have this need to try to emotionally sort it out, men are not nearly as wrapped up in that aspect of life, so to him that was my life then and it has nothing to do with his life with me now, so why revisit it?  But to me it’s all encompassing, who you were then, how you lived life then, what you experienced then, all comes into play with who and what you are in the present. As we continued talking he said, “You know, those pictures aren’t really an accurate portrayal of my life, those are just snapshots of the happy times, you don’t take pictures of the mundane or the hard times.”  I thought about it and he’s right.  If I base my view point of his entire life prior to me on those picture books, I would not only get a pretty inaccurate portrayal of his life, but I would also have a huge complex trying to live up to the perfection that those pictures portray!  As we pondered this a bit more and thought it through, our conversation turned down a whole new avenue.  We realized that those pictures are like events that happen in our lives.  We have snapshot moments that seem to encompass our entire lives for a season.  For example, the deaths of our former spouses, those two events were snapshot moments.  They were very significant moments but not accurate portrayals of our entire lives. They happened, we mourned, and now we remember.  Sympathy and comfort is for those who mourn; respect is for those who remember.   We have determined that those two snapshot days are not going to be days that we dread for the next 50 years (God willing), but we are instead going to focus on making as many beautiful memories as possible with the time we have remaining.  Those events in our lives were what they were, and we respectfully remember as a family. They were snapshot moments of our lives, sad snapshot moments, and if we had a photo album book purely devoted to those days it would look like we had lived pretty sad lives, but the fact is, that would not be an accurate portrayal of our lives.  Our lives are made up of the sad, the mundane and the great joy filled days, but just as we choose to photograph the happy times and not the sad, we choose to remember the good and rise above the bad. 
Just keep livin!!


I wrote the other day about how God often uses the traumas, major issues, and disappointments in our lives to strip us of anything and everything that could hinder us from being all that we are meant to be in Christ.  One thing that has always gotten under my skin is the fact that when someone passes away a sort of sainting of that person occurs because, generally in our culture, we do not speak ill of the dead.  I’m not sure how or why this occurs.  Those who were close to that person obviously knew that he or she had faults so I don’t understand why we feel the need to act like they didn’t have any.   I loved it recently at my grandmother’s funeral when the pastor said at her grave side burial, “Now we recognize that Sally was not a perfect person, she was a sinner just like the rest of us, saved by grace and in need of a Savior.”  I turned to Ryan and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the possibility mentioned at a funeral that the person wasn’t perfect.”  It shocked me a bit, and I thought it was absolutely beautiful and refreshing to hear that.  Now, my late husband would have completely scoffed at the idea of anyone thinking he was perfect.  He was a bit like the apostle Peter, he had a sort of rough exterior, a solid faith, and a heart that really wanted to serve his Savior but often his shortcomings, his mouth, and his pride would get in the way.  He loved Super Heroes, all of them, Spiderman, the Hulk, Iron Man, and he actually referred to himself as Superman on more than one occasion, but his favorite Super Hero was Batman because, as he would explain to anyone who asked, Batman was the only real human who by sheer will and determination became a Super Hero.  Jason was incredibly strength and endurance driven.  He was a tennis player who almost broke through to the professional ranks, and he would brag to anyone who asked about his 120 MPH serve.  He was remarkably strong for not having the natural build of someone who should have had a lot of strength.  He had to work twice as hard as most men to obtain the amount of strength and muscle that came easily to the majority.   He used most of his down time to research the latest and greatest improvements for muscle strength, agility, and endurance.  He spent any extra money he had on protein replenishment drinks, mixes, or powders, and he could most often be found in either a gym or on the tennis courts. He loved what the human body was capable of achieving and above all else he loved watching his own body exceed all limitations.  In 2007 this Superman’s strength and muscle began to deteriorate without any plausible explanation offered by the medical community.  When it was discovered that it was a brain tumor to blame it was immediately taken out and about two weeks later he was back in the gym willing his body and his muscles to realign and cooperate with his will.  Fast forward to a year later, the tumor returned, his strength decreased, and his body really took a beating this time around with multiple chemos, radiations, and poisons.  His muscle tone was depleted down to that of an old man, his vision started to wane, his mental capacity strained and his strength that of a teenage boy but still, 6 weeks before he went to his eternal home, it was said that he was doing pull-ups in the gym.  In his final weeks when he was completely bedridden and wiped entirely clean of one of the few things that brought him true joy – the pride that came with being the strongest, being the fastest, and having the most endurance, he would often be heard saying, “I’ve prayed so many times that something good will come of all of this and that God would be glorified.” He was stripped of all of his earthly pride to be all that God called him to be, to run his race by emptying himself of who he was to bring glory to his King.  In return, I bet, he had a pretty buff Batman body waiting for him beyond the veil. 
Just keep livin!
In memory of Jason Crisman June 2,1977-August 24, 2010

Just Start Livin!

I (Ryan) know many of you have wondered and some have even asked about how I feel about Jess writing about Jason’s last days. To be perfectly honest, it has been painful to say the least but probably not in the ways you might think. When I read about Jessica’s pain and the decisions she was forced to make, I feel her pain as if it is my own. There is nothing she has written publicly that we have not discussed, much of it many times over. In fact, last night we were discussing something very painful for both of us and soon after, Jess felt peace about it and I allowed it to stir in my heart. This time we did everything right, well almost everything…She filled me in on what was bothering her and I immediately felt drawn to pray her through it which I did. Now, in all honesty, we don’t usually drop to our knees with each and every painful situation, and in all honesty, we often leave God out of it until the very end, but this time we didn’t. For some reason, this was one of those extremely painful situations and we knew that without God’s help it would become something beyond our ability to sanely deal with. This time we actually obeyed from the get go. What I didn’t realize was I was not praying myself through it as well and I allowed it to fester in my heart and even when she offered to pray for me hours later, I was reluctant. Being the great woman she is, she prayed for me despite my objections, I love that about her:) I didn’t feel the same relief when she finished as I know I should have and as the night went on, I felt deeper pain. We talked it through and I tried to explain to her that I was feeling the pain that she felt even though she had worked through it already. I think as her husband or least someone who loves her so deeply, I felt like I was supposed to take on her burdens and relieve her of the pain she once felt. She looked me square in the eyes and made sure she had my attention and said these words, words so simple yet so profound “honey, Jesus already took my pain so you don’t have to”. I wish I could say that the words resonated in my little brain immediately and I let go of the pain. In truth, I let it hang on me until the next day when her words came back to me…Jesus suffered and died freeing us from our sin as we all know but He also freed us from our pain. I find joy in Jesus words found in John 16:33 ” I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  We will have to face tribulation and pain, but we don’t have to dwell on it nor do we have to carry the baggage that comes with it. Jesus carries us through it all and he offers the same grace to the people that hurt us as well. That doesn’t always set well with me but I’m wrong. That’s right, I admitted it:) I strive to be more like Jesus and fail often, but I continue to “just keep livin” and I don’t believe I can live the blessed life God has planned for me by dwelling on pain, regret, unforgiveness…and the list goes on and on. I have to let go of my pain and I have to make a point to let go of Jessica’s pain in order for us to reach the potential God has in store for us. Pain will come, the scripture is clear about that, but in Jess’s words, “Jesus took it, so I don’t have to.” Let go of the past and for some of you…
Just start livin!