01-22-2016

Resolutions: Two Easy Steps to Help You Stop Overthinking and Analyzing Every.Single.Decision

If 2015 was the year of Be Still This Brain of Mine, I failed miserably.

When I began last year, all I wanted was to hush the analyzing chatter in my brain that is never more than a whisper’s breath away at any given moment.

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Last week, after a year of attempting to get outside my head, a light bulb moment occurred. I realized I simply need to stop thinking. Wow, I’m sure you are really impressed with my aahha moment, aren’t you?

But really, if you think about it, in order to stop analyzing – you have to be intentional in stopping your mind from constantly over thinking. It’s up to me whether I choose quietness or settle for over processing.

When I think about things constantly, there is no white space in my mind for blankness.
No time to be aware of all the goodness around me.

I desperately need white space so I can live presently in the moment I am in.

And that’s when I realized.
This constant over analyzing robs me of living presently in the moment.

And this present living is a gift.

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When I spend all my time fretting over the future or replaying frustrating moments in the past, I am not living in the moment. I’m not enjoying time with my children, I’m not engaged with my husband, and I’m not doing the job God’s given me to the best of my ability.

Sometimes that job might sound fun like playing on the floor with my kids but most often it’s the mundane that He wants me to be in the present moment of…the washing of dishes or when I’m wiping pee up off a bathroom floor.

When I stop analyzing about being a freelance writer while washing dishes and instead simply wash dishes, and look out at my surroundings – I see a beautiful cloud formation with beams of sunlight streaming through.

When I stop pondering how I’ll be able to accomplish my to-do list today, and instead focus on the task in front of me, I have infinite more patience to bend down and tie a shoe lace.

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I want to experience the joy of the present. And I want my kids to remember a mom who lived in the moment.

My friend Lindsay lost her mom recently and she says she misses most simply not having her mom around. It’s not the loss of words she spoke {though that’d be nice to have} or not having a mom around to help with kids. It’s simply the loss of not having her mom right here with her {whether in person or through a phone line} that makes her heart ache the most.

Isn’t it true that the greatest gift anyone can give you is the gift of their presence?
The gift of their living in the present moment with you.

But I can’t do that when I am stuck in this head of mine.

My resolution is nothing earth shattering and seems so simple on the outside. But if you’re anything like me, it will take constant awareness and intent to live in the current moment.

To start with, I’m trying to simply tackle the to-do list in front of me. Staying focused on the immediate not the future. {Step #1}

To not begin worrying and fretting over every concern I can create in this brain of mine. I’m tossing out the …”what should I be doing with my life” and trading it in for “focus on what is right in front of you”. I’m gonna stop obsessing over “which school to send my kid to in 5 years” and instead “focus on the homework and spelling words they need my help with at this very moment”.

To help ease my mind into this new approach, I am giving myself permission to worry and fret all I want from 8-9am every morning. {Step #2} If it isn’t that time of day, I simply remind myself that I can analyze over it the next morning. But after that allotted hour, I bank my concerns until the next day, and move on with what I truly need to be doing.

I learned this technique a few years ago during therapy and it saved me from the crazy thoughts going through my head at the time. Did you know, it is common, after losing someone to suicide that you begin to worry that you might commit suicide? Not because you want to – but because so many people say perhaps it was just an accident and you read that mental illness can suddenly become onset –  and you then wonder if one day you’ll wake up with mental illness and accidentally commit suicide too.

I couldn’t stop myself from worrying over this happening to me to. My therapist recommended that I compartmentalize my thoughts and for me, it really worked.

So I set aside time every day to worry. But more often than not, when 8am rolls around I’m busy getting my day started and I don’t even have the desire to fret and analyze.

So my hope for this year is to live presently in this moment, not worrying about the big picture.

When we live in the present we gift ourselves with the beauty found in our circumstances and the people right in front of us.  

jessica

 

 

 

Loving my kids at this moment.

01-11-2016

Why you should NEVER attempt a new recipe at Christmas

I hope that you & yours had a sweet celebration of Christmas and New Year’s.

Even though I enjoy the season of Christmas I always find myself gleeful come January, when it’s time to put away all those Christmas trappings. I’m a bit of a minimalist and limit how much decor we put up each December, but it still seems to take over the house. I am secretly thrilled when everything is boxed back up for another 11 months.

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This Christmas & New Year’s season I learned a vital lesson, that I’m really hoping I will remember in future years…

Don’t attempt a recipe for the first time at Christmas {or Thanksgiving or New Year’s}

Why is it, that we put all this pressure on ourselves {or maybe you are smarter than me and don’t do this to yourself!} to have an immaculately decorated house, perfectly selected gifts, and oh yes, amazing meals each time you find yourself at the table between December 24 & 25.

I could go on & on about my food failures over the last 4 weeks.

It all started when my husband came in from hunting the morning of Christmas Eve, took one look at my face and said “Did one of your recipes not work out?”

I lied.
I said, no, it’s all good.

In reality, the yet another failed attempt at gluten free cinnamon buns were already in the trash.
I should just give up trying to make them.
Every year I tell myself This Is The Year.
But really, I don’t think GOOD GF cinnamon buns exist.

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Then there were the gluten free pigs n’ a blanket I was planning for Christmas Eve.
I had already talked myself into being okay with barely edible gluten free crescent rolls.
I just needed GF lil’ sausages.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until Christmas Eve that only Wal-Mart carries them.
At least I made the wise decision to not go to Wal-Mart the day before Christmas.

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Then there were the the scalloped potatoes my husband requested for our Christmas lunch.
That couldn’t be too difficult, could it??
Well, when you don’t read the whole recipe until 30 minutes before Christmas lunch, you realize too late it will take an hour and a half to get them on the table.
And at that point, you are simply done. Mashed potatoes will do just fine.

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But the real cooking failure was…

The Christmas Ham literally tasted like mush.

Serious.
I’m actually not being dramatic at all!

And if I had just read the recipe well beforehand, I would have realized one major hiccup.

The recipe was for an UNCOOKED ham.
Uncooked requires quite a different recipe than a Cooked Ham.
Mostly, that an already cooked ham only needs heated up.
Nope, not thinking here on my part.

So what did I do??? Followed that recipe to the T!

Marinated that COOKED ham for 8 hours in pineapple juice {which breaks down the fibers in UNCOOKED ham} then I preceded to cook the COOKED ham for 2 hours.

Once again, it literally tasted like MUSH!

It was so bad, that my father in law drove back to their house to get their Christmas Eve ham leftovers.

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And yes, I know I may tend a bit towards the dramatic.
No one else cares that they didn’t have homemade cinnamon buns or had to eat mashed potatoes or eat leftover ham. But me, I care.

So next year, I’m going to go the route my friends suggests….
doughnuts {not homemade!!} and coffee for Christmas breakfast and a grocery store catered dinner.

But if you happen to have a cinnamon bun recipe that is GF, I’d love to have it.
Because as much as I’d like to say I won’t ever attempt them again, I’m simply a gluten for punishment.

I hope your cooking adventures fared much better than mine!

Happy New Year’s,

jessica

11-26-2015

Giving Thanks

When Ann Voskamp wrote One Thousand Gifts | A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are, she had no idea how well the timing of that book would intersect with the tragedy I was engulfed in.

Five years ago we lost a family member, a best friend, a brother to suicide.
Nothing could have prepared me for the intense grief that follows losing someone to suicide.
Nothing.

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Mired down in sadness while somehow trying to raise a baby and a toddling two year old, I’ll never forget the day my friend Lindsey suggested I read this new book she’d just finished…”Jessica, I really think this would help you process everything you’re going through.”

I am beyond thankful she gave me that suggestion, because that one book forever altered how I view life.
It altered why I give thanks in the first place.
It altered my relationship with God.

It goes deep, it challenges you.
From the first paragraph, Ann’s words grip you and forces you to question…

Do you only give thanks for the easy?
Do you solely thank God when goodness abounds and life looks perfect?

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I still wrestle with the giving thanks for tragedy. I thank God for the friends that never left our side during that period of our lives. It’s easy to thank God for getting you through a time of tough finances. But thank him for job loss? Thank him a pregnancy ended? Thank him a brother died?

Yeah, not easy, right??

But reading Ann’s prose on how God doesn’t say that every gift is wrapped up magically tight with a beautiful red ribbon..it pushes me to the boundaries of my faith and as a result my relationship with Christ grows to greater depth.

I don’t understand why God answers some prayers
but other prayers I’m left in silence
with only the call of a Whippoorwill to keep me company.

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But I do believe he’s called me to find things, IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE, to give him thanks for.

Hence, this morning I journaled #4,163 in my every growing list of things to be thankful for.

Giving thanks, every day, multiple times a day…keeping a list of gratitude…choosing to find the positive instead of getting caught up in the negative….these are the things that change your life…these are the day to day actions that pull you out of the muck & mire…

Giving thanks is a choice you make every. single. moment.
Every. Single. Day.
What will you choose?

jessica

11-03-2015

When You Don’t Want to Venture Out in the Rain to Vote

The rain pitter patters and then with gusto works its way up to a torrential downpour.

There’s dust on the ceiling fan and tomorrow when I wake, the fine matter of tiny particles will still exist in the same fashion they form today.

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The call of not leaving the comforts of a warm dry home.
The procrastinating pull of housework.
Dressing children just so they can run ramshackle through the lines of election.

All valid reasons why voting isn’t always your {or my} first priority.

But if you ever complain, even just one iota about the politicians in your town, in your state, in your nation….
then perhaps you should take it upon yourself to go vote today.

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For many of us, the matters which hit closest to home are those decisions determined by local leaders, town council members, and mayors. It’s not just the presidential election that is important.

So go vote. Share your voice. Select candidates who champion the causes you believe in.

jessica

 

11-01-2015

31 Days of Writing…I Did It!

I can’t believe it, but I wrote for 31 days straight!!

There were a few days I missed…I even skipped yesterday which should have been the easiest post ever since it was simply a wrap up. But spending time with my husband, hiking with the kids, chatting with a sister, walking with a friend…

…Real life, real relationships will always be more important to me than any blog post.

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The biggest thing I learned from this challenge was I really enjoy writing.

It’s lit a fire in me to write more often and has increased my confidence in writing ‘deep’ pieces.

The challenge has encouraged me to read non fiction because I would like my blog posts to be more than just my thoughts.

And as a result of the challenge, I am beginning freelance writing!

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Thank you for reading my writings and all the encouraging and supportive words you’ve shared!
I hope my blog encourages, inspires, and challenges you to be your best self.

jessica

10-30-2015

When I Want to Solve The Worlds Problems but God Wants Me To Pray About Them

This week my heart has been heavy as I’ve been studying the topic of social injustice {for me, it’s the humanitarian crisis of the refugees} and what the Bible says we are to do about it.

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I guess it’s hard because as much as I get that serving those around you {your husband, your kids, your neighbors} is JUST AS IMPORTANT as serving the refugees…

I still have a tug on my heart to serve the refugees. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING.

Not just give money. Not just pray. But do something tangible.

The resounding answer though that keeps coming back time and again is PRAY.

But as a friend recently said, “I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to meditate. I don’t want patience.”

But maybe that praying part is where I am supposed to be right now.
As I study in Nehemiah, he waited. He waited for months before asking the king for help. He pondered things in his heart before attacking the problem at hand. He waited and he prayed.

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Dear God,
Help me be content to meditate and consider the problems at hand. Because as I wait and ponder, I recognize that more powerful contributions are made when problems are tackled with Godly wisdom rather than mere human knowledge. And Lord, I am trusting that one day YOU WILL call me to action. You will show me the path I need to traverse. But for now, I pray that you would help me understand and discern the problem at hand. And I pray that when the time is right, when the opportunity is right in front of me, you would make me be bold to serve.

“For I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me….
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:36&40

jessica

 

{Day 30 of #write31days. I can’t believe how quickly this month has gone.}

10-27-2015

Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Tarragon Dressing

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This is the perfect side dish for a potluck meal, covered dish gathering, outdoor fall get together. It’s got the best texture and taste…crispy potatoes and bacon, velvety smooth potato interiors, and a sweet twangy dressing to finish it off!

Finding a potato salad that someone allergic to gluten and eggs can eat is not an easy feat. Plus, who doesn’t want a more healthy potato salad than the mayonnaise loaded version we normally settle for.

This potato salad is anything but settling. It is perfect!

Recipe Tips
If you have a convection oven, I recommend using that to ensure both sides are crispy. The easiest trick I’ve found for turning roasting potatoes is to use a fork. Test out one potato first. If it flips easily, without leaving half the crust on the roasting pan, then they are ready to be flipped. If it doesn’t easily turn over, put the potatoes back in the oven for another 5 minutes and try again.
If you use two roasting pans to bake these at the same time, make sure to swap out the baking sheets halfway through cooking time…i.e…your top baking sheet needs to go on the bottom rack halfway through and the bottom baking sheet needs to move to the top so it doesn’t spend all the time in the bottom of the oven which is normally hotter than near the top.

Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Tarragon Dressing

  • Potato Ingredients
  • 4 lbs red potatoes
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 2 TBSP paprika
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon {sub in dried if that is all you have}
  • Final Ingredients
  • 5 pieces of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped scallions/green onions

Heat Oven to 450 degrees {Heat to 425 degrees if using convection}

Cut potatoes into roughly 2" chunks.

Place cut potatoes into a zipper topped bag {you may need to use 2 bags and split the ingredients in half}.

Add the spices {garlic powder through the sea salt} and the 3 TBSP olive oil. Shake well to coat the potatoes generously.

Place on a baking sheet {once again, you may need to use 2 baking sheets to get the potatoes roasted at one time}.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, flipping the potatoes after an initial 20 minutes of baking. {see note above}

Once potatoes are roasted through and have a nice browning on both sides, remove from oven and place in a serving bowl along with the chopped bacon and scallions.

In a separate bowl or glass jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well combined.

Right before serving potato salad, pour dressing over the salad and toss well to combine.

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Enjoy!

jessica

 

10-26-2015

14 Tips to Strengthen The Friendships in Your Life: Part 2

Here’s my remaining 7 tips on building solid friendships with the women in your lives…

{Yesterday’s Tips are found here, or begin with Having A Servant’s Heart in Friendship.}

#8.Offer an abundance of grace

The subject of grace within Christianity goes like this…when I don’t deserve love, God still gives it to me.

And the same goes in friendships, in marriages, in parenting. When we give grace and continue to love even if a friend isn’t calling us as much as we wish they would. Or they are being a ‘stinkerboo’ as I call my daughter at times, they still need to know we’ve got their back and are always there for them.

#9.Be the bigger person

This goes right along with offering grace. Sometimes us ladies can resort to acting like our 16 year old selves. Or maybe that’s just me! But we all benefit when our friends can turn the other cheek and just give us some space when we aren’t perfect.

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#10. Be your friend’s biggest cheerleader {you know…when they get something you’ve always wanted and you’re still waiting for prayers to be answered}

I’ve always been of the philosophy that it’s the tough times that prove who your best friends are. Because, in my mind, relationships show their true foundation when your world is falling apart.

But on the flip side, incredible is the friend who can be excited for you {or at least put on a brave face} when you are unexpectedly pregnant and she’s still waiting for those double lines to appear, or you get the job promotion and she just got laid off.

I’m not talking about not being authentic. Because being authentic is extremely important {see #13}. But when we can be real in our own feelings as well as be happy for our friend’s good news, then we are living out “that it’s not all about us”.

#11. Be an exceptional listener

This is one area I struggle with. One of my ‘best’ friends is an amazing listener. She leans close to hear what I have to say, she asks pressing questions in response rather than just commiserate about a similar situation in her own life. She’s ok not having all the answers I may need and she’s fully present in our conversation.

#12. Challenge one another

The friends who challenge us are ultimately our biggest cheerleaders. They believe in our greatest potential, even when we ourselves are afraid to dream boldly. She pushes you to new heights, dares you to live big, and whispers constant encouragement that YOU CAN DO THIS!

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#13. Be Authentic

If there is one thing I hope to be remembered for, it would be my authenticity. If you can’t be real with your closest friends, then who are you going to be genuine with?

Wearing a facade and pretending your world is picture perfect leaves you fatigued and feeling less than. God loves you just the way you are, messy chaos and all. We all have areas in our lives we’d like to sweep under the rug. But when we open up and share our heartaches with one another, we become relatable.

#14. Never Be Afraid to Begin New Friendships

Since not all friendships last a lifetime, it’s always important to be building new ones. Taking a walk around the block with a new neighbor. Having coffee with an acquaintance. All important steps to flourish the friendships in your life.

jessica

 

{Day 26!!! of the #write31days challenge. I can barely believe I only have 5 more days left!!!}

10-25-2015

14 Tips To Strengthen the Friendships in Your Life: Part 1

As I wrote about on Friday, women need relationships with one another.
But friendships don’t just magically happen.

Here’s my list of 14 “How To’s” for building and maintaining deep substantial friendships.

{To break this post into a manageable reading chunk, I’m sharing 7 of the tips today with 7 more tomorrow.}

#1. Don’t Expect One Person to Meet All Your Needs

Just as a bicycle tire would have no strength with only one spoke on the wheel, the same goes for your friendships.

Having a smattering of friend’s to call on rather than depending upon just one person, will help all your friendships be healthier. Take me for example… there’s the friend I call when I need wisdom & clarity, the foodie friend who ‘gets’ my food issues, or the one who is always the cheerleader in my back corner.

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#2. It’s about quality not quantity

While our social media presence can tout that we have 432 ‘friends’ and our latest instagram photo reached 76 ‘likes’, those are usually not the friendships that are going to ‘fill our buckets’.

We need friendships that are rooted in rich fertile soil. Whether we live cross country or just down the block, these are the relationships that have stood the test of time, through the good and the bad. It doesn’t matter if that number totals 3, those are the relationships to concentrate your time on.

#3. Make friendships a priority

Friendships were a lot easier before getting married! Back then, I had all the time in the world. But when you throw a spouse plus a handful of kids into life, friendships easily take the back seat. One day your girlfriends are throwing you a baby shower and the next day you realize you haven’t truly caught up with those same girlfriends for months.

Making friendships a priority takes the sacrifice of your time; but is a sacrifice well worth it. In order to build those deep quality relationships you want, you have to step away from the screen and step into face to face communion with one another.

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#4. Reach out in unexpected ways

I’ll never forget a few years ago when our whole family was sick {at both ends} for more than a week. Then the “stomach bug” as we politely call it, stopped up the toilet!! You know you have a friend for life when she brings you a new plunger!

Whether it’s a meal, a hug, or a plunger….always be willing to go out of your way to help a friend in need.

#5. The world doesn’t revolve around you

I was once lamenting about an extremely trivial situation to my older sister and she shared very wise advice {that I’m embarrassed to admit I really needed to hear}…Jessica, the world does not revolve around you!

But gosh, don’t we act like it? At least I do. It is easy to feel slighted when you see a FB photo of girlfriends that doesn’t include you or when someone hasn’t returned a phone call. But sometimes, your friend has real junk going on in their lives and they simply need you to… be the bigger person, reach out to them or just give them some grace.

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#6. Say Thank You

All relationships {marriages included} can benefit from a sincere “thanks for all you do”. Just as our spouses need to be appreciated, our friends need the same.

7. Some friendships are only in your life for a season

It can be a sad reality, but not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime.

Some friendships are toxic and just aren’t healthy. Then there are some friendships that diminish in closeness due to a change in locations or simply due to becoming different people as you go through life, and that is ok!
With that said, every friendship changes as time passes. Even lifelong friendships go through periods when you aren’t as close and that is normal.

Click here to read tips #8-#14 on building strong friendships.
jessica

{These friendship tips are all part of my 31 Days to A Servant’s Heart writing challenge.}

10-23-2015

A Servant’s Heart in Friendship

A wise sage friend once told me, true lasting friendship consists of an ebb and flow.
Sometimes you give more than you get.
Sometimes you are in the seat of taking more than you can provide.
But in the tidal flow of life, it all equals out.

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A servant’s heart in friendship doesn’t keep track of whose called whom the most.
Instead, we savor the blessing of this thing we share.
This friendship that is our ‘walking diary’, our support system when the rest of the world fails us.

For women, our friendships are what keep us sane. What keep us whole.

My Grandma lost her husband when she was 37.  She never remarried, raising 4 young kids and running a dairy farm solo. As I watched her spend countless hours on the phone with Mrs. Bristol, one of her closest friends, I wondered if perhaps women’s friendships aren’t one of the most important building blocks in a woman’s life?

Whether from divorce or widowhood, marriage isn’t necessarily the longest relationship you will have in life.

If that’s the case, shouldn’t we all strive to strengthen and deepen the friendships we share ‘woman to woman’?

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In the days following my brother in law’s suicide, I’m not sure what I would have done without my closest girl friends. From dropping everything going on in their lives to be with me, giving me advice as the estate dragged on for forever, bringing me meal after meal, answering my phone calls even though they had to know I was going to have an endless pity party of what my life looked like.

Friends are what get you through the roughest days. Friends are what keep you rationale and help you process the muddled understandings in your brain. Friends are your biggest cheerleaders with never ending whispers of encouragement…

Want to read more on this topic…read my 14 Tips To Building Strong Friendships.

jessica

 

{Today’s post is day 23 of the #write31days challenge! Click here to view all my post in the series titled 31 Days to A Servant’s Heart.}