12-01-2014

How to find Christ this December? And not run the race of frenzy?

Her, her with the aged worn glasses slipping down her nose, she bends achingly over that soft hewn piece of white pine. With her carving knife in hand, time slips away and something simple and beautiful is created from a formless blank slate.

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My grandmother, Grandma Buckner as I called her, spent a lot of time carving wood. When you carve, you start with this piece of nothing special, non descript wood, and the end result is something to be admired and treasured.

So how does any of this have to do with the Christmas season? Is what I am about to write going to be worth a Nobel Peace Prize or be words you haven’t heard before?

NO.

But here’s the thing…the question of this and every Christmas season…how do we get to the 25th of December and not feel like we just ran a never ending race? When you wake on the 20th of December {that last Saturday before the big day} how do you not mutter the words “I just want it to be over with”?

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This Christmas season, how do you stay focused on what really matters?

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By carving time out of every single day.

Carving time that is filled solely with Him.

By creating space, moments, in your day where you commune with Him.
Time lapses where your sole focus is to re-nourish yourself.

For how can we have joy, hope, peace, and love if we aren’t filling ourselves up with
His Joy, His Peace, His Hope, His Love?

I know, I know…not rocket science. Nothing you haven’t heard before.

But what if this December, this Christmas season, you simply said STOP?

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What if instead of running to the mall in those 25 unexpected free minutes, you ran to His word instead? Which leaves you sustained for when the kids come home and you’re suppose to be offering grace but it’s more often like a mutiny of words rushing unfettered out of your mouth?

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When the gray skies dawn early and the warm sheets beckon you to snuggle in, what if instead you woke 32 minutes before your kids footsteps slumbered down the hall? Would you perhaps have a smile on your face when they rounded the corner because you had filled your heart with words of truth?

I know, I know…it’s hard in this world of ours to not feel the tug of “but this present has to be just right, so I need to spend more time, more money, more sanity…”

I personally get how hard it is to wake before the kids bound awake each. and. every. single. morning at 6:02am. I struggle with these same things and each December I get to the 23rd and wonder how I’m gonna make it the last 2 days. I put way too many demands on my time when instead I need to simply curl up with the Bible and read scripture.

For how can any time together {with family or with friends} be uplifting if I am worn out & spent?

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So…what if I spent 30 minutes every day alone with Christ?

Reading scripture, pouring out the aches of this heart in my prayer journal, or delving into an advent devotional?

Would my December be a little less harried?

Would I get to Christmas day and have peace despite the chaos of family dynamics, be hopeful despite the circumstances I find myself in, be joyful that God wants to have a relationship with me and He is the one that did all the hard work that I could never accomplish myself?

And filled with His Joy, Peace, & Hope, would my heart, then, overflow with His love?

If I carve time out of my day for my Savior, would I not leave better than I came? Doesn’t he start with all of us as non descript pieces of wood and out of them sculpts us into these treasured images of Himself?

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And if that doesn’t make you want to spend time with God, every single day, then what about this…

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”. Mark 1:35

If Christ, who was all things Holy, needed one on one time with God the Father, then how much more do I myself need time with the Lord before I start my day?

So this December, join me?
Carve time, out of those precious 24 hours He gives every day, to find your sustainment in Him?

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11-30-2014

Christmas Photo Shoots

Oh the fun of Christmas card photo shoots! It took two times for us to finally achieve a worthy photo. The first session I got everyone bundled up before the kids pointed out that it was pouring down rain! The second session {shown here} ended with Stella running a 103.5 fever…oh, the fun of getting the flu during Thanksgiving break!

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The kick from this gun is pretty powerful, Mom!

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I’m gonna share the photo we picked for cards closer to Christmas. I hope you enjoyed these shots of folly!

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11-06-2014

Alluminate your life

You walk into a room filled with hundreds {but it feels more like thousands} of women and you think…woa…what am I doing here? Let’s just turn around…I can hang out in my hotel room all weekend and be fine.

Cause you see, me, I’m not a big blogger…me….I only write a few times a month…once again, what am I doing here at this blogging conference with LOTS of big namers.

But then you experience the beauty of women, together, lifting their hands in a chorus of praise to the Lord.
You catch your breath and are reminded of just why you are here.

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When I pondered going to Allume over the summer I wondered if I was crazy to spend such money on a blogging conference when I am just a sometimes blogger. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on the decaying window frame that needed replaced a few hundred days ago or on a relaxing weekend away with my husband?

But as I prayed about whether I should go to Allume, I kept hearing the word “Go”.
A constant whisper in my head when I sought His guidance on these plans I had signed myself up for. And I am so glad I did listen to His voice. Because…

therewardIt turned out to be such a growing experience, time spent delving closer to Christ, being renewed and inspired, and forming many new friendships. {The ladies I met were so welcoming, kind, and uplifting!}

While there I was so fortunate to attend a session by Lisa-Jo Baker about how us mom’s so often worry that motherhood means we are missing out on something. {And ya’ll, if I had only made it to this one session…the whole weekend would have been worth it. It was that incredible!}

Don’t we all question if there isn’t something bigger we are suppose to be doing with our time rather than just being a mom. So often I ask up the question…does what I do really matter to Christ?

But you know what Lisa-Jo said about that question…

I am NOT just a mom. Not just a sometimes blogger. If this world is God’s kingdom on earth then none of us are just something. For in God’s kingdom, every single moment & every single second is kingdom work. Whether that is washing dishes, folding clothes, inviting a college student over for a meal, or opening the door for a stranger. You see, there is nothing routine about your routine.

The time I spent at Allume lifted my spirits, encouraged me to keep writing, and reminded me that no matter how often I blog or how many times I drearily stick my hands into yet another sink load of dirty dishes…I am not just.

So I encourage you to find places where God can
encourage you, nourish you, and pour Himself INTO you.
You are that important and He delights Himself in you.

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{Myself with Lindsay and Leigh}

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11-05-2014

When your cause didn’t win…

Healing the youngest one of her crimson wind chapped chin & lips, the snotty nose, the crackling cough…that’s what garnered for my attention yesterday morning. To be honest, they were my sole focus throughout Election Day as I wracked my brain for excuses to keep from voting.

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It’s not like my vote matters, I tell myself. Plenty of other people will come out to vote. And even if I vote, does it really affect who wins and who loses.

Plus, I’ll have to take the kids with me. {Dramatic sigh inserted here} That means a 1/4 mile bike ride with kids who should have Complainer as their middle name. {Don’t let the pictures fool you!}

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Yes, I get that 1/4 of a mile seems like nothing to you. Yes, I know that Papaw George walked endless miles in World War II so I could be ensured of this thing called Democracy. This freedom to have a voice in our laws & leaders.

But the whisper on the wind resounds…Jessica, does it even matter?

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And as I went to sleep last night, I was crushed for you. Heart broken for you who had poured hours upon hours into sleepless nights, crusading for a cause you believed in and I was once again reminded of Papaw.

He would be so proud of how you fought for what you believed in.
He would tell you, win or lose, it was worth it.

And you know why it was worth it?

Because you opened people’s eyes… to fracking, to the dismay of our current education system, about jobs for those who call Appalachia home. It matters because when you stand behind a cause it provokes thought. Whether they share your same views may not be the end result.

What matters most is that you fostered learning, you passed on knowledge, and you inspired those around you to take a stand and be passionate for what they believe in.

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And this morning when I woke and found that Measure 92 was still too close to call, my heart soared with joy. No, victory can’t be celebrated, yet. And perhaps, this specific Measure won’t even pass in the next few days. But it gave me hope that one day, one day, I will wake the morning after Election Day and find that a cause I believe so much in will pass.

So don’t give up. Don’t think your vote doesn’t matter. Or that your cause isn’t worth fighting for.

Nothing worth fighting for was ever won easily.

Love,

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{And PS…I did take the kids to vote}

10-30-2014

When your life is swirling and unfortunately it’s not goodness spewing from your lips…

The wind blows a midst the branches, leaves swirling, caught in the revolving dance of nature.

So goes our lives, being a mom, being a daughter, being a caregiver. Don’t we all have seasons when our lives are swirling around us, and there seems no end in sight?

When we have to literally makes ourselves stop. Make ourselves take a deep breath and simply BREATHE.

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Last week, just hours prior to leaving town for a blogging conference, I screamed at my 4 year old daughter that “she had issues.”

Yes, unfortunately, you heard that right.

I screamed at a defenseless child…solely because she wouldn’t put a sweater over her head.

Whew…NOT my proudest moment! And to top it all off, the blogging conference…oh, it was a christian bloggers conference. Talk about really needing the grace of God…I certainly am not a Christian because I’ve got it all right.

It’s more like I get so much wrong and can do nothing good without Him.

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All the pressures of the week, all the tugs and pulls to be this & that had left me depleted.

And unfortunately, my kids, my husband, my friends…they received my meager leftovers.

That moment was such a poignant reminder that without Christ, what do I truly accomplish?

If I am not filling myself, moment by moment with Christ, then what do my leftovers look like?

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When your kid sweetly says “yes, ma’am” or takes their plate to the sink without asking…it’s easy in that moment to respond patiently with lots of gentleness. But when they contort their face to a snarl and stomp those little feet, when the bickering never ceases, and they quite intentionally slam that door in your face…
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Those are the moments when it’s only Christ’s love that can respond in joy, in peace, in patience, in kindness.

Everyone has joy when their bundled little one smiles for the first time or the teetering child takes that first solid step… but when the 4am greeting is “Mama, I just threw up again” and you’re left stripping a bed for the 14th morning in a row…

That’s the moment you have to pray for the fruits of the spirit to be breathed out in you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Galations 5:22 & 23

When I accomplish nothing on my own, is when God accomplishes the most for His glory.
When I am weakest, He is strongest.
When I admit that I’m not perfect, when I ask my child for forgiveness, when I delve into the messy chaotic past…

When I let go of trying to be perfect on my own. Of trying to act like I’ve got this parenting thing under control.

Only then, is God able to come alongside me, pick me up, and help me move forward.

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So hopefully in that next future moment, when she stares defiantly at me that, “no, she isn’t putting on that red quilted sweater”…in that moment I say…”that is just fine.”

And when my child sees me truly repentant of my selfishness, when they experience firsthand me, mom, asking forgiveness for lashed out words…hopefully then, they see it’s okay to admit our flaws and imperfections.

So when my life swirls out of control, am I beckoning God to come close? Can I take at least one thing off my to-do list so that I can be more present and in the moment with my kids? Do I find moments every hour to remind myself of scripture, to ask God moment by moment to reside peacefully in me, so that others can experience joy, peace, patience from above and not the spewing of someone depleted from life.

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10-22-2014

How to stop beating yourself up…if only I had a way to make that happen

Sun rays shine through the broken window blinds, cascading micro dust particles throughout the air. But do I notice? Or am I too busy hurrying a child out the door? When my children look back on their life will the words, never softly spoken, “hurry up, we are late” be the echoes that resound in their heads?

And when I go to bed at night, do I ever allow myself to say “good job, Jessica” you made a difference in your child’s life today? Or do I tell myself yet again where I failed. Remind myself again of all the things I didn’t do. Beat myself up, yet again?

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If you were to criticize your friends and your husband as much as you criticize yourself, you probably wouldn’t have friends or a husband. So if we are nice and encouraging to others, why don’t we apply the golden rule to how we treat ourselves?

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Why is it, as women, we focus on all those should have beens, all those I didn’t do’s?

Whether you have 6 children or none. Whether you are a working in an office mama or a patience stretched to the max homebound mama, aren’t you doing your very best for your children?

At the end of the day we all stretch the elasticity of ourselves as thin as the thinnest pizza dough to make every sacrifice we can that will benefit our children.

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We give our time, our money, our energy, our patience…every resource we have…if it will in some way make our children’s lives better. So why don’t we pat ourselves on the back? Call a time out?

Or even better, say game over?

Perhaps tonight when you sink into that worn mattress between sheets filled with sand and dirt smudges because you just didn’t have the heart to tell your child to stop jumping on the bed…what if in that moment you told yourself “Good Job”? Reminded yourself of all you DID do…
Today, I gave a hug. Today, I smiled at my child. Today, I bent down on one knee to look at that grubby frog in those muddy hands. Today, I overlooked the dirt in my son’s fingernails that will never go away as every single day he says so filled with childlife truth “I forgot I wasn’t suppose to use my hands as diggers”.

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Wouldn’t it be so nice if I had a magic formula that would tell you how to make this happen? Drink this can of 10 calorie sugar water and you will be soooo nice to yourself. But you know what, I don’t have a magic fairy wand to wave and make myself be nicer to myself.

But I, and you, do have the ability to be intentional.

To ask God in prayer to help me be nicer to myself.

To acknowledge and let seep into your pores, into your hearts deepest darkest corner the resounding fact that God loves you just as you are. He delights in You! He sees you and He doesn’t see all your mistakes, all your should have done’s. He see’s you and He smiles exhuberantly thinking…How precious are you to me, my child!

Tonight when you lay your head down on your pillow, may you pray for God to help you see yourself through His lenses. A beautiful strong woman, an amazing ever giving mama, a compassionate wife…a child of the King.

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10-09-2014

Swiss Chard, Quinoa, and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

While summer will always be my most favorite season of the year {I live at the beach ya’ll! And I love boating!} I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m really enjoying this cooler weather, the crisp air, and the slight chill & nip you get when you open your screen door each morning. With time spent at the beach on hiatus for now, we’ve had more time for in-shore fishing, walks in the woods, football games, apple festivals, and soups & chowders… Yep, definitely a lot to savor and treasure!

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When my good friend Lindsey introduced me to stuffed acorn squash last year I was all about it. The recipe she used features flavorful Italian sausage, which I loved. However, after my mother in law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer this year, I’ve turned into a bit of a pretty big health nut. Gone are the days of making cookies twice a week and devouring sausage for breakfast. My diet now looks more like this…green smoothies for breakfast, salad ‘bowl’ creations for lunch, and meat primarily only being served for dinner. And since the idea of a stuffed acorn squash wasn’t manly enough for Jared’s dinner, I decided to turn this stuffed squash into a vegetarian delight. I’m pretty excited with the results!

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Swiss chard is most definitely my favorite leafy green vegetable. It has such a unique flavor and I love the crunch that the end pieces provide. Plus, if you buy rainbow swiss chard {or grow your own, even better!} you get such beautiful variations of color. But swiss chard isn’t just around for asthetic purposes, it provides a lot of nutrients & vitamins…Vitamins A, C, & K as well as being a great source of potassium, iron, and magnesium. {And did you know, your body absorbs vitamins more easily from the foods you eat than the vitamin pills you take.}

Quinoa is of course everyone’s newest favorite ingredient and I love making a quinoa pilaf over the weekend so that I can throw a little bit of quinoa into different dishes as the week progresses. Quinoa is a great source of protein, fiber, and manganese {did you know that manganese was even a word?}. Mushrooms & the acorn squash aren’t idly standing by either. Mushrooms provide selenium, niacin, and copper {once again, this post is really teaching you some words you’ve forgotten since Chemistry 101!} and acorn squash provides many of the above nutrients as well as Omega-3′s and beta-carotene.

So with all that being said, this is a healthy & delicious meal!

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Swiss Chard, Quinoa, and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, roasted/cooked
  • 8oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 cups swiss chard, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 scallion/green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Using a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until softened and browned. Add swiss chard, quinoa, onions, cranberries, and spices. Sprinkle just a bit more salt and pepper on as well. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, just until swiss chard has begun to wilt. {Take a bite to check/alter spices as needed.}
  2. Divide mixture evenly between the two acorn squash halves. Top each serving with nuts & cheese as desired.
  3. I used goat cheese yogurt as a topping.

Enjoy!

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10-06-2014

When you want to serve the multitude but Christ calls you to serve ‘just one’

How many whispers have been breathed in the exhale of shattered moments…God, take me to Uganda, take me to Guatemala, take me to the dumps, take me to the kids crying out in emotional refuge.

Take me anywhere God, anywhere but here.

Why is it so much easier to serve God in the limelight, in the excitement of international missions, in the homeless shelter, than to serve Him where He calls us to serve Him most?

In. Our. Homes.

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Why is it easier for me to wash the feet of a crippled stranger than to kneel down, yet again, to tie the shoe of a straggling out the door late six year old. To control my tongue in a fit of rage and frustration when a disagreement with my husband is not going my way. To not give in to the old age saying of “I grew up this way, so I can’t change”.

It’s so much easier to whoop down and save the day, make the headlines through mission trips, organized church drives, and feeding the homeless. It’s so much harder to battle the trenches day in and day out. But what does Christ say matters most…

…Love each other in the same way I have loved you. John 15:12

To endlessly share HIS love with others. Not my version of love which contains an unfortunate amount of temper tantrums and ‘ughs’ erupted loudly. (And sadly, those aren’t expressions of my four year old…those are the expressions of this thirty six year old’s imperfections). HIS love doesn’t keep track of how many times you’ve washed that orange skillet, how many loads of clothes you’ve folded just this week alone, or how many meals your hands have crafted. HIS love doesn’t keep score. HIS love keeps giving, continues on amist the chaos that being in a family is guaranteed to bring.

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It doesn’t matter how many Sunday School classes I’ve taught, how many Bible studies I attend, or if I never make it overseas to hug a smiling little Uganda boy.

What matters is that no matter where I am, I should exemplify CHARºIºTY: THE ACT OF GIVING.

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I want to share HIS love on glorified battlefields but that isn’t where He is calling me. He’s calling me to remember what a wise teacher once said…charity begins at home.

It’s easier to minister to strangers because we have no emotional ties to them. When they reject God, we don’t take it personal. But when our own loved owns push God away, that is harder to watch. But maybe that’s what we need. Because then, it’s Christ’s peace that helps us respond in kindness. Whereas, if we only responded out of our imperfect selves, we probably wouldn’t be able to show as much gentleness or compassion as is needed.  Or when a child says time after time how they don’t want to go to church, it’s Christ’s patience that shines through to help provide an encouraging and uplifting response.

Perhaps God changes us more, grows our faith more, when we allow HIM to place us where He wants us to serve.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts.” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” Isaiah 55:8

 So…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31

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08-26-2014

Our First Day of School

We made it! No sobbing from mom! And only a little choked up once I got back to the car!

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It’s amazing how cathartic and therapeutic it is to write down how you feel. After last night’s foray into sadness & tears of how quickly the last four years have passed, I felt SO much better. And thank you for your encouragement after I shared how sad I was to see my girl growing up. Now I’m glad I got my emotions out early, because this morning I was freed up to be super happy and excited for her.

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So now I’ve got an empty house. And it’s SO QUITE ya’ll! Such an amazing sound! The sound of nothing. I can actually hear myself think! WOW!!!

For some reason though, I don’t really see myself staying at home today to enjoy this new solitude. I’m sure Jared would appreciate if I cleaned up this messy house a tad but I’m thinking I’ll go to a coffee shop instead, just to sit and think. That is one thing I have not been able to do much of in the last four years!

Enjoy your day! I’m pretty sure I will!

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08-25-2014

The last four years…

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I’m staying up late tonight, hoping that with each drawn out breath, time will magically suspend itself. My baby girl goes to ‘real’ school tomorrow. And even though I thought I’d be super excited to have the house to myself, I am now wishing I had just one more day with her & I at home. I’m sad. I’ve already shed a few tears. And, I haven’t even made it to the day of drop-off!

When I went to Target tonight for one last sippy cup & the just right snack holder, it hit me that in the future it will be rare that I will need to use those cumbersome non-turning excessively heavy buggies made for moms like me. You know, the ones that fit two kids in the front and still leave you an entire buggy’s worth of space to add all those non-essential items that certainly seem beyond essential when surrounded by bright lights, red signs, and oh yes…screaming melting down children. One would think I’d be excited that the chances are slim I will need to haul two children with me to a store again. But no, that thought process actually made me tear up!

Whew, I can’t imagine what tomorrow morning’s gonna look like! I’m going back & forth between imagining me sobbing as I walk down the never ending hallway OR perhaps the principal will be dragging me down that hallway. Cause I’m not really sure I’m ready to leave little Miss Stella behind.

But Miss Stella, oh, she’s ready to move on. Every single morning she asks if today is THE DAY she gets to go to school. And tonight her last words before her head hit the pillow were “So tomorrow’s the day, right, Mom? Tomorrow I get to go to school?” I wish I could intonate her tone in that question. It’s so full of FINALLY, MOM, FINALLY I get to go to school with my big brother! I am finally a BIG kid!!

So this summer I tried to treasure every single precious second we spent together. Granted, there were moments I felt my patience wearing thin but overall it was a delightfully slow summer. It was about playing legos, impromptu trips to the beach, racing doll strollers down the hallway, trying to convince Mom that this time the lizard really wouldn’t die if we left him in a sealed up jar in the 100° heat. Hmmm, as of tonight, I am still not convinced that lizards can somehow live in a virtual oven!

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Unfortunately, time does not stop & the clock continues to tick-tock, tock-tick.

I’ll let you know how drop-off goes!

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