02-10-2017

Fifty Shades Darker: Abuse at its heart

Because Fifty Shades Darker opens this weekend. Because abuse is the opposite of love. Because this is near & dear to my heart.

{A repost from when Fifty Shades of Gray movie opened in theaters.}

For two weeks now, as I watch ad after ad of 50 Shades trailers, I have been in a mood of outrage at our society.

How can we be outraged when Rihanna takes Chris Brown back and we watch a Super Bowl ad and say “oh, yes…domestic abuse is an atrocity.”

But then we turn a blind eye to a movie that at its heart embraces abuse, condones misuse of power, and degrades a woman’s self worth.

50ShadesOfGrey_Glamorizes Violence

What occurs in this movie is much more than just BDSM. What happens between the two characters is emotional manipulation, controlling another person’s thoughts, words, and deeds, threatening another person’s safety, and the list goes on and on.

At numerous many points in this book {just to name a few…the stalking, the threats, the inequality of power & control} I want to say “The worst thing about these books is…”

But perhaps, the worst part is the underlying effect when abuse embeds itself into one’s psyche.

grey

…the Grey Shade of Shame
while hiding black & blue bruises on our backs, afraid to undress at the gym for fear of being found out.

…the Grey Shade of Torture
while hearing “If you had done what I told you to, I wouldn’t need to whip you with this belt.”

…the Grey Shade of Fear
while hearing your abuser threaten to rape you.

When caustic comments are repeated day after day, situation after situation, year after year, they get under your skin, degrade your worth, and eventually they tear a woman down. They make her feel she deserves those beatings, she deserves being talked to as if she is a filthy human being.

Whether verbal,physical, or sexual…abuse is psychological.

It gets underneath your skin and affects how you view right & wrong.
It skews your beliefs until you don’t know what to be confident of anymore.

You take a controlling man who preys on a woman and batters her down
until nothing is left
but a stubble of who she used to be.

His actions make her not just FEEL but THINK that she wasn’t worthy of decent love from the beginning.

50ShadesOfGrey_600x_AnastasiaSteele_2

Or, perhaps it is this that is the worst part…

For many supporters of this trilogy, they see the plot as being redemptive. For by the end of book 3, Ana has changed Christian to be a better man. Because of her, he is now a loving husband, a doting father.

Women, hear me loud and clear.
No woman has ever changed a man.
NEVER, EVER, EVER.

You love him for who he is. And if he happens to become better over time, that’s great. But at the end of the day…

You only have the power to change yourself.

So what message are we sending young ladies, teenagers, college bound girls….that they will be able to change a man? That their self esteem, their self worth doesn’t matter?

Young women…hear this…

There are awesome and wonderful men in this world who will cherish you, treasure you, and respect you and your wishes more than you ever thought possible. Trust your heart and your body to a man like that.

A man who gets his pleasure from hurting you, from controlling you, from knowing where you are every single second of the day…avoid those men like the plague. The man who makes you second guess yourself, makes you question what his true motives are…those are the ones to leave behind in the dust.

If someone can’t respect you for who you are, if someone has to undermine your value in order to make themselves feel more important – move on to bigger & brighter futures.

Because, you, you are worth SO MUCH MORE than being the object of someone’s issues with their own past.

Let them get help on their own. Let them figure out how to release the demons of their past. But you don’t need to stick around for them to do that.

Instead, find your worth in who you are…a beautiful, brilliant, talented, witty, funny, caring, loveable creation of God.

jessica

p.s…if this post has been touching to you, please forward to the young women in your life. Abuse happens more often that we realize, everywhere around us, even to men by women.

And if you are in an abusive relationship, there are people that want to help you. www.thehotline.org or 800.799.7233

01-25-2017

Feelings are a GAUGE not a GUIDE

One of the greatest gifts God’s given me is the presence of really wise women.

Brave, strong women who don’t let life hold them down.

One such woman is Cinelle Barnes. Cinelle is a master of words and her memoir, Monsoon Mansion, will be released in Spring 2018. Lucky me, she’s my writing mentor!

During a recent chat, the conversation quickly become about how I think I feel & analyze TOO much.

Every day, I’m overwhelmed with feelings I experience. From thinking about the refugee situation, then wondering how I’m suppose to be a mama and manage various writing projects, to analyzing conversations in my head. Processing my feelings is often the stumbling block trapping me from living life.

So I’m having that moment of “what in the world is wrong with me?” and “do you think other people process things in their head like this?”.

Cinelle brightly smiles and says “Jessica, have you heard that phrase…

Feelingsare a GUIDE

 

Rocket science, I tell ya’ll! That was such a big statement! I go through life getting caught up in how I’m feeling instead of realizing my feelings are simply telling me something but shouldn’t be what guide my day or what influences the decisions I make.

I hope these few little words help ya’ll out too!

jessica

 

 

01-23-2017

The #1 Lie Christians Say: God Doesn’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

I’m not a theologian. Never been to seminary. Just a girl who wants to have a deeper understanding of scripture.

When faced with grief, hard times, and just plain life – there’s one phrase shared in the Christian community that I detest.

“God won’t ever give you more than you can handle.”

I’m sure people mean well – not sure what to say when a friend is in the throes of seemingly insurmountable hardships.

But that phrase is actually not in scripture.

Yes, I Corinthians 10:13 does say God won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. However, it doesn’t say hardship. It says temptation. And in my opinion, the word temptation means temptation to sin.

Without ill intent, we alter scripture to make it seem like God doesn’t allow hardship we can’t endure.

IMG_7884 IMG_8139 IMG_7727

Bible stories resound with God letting people experience tragedy, deprivation, poverty…the list goes on & on. Story after story it is HE who prevails them through the storms of life. Biblical stories actually don’t end well when people choose their own devices to make it through the hardships.

IMG_7968 IMG_7766 IMG_7967

If God didn’t give you more than you could handle on your own, why would you ever need Him?

We realize our dependence on Him when we have nothing left of our own resources to make it through the next moment.

It is not of my own striving, my own accord, my own will that has helped me through the mountains of life.
When I realize my brain, my body, my heart cannot adequately meet the need in front of me is when I turn to Christ the most.

It’s as small as realizing I can’t go a day without yelling at my kids without the Holy Spirit giving me self-control of my mouth.

It’s as big as realizing I can’t forgive heart wounds from trauma without the supernatural gift of forgiveness from Christ.

Part of Christianity is accepting the limitations of my own self. Of being willing to say I wasn’t meant to walk life’s journey alone.

IMG_7869 IMG_7966

It is when I lean most heavily on Him that I thrive.
I’m not talking about thriving in the material sense of the word.
I’m talking about thriving in joy, peace, self control, contentedness.

As we are reminded in II Corinthians 12:9 –

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

In my translation…

Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, for His power is made perfect in your weakness. 

When friends are facing hard times, instead of saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, we could instead encourage them that Christ will be the provider of what gets them through the journey.

jessica

 

 

12-19-2016

5 Ways You Can Help A Child in Aleppo

Ya’ll, does your heart break every time you watch five minutes of the evening news?

un044445

© UNICEF/UN044445/Al-Issa

You want to do something, anything, to help those in need but have no idea where to start?

On Normal Wednesday, you know – the day that happens after Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday – that day, November 30, CNN’s headline read “Aleppo Descends to Hell: UN Emergency Meeting Called“. My eyes glossed over and I looked away because I could not stomach more.

More violence.
More trauma.
More helplessness.

We in the civilized western hemisphere are so far removed – not only in geographical miles – but also far removed from experiencing war fare, fleeing broken homes in rags, or nightly serenades of bombs exploding as you pray you wake to see another sunrise.

Wanna be a world changer but despair that your just little ‘ol you?

Here are 5 practical ways you can actually help someone in Aleppo.

  1. Preemptive Love Coalition – Jesus said to love your neighbor. He didn’t say love those who look and live just like you. This organization is the real deal.  And they even have Christmas gifts you can buy that are made from refugees.
  2. We Welcome Refugees – Sign a petition, join a movement, let your voice be heard that refugees are welcome where you live
  3. Make a Welcome Kit for a Refugee Family – Working with World Relief
  4. Lutheran Services of Carolinas – This organization welcomes refugees from all over the world. Contact them if your church would like to partner with them in welcoming a refugee family
  5. Pray – for world leaders to have wisdom on how aid can be brought to those in need – for how you can help – for our hearts to be opened deeper and wider so we might be willing to sacrifice our own comforts and have time or money for those who need our help

As my wise friend Kelly encouraged me on that Normal Wednesday,

When you feel you can’t conquer the world – give anyway, love anyway. Any time you give, any love you share WILL make a positive impact.

jessica

un044437

© UNICEF/UN044437/Al-Issa

 

12-05-2016

Give Yourself Permission to Nix the Christmas Card (and other trappings)

December 5, 2016

Only 20 more days until wide eyed kids tiptoe down halls in unabated excitement.
Only 21 more days until stressed eyed parents pack it all away in unabashed exaltation.

img_7528 img_7674 img_7636

Contrary to what you are thinking right about now, I am not a scrooge!

But sometimes the trappings of Christmas seem to do, just that – Trap us.

Trap us into believing every one of those trappings has to be done, every single year. And not only checked off the list, but completed in perfection.

Christmas Lights  Advent Calendars   Locally Sourced Gifts   Christmas Cards   Homemade Desserts   Wreaths on the Door  Christmas Caroling   Kid Made Ornaments   Trees   House Decor   Christmas Parties

The list is never ending and there is a pressure you feel that if you even just dip your toe into a certain area the result has to be Pinterest perfect.

For those around me, Christmas cards seem to be the biggest hold up. You spend a fortune on a professional photographer or try to find the just perfect candid photo of kids having a sweet moment. It all ends as you begrudgingly hand write more addresses than you thought possible.

Why is it that family photo shoots make root canal dentist visits seem more enjoyable?
Bribes and Lollipops just don’t cut it and temper tantrums erupt when your 8 year old is asked nicely forced into a collared shirt.

_mg_33502015-pauslen-family

So this year, instead of giving yourself a guilt trip over all you haven’t done this Christmas season..
Cuddle up in front of the fire with your kids.
Give a hug to your elderly neighbor.
Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Nix the cards and Just Be Still. {This is what I’m doing this year!}
Don’t fill up every second of your time. The world will not end if you don’t send out cards.
Invite your brilliant sister to town and let her make elephant toothpaste for your kids

img_7611 img_7608

Most of all, repeat this mantra… trappings are NOT what make the Christmas season.

Christmas is a time to remember God’s love for YOU and share that love with all mankind.
His love isn’t found bundled up in a card, present, or tree.
It’s found in the quiet and in the simple… giving a hug, bestowing a smile, or laughing together.

Christmas is found in the every day minutia of the relationships we share with those around us.

Merry Christmas!
jessica

 

 

 

10-27-2016

Finding Your Way Through the Brokenness in Your Life

The busyness of October has taken me by surprise.
It’s been a blur of days flung my way with not enough hands to grasp it all.

All the fun plans and unexpected adventures filled me with excitement but when all said & done has left me gasping for air.

I had grand plans for this month. Plans to blog every.single.weekday. You can see how successfully that turned out. When I feel like this, it’s easy to concentrate on all I didn’t accomplish instead of focusing on what I did get done.

img_7042 img_6662 img_7025

My kids got to see their first college football game in real life. The fact a hurricane was hunkering down on us made it all the more fun. Who cares if they only saw 2 plays before we couldn’t take any more of the 53mph wind and driving rain?

img_4301

My faith has been blown away as I see the Holy Spirit’s power & presence shows up week after week in a Bible study. Read National Geographic and watch Frontline documentaries on ISIS and it’s enough to make you question where God is inside the boundary lines of third world poverty and war. But I’m not overseas. I’m here in the continental U.S. And it’s God changing women’s lives right in my path that makes me confident in his reality.

The real treasure showed up two weeks ago in the form of this book…

img_7322 img_7335

When it come’s to Ann’s poetic words, I’m a slow reader. I need time to process her words as they take root in my brain and heart. Even though I’m only to Chapter 7, I can already say this..

If your soul is weary, battered & torn from simply living life…

If you’re the lonely, outcast, and marginalized…

If you want to find a sense of purpose in this thing called life…

If you want your life to be more than just the broken that’s happened to you…

Read The Broken Way.

thebrokenway_godsees

Ann’s book released this week and you can find it here and here. Even if you don’t feel you are currently broken, this book will encourage you in a very tangible way to live a life of purpose and bring kindness to all those around you.

jessica

 

09-28-2016

When The Broken Way is Really the Only Way: An Invitation to Read Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way

14517580_10154042351053247_3426027014757167236_n

Tucked into the fetal position on a cold hard concrete floor, a nine year old little boy beckons with God…please, just please keep my brothers & I safe. Please, God, please let the yelling and the throwing pass over us.

A forty two year old woman cries herself to sleep after watching her husband walk out that door. Alone and afraid, she wonders what her friends will think.

A four year old chestnut haired little girl teeters precariously on the kitchen stool, making her and her brother’s cheese sandwich for dinner. If she doesn’t, there’s nothing to eat tonight.

There is a lot of hurt & broken in this world.
All too often, we turn away from the broken in our hearts and deny it ever happened or made any impact on us.

We hide it all behind our shiny cars, clean houses, and lipstick smiles.

And I get it. I’ve been broken. I’ve been depressed. I’ve had moments when I wasn’t sure what the point in keep on, keeping on was.

When we’ve been broken, when we’ve been abused and trampled on, when taking a breathe feels like engulfing fire on the shame deep inside. When that is what our life is or has been – why wouldn’t we want to put on a pretty plastic facade and pretend we are a-ok.

Because if we say we are a-ok, then eventually, the longer we say it, a-ok becomes reality, right??

Ultimately though, the weight of that facade wears us down. The tension of day after day, holding it all together, pulls half-an-inch too tight. And our world comes crashing down around us.

What do we do then? When we just want answers and we just want our messy, broken, hurting souls to feel better. To be mended. We just want a way out from the all consuming crushing weight we’ve been wearing on our backs.

That my friends is what Ann Voskamp’s newest book, The Broken Way, is all about.

Ann, in her signature poetry prose, makes us consider…

“Maybe you can live a full and beautiful life in spite of the great and terrible moments that will happen right inside of you. Actually – maybe you get to become more abundant because of those moments….Maybe our hearts are made to be broken. Broken open. Broken free. Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest wisdom.”

I’ve never, in all my times of reading Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000, pondered the significance of the word broken. Ann does…

Jesus “took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the the people”

Jesus fed the people out of the brokenness.

As Ann writes, “The miracle happens in the breaking. Not enough was given thanks for, and then the miracle happened.”

Could it be that our messy traumatized hearts is what becomes the miracle in our lives?

What if…

14494767_668608856636719_1213152778067095421_n

***

I was humbled and thrilled when I got the acceptance email for being part of Ann’s launch team for this book, The Broken Way. Her first book, One Thousand Gifts, transformed my life when I was in the midst of grief and despair following a loved one’s death from suicide. Her dare to write down 1,000 things I was thankful for in 1 Year’s time changed my heart and my life. This morning, five years later, I jotted down reason #4,799.

Giving thanks in all and letting our brokenness be the miracle God unleashes for the world are intricately tied together.

I hope you’ll journey with me as I read through the book and each Wednesday share nuggets of encouraging wisdom from Ann. The book releases October 25th and you can pre-order here.

Love,

jessica

 

09-14-2016

Dear Pinterest, I’d Like A Divorce

Dear Pinterest,

You with your oh so cute little red icon.
You with your oh so clever how-to & DIY posts.
You with your oh so charming photographs of perfect lives and speck free homes.

img_1225 img_0358

It all started so innocently. Cousin Stacey expounding about all the loveliness found on your site. Friends promising it was just like cutting clippings from a decorating magazine but this way I could organize it all with just the click of a button.

But you know what Pinterest, we seem to have VAST differences in our filtering ideas, on the ‘ease it takes to create something’ and on what real beauty is.

For one, my brain filters things much different than yours Pinterest.

I doubt I’ll ever pick up a magazine with the feature article “How To Know If You’re A Toxic Parent.”

But it’s there on Pinterest every.single.time.
And my self discernment isn’t fail proof because I eventually click on the link.

Who knew that if you’ve ever looked at your children in a “I CANNOT BELIEVE You Just Did That” look, then – clearly, you are one horrible parent and your children are doomed to certain toxicity.

Or what about “Mom Teaches Daughter Valuable Life Lesson with a Tube of Toothpaste”…Can we just give it up for this lady…she clearly has far greater Parenting power than I do.

I’m not sure how katrillions of generations of mama’s ever made it before you Pinterest.
How in the world did they know how to parent?

img_4333 img_5586 img_9712

Mamas today are bombarded with articles such as…

Teach Your Child to Respectfully Disagree

What Not to Do During  A Temper Tantrum

How Much Stuff Do Kids Really Need

SERIOUS??? What about instead…

Just Do The Best You Can Do and Survive this thing called parenting

and clearly here in the developed world we need an attitude and materialism adjustment check.

When I was a kid, dirt + books + soccer ball = satisfied childhood. If you’re worried your children have too much stuff, then the answer is yes, they probably do. And there are some kids in your very own town who could use the excess toys your kids never play with.

{As a caveat, I’m all about parenting advice, but really, I want it from the people I live ‘real day to day’ life with. People that I actually know, trust, and most important…the people who know the real me. Your bombardments of “parenting to-do’s that I am failing” leaves me with feelings of ‘less than’, ‘never going to get it together,’ and I want to curl up in a ball and throw in the towel.}

IMG_4823 img_5980 img_6066

You & I also have a VAST difference in our understanding of the words “This crafty Christmas & Mother’s Day Gift is SOOOO easy to create”.

Yeah, I’m talking about you, Transfer Grandma’s Heirloom Banana Bread Recipe to a Tea Towel. After running around town attempting to find an old school copier that prints with ‘just the right ink’, countless hours spent scrubbing ink and dousing my house in citrus fumes, I am left with faint black scribbles on a tea towel now stained dismal brown.

Even the ornaments I try to make for Christmas are failures. Crayons don’t melt inside a glass ornament when you focus the hair dryer on them.

Half made, half sewn, fully broken, fully laughable presents abound under my Christmas tree and my family members are now experts at faking an “I love it” expression.

The worst part is, I get sucked in every time I open up your site, Pinterest. Even this morning, as I’m writing these words, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by “20 Christmas Ornaments Kids Can Make Themselves”.

It sounds so promising, but the reality is….those beautiful ornaments in the photos were probably not made by kids. They were probably made by people who have master’s degrees in using hot glue guns, people who really do have organized closets, and people who can actually make vegan fro-yo desserts taste good.

And if one more person pins Black Bean Brownies Taste Just Like The Real Thing, I may throw up.

They don’t taste like normal brownies. Serious, don’t waste your time or money on those recipes.

IMG_2716 IMG_9274

And my husband, he most definitely wishes for this divorce to happen post haste. I’m pretty sure husbands across the globe would gladly unite to never again hear the words”I saw it on Pinterest and it’s so easy. I’m sure you could do it this weekend.”

The best one liner my husband has ever said, hands down, was…
“Just because it’s on Pinterest, doesn’t mean it’s to code.”

That was after an epic fail.

I mean epic burn down the house proportions.

I hotglued nautical rope to the kitchen fan light globes. It was on pinterest, afterall. What could possibly go wrong?

My husband telling me it was a fire hazard couldn’t be accurate I thought. He got the last laugh when the rope literally started falling off the light globe as the glue melted from the heat and a burnt smell took over the kitchen.   I found out later that if only I had used LED lightbulbs this wouldn’t have been a problem. But to save my husband a heart attack, I decided who needs light globes in the first place?

IMG_6688 IMG_6706 IMG_6690 IMG_6590

Pinterest, your website is NOT REAL LIFE.

Real life is not meant to be or look perfect.

Real life is messy, it’s chaotic, it’s broken.

Perfection is a facade, the masking of our real souls.

Imperfection is being okay with our human frailty and letting others in to see that we’re really all the same. None of us have it all together. All of us use a party as an excuse to finally get that photo wall hung or dust the cobwebs off the ceiling.

True beauty is found in doing the best we can and accepting it’s okay to be imperfect.

Loveliness is found when our realness is exposed and our mess shines through.

Memories are made of the broken, ragged edges of our lives.

My Grandma Buckner’s floors, you know what they were made of Pinterest?

Green, yellow, and brown linoleum tiles, that in no way matched one another in size, shape, or design; all patched together, very randomly.

They were what she could afford (her & Aunt Budge probably found them for free, knowing their thriftiness) and while those floors were nothing fancy nor elaborate, they are recessed into the memories of my childhood. Those ugly beautiful floors welcomed children’s dirty feet, dogs named Sadie, and held up hundreds of National Geographic magazines discarded haphazardly under a vinyl orange sofa.

I can’t keep up with you Pinterest.

Consider this your official “we’re separated notice”.

But before I serve you those final divorce papers, I need to write down that recipe for those “to-die-for” gluten free chocolate chip cookies and photograph the “how-to-make” a perfect gallery artwork wall. After all, I’m only human.

jessica

 

09-07-2016

New Puppy, New School, New Frogs

September is here and change is on the way!

We have a new puppy, Sawyer, who reminds me daily of why I do not want to have another child. My ability and desire to wake up at 2:13am for bathroom breaks and just needing to be cuddled, has waned.

IMG_6113 IMG_6297 IMG_6175

We have a new school the kids adore. We miss old teachers who hold special places in our hearts but having a flexible learning schedule {Montessori} leads to a well rounded and much happier child.

IMG_6150 IMG_6134 IMG_6288

And we have frogs, frogs, frogs galore.

It’s clearly the birthing season for frogs.
Or the mating season.
Or we’ve simply gone back in time to the raining frog plague.

You can’t step toe outside the front door without accidentally shortening one’s life. {Okay, that might be a little dramatic. They aren’t in quite that stage of plethora.} However, they are everywhere. And if you are on the phone with me, there is a good chance you’ll be asking “What’s that noise” because the chirping is THAT loud. Even with the doors closed.

IMG_6517 IMG_6292 IMG_6169

Here’s to shorter days, cooler temps, and dog hair everywhere!

jessica

08-04-2016

The Ever Boring Tasks of Parenting: A Poem To Encourage When Yet Another LONG Summer Day Looms

Spaghetti splattered dishes haphazardly askew in an uncleaned sink.
Last night’s orange cheese grime caked on the metallic baking sheet.
Mold growing where apple juice resided in a pink sippy cup.
Making the 6th PB&J, of just this morning.
Bending low to wipe the yellow spotted toilet seat.

It’s the daily monotony that makes motherhood boring.

When we bend low with serving posture we see how low Christ bends to make Himself known to us.

He bends low to cleanse the mold of our messy souls.
He bends low to wipe away sobs of distress.
He bends low to open ears to cicada’s chants and noses to sweetgrass’ perfume.

Monotonous rituals of motherhood
shape us,
make us,
creates in us
the serving posture of Christ.

IMG_6000

jessica