04-20-2015

Does God even care about the injustice in this world? Or does He just turn a blind eye to ISIS and all the wrongs in our lives?

The worn down wooden pew beckoned me as if it might shed light on the question that I just couldn’t shake.
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The question wasn’t anything new, it was a dispute as old as time.
And I thought I had tread that question’s path well over the years.
Much like the well worn path a cow makes on his daily trek to drink water.
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But yet, once again, it splintered into my life unbeckoned and this soul of mine would not rest.

God, if you really are real, if you really are all powerful, then why don’t you make the evil of this world go away?
God, if you really care, then why do you let people suffer? Why not answer their deepest yearnings?

God, if you say you love me, then why did you let me suffer years upon years of prayers unanswered?

You see, the Sunday before Lent began, ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians.
70 days later, as the beheadings continue, it still sickens my stomach.

How can such cruelty exist in this world, and it’s like He just turns a blind eye to it all?
At least it seems that way often enough for the seeds of doubting Him to be planted.

And as I ponder my own unanswered prayers, I began to feel the seeds of doubt take further hold of my soul.

So is it any wonder that during the lesson on Ash Wednesday…that when the pastor asks…

…if there is no one else there at the finish line but Him…no loved ones previously passed on…just Jesus…would it be enough?

And my honest answer was…I don’t really know Lord that you are enough. Because right now, you don’t seem very loving, seem very close, or seem to even care about the woes of this world.

For how could a God who cared let injustice happen in this world? Let injustice happen to those who praise His name?

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So does any of this matter to Him? Does He ever show up to rescue His beloved?

You.
Tell.
Me.

Has He ever taken you from the broken down to the lifted up? Does He send a friend with a hug’s comfort right when needed most? What about that time on your knees in a hospital waiting room…did He not show up then with a kind word from a stranger?

So as I pondered the questions and doubts of my soul, I read His word with one question presiding over every page…
Show me who you are God.

Show me God that you are real. Show me that you care about humanity. Show me that our sufferings are not in vain.

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As I make my way through Genesis and into Exodus it is uncanny, supernatural, what I read on these pages.
For how many times does He show me that he never leaves us, never forgets his promises, and always hears our hearts’ groanings.

When Joseph is sold into slavery, is lied against, is wronged time & time again…God uses it all for good.

When Pharaoh engulfed the lives of the Israelite in slavery, God heard their cries, saw their affliction, and most importantly….
He remembered HIS covenant to never leave them.
“Go in to Pharaoh…so that I may show you all the wonders of my hand…that you may know that I am the Lord”  Exodus 10: 1&2

All of these stories teach me…

God doesn’t use injustice simply for unbelievers to know He is the Lord.
He also uses injustice to remind believers He is Lord.

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 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
{When life gets too hard and you feel the waters engulfing you, stay strong that the tide will not carry you away}
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
{When the muck & mire of grief feel like a cow’s bellowing when writhed in labor pains…you will not be consumed by this tragedy}
For I am the LORD your God…and you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43: 2-4

Although the season of Lent may have passed over, I find myself in deep reflections and in even deeper readings.
Good can come from our doubts and our questions, when they delve us further into scripture.

So the reward of asking questions, of searching to know and understand Him better, is that He does show up.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne…and find grace to help in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
He longs to shower you with grace, so approach Him, approach His word, approach Him in prayer… with confidence.

If you seek the face of the Lord, you will find His beauty.
He wants to answer your questions and He desires for you to know Him more fully.
He longs for you and He wants you to long for Him, as Lord of your life.

jessica

 

04-10-2015

Living Life…Enjoying The Simple Moments

As I’ve often said, I don’t want to miss out on the joy of living presently in the moment and miss precious moments that are all to quickly fleeting.

So sometimes months go by before I feel the need to write a blog post.

And sometimes, instead of writing words, I really just want to share photos of how we have been spending our time…

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Being outdoors, enjoying nature, is probably our family’s most enjoyed past time.
I hope you are able to get outside this weekend and soak up some sunshine!

jessica

02-12-2015

Let’s Call It What It Is…50 Shades of Abuse

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.

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And just to clarify…I’m not condemming BDSM. BDSM between consensual emotionally mature adults in a trusting relationship…if that’s what floats your boat…then more power to you.

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.

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…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.

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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

01-29-2015

To the ones whose mind never stops racing, never stops analyzing

The months of 2014 wrap up into a bundle of cold days and frosty mornings. The dawning of a New Year on the horizon and I ask myself what will the word of 2015 be?
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2014 was the first year I had given up resolutions… those pesky nuisances that dangle just out of reach, reminding ourselves that, yet again, we still have more work to complete, more self improvement to think about.

If 2014 was the year of “Say No” {And I had no idea saying no would be so freeing. Saying no meant saying yes to things that ARE my priority} then what would 2015 be the year of?

I lay on the bed, with piles of laundry beckoning and a dishwasher that delights itself in needing to be continually emptied, and my mind drifts to this friendship analyzation, that relationship analysis. My mind is constantly whirling, set on instant {and let’s be honest…a few days past as well} replay…what did he mean when he said that, what did she mean by that facial expression, maybe I should have explained my apology this way???

I’m transported back in time to May 2005…just hours before I walk down that aisle and pledge my life’s remaining balance to another human being. And what does that roommate, the one who knows your intricate self in only the way a roommate can…what does she remind me of?

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STOP ANALYZING JESSICA.

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It doesn’t get you anywhere and you’ve certainly tried.
It’s only 9:38am and my mind all ready feels tired from all the back & forth scenarios I play out.

And the frustrating part…The mind’s analysis is this treadmill that once you start, is pretty hard to jump off of.

The anlysis in our minds are like the strings flying that kite high in the windswept salty air. Keep the strings tight and the kite soars high. Loosen your hold and the kite tumbles down to a mess of strewn strings. Hold tight to the reins of your imagination and you soar. Loosen the strings and let your analysis take flight and you wonder how you will ever get the knotted strings unraveled.

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So why is it, once you’ve declared loud, for all to hear, that 2015 will be the year of Be Still….
Be Still my mind. Be Still my analyzations. Just Be STILL.

…why is it when the decree is proclaimed, that then life unravels and you are left with a corded mess of a relationship that you can’t begin to unravel and you can’t help but analyze.

It’s all good and well to say Be Still when life is like an ice cream sundae. But when waters break months too early, when relationships are severed from a moment’s poor decision, when life’s lemonade is more like a bunch of sour lemons…that’s when it’s hardest to stop the running of that  exhausting pace of your never be still mind.

IMG_9091 IMG_8938But really, all those experiences you rehash, all those conversations you replay…they don’t make time stop.
They don’t change the score. They don’t get relived. Just relived in your mind.

And it’s exhausting. Mentally & Physically.
It saps your mental energy. It creates a run down human being.
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So perhaps we give our analyzations to Him? Find the peace He promises in the scriptures of the Bible?

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Do not be anxious about anything…and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6 & 7

Because isn’t it much more mind boggling to trust that all of us…the has beens, worn-outs, and rejected…all of us can be in perfect peace, in stillness of mind…when we rely on Him to get it right. When it isn’t about our striving, our pleasing efforts. Because we all make mistakes and wish with all our might that our analysis could make time to go backwards and have the outcome be different.

So instead of having to figure it all out and get it exactly right, maybe we just keep waking up, writing down our list of gifts we’ve been blessed with, and try to be present in the moment. Live the life of intentional living. Knowing that even if we waste 17 precious hours today on our mind’s analysis, that He still loves us. That He still guides our lives. That He still wants to be in relationship with us.

And tomorrow I wake up, remind myself to let the mind rest, and Be Still in His peace.

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jessica

01-27-2015

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles {Gluten Free & Eggless}

Regardless of winter’s blizzards or summer’s sunshine, my absolute favorite breakfast will always be Belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream and local honey.
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Seriously, isn’t that everyone’s favorite breakfast? How could anything else compete?

Unfortunately, going gluten free meant a hiatus from this way too often eaten delicacy. Every recipe I tried was missing something or had a very gritty aftertaste!

And then, it got worse…I realized I could no longer eat eggs!

And eggs are a  vital component to a light and crispy, deeply thick waffle. But there are plenty of vegan waffle recipes, so, I gave them a try.

What a disaster!!! Numerous times I had to use an air compressor to remove the waffle from the waffle iron!
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Then a few months ago I came across America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

So glad I did! After months of using their  recipe as my base, I was able to perfect a waffles recipe that is eggless and doesn’t use refined sugar. Voila!

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{Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook}
Tips & Tricks ~

Substituting coconut sugar in lieu of granulated sugar helps produce an even browning throughout and is much healthier.
Using Ener-G Egg replacer has worked like a champ in this recipe. I did not have luck substituting flax or chia seed in waffles. You really need the extra leavening that the Ener-G Egg replacer provides. {Flax & chia substitutes work better in cookies versus bread & waffles where you are trying for a yeasty flavor.}
Most homeowner’s don’t have buttermilk readily on hand, but for this recipe, I suggest using the real deal. I tried using the cookbook’s alternate suggestion of mixing yogurt with milk and they turned out ok, just not perfect. If you try mixing milk with a tablespoon of vinegar {a normally good substitute for buttermilk} it produces a too thin batter that just doesn’t bake up correctly. 

Gluten Free Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

Yield: 4 Belgian Waffles

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (1 1/3 cup + 1 TBSP) Gluten Free Flour Blend
  • 1 TBSP coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup + 1 TBSP buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 2 TBSP almond milk unsweetened & unflavored or water
  • 2 TBSP melted butter + 1 tsp for waffle iron
  • 1 TBSP vanilla

Instructions

  1. Heat Belgian waffle iron on medium, brush iron with a tiny bit of butter as needed.
  2. In a small glass bowl, combine egg replacer with either almond milk or water. Combine well until no lumps remain and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
  4. Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds, until room temperature.
  5. In a medium size bowl, combine egg replacement mixture, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla.
  6. Whisk liquid mixture into the dry mixture and continue to whisk for 1 minute. The batter will be thick and no lumps will remain.
  7. Once your waffle iron is preheated, spoon a 1/3 cup of batter onto each waffle iron square and cook until beeping occurs.

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Enjoy ~

sig

01-09-2015

Happy New Year’s

Way back when, before time slipped into a new Millenium, I wondered what my life would look like in 2015.
Fifteen years away, it seemed so far away, so unreachable.

But as you & I both know, in that proverbial blink of the eye, it’s here before you know it.

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Fifteen years ago, I had no clue I would meet my one & only before another year was rung in.
Fifteen years later, not only do I have my best friend as my husband but also two rambunctious children who make me so proud to be their mama .

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Our Christmas & New Year’s break was a 2 week whirlwind filled with family & friends, quite a bit of driving, and a lot of fun.

We were lucky enough to go on a train ride to the “North Pole”, jump in 50° water at the polar bear plunge, and eat our fair share of oysters.

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And I promise we are not obsessed with guns, although these pictures indicate otherwise!
In December we went to our first ever BB Gun Party.
Yes, you heard that right…a BB Gun Party!

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I hope you & yours, a midst all the chaos that the holidays can bring, had many such fun & festive moments!

And let’s hope 2015 is filled with many more special memory making moments.

Love,
sig

 

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?

sig

 

 

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!

sig

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}

sig

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,

sig

{And PS…I did take the kids to vote}