Ugly Cry Tribe

They were nerdy little 3rd graders when they met and became friends. Jenni and Brenna, or "JJ and B" as we affectionately called them. Best friends. Thick as thieves. They enjoyed doing the same things - like checking math and working on science projects over the weekend. They played basketball together for the YMCA. Masterful in their skills. Like that one time that Brenna made a beautiful play down the court and shot a score for the opposing team. Or that other time that Jenni, with her large-red-framed-Sally-Jessie-Raphael-glasses and head strap that kept them tightly bound to her face, hyperventilated on the court because her body just couldn't stand the excitement and the running. They cheered each other on. They took up for one another when that mean girl was talking crap about Brenna because she wanted to steal B's boyfriend. Yeah, 6th grade was hard.

Through the years, JJ and B's two families morphed into one big family. B's Mom, Lulu, became JJ's "Aunt" or "Other Mother". Lulu watched over us as another set of Mama eyes since our Mom had to work, leaving us at latch-key kids in the 5th and 7th grade. She even rescued us from the F5 tornado that swept through Lawndale in the Spring of 1990. She showed up at our house in her minivan while hail plummeted down on us breaking windows. She drove us three blocks back to her house where her other four children were huddled in a closet. We all screamed and cried. It was harrowing. And it was also not a tornado at all. Yeah, just a bad hail storm, a microburst, and some traumatized kids home alone who got rescued by a Mama who wouldn't dare let us brave that storm alone. (Our Mother still cries because she couldn't be with us - her boss made her get in the basement for safety. Mom still feels the guilt. We're fine, Mom. I promise. I'll send you my therapy bill.)

And since then, that family has not yet let us brave a storm of life alone.

They were there in the house with us when the police pulled us in close to tell us they had found our Dad's body. They wept with us. Not holding anything back. Brenna nearly collapsed as she felt the weight of Jenni's grief. She screamed, "JENNNNNIIIII!" like it was her soul's cry. And it comforted me to know that our pain was shared, divided by our Tribe.

Last year we wept and cried as B lost her sweet baby girl. We cried and we wrote an obituary and a poem. What else could we do? Where else would we be?!?  We held hands. We prayed and asked God in a collective voice, "Why?". We cried more. And sometimes we laughed, but we ate. God knows we ate! (can I get an Amen?)

Over this past weekend we shared a group text bonding through our memories. So many hilarious memories (6th grade talent show: shoop-shoop-song; Career Day, circa 1989/90: Brenna dressed as a "model" but mistaken as a prostitute; Jenni dressed as a "baby-sitter", carrying 4 baby dolls, clearly, the cautionary tale of the "after" in which her BFF was the "before". Lulu's a-symmetrical hair and her "sexy" pick-up lines. Linda's perms circa: ALL OF THE 90's and the better part of the early 2000's!)

We howl with laughter over these stories. They are the fabric of our being.

Brenna told us in a text this weekend that we are her: #UCT.

Translation: Ugly Cry Tribe.

Dang straight we are, sister!

Lulu and Gaga are the best of friends - traveling buddies and altogether crazy, hilarious, women who continue to shape and mold us. JJ and B still BFF's, although not quite as nerdy but when they geek out it's usually when they're together. (And by the way, don't talk crap about either one of them or the other will cut you. Loyalty runs deep.)

I'm so thankful for my UCT. These friendships aren't easy - my experience is that nothing good worth having ever is! It takes work and time and sacrifice and forgiveness and compromise. But on my death bed I'll have them and the fabulous memories their lives have invested into mine and that's the kind of relationships that help me to keep going. They spur me on. They are the iron to my iron.

Find your Ugly Cry Tribe. Love them hard.

PS - keep going

(Gaga & I are not pictured in the photos below b/c we were out of town. First pic: Brenna & Jenni. Second pic: Brenna. Elle, Lulu, Jenni, Mikah)

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

I Didn't Fast During Lent

LENT     noun   I   \'lent\

: a period of 40 days before Easter during which many Christians do not eat certain foods or do certain pleasurable activities as a way of remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ

FAST     verb

  1. to abstain from food
  2. to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods

 

Last November I fasted for 30 days. I felt desperate for God to hear me, see me, change me. I fasted most of my favorite foods: sugar, carbs, choice meats (steak! This Texas girl fasted steak!). I wanted my head clear and my heart transparent before God because it felt all jumbled up. Everything felt busy and foggy. I was getting lost in the hustle of life, marriage, parenting and ministry. Especially ministry. 

The problem is that I love hustle. 

I love waking up early when its dark outside and getting a jump on my day. I feel a thrill when I cross tasks off my To-Do Lists. I get instant relief when I send emails and set up meetings and lead and lead and lead. I love going to bed exhausted. I even began to love sacrificing sleep and rest all in the name of hustle.

But at the root of my hustle was pride. 

Pride that was swelling and growing. It went up as sleep went down. When activity soared, so did my ego. I was so much more productive than everyone else. But if that were true...

...then why did I feel so incredibly empty and miserable?

So I fasted for 30 days. 

God immediately began to slice through my idol of hustle and go directly for the pride that beat beneath. This is nothing that hasn't happened to me before. God has regularly confronted my hustle throughout my life. My need to please. The desire to be chosen for the team because I'm sharp and I'm good and I'm a hustler.

But this time He wasn't telling me to stop all the things.

It surprised me. I expected God to tell me to put on the brakes and take a time out. Instead, He lovingly reminded me that He had called me to this season of ministry. He wanted me doing all the things I was doing. What He didn't want was the hustle to come at the cost of my relationship with Him.

In my pursuit of hustle, I stopped pursuing Him.

He was inviting me back. No guilt. No condemnation. Just an invitation to lay it down and fix my eyes on Him. So I did. 

I continued waking up early. But I read and prayed and journaled. Fixing my eyes on Him. 

I saw God begin to increase my opportunity for ministry. Again, I was surprised. I equated hustle with sin because my hustle had become my idol. God began showing me that what He called me to He would equip me for. My calling wasn't supposed to land my marriage in the toilet or created a strained relationship between me and my daughter. God began filling me up as I daily pursued HIM. 

When I pursued God instead of hustle, I was no longer spent. I was poured out but not empty. 

So this year when Lent hit the calendar, I chose not to fast. Instead of abstaining from food or certain activities (social media, etc.), I decided this season of Lent would be a season of me saying "YES" to whatever opportunities God led me to. 

It was terrifying!

Fasting was SO much easier! Saying "YES" was uncomfortable. Saying "YES" required that I remain in Him or risk a nervous breakdown because life and ministry got BUSIER and BUSIER! 

God began increasing opportunities and my territory to proclaim the great name of Jesus. 

He gave me a spot at a women's conference that Beth Moore hosted in Houston. A conference that both confirmed and encouraged my next step in my calling. (Guess what it is? I am supposed to write. Duh! Why didn't y'all tell me?) 

He called me to speak at a women's conference. TERRIFYING! 

He called me to lead leader's of women's Bible studies all over the region where we live. Our church has 3 campuses, we launched Bible studies on each campus AND a Bible study in a town where we don't even have a campus! WHAT?!?! 280 women signed up for Bible study. 280 women committed to reading God's Word. Nothing transforms people like Jesus. Period.  And nothing reveals Him better than Scripture. Boom! And I got to be part of that. TERRIFYING! 

He called me to go to Vienna, Austria to speak/teach Bible classes and chapel to middle school and high school kids from all over the world. The majority of whom do not believe in Jesus or God.  And I got to be part of that. I've never flown internationally before. I was TERRIFIED! I may have cried and possibly hyperventilated (just a little) on the flight from Houston to Germany. Who's to say for sure what happened. You weren't there. (I'm not a baby, you are.) As my friend Lolly said, "Only you and the flight black box knows what happened for certain."  

So I didn't fast during Lent. But I definitely gave some things up. 

I gave up my comfort and my finances (Austria ain't cheap). I gave up my schedule. I gave up responsibilities that I hoard for myself and I learned how to delegate. "Delegate" is Hebrew for "equipping other people to fulfill their calling". I'm just kidding. But delegating really did equip others for their ministry while freeing me up to fulfill mine. I gave up control over my family. I gave up control over my calendar. I gave up control over my hustle. 

But I did not give up Jesus. 

I saw Him more visibly. Sensed Him more strongly. Heard Him more clearly. 

I realized that what He gave up for us at Easter was His life. So that's what I decided to give up for Lent...my life. 

And you know what I received in return?

Life in abundance. More joy. More hope. More laughter. More love. More and more of Him.

I hope you've learned a ton during Lent this year. 

Happy Easter Week. 

PS - keep going. 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

You Ruined My Life: An Open Letter To My Daughter

Dear Emery, 

Six years ago I went to sleep at about this time at night with you nestled tightly in my large tummy. I didn't sleep a wink. I cried all night. I prayed all night. I got up and journaled. I was so worried about the next day, my labor day and your birth day, that I couldn't find a comfortable spot in my California King. 

That night I wrestled for comfort in my head and heart. I knew that things were about to change drastically. I new life would never be the same again once they cut me open and took you out. I knew that you were about to ruin my life. And I was right. You did. 

You ruined my life. 

You ruined my "perfect" body. Years of fertility treatments in order to have you brought unwanted weight gain, acne - on my face, neck, chest and back, hormone fluctuations that wrecked my metabolism and made me feel like I was a going literally insane. And a c-section scar that ensured I'd never wear a two-piece swimsuit again. But ruining my body made me come to appreciate my body for the temple that it is. An imperfect body made me realize just how precious my good health is and it made me want to fight to ensure that I do my part to stay healthy for me and for you. Because I want to be around to watch you grow up and grow old. 

You ruined my predisposition for perfection in myself and others. You ruined my ability to "turn it on" for some and to "turn it off". You stared at me with your blue eyes and you ruined my ability for false pretenses because all you wanted from me was me. Not the fake me. Not the perfect me. Not the made-up me. But just the real me.

You ruined my people-pleasing addiction. You ruined everything in me that cried out for applause. You, with your tiny self, looked at me and said, "just look at me, Mama" and so I put the world aside and I looked at you and my world was at peace. Because at the end of my life, if I pleased everyone else but never knew you, then I failed at life. 

You ruined my selfishness. Gone were the days of doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted with whomever I wanted. No more lazy days off where I slept late, binge watched tv and/or read the day away. My days now had purpose and the purpose was not about me anymore. I woke up with every feeding, every dirty diaper, every late-night fever, knowing my purpose was about you. Meeting your needs. Feeding your appetite. Helping you find rest. You turned my life from "what about me?" into "what can I do for you?" And I found life in abundance through a life of serving - even in the mundane there was joy to be had. 

You ruined my marriage. Spontaneous date nights were a thing of the past. This new phase of "romance" demanded a plan, a schedule and a budget. All things that my crazed world of "Yes, sure I can do that. Brad will understand" needed. And no more were the fights and arguments that stewed beneath the surface looking for the opportunity to blow. This man who was up all hours of the day and night with me, caring for this colic baby, was now my partner and I finally knew that I was going to stick around "until death do us part." I wasn't sure until then. I hate that, but its true. The back door in my mind was always cracked just a little. But now, there was more at stake than my pride and my need to be right and my "right" to be treated like a princess with romance and nonsense. He needed me to grow up and be a woman just as much as you needed it...and I need it. There was a new "baby girl" in our marriage and it was you. It was supposed to be you. Because I wasn't meant to be his princess, I was made to be his queen. And a great queen serves and gives and bends to meet the needs of her people.

You ruined my life. 

You wrecked me. 

When you were born, my glass house was shattered. 

All the cracks in the foundation were exposed. 

You sanctified me. 

God sent you here to be part of my story - of His purification in my life. 

Anything and everything I "lost" was exactly the thing that needed to go. 

So that I could have life and live it to the full. 

Full of love and grace and truth. 

Full of forgiveness and compassion and empathy. 

Full of purpose and intensity and adventure. 

You ruined my life. Yes, you did. Life as I had known it for 31 years was OVER. 

But it wasn't a life that was sustainable. I was obsessed with me. What a waste of time. 

Thank you for coming into my life. I'm sorry that I still struggle with being selfish. He's still working on me. What He rebuilt in me, since having you, has been the greatest testimony of how we're never done. It's not finished until we see him face-to-face. Thank you for ruining my life. Thank you for giving me such an incredible purpose in living. 

I love you forever. To the moon and back. You're my God-person. 

And I'm already praying for you, that one day, God will send a tiny bundle of heaven into your arms to ruin you, too. 

- Mama 

 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

I'm Not Controlling, You Are.

Yesterday I was reading my one-year-Bible...does that make me sound super spiritual? Ask me next month if I'm still reading it. If history repeats itself, I won't, but I hope this year that I'll make it! Fingers crossed! 

Anyway, I was reading my one-year-Bible and was visiting my old friends Abram and Sarai from the Old Testament. Most of us know them as Abraham and Sarah but before God gave them new names, they were known as Abram and Sarai. And they couldn't have kids. Scripture says in Genesis 15 that they were barren. It doesn't give full detail as to why. It just says they were barren. No children. No heir. And that was a big deal back then in their culture. And it's still a big deal today in ours. If you don't think so, just listen to couples discuss their battles with infertility. It's crushing. It's depressing. It's enough to make you lose heart and lose hope. When you desire something so deeply, the desire can take on a life of its own. It can grow its own feet and legs and begin a journey that takes you into new territory. Sometimes that territory is fertile ground for you to grow and learn and gain new perspective. But sometimes the territory is laden with thorns and everywhere you step you get stuck and you bleed and you end up hurt and more hurt. And as we know, hurt people hurt people. 

Its on this thorny, bloody ground that we find Sarai's path. 

I'm sure she didn't intend on making bad things worse. Her intention was to give her husband an heir. God had promised to give Abram a son and to make Abram the father of numerous offspring...the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 15 & 17). But Sarai remained childless and she was past the years of childbearing.

So she took matters into her own hands. 

Sarai gave her Egyptian servant, Hagar, to her husband as another wife hoping Hagar would conceive and give him an heir. Its awful. Just awful.

Sarai took a slave and gave her to her own husband. That was Sarai's great plan. Unfortunately we see here that trading bodies as commodities is a sin as old as Old Testament times. 

And Sarai got what she was hoping for. Hagar conceived a son. But Sarai got a lot more than she bargained for because instead of the outcome bringing joy to her heart, it brought contempt...into Hagar's.

Hagar held contempt in her heart toward Sarai. Can you blame her? I can't. Scripture doesn't say exactly what Hagar did to Sarai to express her contempt it only says that Sarai whined to Abram, "she looked on me with contempt". 

We've all done it. We've looked with contempt on someone. We've looked at them as though they are beneath us. Lower than dirt. Disrespect. Scorn. Worthless. It's such  a self-righteous emotion and I'm a reformed pharisee so trust me, I know this one WELL! 

Hagar's contempt struck a nerve with Sarai. Sarai's response was that she "dealt harshly with her and she (Hagar) fled from her." (Genesis 16:6)

Sarai went into full-on mean girl mode in zero to sixty. She went SO intensely at it that Hagar ran pregnant and alone into the desert...in the Old Testament. This isn't like she went for a long drive while listening to power ballads and had a good cry while sipping her decaf-skinny-iced-latte. NOOO! She probably left alone on foot or donkey with no supplies or weapons or food and she was pregnant. Did I mention that SHE WAS PREGNANT?!?!

Sarai took matters into her own hands and her own hands made a colossal mess of things. And even worse, she got exactly what she wanted and it still wasn't really what she wanted at all. So she lashed out at the very people she forced to play her game. She became harsh and mean because she was carrying out her will, her way on her terms and in her timing. And God let her. 

And then He let her sit with the consequences for the rest of her life. 

Dear Tribe - be patient with God's timing and his plan. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts higher than our thoughts. He knows what He is doing. He knows what needs to happen in our lives and WHEN it needs to happen. Let go. Oh that is HARD for us! We want control of our lives and schedules and circumstances. But we know we aren't in control. We know it because life teaches us everyday that we're not. A sick kid. A bad report card. A flat tire. A hopeless diagnosis. A job loss. An untimely death. Another heartbreak. Life sends us more than enough reminders that we're NOT in control but because of our stubbornness most days it has an opposite effect on us. Instead of conceding and letting God handle things we begin holding on tighter - with white-knuckled-fists - all the while dealing harshly with the people trying to survive our plan. We want to control what and who we can control. Unfortunately, we squeeze the life out of them and all the while we know we're not even experiencing the abundant life that Jesus promised. And we wonder why we're miserable. 

It's time we really let go. For me, it's a minute-by-minute thing. "Okay, Lord. Handle this. Handle my heart and my expectations." Then one hour later I'm fighting Him for control and then I start all over - praying and asking Him to forgive me and asking Him to help me relinquish my "right" to play Master of the Universe. 

So let's humble ourselves pray it again and again and again - until relying on Him becomes the peace we abide in. Because if we don't, we'll lose people. They will step away from us. They will wander into the desert, barefoot and pregnant in order to get out from under our crazy control. Friends will leave. Spouses will bail. Children will grow up, leave home and never return.

God does not need your help with His plans for your life. He has got this. 

Do you trust Him? 

My challenge to you today is: Let go. Let go and trust Him. Then follow Him closely. Stop controlling but never ever stop following. 

Get going today and keep Going!  

2 Comments

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Dead Dad Day - 11 Years

Eleven years ago we lost my Dad, Jerry Don Johnson, to suicide. 

You could have blown us over with a feather from the shock.

Despite several of his last years of struggling with depression and alcoholism, my Dad was loving and funny and full of Jesus. Suicide at 44 years old was not what any of us had predicted. You could not have convinced 15-year-old Jessica Johnson that 25-year-old Jessica Johnson Phillips would be planning her Dad's funeral. 

But it was our path. And God has been faithful and loving and good. No, God has been great. 

My Mom and Sister and I celebrate Dad each year on the anniversary of his death. We call it "Dead Dad Day". Why? Because we are super weird. It's how we move through our evolving grief and it's how we honor one another for the fact that we did NOT curl up and die right along with Jerry Don (even though we *might* have wanted to). It's a time when we hold each other and cry and laugh and we pray together. And we eat (it's our love language). 

And most years I write something in honor of Dead Dad Day. 

And so, here's my reflection on 11 years without Jerry Don. I still miss him with moans that only God can interpret...and I always will here on this earth. 

 

I hate that he didn’t call

I hate that I didn’t call

I hate that he hid in isolation

I hate how the loneliness lied to him

I hate that he could be mean

I hate how guilty he felt after acting that way

I hate that I responded to his meanness with my own meanness

I hate how guilty I felt after acting that way

I hate that we couldn’t cure the pain that pierced him

I hate the hurt that broke such a strong man

I hate that he felt too far gone

I hate that he felt unworthy of the love and forgiveness of his Savior

I hate that he felt like he had failed us

I hate that he felt unworthy of our love and forgiveness

I hate that we never watched him hold Karis or Emery or Malynne or Mikah

I hate that he didn’t hold my Mom’s hand on their 30th wedding anniversary

I hate that death sounded better than life; this life

I hate that he died on a hot day in a field all alone

I hate it because I know it’s not what he was destined for.

 

But my hate doesn’t compare to my love...

 

I love how he laughed. Loud and larger than life

I love how he smelled. His smell lingered in elevators long after he had stepped off. And in drawers where his clothes once occupied; and now in my closet where I reach in and smell a few of his shirts every week just to remember.

I love how he hugged. I still remember our last hug. He was in uniform and he hugged me so tight I thought his bullet proof vest was going to crush my rib cage...and I loved it.

I love how he fought for the underdog. It's why he became a police officer

I love that he gave people second and third and fourth chances – even when the ultimate outcome was utter disappointment

I love how much he loved God, his Father. It is especially hard for sons abandoned by their earthly fathers to fully grasp the love of God the Father. My Dad never ever knew his own earthly father but he embraced a Father who would choose him and love him.

I love how he demonstrated faith – reminding me not to worry, not to be discouraged, but to pray, no matter how bleak the situation seemed.

I love how he served the church – they were his tribe; his people; his family.

I love how he read his Bible everyday – highlighter and pen in one hand, coffee cup in the other, Bible on his lap.

I love how he loved my Mom – he adored her and thought she was too good for him

I love how he loved me and my sister – with fierceness and reckless abandon

I love how he taught us when to fight and when to back down

I love how he taught us to say, “I’m sorry”

I love how he treated old people. He always held the door and smiled at them from ear-to-ear while looking at them directly in the eye. 

I love that he washed dishes and folded laundry – he served and nothing was beneath him. nothing.

I love that he worked so hard – his work ethic was outstanding and his colleagues still brag on him to this day

I love that he taught me manners and that a simple, "No sir" or "Yes sir" will calm down most people in authority. 

I love that he got in the trenches with lowly people

I love that he was mighty and strong and yet humble and kind

I love that I got to love him.

I love that when he took his last breath, alone in a field on a triple digit west Texas day, he was immediately with God his Father and Jesus his Savior. And I love that they embraced their prodigal son and rejoiced over his homecoming.

And most of all,

I love that one day when this life is passed, I will get to hug him again – ribs crushing, heart healed. Whole. Complete. “It is finished” – kinda hug.

All because God first loved us and saw fit to draw us to Himself through the death/burial/resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

Because He lives, so does Jerry Don Johnson.

And

Because HE lives I can face tomorrow.

And so can you.

Keep Going.

5 Comments

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Being Angry Isn't a Sin. Setting the House On Fire Is...

PREFACE - I wrote this entry almost two years ago. I wasn't brave enough to post it. But today I was reading and writing and praying and God pressed THIS post on my mind. So I think I'm supposed to post it. Ugh. Vulnerability...double UGH!!!

And, for the record, please don't give Brad a hard time!! He doesn't forget cards or gifts anymore!!! And, remember: he's married to ME! I'm a hot mess - it's A LOT to deal with, people. The man does REALLY WELL for what he's been given!!!! 

So, here you go...find out why "being angry isn't a sin but setting the house on fire is..."

...let me explain. 

Last week I got mad. Like REALLY mad. The first thing that came to my mind was the verse my parents had taught me as a little girl, "Be angry but do not sin." 

YEAH RIGHT! Whoever wrote the Bible must have never had a husband who forgot their birthday. No card. No present. No nada. 

I got so mad that I texted a friend asking for prayer. The text went a little something like this, "Please pray for me. He didn't get me a card or a present. I'm opening my Bible right now to calm myself so I don't set the house on fire." 

My supportive prayer warrior friend responded, "I'm sorry, Jes. I know you're upset right now but I. Can't. Stop. Laughing! Don't set your house on fire. You don't want to end up on COPS on your 35th birthday."

And there it was...this was my 35th year on this earth. I realized in that moment that I did not have a strong handle on my emotion in this area. As I write this I have to admit that I hate that I'm having to write this. I hate that my response to my wonderful, supportive husband wasn't immediately and naturally grace. No. My natural response was to set the bleeping house on fire. EEEEK. This is why I'm always saying that I need Jesus more than you! 

God gave me this verse immediately, "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." 

If I'm being honest, and clearly I am, I'll tell you that that verse made me feel worse. Conviction. My heart sank. I didn't want to be a fool. But I still wanted to burn down the house. And then I realized that's exactly what I was doing - in my heart, in my head, I was burning down my house. Revelation

Okay, I didn't go from conviction to revelation that quickly. It was conviction, prayer, whining and crying to God how mad I was at my husband and asking God to remind me how incredibly wonderful my husband is every single day. And then asking God to remind me how much Brad puts up with because he lives with a wife who needs so much work! The big revelation for me is that rather than asking God to change my husband, I needed to ask God to continue to change me. Ugh! 

Not gonna lie, I'm still not happy that he didn't have a card or a gift for me on my birthday. But I'm not mad, either. And I'm not holding him hostage in my anger, hurt or disappointment. 

We literally can burn down our relationships if we fan the flames of anger. Our thoughts and self-talk become the fuel that makes the fire grow hotter and more out of control. I don't want to lose myself in that flame. I want to burn with passion for Jesus and for my husband, my family, my church, my community, and this world that needs hope.

I want my anthem to be,  "This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine!"  

Not,  "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn. That's alright because I like the way it hurts." 

Don't set your house on fire. And if you already did, call for help! Counseling! Pastors! Mentors! There are people in your path who are supposed to help you...reach out to them. And for Heaven's sake: KEEP GOING! 

 

1 Comment

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Life Lessons I Learned At Disney World

Years ago one of my dearest lifelong friends took her family to Disney World. When she came home she was already planning their next trip back. And then after their second trip they went back again and again. I thought she was absurd. She and her husband took their kids to Disney World so many times that I accused her of being a Disney Princess. For years I teased her. Okay, that’s an understatement...I mocked her relentlessly.

And then last year, 2015, Brad and I took Emery, our then 4-year-old daughter, to Disney World and it clicked. I “got it”. I totally understood the magical-princess-fairy-crack that is Disney World. And I cried my eyes out when we had to leave. Two months later we were planning our 2016 trip.   

We just returned home from our 2016 Disney World trip and even now we’re dreaming of a trip in 2017. Side note: I walked right up to my Disney Princess Friend this morning at they gym and apologized for my past judgment. And I admitted that I, too, wish to be a Disney Princess. Please forgive me, Brenna.

Spending time at Disney World has taught me several lessons that I want to share. Brad and I sat and talked about these at length...here’s our condensed list of, “Life Lessons I Learned From Disney World”:

 

1.  Use Your Magic Band

30 days before your trip to DW, you will receive a box in the mail that will change your flipping life. In it holds the literal keys to Disney World; these are your Magic Bands.

These are our Magic Bands...the Three Musketeers

These are our Magic Bands...the Three Musketeers

Magic Bands are a clip on bracelet that every member of your family will wear for the duration of your trip to DW. The Magic Bands serve as your account information, your room key, your meal plan, your park tickets, your ride passes, and even your currency. It is activated when you press your Magic Band against the portals at DW...Mickey lights up GREEN and you are good to go! Your room unlocks; your food arrives; you get into a park and on a ride - all because of the magic of your unique Magic Band. 

But the Magic Bands do not magically appear in your mailbox before your trip. No. Nope. No way. Your Magic Band was created with YOU in mind. It was created with forethought of the destination and experiences that you were mean to have. Those experiences were well thought and planned by whomever was given the responsibility of being the creator and planner of the trip. Every reservation for hotels or restaurants or meeting special characters was all planned ahead, WAY ahead, of the arrival of your Magic Band. The Magic Band will only give you access to what was planned, in advance, for you to accomplish.

This is exactly how I see God’s hand in our life. Our life is like our Magic Band. God gives us life; He is the creator of it. He plans incredible journeys for each of us. He has a purpose, a destiny, which only YOU can fulfill. My life will only open for me the opportunities and experiences that I am supposed to have. There is no point in me being jealous of anyone else’s life...that’s THEIR Magic Band. I can’t steal theirs...it won’t work for me. And I have plenty planned on my Magic Band that is only meant for me to have.

Unless I forget to use it. What if I stuff that Magic Band in my pocket and decide not to use it? Doors won’t open. Food doesn’t appear on the table. I don’t get to meet the princesses and I really, really want to meet the princesses!

If I don’t use my life then my trip on this earth is a waste. It’s a trip that has a cost and it’s been paid in full. Our life has a cost but Jesus paid it in full if we accept.

So use your life! Use up every gift and talent you have. Let your life be magical and may everyone in your path feel as though when they were in your presence it was as if they had been sprinkled with fairy dust.

Kiss your Boo.

Kiss your Boo.

 

2. Even the Princesses Serve

The mantra at Disney World is: BE OUR GUEST. They make you feel like a special guest everywhere you go. But no place is quite as magical for a guest than at Cinderella’s Royal Table which is located inside Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.

Ladies and Gents, there is a 180-day reservation that is dang near required in order to get a lunch time reservation at this fancy meal. But let me tell you: IT IS WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!

You get to meet ALL THE PRINCESSES!!! (Are you squealing??? I am totally squealing!!!!)

Emery meeting Cinderella as we Entered Cinderella's Castle 

Emery meeting Cinderella as we Entered Cinderella's Castle 

The princesses are announced one-by-one with music and trumpet sounds. They come twirling into the grand dining room where they smile and courtesy and everyone claps. And then they spend the next 90-minutes going to every single table. They take pictures with your child (and your husband. Geesh. Don’t ask. Okay...it was Princess Jasmine and Brad was IN LOVE. We’re fine. Okay, we’ll be fine.).

The Princesses will dance with your wide-eyed children. They talk to your child in a lovely Princess voice. They will sign your autograph books. Princess Ariel even kissed our autograph book – so we forever have the beautiful lipstick insignia of a mermaid princess!!! SQUEAL!!!!

I see TWO Princess Ariels! Mermaid Ariel greeted us in her Grotto

I see TWO Princess Ariels! Mermaid Ariel greeted us in her Grotto

We met human Ariel at Cinderella's Royal Table. Emery was speechless! 

We met human Ariel at Cinderella's Royal Table. Emery was speechless! 

Hugs from Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

Hugs from Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

Tigger was fun! He signed Emery's book and made her day! Just look at her face!

Tigger was fun! He signed Emery's book and made her day! Just look at her face!

They are there to serve you. Whatever you need. If your 2 year old is asleep in the stroller but your 5 year old is freaking out and ready to meet them, they will wow your 5 year old with hugs and pictures. And then when that toddler wakes up, they’ll come BACK to your table and do the shindig all over again.

We are put here on this earth to serve one another. We will find no greater joy in life than to reach deep and give of ourselves to people around us. They are the ones God has chosen for us to invest into. When I counsel anyone who is down and depressed, one of the first questions I ask is, “who are you serving?”

Something truly magical happens when you serve others: you forget about yourself. Hallelujah! Your attention becomes focused on the joy/needs/wants of others. Nothing cleanses our self-centered in-grown-eyeballs quicker than serving others.

 

3.  You’re Never Gonna Have It All To Yourself.

The Magic Kingdom is the most popular park at Disney World. The park sees an average of 52,000 guests per day. The other parks see an average of 30,000 guests per day. Here’s the lesson: you’re never gonna have the park all to yourself.

Not even if you are REAL royalty. A prince was at MK the same week we were there and even he had to share the park with the rest of us regular people.

Some of our best friends live outside of Orlando. They came in and joined us for several days of fun in the park. Our kids looooooved being with each other. And we loved being together...community...we were created for it! 

Some of our best friends live outside of Orlando. They came in and joined us for several days of fun in the park. Our kids looooooved being with each other. And we loved being together...community...we were created for it! 

There’s always going to be a crowd. But you don’t have to get lost in the crowd. Make a plan of where you’re going...make some reservations so that when you arrive the establishment is expecting you and is ready for you. Learn to share the road, the sidewalk. It was meant for more than you and only you. You were meant for community. Look around and find interesting characters to bring into your journey. Listen to their stories. Learn from them. And teach them from your life’s experiences. If you’re never gonna have it all to yourself, then make the best of every day in a crowded world. Find a Cinderella and a Pluto and for heaven’s sake, find a Prince Charming!

 

4.  Find Joy In The Wait

Disney creative imaginateers cultivate environments that transport you into other worlds...under the sea...Tomorrowland...anywhere the imagination can take you, you can see come to life at DW.

The rides are beautiful and electric you just can’t hardly wait to get onto the ride. BUT, with more than 50,000 guests in the park, you can imagine that waiting in line is just part of the, uh, experience. Disney wants waiting to be enjoyable. So when you enter the lines that can be 90 minutes or longer, you are in dark hallways with air conditioning AND your senses are engaged by colorful and beautiful scenery that transcends space and time and brings the ride to you before you ever even step foot ON the ride. Some of the lines even have interactive pieces – like the Peter Pan line has an interactive shadow effect where you can chase the shadow image of butterflies...you can even swat at them and they scatter. It is incredible and amazing and...fun. Wait...did I just say we had fun while WAITING? Yes. Yes I did.

Life puts us in more waiting rooms than most of us are ready to embrace and enjoy. We are waiting for oil to turn around; we are waiting for results from a medical test; we are waiting for that person to change; we are waiting for a big break; we are waiting on the one. Life is full of waiting rooms. But if we get bitter or angry or impatient, we can completely miss the lesson/joy/beauty of the waiting room we are in. We can even miss the people we were intended to wait with. What if we missed Wendy or Peter Pan? Oh the loss of that!

We need to “wait” better. We need to decide to choose joy and find it. And who knows? Maybe we’ll be chasing butterflies when the line starts moving again.

We waited in line for an hour to meet Joy (and Sadness). We talked with the people around us and made friends. Was it worth it? TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!! We literally Found JOY in the wait!!!

We waited in line for an hour to meet Joy (and Sadness). We talked with the people around us and made friends. Was it worth it? TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!! We literally Found JOY in the wait!!!

 

5.  Commit To Your Part

The cast commits to their part and they NEVER break character...EVER!

Commit to your part. Commit to your cast. Commit to your roles.

Rapunzel has long hair that she uses to escape from the tower where she’s held prisoner by her mother. What if Cinderella decided that was her move? Cinderella could not escape her stepmother’s attic with 12-inch long hair. Cinderella’s story isn’t supposed to read or end like Rapunzel’s story.

Commit to your roles! Commit to being a wife; an employee; a leader; a mother; a student; an intern. Commit to YOUR role.

Don’t try to live out anyone else’s role. You weren’t created for their part; you were created for your part. When you don’t stay committed to your part, it throws off the story of your own fairytale.

We are family and we are committed - family ain't for sissies! 

We are family and we are committed - family ain't for sissies! 

"Whatever You Are, Be a Good One." Abraham Lincoln.  Emery is clearly REALLY good at being Princess Ariel. 

"Whatever You Are, Be a Good One." Abraham Lincoln.  Emery is clearly REALLY good at being Princess Ariel. 

 

6.  Ride In The Rain

On our first day at MK this year it rained. Not like a little refreshing sprinkle. No. This was a torrential downpour for about 5 hours. People began scattering like drowned rats. The park looked...dare I say: EMPTY? Brad and I looked at each other and debated going back to our resort and resting until the rain cleared and then we looked at the empty park and realized what a gift the rain was! We bought an umbrella and a poncho and we rode the rides in the rain. We rode ALL THE RIDES!!! We rode rides we didn’t have Fast Passes for...popular rides that normally have that dreaded 90-minute wait...we walked right on! It was the most fun day we’ve ever had at DW.

It's raining, It's pouring! 

It's raining, It's pouring! 

Life is going to rain on you. Some days or weeks or years will feel like a flood. Here’s my life lesson: grab an umbrella or a poncho and ride anyway. Let me say it this way: live anyway. Live and laugh and love and create sloppy wet memories that you’ll cherish forever. There’s magic in the rain and storm. We jumped on rides that we never would have taken our 5 year old on had we not been looking for a place to duck into for a quick refuge. And those rides were so much fun...unexpected fun. The best kind of fun! Sometimes you gotta take cover and duck inside for cover...that’s okay. Take cover. Give yourself a break. Because when the clouds part and the sun begins to shine and you walk outside, you will appreciate the clear sky more than ever before!

Buy an Umbrella. Put on a Poncho. Magic will show up! 

Buy an Umbrella. Put on a Poncho. Magic will show up! 

 

7.  Use A Fast Pass When You Can

The Fast Pass is created as a “cut in line” feature that comes with your park ticket. You only get 3 per day. They have to be planned and used wisely. You schedule Fast Passes for the most popular rides...the ones that typically have long wait times. You walk right up to the front and you get right on the ride. No waiting. The excitement of the Fast Pass is exhilarating. You sort of feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not and yet you are in fact cutting to the front of the line! It’s ridiculous and fabulous!

Sometimes in life, a Fast Pass comes your way...enjoy it! Use it! Breathe it in, lap it up. It’s that one opportunity that you can’t believe is being offered to YOU! Some people call it luck, others call it providence and still others call it the favor of God. No matter what you call it, you take it! It only requires that you walk up to the front of the line and accept the seat that is available to you.

Take the Fast Passes that life gives you.

There is a typical 90-minute wait to meet Anna & Elsa. We used a Fast Pass to meet the Queen & Princess...totally Worth it!

There is a typical 90-minute wait to meet Anna & Elsa. We used a Fast Pass to meet the Queen & Princess...totally Worth it!

You bet Your sweet bippy that this Mama jumped in some Princess pictures! 

You bet Your sweet bippy that this Mama jumped in some Princess pictures! 

Emery meeting Princess anna

Emery meeting Princess anna

8.  You Can’t Get It In All In One Day

Did I mention that 52,000 people enter the Magic Kingdom every single day? You’re not going to be able to ride every ride...not even on a rainy day! You have to pace yourself and do a little bit everyday.

Don’t put off living for a future point in time. Live today. Ride rides today. Take the Fast Pass that you’re offered today. You might not make it to Tomorrowland. Tomorrow is not promised to us. Even Disney offers trip insurance in case you need to cancel.

Live now. Live today.

We spent a day in the Park and then a day recovering at our resort. This particular day we were at Epcot - which might be my favorite park! Tink followed us as our magical tour guide the whole way through! 

We spent a day in the Park and then a day recovering at our resort. This particular day we were at Epcot - which might be my favorite park! Tink followed us as our magical tour guide the whole way through! 

 

9. There’s Always A Way To Get To Where You Want To Go

You can enter the Magic Kingdom by bus or car or boat or monorail. You can get to most parks about 3 different ways.

This life lesson is simple: If you really want to get somewhere, then there’s a way.

Hustle. Work hard. Be wise. Ask about the bus schedule, train schedule, monorail. Allow people to help you get to where you want to go. Don’t always go with the flow. Stop. Ask directions. But the truth is, if you get there, it’s probably because you worked to get there and you didn’t get there all on your own.

Which leads me to my next Disney Life lesson...

There's so much magic at Disney that you might even float to where you're going! 

There's so much magic at Disney that you might even float to where you're going! 

 

10. “It all started with a mouse” – Walt Disney

Stay humble.

Stay humble, no matter how successful you become. No matter what you accomplish. No matter how big your cash flow is...never ever forget where you come from. And never ever forget who helped you get to where you were going!

Even Walt Disney was humble enough to remind himself and his team members that their dream all started with a mouse. Now that is humility.

 

 

B O N U S!

My eleventh and final Life Lesson that I Learned from Disney is this:

Create Fireworks With The People You Love!

This year we chose to stay at a resort that is close to Magic Kingdom. So close, in fact, that you can stand outside from any balcony and see the fireworks each night that are taking place inside Magic Kingdom.

It cost us quite a bit more than what we paid for our resort last year but my very frugile and practical husband was bound and determined to stay there because he wanted to watch fireworks every night with me and Emery.

The first night was magical. I loved it so much. We were in the Magic Kingdom park and we paid extra to go to a Fireworks Dessert Party at a restaurant so we could have a perfect view of the fantastic show. I was in awe. I cried my eyes out. Especially when Tinkerbell flew down from the castle and over our heads. She was close enough that she looked right at Emery, waved and said, “HI!”.  We were over the flipping moon!! We went to bed that night high on Disney crack.

The next day was a leisurely day at our resort pool. Me and my Boos relaxing poolside while enjoying Mickey Mouse ice cream and incredible service all day.

At sundown, I was ready for a shower and bed. But not Brad. No, he showered and put on jeans and a t-shirt, not his normal bedtime attire.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“We’re going to watch the fireworks on the 2nd floor balcony.”

“We are?” I asked in horror.

“Yes. We are.”

And so I reluctantly put my lazy bones into sweatpants and a tank top and we headed for the 2nd floor balcony.

This is us on the balcony watching the fireworks. As you can see, No makeup & flat Hair...it was midnight in my world! But so worth it! Look at my Boos! They are beaming!!!

This is us on the balcony watching the fireworks. As you can see, No makeup & flat Hair...it was midnight in my world! But so worth it! Look at my Boos! They are beaming!!!

And you know what? It was magical. And I loved every minute of it.

That was the routine every night of our trip. We watched fireworks together. We held hands. Some nights, Emery danced and twirled to the music that is piped in that goes along with the fireworks show.

We laughed.

We shed a few silent tears.

Why? Why would we be shedding tears at the happiest place on earth? Because days are long, but years are short. We wanted to savor those moments with our 5-year-old daughter because next year we won’t have a 5-year-old daughter. That’s how life goes...it just keeps going. And we are so thankful that it keeps going because for some people, it’s going to stop this year. We understand loss in my tribe. We understand it deeply and personally. This year marks 11 years since my Dad’s suicide. This year also marks 8 years since I miscarried our twins. And it’s the 7 year mark since we miscarried our third baby. We know loss and because we know loss, we also know how to appreciate deeply the life we’ve been given today.

So my bonus life lesson is: create fireworks with the people you love. Fireworks for your family might mean a camping trip in the backyard. If so, camp it up! Fireworks might mean a Hawaii trip. And if so, ALOHA!

 

Fireworks are created when you shine light into the darkness and make something beautiful out of nothing at all.

 

Create fireworks this year. And as always, keep going!

PS - If you find yourself under fireworks with your Boo, then kiss him/her like your life depends on it! 

PS - If you find yourself under fireworks with your Boo, then kiss him/her like your life depends on it! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

So You Had A Bad Day

Brad, Emery and I go to a fabulous life-giving, Jesus-following, encouraging church called CrossRoads Fellowship in Odessa, TX. We are blessed to GET to serve there. And I don't know why they let me, but just about every other week they hand me a microphone and allow me to have the platform to talk to the people. I stand on the platform/stage (whatever you're comfortable calling it) and I "Welcome" the people and sometimes I have the privilege of leading the talk that occurs during our offering. Today I got to do the Welcome AND the offering talk. And it was a packed house! 

So I Welcomed the people. I encouraged them in their giving (yay to you who are obediently giving of your tithes!! GO YOU! God will honor it!!!! Keep going! Keep giving!). But then I also introduced the new sermon series...one of my favorite books of the Bible: Philippians. We are calling the series: #happy. 

Because the book of Philippians is all about JOY!!! 

So I "RAW RAWed" Philippians. I cheered in my heart while encouraging everyone, all 2,000 of them, to read this short book and engage with us in this idea of joy and happiness. 

And then I flipping LOST MY EVER LOVING JOY ALL DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (those are furious exclamation marks)

Let me break it down: Came home, changed into comfy clothes, went to lunch with a whiney 4 year old. During lunch, said whiney 4 year old turns into tiny terrorist who kidnaps lunch and holds it hostage while sobbing and spitting grilled cheese out for everyone's viewing pleasure. 

Mom and Dad move quickly to place the tiny terrorist in restraints (the car seat) and get her to a place where no innocent bystanders could be injured, insulted or witness any further torture of her parents. 

We came home. We were not laughing. 

The day did NOT get better. I repeat, it did NOT get better. 

We fought for a nap but did not win. 

We had the battle of "I'm taking away ALL OF YOUR Descendants dolls for a week." 

There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

We fought valiantly for joy and happiness but in the end we died on the hill called, "You are so mean to me! I want a new family. Can I have my dolls back?"

Mom and Dad held it together for most of the day. But then lost the battle and turned on each other. 

Finally we laid the day to rest when I put the exhausted and over-stimulated child to bed at 7:00pm. She was snoring at 7:06pm. 

I fell into bed and looked at Brad and said to him the last thing I said to Emery as she fell asleep, "I'm sorry for today. Please forgive me. God tells us that His mercies are new everyday. I need a new chance tomorrow. Will you give me a new chance tomorrow?"

And my sweet and loving husband said, "Yes, babe. Will you forgive me for today and give me a new chance tomorrow?"

Yes, baby, yes I will.

So I stood at church in front of a couple of thousand of people and I preached joy and happiness. And then I lost ALL my joy and all my happiness and all my cool. 

But I did not lose all God's mercy. 

It's going to be brand new tomorrow.

So tonight as I go to bed to watch "Downton Abbey" and then drift off to sleep, I may not know what tomorrow holds but I know WHO holds my tomorrow...and I know that He promises new mercy for me there. 

And new mercy for you, too.

Keep going. 

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His mercies (compassions) never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." Philippians 1:12

 

 

 

1 Comment

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

January 1, 2016

We brought in the new year in perfect style. Clothing that resembled pajamas (because some of us were actually IN our pajamas), comfort food, poker, movies, college football and the sounds of our children laughing and playing; and at other times of the night fighting and crying.

It was perfect.

No tight clothing that made it painfully aware to everyone how much weight I had to swear to lose for my resolution the next day. No heavy makeup that would leave a new year’s breakout. No spanx. No hangover. No regrets. Hallelujah!

Just my tribe doing our thang.

The boys at the poker table laughing and talking trash.

And us girls, plopped perfectly on the living room furniture and floor, solving the world’s problems. Okay, solving each other’s problems. But in those precious hours together, our world revolved lovingly around one another. Communion.

Our conversations ranged from, “Should I send this text? If so, what should I say....?” to a very profound discussion of life and the origin of it and the sanctity of such a Power who gives life, and then back around to, “OH MY GOSH! This queso is to die for! Seriously! EAT THE QUESO! We are wearing elastic waistbands, ladies, this is obviously God’s sovereign and perfect will for us to eat the entire crockpot of Uncle Lyle’s queso!”

It was glorious. Not at all like my new year’s eves in my twenties when we would go out with a bang. Dancing. Showing off flawless figures that we had not earned and did not deserve. (God is just. We’re paying now!) And the night would end with a much anticipated lip lock from a handsome someone we’d had our eye on. The next day we would nurse a hangover while reminiscing the fun we’d had and the dance we nailed when our gang’s favorite song came on (it was probably “Single Ladies” by Beyonce...or Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop”). Nonetheless, we remembered and we laughed and we sorta regretted (okay, we totally regretted MOST of the night).

But not now.

No more regrets.

I have no regrets about my New Year’s Eve party.

Young people may call my NYE lame. Go right ahead, young person who does not know my life.  I do not hold it against you. You don’t know yet, you just don’t know.

But one day you will know. Oh how I hope you know! The joy of no-regret-living.

The simplicity of getting thrown up on and laughing because it isn’t your college room mate throwing up on you and ruining your night. Nope, it’s your sister’s perfect baby, which makes your night complete instead of completely ruined.

This kind of living is talking with your newlywed friends about their possibility of having children and what that looks like after forty. Yes, I said AFTER FORTY. Because life is still happening for us now, in this no-regret season. And life is good. Really good.

The party gets even better when I look across the room and catch the eye of a tall handsome man with piercing eyes and I think, “Yeah, I’m going home with him.” and, again, there’s no regret. Absolutely none.

And then a little 4 year old comes running through the room prancing around and demanding sparkling cider and again I think, “Thank you, God, for this abundant life.” And I squeeze her and kiss her as she races past me again. She stops briefly and says, “I love you, Mama”  and I melt.

My night was pure joy. Laughter. Light. Love. Ease. Calm.

I’m grateful for sending 2015 into the past with a glance back at what we learned, who came along, who went away and knowing it was all for our good.

I’m grateful for this simple life that God has given me. My greatest life lesson of 2015 was embracing God’s abundance through simplicity.

And now we’re two weeks into 2016 and God is already showing me great things.

I hope He’s showing you great things, too.

Share them with everyone He puts in front of you.

A shared life is where abundance begins!

Here’s to new adventures in 2016!

 

1 Comment

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Last Thanksgiving

Last year I made a "Thanksgiving Confession" about a huge fight Brad & I got into on Thanksgiving. This year we did better. We actually ate in the same room, at the same table! We even sat beside each other. We laughed. We kissed. We shared "thanks" over our marriage and our family. It reminded me to give thanks for the fact that we had a great holiday together because they aren't always happy. Because we're married, that's why. Some holidays we're crabby and sensitive and can't stand to look at one another and other holidays, we are like a doggone movie...picture perfect. 

So take a look back at my blog/journal entry from last year's debacle. And remember, if it reflects the holiday you shared last week - be it a fight between you and your spouse or your kids or your in-laws...next year could be sweet. Next year could be so beautiful that you are certain it should be forever trapped in a snow globe. That's how God works...one moment at a time. And His mercies are new every morning (and every holiday)! 

Now here, enjoy my pain & shame & humor from Thanksgiving 2014....

Getting Real - A Thanksgiving Confession

“’Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house you could feel the tension mounting from my handsome OCD spouse.”

That could have been the opening line to a poem titled, “The Night Before Thanksgiving.” It could also have been aptly named, “World War P". The “P” standing for “Phillips” because let me tell you, it was on like donkey kong in our house last week. The blog went silent. But our house got loud.

Brad and I resolved not to use the “D” word early on in our marriage. No divorce. We vowed ‘til death do us part. But last week was so bad that I believe Brad had a fleeting thought of “Well, I could start a prison ministry.” Because although divorce is not an option, homicide was to be taken under consideration. 

We are madly in love with each other. But some days we are just mad. Last week was just a mad week. A week we’re not proud of. A week we are recovering from. A week where we needed forgiveness given and received. And all on the same week where I talked about how much my family LOOOOOOOOVES each other on Studio7.  I just had to go and talk about our deep love and forgiveness for one another – I couldn’t have known we were on the verge of the marital apocalypse that ensued the days to follow. What did we fight about? You ask. Oh, who but satan in hell, knows. It was stupid, petty, silliness. The sort of things that mount up around the holidays in families that are too busy and too tired and too sick to function properly. 

This week we are rising from the ashes. We prayed together – twice. We are working our way back to laughing and smiling. We are taking our feelings off our shoulders, putting on our grown up panties and communicating clearly. We are not just going to survive the holidays. We are going to thrive. We are going to give honor and glory to God for sending His Son to be a love sacrifice for our sins. And we’re going to be attacked viciously by a real, live, raging Enemy who wants, more than anything, to watch Christian couples crumble, fall and finally fail at this marriage thing (because marriage is God’s idea and Satan wants to mess up what God has joined together). 

So to all of you who had a similar Thanksgiving week experience, know that I am praying for you and that you're not alone. We didn't have that picture perfect Thanksgiving meal where everyone is dressed beautifully and sits down to eat at a table for 12 set by Martha Stewart herself. Brad and I didn't even sit by each other during our Thanksgiving meal. We sat in different rooms! You're NOT alone! Also know that I am praying for your marriage. God’s mercies are new and available to us every day. Every day is a new chance for a miracle of love and forgiveness to enter your heart, mind, marriage, life. 

Look for the miracle. Be the miracle. And let’s be so together and in love with our spouse on Christmas day that it shakes the foundation of hell.

 Don’t give up.

 Keep going!

 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

New Journal

I have a beautiful leather bound journal that I've been writing in for about 3 years. Today I wanted to write "THE END" in it and start a new journal. But I couldn't do it. You know why? Because it's only about a third full. In three years, I've only written in roughly 30 pages of my beautiful journal. 

I wanted to start fresh with a new journal today but I didn't. And the reason why is because of one word that I've committed 2015 to understanding better. The word is "BECOMING". I am in the process of becoming a committed writer, therefore, I need to finish what I started. This is difficult for me because I love beginning new adventures. My favorite word is "beginning" not "becoming". 

My journal has one of my favorite verses embossed on it. It says, "For I know the plans I have for you." Declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. 

In my future, which is happening one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time, in my future, I want to be a person who it is said, "She finished what she started. She became what she set out to become because she didn't stop when it felt like she had only made it inches from where she began. Her future was bright and bold and brave because she became those things  little-by-little, one day at a time." 

Where ever you are today, I hope you pick up your good habit, or your goal, or your resolution you began in January and you KEEP GOING today. We can become it if we keep at it. 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Get To The Other Side

I spoke at a women's retreat over the weekend and today I'm tired. Like, T-I-R-E-D! I spoke five times to this attentive and sweet and hilarious group of women - all of which I'm sure I could learn FAR more from than I could ever teach TO them. I spoke to them about their story. Advising them to tell their story. Helping them to shape their story. And reminding them that FEAR is the enemy of their story. And today I woke up feeling all afraid on the inside. Ugh.

I learned from God's Word as the Spirit taught it to me and through me. I taught that suffering is the way through to glory.  Some new great opportunity for growth and joy awaits each of us, but it seems that with it comes an obstacle to overcome. Growth comes through overcoming. I’m reading “Jesus Calling” and today’s first line, in ALL capital letters, screams at my restless soul, “DO NOT BE AFRAID”. Easier said than done. That hits me hard today. Today that feels as improbable as saying to my brunette head of hair, “BE PLATINUM BLONDE”. Not gonna happen.

The writer of this great devo continues to annoy my flesh with these words, “Hear Me saying Peace, be still to your restless heart.”

Peace sounds like a something unfamiliar today. But ‘restless heart’? Oh yes, now that one I know!

So I begin to pray because my heart won’t calm down. I open my Bible to the passage of scripture that this command from Jesus came from: Mark 4:35-41.

Jesus and His disciples are getting in a boat, escaping the crowds, and heading for the next place they are to help, heal, do the impossible. And so Jesus lays down to sleep, because pouring out your gifts to people is exhilarating and exhausting. As Jesus slept, a storm came up...scripture says, “a furious squall came up”. Oh you dang ‘furious squall’, I know you; I know you all too well. So the disciples totally freak out and wake Jesus to calm the storm. Mark tells us that Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”

It calmed down. Completely calm.

And then Jesus turned to deal with the scaredy-cat disciples. He asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

But the verse that stings my heart and soul today is early in this passage when Jesus and the disciples were getting into the boat. Before the storm hit. Before the fear came upon them. In verse 35, in red-Jesus-letters, it says, “Let us go over to the other side.”

There’s restlessness in my soul today. A battle raging. And Jesus beckons me to get on the other side of this thing. We don’t know if the disciples could see the clouds circling and building before they got into the boat. Did they see the sky turning grey? Could they see the impending darkness threatening? Could they see small white caps covering rocky waves? We don’t know. But we know our own hearts. We can see when the sky is turning grey in our mind, our mood. We can sense an internal fight for joy. We know the motion-sickness of the rocky waves of emotion or insecurity or fear or depression.

But Jesus offers me/you this: Let us go over to the other side.

I don’t have to go alone.

Us.

He said, “Let us go...”

I’m not taking His hand today. I’m full-on running and jumping into His embrace and letting Him carry me to the other side as He says to my racing heart, mind, soul, “Quiet! Be still!”

I’m going to trust Him to get me to the other side of this thing that threatens my faith.

And every single time I feel fear creeping, I’m going to punch fear with God’s Word, “Quiet! Be still! Jesus said I have nothing to fear and I believe Him over anything I feel.”

Praying that we get to the other side of our obstacle today.

And when you get to the other side, keep going! 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Keylockey

The other night I was tucking Emmy into bed. She says to me the thing she says every single night, "Tell me a story."  And so I began, "Once upon a time, there was a princess named Emery Noel---" 

Normally at this point in my Mark Twainesque story telling, my child begins smiling from ear to ear and I get all tingly on the inside like it's Christmas morning and I'm 5 years old. Approval from my baby...yes...awwwwe! But on this particular night she screamed, "NO MAMA! Not THAT story!" 

You can imagine my response: Shock! Horror! 

"What story do you want me to tell you, Emmy?"

She responds cooly, "Tell me the story bout Keylockey."

"Keylockey?" (pronounced in perfect 3-year-old vernacular:  "Key-Lock-Eeeeee") 

"Yes, Mama! Keylockey! Now tell me that story."

I wanted to. I really did. But I didn't know that story. For the life of me, I could not figure out the story "bout Keylockey".  If this situation was a Jack-Bauer-24-situation and the perpetrator had held a knife to my throat and told me to tell the story about Keylockey or else die, I would have said, "Please ask Jack Bauer to say nice things about me at my funeral." It was dire straights, people. 

And so the inevitable back-and-forth began between me and my tired baby girl. 

"Do you mean the story about Queen Esther?"

"NO! KEYLOCKEY!"

"Emmy, is that a story you want me to make up?"

"NO! KEYLOCKEY!"

"Baby, I don't remember that story."

Emery takes my face into her tiny hands, puts our faces nose-to-nose and says, "Mama, it's like this: KEY-LOCK-EEEEEEE!"

At this point I start laughing. What else could I do? She was so precious in this moment. Pronouncing it perfectly and drawn out in her southern little voice so that her slower-than-usual Mama could maybe understand.

But I didn't understand. 

And Emery was frustrated. FRU-STRA-TED!!!

I continued laughing, which escalated Emery's frustration into a meltdown, not my intention, but I couldn't help wanting to bottle this moment up and save it forever. 

And then it hit me, "Are you talking about the story I told you a couple nights ago?"

The fit-throwing ceased. She looked at me with hope in her eyes, "Yes? What is that story, Mama?"

"The story about Goldilocks?" 

"Yeeeessssssss!" She squealed with excitement, "KEYLOCKEY". 

We laughed and cheered for ourselves. And then I did the only thing I could do, I told her the story bout Keylockey. 

As I laid in bed that night and for many nights since then, I've thought about how in life we can feel so misunderstood. I'll be 35 this month and there are still times when I want to take life by the face, put it nose to nose with mine and scream, "KEYLOCKEY!" or in another translation, "Does anyone understand me? Hear me? See me? Know what I mean even if I don't know what I mean?" 

And every time God answers me, "I'm right here. Lean in. Lay down. Relax. I'm telling My story and you are in it! I understand you because I made you and I love you. Open My Word. I will tell you great things that you don't know. And look around, child, I have put people around you to walk with you, to teach you, to help you, to love you." 

There's so much I don't know, but I want to know. I want to be open. I want to grow. 

And I want people on the journey with me as they figure it out also. Some days/nights we cry out like Emmy did, just wanting to be heard and understood. That's why having a solid "tribe" around us is so important. When I cry out to my people, my tribe, I need them to be ready to impart truth, wisdom, laughter, tears, or even a butt-kicking, if I need it (I need it A LOT). God puts those people in our lives to help us navigate the areas we deem grey but others see as blue or pink or gold. We need a tribe to help us translate and figure out the "Keylockey" moments. 

I hope you are aware of your tribe. Pray for God to solidify that tribe in your life. And pray for God to begin shaping your spouse's and children's tribes with hilarious, loving, do-gooding, truth-telling, Jesus followers. 

Cuz we all need for someone to translate our Keylockey (and our Crazy). 

PS - Thanks for letting me indulge a "24" reference. It's my summer fling; my insufferable indulgence that I'm sure to reference in life b/c if anything is real it's the 24-hour-spans of time in the life of CTU Special Agent, Jack Bauer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Sweat or Cheese

I've been eating really healthy. I've been working out like a mad woman. And seeing great results! Don't "whoop whoop" too early...I'm not finished writing.

I reluctantly crawled up on my elliptical tonight, my body felt like it was in S-L-O-W motion. The slowest. My body was revolting saying "NO! Not gonna! Don't wanna!"  My energy was so low that at one point I actually laid my head down on the elliptical. Laid. It. Down.

Somehow I got the hour finished in record time. Record LOW, that is. Wrote down my pathetic results in my workout journal like I always do. Then I headed for the shower. 

I turned on the shower, put my towel on the towel rack and then it was time to step into the hot shower that I had not earned but sure was looking forward to...and that's when it happened.

I glanced down and something caught my eye...it's usually sweat b/c I'm a sweaty girl and I'm like totally nasty covered in sweat at the end of a work out. But this wasn't sweat.

No! It Couldn't be?!?! Oh the horror! NOOOOOO!!!! But it was. Graded cheese was inside my sports bra. The very evidence of my sins of the day. 

Today I blew it. Like big time. If I saw it and thought it might be consumable, I unhinged my jaw and devoured it whole. I attacked food today like one who's been locked away without food for a month. I attacked it so intensely that it was apparently lodged in my sports bra. I mean, seriously, are y'all gonna need to wire my mouth shut?!?! And because I ate junk food today, I had low energy when it came time to work out. My own choices leading to my failure. One choice and step at a time. Cheese in the sports bra. Classy, Jes. Real classy. 

I laughed it off as I stepped in to the hot shower and I thought, "Hey, at least I got my workout done. And tomorrow is a NEW day! Hallelujah!" 

So if you blew it with your healthy choices today, don't feel alone and don't give up! 

We can do this!!! #FitbyFourth 

Ask someone to hold you accountable. And if you have a day when you've got cheese in your sports bra just know: you're not the first, you're not alone, and you can do better tomorrow. 

Keep Going!

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

I Called Myself The B-Word

I hate it when I spiral out of control and the only adjective left to describe me is the B-word.

It's the worst word I could possibly call myself. But I'm calling myself the B-word today.

I'm BUSY.

Stupid busy. Like crazy stupid busy.

I say "crazy" and "stupid" because I create my own life, my own schedule, so therefore, I also have to own the fact that I create my own busyness.  

Confession: I was so tired after the last couple of crazy busy weeks that I "slept in" until 7:15am today and didn't wash my hair before going to work.

Okay, if I'm going to confess I might as well be honest. I didn't even shower this morning. (Insert head hang here. My dirty head is hanging in a hat, btw.)

My husband reminded me last night that life is seasonal. A month of stupid busyness is often followed by a slower pace. The time to be really, truly concerned is when there is never a break in the pace. When you stop sleeping because your mind won't slow down. You skip regular meals because you're "working through lunch" only to find yourself eating a Snickers and drinking a Dr. Pepper at 3:00pm and calling it a "caffeine and protein" snack. You arrive home from work late. Again. Grab your laptop or your phone, work a little more. Then fall into bed dog tired. But the moment your head hits the pillow your eyes spring wide open and you begin writing a "to do" list in your mind that keeps you up until 3am. So at 6am when your alarm goes off to tell you to get up and go to the gym you hit snooze until 7:15am, open your eyes, hit the floor running and leave the house without washing your hair (or possibly without taking a shower).

We have to slow our roll. No one will do it for us. Did you see how no where in my list of the fast-pace did I even mention stopping to read God's Word and pray. How in the world will we ever even know if we're on the right track when we aren't spending time with the One who creates our purpose? 

Slow down.  Don't stop. Just slow down. 

Sleep. Eat. Read. Pray. Sing. Laugh. See a movie. Have coffee with friends. Get a pedicure. 

Don't make me call you the B-word. 

Keep going (at a slower pace). 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

The Green-Eyed Monster

I hate to admit that I'm 28…okay, 32….okaaaaaay, 34 and a half years old, and I still get bit by the green-eyed monster sometimes. Jealousy. Envy.

Yuck. (Hanging my head in shame.) What an awful emotion. What a useless waste of time and energy. It's so ugly. It's so distasteful. It's so dark and sinful. 

I'm not the person who gets jealous over another woman's new fancy SUV (because I drive a minivan); no, that doesn't bother me. And I'm not the girl who gets jealous over someone's designer shoes or handbag (because mine came from Target or JC Penney); no, that doesn't bother me either. 

What incites this ugly nasty thing in me is fear. Fear that I've missed an opportunity to do something and that someone else has taken that opportunity up in my place. "She gets to do that. Go there. Write that. Speak at this or that." 

Fear multiplied by my controlling nature equals jealousy. The result of this type of jealousy is a break-down of relationship. Because you can't be genuinely happy for someone when you're being eaten alive by jealousy. And if you can't be truly happy for the people you love, then there's a problem…and it's you (me). Jealousy is dangerous. Proverbs 27:4 says, "Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous." 

But the REAL problem behind the emotion and the fear is this lie: God doesn't have my best interest in mind.  He's giving him/her/them more than He's giving me/us. He's forgotten me; left me out; picked me last. And we all hate being picked last, don't we?!?!

That lie snowballs into the next lie that says: I can't trust God, so I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands and make things happen. 

The end result of all the lies is usually: I make a BIG FAT MESS of things!

Because the TRUTH is that God DOES have my best interest in mind. But HE, and only HE, knows HOW I'm supposed to get THERE. And maybe I have to go through HERE in order to grow up and get to THERE. Because what I'm going through now is going to make me the useful subject that He needs for THERE.

And the people in my life with the great opportunities today may just be the open doors of tomorrow that God takes me through to get me from HERE to THERE.

 

Fear is dumb. Jealousy is dumber.

God is great. Opportunity is good. Even if it's not mine. 

Keep going. 

 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 

 

 

 

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

I Did the Ugly Cry in Front of 2,000 People

Yes, I did the ugly cry on stage at church in front of 2,000 people.

All I was supposed to do was close out the message at church. Get on stage, be friendly,  smile and tell everyone to invite their friends/families/neighbors/co-workers to our Christmas Eve services next week. But when I started to speak, I was overwhelmed by my own life experience that had nearly crippled me during Christmases past. And so I did the only thing a proud woman could do - I cried and snotted and sweated and shook and I told the people my real story in a 3-minute farewell. 

Here's what brought on my public humiliation:

My pastor/friend/surrogate-dad, Griff Jones (CrossRoads Fellowship in Odessa, Texas), taught about the loneliness that often plagues people this time of year. Loneliness accompanied by depression and sadness and, sometimes, despair. The opening song to his message was "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. The song chimes a haunting line in its chorus that echoes, "Ah, look at all the lonely people." 

I could relate to all those lonely people. Fourteen Christmases ago I was one of them.

I had wandered far from God and was inching my way back, starting by going to church, sitting in a pew, trying not to be noticed, but also not wanting to be invisible.  

Fourteen Christmases ago, Christmas was especially difficult because of my Dad's battle with alcoholism - it always seemed to reach a peak during the holidays, and Christmas was the worst. I felt dread as Christmas approached and that made me feel guilty, like I was being ungrateful for the gift of Jesus. I felt undeserving of God's forgiveness. I felt so far gone that grace couldn't reach me. But I went to church on Christmas Eve. And I felt welcomed. I felt accepted. The people at church looked at me and said, "Merry Christmas! Welcome! You look lovely tonight. God bless you."  I went back to church the next Sunday and the next Sunday and the Sunday after that. I joined Bible studies and I formed healthy relationships with other people who were following Jesus and they helped me and mentored me along this new path and over the course of time something happened in my life…transformation. 

Four years later, my Dad came to church with me on Christmas Eve. When the communion juice and bread came to us, my Dad passed because he felt so guilty for his willful choice to disobey God and hurt everyone who loved him. I passed too. Instead, I held my Daddy's hand, sang "Silent Night" and wept hot but hopeful tears that my Dad would repent, turn his life around. 

It was my Dad's last Christmas. Six months later he died by suicide. Despair won that battle but ultimately, because my Dad had put his faith and heart in the hands of Jesus years before, death didn't have the final word. My Dad spent Christmas 2005 worshiping at the feet of Jesus. No longer in the pain of addiction; healed and whole. 

But I still wish his story would have had an earthly turnaround. I wish I could say that Dad went to rehab, got sober, rededicated his life to Christ and was sharing his story with other recovering addicts and enjoying his grand babies. I wish...

That's my Christmas wish for someone. Someone who is lonely. Someone who is in the grips of addiction or hopelessness or despair or depression or loss. My wish is that their life would intersect with the person of Jesus Christ and they would experience the life-giving, life-changing, bad-choice-redeeming, forever-forgiving, redeeming Savior that lays in the manger. So gentle. So humble. No judgement. Just love. 

So I stood on stage and gave a version of that story. I urged the audience, through a shaking voice, to look into the eyes of the desperate people around them offer them an invitation to a Christmas Eve service. They might say no. But what if they say "yes" and it changes the course of their life? It changed mine. 

Wherever you are, Keep Going and take someone with you to church this Christmas!

"God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy." Psalm 68:6 (NLT)

"He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you." Exodus 34:14 (NLT)

"God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Getting Real - A Thanksgiving Confession

“’Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house you could feel the tension mounting from my handsome OCD spouse.”

 

That could have been the opening line to a poem titled, “The Night Before Thanksgiving.” It could also have been aptly named, “World War P". The “P” standing for “Phillips” because let me tell you, it was on like donkey kong in our house last week. The blog went silent. But our house got loud.

 

Brad and I resolved not to use the “D” word early on in our marriage. No divorce. We vowed ‘til death do us part. But last week was so bad that I believe Brad had a fleeting thought of “Well, I could start a prison ministry.” Because although divorce is not an option, homicide was to be taken under consideration.

 

We are madly in love with each other. But some days we are just mad. Last week was just a mad week. A week we’re not proud of. A week we are recovering from. A week where we needed forgiveness given and received. And all on the same week where I talked about how much my family LOOOOOOOOVES each other on Studio7.  I just had to go and talk about our deep love and forgiveness for one another – I couldn’t have known we were on the verge of the marital apocalypse that ensued the days to follow. What did we fight about? You ask. Oh, who but satan in hell, knows. It was stupid, petty, silliness. The sort of things that mount up around the holidays in families that are too busy and too tired and too sick to function properly.

 

This week we are rising from the ashes. We prayed together – twice. We are working our way back to laughing and smiling. We are taking our feelings off our shoulders, putting on our grown up panties and communicating clearly. We are not just going to survive the holidays. We are going to thrive. We are going to give honor and glory to God for sending His Son to be a love sacrifice for our sins. And we’re going to be attacked viciously by a real, live, raging Enemy who wants, more than anything, to watch Christian couples crumble, fall and finally fail at this marriage thing (because marriage is God’s idea and Satan wants to mess up what God has joined together).

 

So to all of you who had a similar Thanksgiving week experience, know that I am praying for you and that you're not alone. We didn't have that picture perfect Thanksgiving meal where everyone is dressed beautifully and sits down to eat at a table for 12 set by Martha Stewart herself. Brad and I didn't even sit by each other during our Thanksgiving meal. We sat in different rooms! You're NOT alone! Also know that I am praying for your marriage. God’s mercies are new and available to us every day. Every day is a new chance for a miracle of love and forgiveness to enter your heart, mind, marriage, life.

 

Look for the miracle. Be the miracle. And let’s be so together and in love with our spouse on Christmas day that it shakes the foundation of hell.

 Don’t give up.

 Keep going!

 

 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,


Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;


Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,


“Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

 

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Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Books and Podcasts and Bears…OH MY!

I'm a bear if I don't feed my soul regularly. I get weak and grumpy and I growl. You think I'm joking? Just ask Brad, he'll testify. 

But WHAT should I read? And WHAT should I listen to? Here's a list of some of my favorite books and podcasts that have fed my soul, taught me and helped to grow me. I believe these will be an investment into YOUR life as well. (These books would make GREAT stocking stuffers at Christmas!)

 

PODCASTS

Click on iTunes and search these Podcasts, OR, click on the names of the Podcasts and they will link you directly to each one. 

 

"Your Move" with Andy Stanley - Biblically based teaching from Andy has made a huge impact on my life! I love him. Seriously! Love. Him. His insight makes me want to be a better wife, mom, daughter, sister and leader. And, BONUS, they're only about 28 minutes long! 

 

"LifeChurch.tv" with Craig Groeschel - This guy will crack you up while firing you up!

 

"Elevation Church" with Steven Furtick - OMG…Only My God could take a young twenty-something kid and turn him into one of the greatest pastor/teachers of this generation! Steven Furtick is passionate and focused on turning people on to a God bigger than we can comprehend.

 

"The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast" -These are leadership lessons with Andy Stanley. It's very conversational, almost like a 45 minute radio show. Every leader should listen to this podcast!! EVERY LEADER! Even if you're a wannabe-leader, like I am, listen to this!!! 

 

"Catalyst" - CALLING ALL LEADERS! THIS PODCAST IS FOR YOU!

 

"TED" - TED talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) are "riveting talks by remarkable people that are free to the world". Most TED talks are only 10-15 minutes. You can download the TED app to your phone or watch TED talks online through your computer. 

 

BOOKS

My favorite books for WOMEN:

"The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian - If you want to get married one day, you are married, or you were married, I recommend this book. My Mom gave me this book when I was 17 and told me to start praying it over my future spouse. What a wonderful gift - I didn't read it then, of course, because I was 17 and knew EVERYTHING.  I was nearly 26 when I got married and soon realized I KNEW NOTHING! I've read this through at least a dozen times. I love it!

"Feminine Appeal" by Carolyn Mahaney (Don't let the AWFUL name of this book keep you from reading it! Terrible name…AMAZING BOOK!). This is a WONDERFUL book to read and study through with your girlfriends or in a mentoring relationship. 

"Undaunted" by Christine Caine - This book will make you want to change the world! 

"Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst - Women, do you ever feel like your emotions are outta control? Yeah, me too. Lysa teaches us that life lessons are about progress, not perfection! This book is GOLD!

 

My favorite books for MEN:

"Fight" by Craig Groeschel - Buy this for your husband, your dad and your son! 

"The Power of the Praying Husband" by Stormie Omartian - My husband reads a prayer over me most nights before we go to sleep. Men, let me tell you, there's nothing sexier or manlier than praying over your wife! 

 

My favorite daily DEVO:

"Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young - This is my FAVE!!! I read it every single day. It's a quick read & it's one reading per day for a year. And it hits me in between the eyes every single day!

 

*This is not my final list. I'll be adding "My Favorite Leadership Books" in an upcoming blog post! I will also add some of my favorite parenting books. The list above is a start!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.

Thankful for…SOUL Food

Food…we're sort of obsessed with this subject in our western culture. We plan dates around meals…we even plan trips around exotic cuisine. We want to be full. But our bodies aren’t the only piece of us that needs nourishment; we also need to feed our souls.  Jesus said, “Man cannot live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). Bread (i.e. Food) won't last forever. It'll leave us hungry for more. And for many of us, it's not our bodies that are truly starving, it's our souls; our souls are crying out for food, for nourishment.

 

How long could one meal sustain you? One day? Two days? You could probably make it a few days without another meal, but you would become grumpy and tired and weak as your body cried out for more nourishment.

 

Even if you’re a church person and you go every single Sunday, that’s good…do that! Keep it up! Go every single week. But the truth is that one sermon or lesson you hear isn’t enough “food” to feed your soul for very long. Within a day or two you’ll begin feeling the grumblings inside yourself that are crying out for more. Pastor & author Erwin McManus call those grumblings our “soul cravings.” Our souls cry out for more.

 

When Brad and I were about to get married, my Dad offered Brad great advice about me. He said, “Brad, don’t put your hand in the cage if she’s hungry or tired.” You know why? Because when I’m hungry I’m grumpy, I’m snappy, I’m negative, I’m tired, I’m weak, I don’t feel good and I might just bite your hand off. The same is true of our souls. We can’t live on one good sermon every week. We have to continue feeding our souls or we’ll become weak, tired and we’ll wear out from the stress and weight of life.

 

So how do we feed our souls?

Here’s 3 simple steps to feed your soul:

1.  RECEIVE

This is where you taste the food. There are a couple of easy ways I “receive” soul food…I read and I listen to podcasts. I know that not everyone enjoys reading, but if you do, then read every single day, even if it’s for twenty or thirty minutes. Feed your soul some truth about where you are in life – read about parenting or marriage or singleness or grief. I love reading about leadership and church growth right now. Wherever you are at, there’s a book that will offer help and encouragement.

The second way I “receive” soul food is through podcasts. I love to listen to “Your Move” with Andy Stanley. I also love the “LifeChurch.TV” podcast. These podcasts are lessons given by pastors who apply Biblical principles in practical ways. Another of my favorite learning/listening tools is TED talks. It’s a place where I can hear about new ideas, inventions, cultures – it stretches me and grows me every time I listen to a TED talk. I also love the Catalyst podcast – it’s a way for me to learn from leaders in my industry.

Everyone has time for a podcast. I play my podcasts while I shower and put on my makeup. It doesn’t require “more” time, it’s time I’ll be spending doing those tasks anyway, so I might as well add value to myself while I get those things done.

I will be listing several of my favorite books and podcasts on my website and also on the Studio7 facebook page this week!

 

2.  REFLECT

Here’s where you chew on it. After you read or listen to a podcast, take some time and internalize what you’ve learned. Meditate on it. Listen to it again. Read it again. Let it turn over and over in your thoughts.

 

3.  RESPOND

Once you’ve meditated on it, respond to it. I encourage everyone to write a response. Get a journal and write down what the book or podcast made you think about. Write down what it challenged you to do or to think. When we write it down, we can look back at our lives and see places and times when we grew. And we can share that with other people, helping others on their journey. 

 

I will list some of my favorite books and podcasts, but I would be untrue to myself if I didn't say that the Word of God (the Bible) is the best nourishment you could possibly offer your soul. God's Word will never leave you empty. If you feast on His Word, you will leave satisfied, full and ready to face your day with the fuel to make right choices. Open the Bible. Start in Proverbs. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs and there are 31 days  (in most months). Start by reading one chapter a day. There is a great return on God's Word; it never returns void! Get in the Word and keep going!

 

Jesus said, “I am the living bread…Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”

John 6:51

 

“Is anyone thirsty?
 Come and drink—
even if you have no money!


Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    

Why pay for food that does you no good?


Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    

You will enjoy the finest food."

Isaiah 55:1-2 

1 Comment

Jessica Phillips

Jessica is worshiper and follower of Jesus. He rescued her heart at age 6 but he rescued her calling, purpose and direction in her early 20's. Everyday God is still writing Jessica's story. It involves her husband, Brad, her daughter, Emery, their extended families. But the story is a tale of loss of life and dark grief. And the story ebs and weaves and the grief story is followed by weddings and laughter. And what comes next? A Baby! God sends us a baby to shape and teach and grow right in the midst of our loss and realizing that life actually moves forward. We didn't think it would again after he died. But life just did what it was supposed to do...and it went on. And hope is born again. Everything I write is based on this fact: I'm God's child, I'm alive today. So what do You want me to do for You? Because I want my contribution to matter. I want to leave a legacy.