Thankful for FRIENDS

This week on Studio 7 we talked about being thankful for our friends. I talked about my "Tribe" and I gave some tips for how to honor your friends this month as we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. If you missed this week's episode of Studio 7, just click HERE to watch!  

 

Friends matter. They matter when you’re 5 years old and they matter when you’re 35, 55, and 85. Mama was right when she taught us to choose our friends wisely. There’s a proverb in the Bible that speaks to this principle. Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, you cannot deny the truth of this proverb, it says:

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion (friend) of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Pastor Craig Groeshcel says, “You show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” That’s what this proverb means. Your friends have the influence to lead your life down a path – that’s why we need to evaluate our friendships and take time to be thankful for the ones that have stood the test of time and integrity.

Another proverb says : “A friend loves at all time and a brother/sister is born for a time of adversity (hardship, difficulty).” Proverbs 17:17

When you go to the hospital to have your first baby, you want your friends there. When you go to the funeral home, you also want those friends there to hold your hand. They are more than your friends, they are what I call my “Tribe.” They journey through life with me. They jump, scream and squeal in delight as my cheerleaders in the highlight moments of my life. And they hold my hand, weep with me and pass the Kleenex box when the heartbreak is too much to bear by myself.

So how do we say “THANK YOU” to our Tribal friends?

 

1.  Start simple: make a list of your five closest friends.

This sounds easier than it really is. We live in a FaceBook faux friendship world. You might have 1,000 FB friends and yet feel lonely. You're looking around saying to yourself, "I don't even have a friend to meet for lunch or to go to a movie with." This step of listing your five closest friends is more than just making another list, this is an evaluation of your relationships. Who is there for you? Do you need to open your heart up to meeting new friends? Let God reveal to you the truth of your 'friendship status' with people around you. 

 

2.  Next to each person’s name, write two or three of that person’s favorite things.

For example, my friend Lolly loves funny cards and ice cream. My friend Di loves all things leadership and all things inappropriate - we're soul sisters!

Set out to meet one or two of each person’s favorite things (i.e. I’ll send Lolly a funny card with a $10 gift card to baskin-robbins; I'll send Diana…well, uh, never mind.)

 

3.  GO THE EXTRA MILE:

Even if your friends’ favorite thing isn’t a card, hand write a card to your five Tribal friends telling them how much they mean to you and mail the cards. This isn’t a FB personal message or a text. This will take some time and effort. But your Tribal friends are worth the effort!

 

God uses the right people to lead us to the right mindsets and places in our lives. Your friends have probably helped bring you to where you are today…let them know you recognize them, value them and want to grow in relationship with them!

And Keep Going!

 

 

Diana - sipping a mimosa on the morning of my wedding. She held my hand & prayed over me on my wedding day…and 7 weeks later she did the same thing when she helped me through my Dad's suicide. 

Me & Lauren (aka, Lolly) sharing ice cream together when I visited her in FL after her second child was born. 

Me & Jenni and our infamous sister pose. She & Di threw me a 30th birthday party…the theme was "Somewhere Over The Hill!" This Dorothy loving Kansas girl LOVED it!

My only sister, Jenni, is my bestie for the restie. She is the best listener - and she's the LEAST judgmental person I've ever met. You can tell her ANYTHING and she won't think any different of you. She exhibits the true eyes of Jesus - that's the lens she looks through and that's why she doesn't judge, she just loves. 

That time Di & my sister threw my surprise 30th birthday bash. Di is the most giving person I know. She'll do anything for anyone - even if you're not in her "Tribe". She will go the extra mile every single time! And she loves Jesus and the Word so much. She sharpens me. 

Jessica (holding Karis), Jenni and Jennifer Wilson. Jennifer Wilson was the "new" friend who emerged following my Dad's death in 2005. She called every week just to ask me how I was & to share my experience with her - every week for two years. Now that's a friend!

Who looks that gorgeous just a few weeks postpartum? Lauren, that's who! Lolly is the best wife and mom that I know. She has the true gift of putting her family in the priority place that God calls her to - and without whining or complaining about it (like I do a lot of the time). Lolly loves the church and is always pointing me to amazing sermons or books that keep my mind growing. Lolly stretches me! I love her for it!

Gorgeous Jennifer Wilson - dang my friends are beauties! Jennifer is so godly. She is the strongest prayer warrior in my life. I love my JWow! (For the record, that makes ME Snooki)

Jenni has held my hand and laughed and cried and looked into my eyes with that "I know. I'm here." for my entire life. We're gonna grow into old crazy ladies terrorizing the old people home. Going to "supper" at 3:45pm and probably forgetting our pants. But who cares. We'll sit and laugh and talk 'til midnight (6:45pm) every night. My soul sister. I HAVE to die before her b/c I can't live without her. 

P.S. Why do I look like a drag queen? And why are Jenni's arms so skinny? Some answers we'll just never get this side of heaven! 

Jes & Di, circa 2006. Good grief - we spent our skinny years together. Along with our young years. 

That time we went to Puerto Vallarta (and we got REALLY tan!). It's like Blonde Malibu Barbie and her friend, "Exotic and Ethnically Diverse" Barbie.

Brad & Jes. Lauren & Daniel. We have more laughs with this couple! They keep up howling.  

Di kissing my Emmy girl on Em's first birthday. It takes a village to raise a child! Di helps us so much. 

Emery & Jennifer Wilson LOVE each other! Jenn gets a good laugh out of my strong-willed child. Glad SHE can laugh about it!

Jenni is literally the funniest human being you'll ever meet in real life! She should be writing comedy for SNL!! This is Jenni mocking the "sexy selfie". 

Could she be a more beautiful bride? If she had asked me to give her away, I couldn't have! Sorry, Jeremy, I'll share her, but she's still mine. 

Jenni in a sweet-baby-sandwhich! Emmy loves her Nini. And Karis - don't you just wanna eat her up! 

I love Di's curly wild hair - it is SO her! This day we were celebrating her graduation from nursing school. This wonder woman amazes me - she's seen it all, done it all and burned the t-shirts!

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.

Fall into…THANKS

I want to give thanks for what God has done in my life. I grew up in a small baptist church singing, "Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done." It's the month of November and many of us are making it a social media "30 Days of Thanks". I love it. Corny? Who cares. I drive a minivan…I gave up caring what the popular kids think a long time ago! I embrace "corny."  

Looking back through the journals that I've written over the course of my life, I find that when I was in a funk, a depression, down, or sometimes just having a whiney-hormonal-pity-party, the thing that always brought me back "up" was when I began writing down the things I was thankful for. You can't stay down when you recognize how much you've been given. They say that "life is a party" and the great movie "Father of the Bride" taught us that, "Every party has a pooper, that's why we invited YOU!". 

Don't be the pooper at your own party.

When you feel like you're knee deep in a stinky sink hole, it's time to pull out your journal, instagram, twitter, or Facebook and begin chronicling the things you're thankful for. Count your blessings!

Today I'm most thankful that God saved me. He could have stopped there. But He didn't. He went on to give me even more. He's given me a wonderful, loving family and crazy awesome friends and opportunities that are out of this world. He's given me a man who is godly, loving, patient and forgiving - and this man loves me beyond anything I deserve.  He's given me a little mini-me (Emery Noel) who I can't take my eyes off of. She's perfect. I love everything about her because she was knit together in MY womb by the very hand of God. Wow. Blessed. Amazed. Thankful. Crying. Snorting. Laughing (at myself). 

I could go on and on for days…and I will…26 more, to be exact.  

I would love to follow YOUR '30 Days of Thanks' on twitter/intagram/facebook.

Leave me your "handles" in the "comments" section below and I will follow you through this month as you count your blessings. I'm excited to hear about what God has given you!

I invite you to follow MY '30 Days of Thanks': 

instagram: JujuPhillips

twitter: @churchladyjes

FaceBook: Jessica Johnson Phillips

 

Let's look at each other's lives and praise God for just how great He truly He.  

Giving was HIS idea first, after all! 

 

"God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not die but will have eternal life."                                                                                         John 3:16

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.

Fall into...FOCUS!

Fall into…FOCUS? That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? What sounds like fun is running through Starbucks, grabbing a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte and going to buy a new pair of red sequined Uggs. Yeah. That sounds like fun.

Do you know what’s no fun? Waking up on December 26th with the holiday hangover…you know what that looks like. You’re 7 pounds heavier, you’re flat broke and dreading the credit card statement that’s coming your way the first of January, and your family is in a huge fight or, worse, not speaking at all because you spent no quality time together throughout the holidays.

If we want to beat the holiday hangover, then we have to focus now.

Here’s the three areas that need our focus today:

1.  Tell Your Money Where To Go

Make a budget.  Sit down with your family and realistically write down what you have to spend on Christmas. It has to cover gifts for family, friends, and even gift exchanges. Everyone needs to agree to the budget. Sign it if it makes it more feel more real. Make a real commitment and then do a weekly check of how everyone’s doing. Decide on a drawer in your kitchen that you’ll each throw your spending receipts into. Appoint someone (Mom, Dad) the family accountant who adds up the receipts and tells the family how they’re doing each week.

Give yourselves a goal. If you underspend or don’t overspend, you’ll do _________. You fill in the blank. Maybe your family will go out for a steak dinner. Or maybe it’ll be burgers and bowling.

 

2.  Tell Your Time Where To Go

Make a schedule. Your time is an investment, don’t spend it on lesser things. What do I mean by “lesser things”? Lesser things are the things that aren’t necessarily a waste of your time, but they’re not the best use of your time. When we say “Yes” to something, we are automatically saying “No” to something else. And we easily over-extend ourselves in the holiday season – especially because our “Yes” usually is a “No” to our spouse or our kids.

Decide how many holiday parties you’re going to commit to. And be sure to hold that up to your budget – if you can’t afford another gift exchange, bow out politely. You’ll get another invite! Choose to make time for the people who matter most to you.

Create a special date night for you and your spouse. Have a couple of family nights at home where you make homemade caramel corn and you watch a movie with your family snuggled up on the couch. Make those special moments happen.

And enjoy holiday parties with your adult friends also! We need adult time to connect, share, laugh and relax.

Decide where you’ll spend the holidays. If you wait until the week before the holiday, you’re probably going to end up in an argument with your spouse, your mom, your in-laws. Do everyone a favor and get it lined out now – people like a plan, even flighty people, like me. I want to know where we’re going, when we’re expected to be there and what I’m supposed to bring. So make a plan and tell your time where to go.

 

3.  Tell Your Health Where To Go

Make a plan to eat right and work out.  This is the difficult one for me…I want to eat all the goodies like I did when I was 22, you know, back when I could eat it all and my hips not pay the price. But now when I do that, I do pay the price. And I don’t want to have to buy a new sweat pant wardrobe to ring in the new year!

I need to focus on continuing to do the healthy things I’m doing right now…right on through the holidays. We need to keep exercising. We need to care about our daily food intake. Let’s eat healthy. And let’s also enjoy some pumpkin pie or cobbler or a yummy dinner roll.

In all three of these areas you’ll do better if you have someone to hold you accountable.

Ask a friend to be your health adviser, or your time adviser or your budget coach during the November & December months. And make yourself show them a calendar of the days you worked out and when you ate great and when you ate bad. Tell your time adviser how your weeks are shaping up and let that person remind you that you can’t add anything else unless you choose to not sleep. Being accountable for your choices to another person makes you want to do better. 

 

In all these things, propel yourself forward! January 1, 2014 is coming and it's going to be the time where we have to face all our bad money, time and health choices in the months we are enjoying now; OR it can be the time when we celebrate that we were disciplined. Be focused. Keep going!

 

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.

The Highlight Steal

The highlight reel is the place where we come and sort of brag about the highlight's of our lives. But if we aren't careful, the highlight reel can steal our lives and our identities. We can become slaves to the criticism or the applause. 

Author Jon Acuff says we should have people we come to and share our exciting life events with...he calls this place the "brag table". Jon says, "Celebrating some accomplishment or goal doesn't make you a jerk...Being vulnerable about your failures is only half of the story; you have to be vulnerable enough to share your successes too." (from the book, "Start" by Jon Acuff, pages 184-185).  

Oh dang. That is difficult for me. Pride is a funny thing because the flip-side of it is insecurity. If you acknowledge that you struggle with one, you're silently acknowledging your struggle with the other. My fear of pride often gives way to insecurity seeping from every pore of my body and either way it seeps out, I'm covered in a gross mess. 

Insecurity beckons false humility. It's still a self-centered "me" mindset, albeit focus is on the flaws of who you think you are, but self-focus remains at the root. It's the part of me that cannot accept a compliment. My friend Lisa used to tell me, "Jessica, stop throwing away my compliments." GREAT life advice. It's okay to receive compliments and praise. I want to learn to receive it well, don't you?  

And now may I introduce the flip-side of insecurity. She is cloaked in fabulousness and does she ever know it. Her name is Pride. And Pride beckons applause.  

Lady Gaga sings it: 

"I live for the applause, applause, applause

I live for the applause-plause

Live for the applause-plause

Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me

The applause, applause, applause

Give me that thing that I love (I'll turn the lights on)
Put your hands up, make 'em touch, touch (make it real loud)
Give me that thing that I love (I'll turn the lights on)"

How frightening. "Give me that thing that I love. Put your hands up. I live for the applause." Pride. Self-worship. Scary. Scary because I step easily between the insecurity trap directly into the pride trap. And scary because scripture is clear that Pride comes before a fall. Pride comes and brings with her her BFF, disgrace (Proverbs 11:2).  I've lived in enough self-induced disgrace to know that I don't want to be her friend anymore. 

So how do we strike a balance between self-depravation (insecurity) and applause (pride)?  

First of all, we have to be grounded in something bigger than ourselves. Knowing that I am God's child should shoot HUGE God-sized wholes through my insecurity, while keeping me humble that I am the created, not the Creator, thus keeping my pride at bay. Knowing I'm called to the high purpose of serving people will keep my knees bowed low before the mighty God of the universe and when I am bowed low I can neither be puffed up with pride nor depressed by insecurity. I cry out to you to "get low" today! 

And here's my final thoughts for today, and I don't offer these lightly because they are my biggest struggle in this season of my life: 

Don't let what other people do for you, or don't do for you, be a reflection of what you deserve! What they do or don't do is a reflection of who THEY ARE, not a reflection of who you are. Don't let it define you.  

We can be slaves to criticism and also to applause. So get low before God today so that the only One you're slave to is big enough to never exploit you! 

Keep Going!! 

Last week was a big week for me with the premier of Studio 7. My family and friends were incredibly gracious to me - reflections of who they are and Who they serve!  

Can I bring a few things to the brag table??  

 

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.

The Real Deal

I usually only post the cute things that my child does, says, sings or dances. But since I've talked and blogged about "The Highlight Reel" this week I thought I had better go ahead and get real. Especially since I challenged everyone to be vulnerable. God keeps me humble by always "alloying" me to lead by example. 

I picked Emmy up from MDO (mother's day out) today. She did not nap. Ruh-roh! You see, my child is a napper. She needs a nap every single day. Not just a nap, but a two-hour nap or else a different "being" emerges from inside her. 

In our home it's not uncommon, on days when Emmy's hasn't napped, to hear Brad utter the words, "Lucifer is coming" . Everyone knows to hunker down, gird their loins and pray (and put that baby to bed). 

I captured just a few seconds of Emmy's pre-meltdown-meltdown. The actual meltdown is so loud that I didn't want you to drop your smartphone or explode the speakers in your computer.  

So here's a glimpse at my real life. The raw. The tired.  

Enjoy... 

 

 

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.

The Highlight Reel

I sat in the Houston airport terminal waiting to board my final flight to Orlando for my long-awaited and belated birthday trip to see my bestie, Lauren (a.k.a. Lolly). Lolly gave me the best birthday present ever...her new baby boy Colton - he was my ultimate birthday present because God let him enter our world and share my birthday. I waited with baited breath for my next flight.

I pulled out my phone, like everyone else, trying to avoid the awkward airport conversation, "Where are you headed? Where are you from? What do you do? Nice to meet you...blah blah blah..."  

I pulled up my social media sites so I could feel "connected" and entertained. Facebook. Twitter, Instagram. They are the equivalent of my crack. I inhaled and breathed out with elation as each site showed me glimpses into the lives of people I barely know.

This woman posted a photo of the flowers her husband brought her. (How nice.)

That person told about her child's school accomplishment - reading at a third grade level when only in first grade. (Wow. Your kid is a little genius. Yay for you.)

Another woman described the breakfast her husband brought her while she lay in bed waking up. (Breakfast in bed? Are you freaking kidding me?) 

I was relieved when I boarded the plane and the flight attendant told passengers it was time to shut off all portable devices. The phone went "off" and I breathed a sigh of disappointment. Somehow all these good things going on in everyone else's life made me feel...bad. My life was sub-par, not measuring up to the high standard of everyone else's lives on FB, Twitter and Instagram. I thought to myself, "Brad hasn't brought me flowers in six months. Is our marriage in trouble? And Emery isn't even reading yet! She'll never catch up to that kid reading at a third grade level. I need to hire Emery a reading tutor. I know she's only 2, but pulease, if we lived in China she'd already be blogging."

My thoughts went on and on until I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Even in my own mind I could hear the absolute silliness of this little game I call "My life sucks because I'm comparing myself to everyone else."

It was an "Aha" moment in my life. A moment when I had new insight and clarity. It occurred to me that the moments we post on our social media accounts are merely "The Highlight Reels" of our lives. We are posting the best-of-the-best moments of each day or week or month that we choose to share. We aren't posting a photo of the unmade couch that our husband slept on because of the fight we had. We're posting the picture of the flowers he brought us the day after the fight. We're leaving the information about the fight out altogether. It makes us sound like we're living in a rom-com (for my Mom & Sister who do not speak in abbreviations, that's short for: Romance-Comedy). The truth is, we're all just living. 

If you don't want the Highlight Reel to get you down, maybe these three steps will help you. This is what God spoke to me in my "aha" moment: 

1.  Recognize it for what it is...it's a Highlight Reel.

Before I log on to FB, Twitter, or Instagram, I've got to put on the mindset that I'm about to look at the highlight moments of the lives of everyday, normal people; people just like me. 

2.  Stop Comparing!

The "My life sucks" game is a comparison game. And there's no win in comparison. Comparison divides. Comparison whispers, "She got flowers because she's a better wife. Her kid is testing higher because she's a better mom. He brought her breakfast in bed because she works harder." All of those lies add up to the biggest lie of all: I'm not enough. I need to be better, stronger, faster, smarter, thinner, prettier, godlier.  

Proverbs 14:30 says, "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

Comparison causes us to look over our shoulder and envy what "she" has. In the end, it robs us of our true selves, the life God has called me to live. She and I have different purposes in God's plan but I can waste away my purpose. The Bible says I can rot away that purpose through my pity party of looking at her with envy and believing I couldn't be of value because I'm not her. 

James 3:16 tells us the end result of envy,

"Where you have envy and selfish ambition, you will find disorder..."

"Disorder" means no peace. The end result of our comparison game is that we rot away in a life with no peace. Ummm, no thank you.

3.  Celebrate Other People's Highlight Moments

Hit "Like" on that women's photo of the flowers her husband gave her. Leave her a comment that says, "So glad he knows how blessed he is to have YOU! You're special & you deserve flowers everyday!" 

The quick way to get over our envy is to celebrate other people's happy moments. If envy and selfish ambition bring no peace, then is it possible that love, kindness and good will could bring peace to your life? It's worth a shot. 

 

Okay, so I couldn't leave this at just 3 simple steps. I think we need a challenge. I'm calling step 4 a "faith" step because it will require faith to see this through.  

4.  Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability isn't easy. Where comparison divides, vulnerability unites. Vulnerability says, "me too." Vulnerability leaves a FB post that says, "I'm looking for a 7th grade math tutor, a wish and a prayer. If you could send one or all three I'd be indebted to you for all eternity." All Moms and Dads with kids struggling in academics will laugh, "like" your post and they'll extend every resource they have to help that parent. Because they understand where you're at. As they click "Like" they're really saying, "Me too." 

Vulnerability is why I write this blog. I can't keep up a facade that life is perfect or pretty or easy. That's too much work for such a dirty lie.  

You don't have to air out your family's dirty laundry, please don't. But it is okay to let down your pretenses and be your true self. It's okay to admit that you don't have a perfect marriage or perfect kids or the perfect career.  

It's okay to be YOU because God made YOU for a specific purpose - and we'll never figure out that purpose when we're comparing, envying and being insecure. 

 

Enjoy the highlight reel this week! Follow my misbehaved life on these three social media sites: 

Facebook: Jessica Johnson Phillips

Twitter: @churchladyjes

Instagram: jujuphillips

 

PS - 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.

Disqualified, Part 2

...here's a word for you!  

A few years ago I began blogging as an outlet during the heartbreak of our fertility issues. After I got pregnant and had Emmy I stopped blogging. Dumb. I know. I got busy with my new life as a stay-at-home-wife-mom-housekeeper-cook (all my friends just LOL-ed). But a few months ago I was at a leadership conference and God stirred my heart in an unmistakable way. I believe He was reconfirming His call on my life to write. So I got back to writing & blogging. 

So I'm going along blogging my heart out for two months when my news anchor friend contacts me to ask if I would consider becoming her family/faith/relationship contributor on her new lifestyle t.v. talk show. Umm, someone pinch me. Is this happening? Umm, someone pinch me again. I'm not qualified to do this...   

And just like that I began a downward spiral of self-doubt that needed no help from Satan to kick me and keep me down. I could do "kicking and keeping me down" all by my bad little self.  

At the bottom of my doubt, God began reminding me of His Truth, His Word. He whispered, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). Yes. I believe that. Then as doubt and insecurity crept back up, He whispered again, "You are my workmanship, my masterpiece! You were created in my Son to do good works that I prepared in advance for you to do." (Ephesians 2:10).

I still don't feel qualified but I believe I am called. Christine Caine says "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called." 

I don't feel qualified for the work and opportunities in front of me. I still feel like an awkward eight grade girl with braces, glasses and pubescent acne (I still have the acne). The opportunity to speak into people's lives about relationships (i.e. marriage, parenting). Wow. What a great opportunity. What a huge responsibility. 

Struggling to accept all this goodness, I decided I needed a mental break. Girl time was necessary. I called my sister and we took our girls for donuts, bought them new shoes and let them play at the mall's indoor playground. Leaving the mall, Jenni and I saw that Dillard's had a clearance on their children's clothes...score! We gazed and gathered quickly as our children began wilting.

I stood at the Dillard's children's counter with my two fabulous clearance items waiting patiently for the lady in front of me to finish her transaction. My child was not waiting patiently. She was holding my one free hand but moving away from me so that just our fingertips were touching. "Emery Noel, you have to hold Mama's hand." She looked at me, saw that I was stuck in line and her evil master plan would work...so she went for it! She took off running faster than a Kenyan at the Olympics. Can I say that? I just did. 

I stuffed the clearance items in my sister's hand and took off running, screaming to my sister, "Put the clothes back on the racks. I'm not buying her anything!" As I ran through the store I yelled at innocent bystanders, "Look out! Kid coming your way. Don't trip!" I noticed many people stop, look down just in time to see Emery race past them, and then look at me and laugh. They laughed. At me. The family/faith/relationship girl. When I finally caught up to her, I was out of breath and I had shin splints. I'm not kidding. Pathetic. Note to anyone reading this: next time you see me running through a store to capture my disobedient child, please help a sister out and trip that sweet child of mine. Good grief! 

We piled into my minivan and drove home. I promptly put Emmy down for a nap and then I cried. "I'm so not qualified to tell anyone how to do anything, most of all parenting." I felt disqualified. Like I just got caught taking the juice (is that the right sports terminology?). Except that my "juice", the disqualifying factor, was my lack of ability to maintain a pretend sense of control and calm in my life. Chasing my kid through the mall made me feel disqualified to talk about relationships and parenting.   

I told my friend, Di, about the incident a few days later and she roared with laughter. I was only at a point where I could politely chuckle about it. And then she spoke wisdom into my discouraged heart, "Jessica, that is exactly why Tatum wants you to be the family/faith/relationship person on her show. Because you'll tell that story. And the majority of moms will relate. And you'll offer them hope, unity, love. And, hey, if nothing else, you'll make 'em laugh...at your expense!" True that. 

God didn't call me to do any of this, writing/speaking, because I'm qualified. My sin has disqualified me from everything good. But His Son, on the cross, disqualifies my sin and calls me out as His daughter, thus qualifying me as royalty. How much more qualification do I need? 

He called me, I answered and now He will qualify me for the work He has planned for me to do. 

He'll qualify you, too. Listen, obey, answer His call. Today. Not when you've quit smoking or cussing or when you've lost 10 pounds or when you've fallen back in love with your husband or when you've served in your church for one year or when you've stopped sleeping with your boyfriend for three months. Stop trying to qualify yourself. Do what God's asked you to do and do it now. When you're not qualified, or when you feel disqualified. You can't qualify yourself - that's God's job. Your job is to answer His call with a "Yes." Get going and keep going!

 

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.

Disqualified, Part 1

I was introduced to public speaking my first year of college. I was 18. The course was "Women's Speech" (I think a man just screamed "NNNNOOOOOO!" somewhere.) As though we women folk need help in the speaking department. Isn't that innate? Yes, maybe. But speaking and public speaking are two very different things. The class had only 12 people, just enough for it not to get the ax from the local community college I attended. All 12 of us were women. My BFF and I were the youngest in the class by about twenty years. It was community college - the majority of students were returning students or "later-in-life" students, my unsung heroes.  

When I got up in front of the class to give my first speech my knees were literally knocking together. I was trembling from head to toe. I gave my half-hearted speech, which I am sure was utter torment for everyone, and then I cried. Yes. I said I cried. 

I think I actually cried while giving the speech. And my sweet BFF sat on the front row and cried with me/ for me. (That's a true friend.) I wasn't giving a personal story about my life that pulled some deeply rooted emotion out of me. I wasn't speaking about the time my dog Aimee Jo Johnson died. The speech was not hinged on anything that should incite tears.

I cried out of my utter fear of public speaking. I cried because I didn't want anyone to look at me and see the flaws I saw in myself. I cried because I felt exposed and vulnerable and out of control. So my response to not wanting to be exposed and vulnerable and out of control was to cry in front of my professor and my classmates. Great plan, Jes. Awesome. It was so bad that my professor took pity on me and said I could video my next speeches and show the tapes to the class. I did not give another speech in that class. I videotaped every assignment, created faux commercials, added theatrics using my friends (yes, the dork who cried during her first public speech had friends), and I earned an A. But I did not learn the art of public speaking. 

After that class, I did not give another public speech for five years. The next time I spoke to an audience was in 2003 when I taught the high school class my church. The group was large, about 75 kids, and I was terrified. But I knew that God had something to say and He wanted to say it through me. Why me? I dunno. I wasn't qualified. I was a total screw up. A total screw up who relied on Jesus more than anything else because I knew that if I didn't I might screw up again and the next time might be the last time. So I studied my heart out and I spoke. And I didn't cry. And you know what? People said I did a good job. The kids asked the student pastor if I could speak again, and he let me! And then other groups in the church heard that I was a decent communicator, so I got to speak at this thing or that shin-dig. And then I had the ultimate privilege of team-teaching with my pastor and the high school student pastor on "Student Day" on a Sunday morning in May 2005. A Sunday morning...in west Texas...and I'm a GIRL!!! And that went really well, so God began increasing the opportunities and the size of the audience. I still can't believe what God has let me do; where He's brought me. I feel alive when I'm in front of 1,000 people. I feel excited to offer them Jesus, a hope and a laugh. It feels like I'm operating in my calling but there are many times when I still struggle with not feeling qualified. 

Have you been there? Do you struggle with feeling qualified to do what is before you? God's got this thing He's offering you and you're sassing back saying, "Who me? I'm not just not qualified...my life, my choices make me disqualified."  

Keep going, sister. I'm right there with you. And do I have a word to share with you...

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.

Season Premiere

It's here...Fall. It's my favorite season. I live in the west Texas panhandle, so I use the word "season" loosely.  

I love pumpkins. And pumpkin spice lattes (I think I just heard a baptist shout "AMEN!"). I love layers of clothing with cute boots, a sloppy side bun and a hat. I love pumpkin patches, cinnamon, caramel, and candy corn. It's a miracle that by January 1 I'm not a candidate for "The Biggest Loser". I love the crispness that arrives in the air. I enjoy waking up early to read my Bible while it's dark outside and there's a slight chill in the air in my cozy home. I love grabbing my slippers, my robe, my favorite mug and filling it with coffee and spending time with the Lord. Yummy, yummy Fall. Did I mention that I love it?

You know what else I love about the Fall? I love the season premiere of all my favorite t.v. shows. I drudge through the hot, episode-less summer to wake up in late September to the perfect combination of cooler weather and good t.v. (I think I just heard a baptist shout, "Good T.V.? That's an oxymoron.") Sorry to disappoint, but if you're looking for the t.v.-less spiritual giant, you're on the wrong blog. New episodes of my favorite shows is just another way the world reminds me that the season is changing. And usually after I've endured another summer of living-on-the-Texas-sun-hotness, I'm ready for a season change. 

My life is in a season change right now. It gives me goosebumps when I stop and think about all that God is doing, all that He is revealing to me. I've been through a season recently where I thought God forgot that He created me with a purpose and a hope and a future like Jeremiah 29:11 promises. I thought He had moved on to someone with more talent, a bigger heart, better time management, or a higher education. I felt like I was in a season of identity crisis...lost identity. 

But God never forgot me. He never left me. He was working all along to prepare me for this new season of life. A season when a sweet friend contacted me to tell me she was pursuing her dream and getting her own daytime lifestyle t.v. show...it premieres in my favorite Fall month of October...and she asked me to be her relationship/faith contributor. Wow. Overwhelmed. Undeserving. But prepared. Not because I know so much, but because I know nothing yet I'm learning so much. So a new season is birthed out of what I'm seeking to learn about God, life, marriage, parenting, aging parents, friendships. All the things that really matter - and now God is giving me an outlet to share His hope & truth through those life lessons.

I was in a season where I wanted to stop and give up. God whispered, "Keep Going!". 

I hope you'll hang on today and keep going! God might be on the verge of starting a new season in your life. Don't give up one day too early.  

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..."       Ecclesiastes 3:1

Please tune in on Monday, October 21st to Studio 7 on CBS 7 at 4:30pm. It will be the season premiere - the very first show! Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/studio7cbs7 

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.

Walk Like An Egyptian

I bought Emery her first pair of heel shoes. They are clear plastic Cinderella glass slippers and they are precious. "Totes presh" as the cool kids say. She loves the way they "click-clack" against the tile in our hallway. The only problem is that they are a bit too big. Her narrow foot slips out of them if she walks faster than her tiny toes can grip down and hold them on. So far she hadn't fallen out of the shoes and busted...until Friday. 

She was running down our hallway looking at herself in the full-length mirror and as she approached the mirror she smiled and giggled. She must have loosened up her toe-death-grip because in an instant her right foot slipped out of the shoe, she stumbled as it rolled under her foot tripping her and causing the left shoe to fall off. I watched as her left ankle rolled. She grasped for something, anything. There was nothing to grab hold of and I couldn't reach her fast enough. I ran down the hall, a mere four large steps for me, and grabbed her as both her knees and hands hit the tile. SPLAT! That is the sound a two year old's tiny body makes as it is catapulted onto hard cold tile. Splat. 

I picked her up. She was stunned and a little confused as she watched Mama hold her, kiss her, cry, check her body for scrapes, scratches, bones sticking through skin (not a one). Then she saw her crazed mother grab up the homicidal slippers and put them away. She's lucky I didn't throw those stupid shoes away.  

And guess what she did? Two stinking seconds later she screamed, "I WANT MY SLIPPERS!". Are you kidding me? Those slippers almost maimed you, mauled you, killed you, or worse, and you want them back? You stubborn child. No ma'am! 

Then God spoke loud and clear in my heart, "You're just like her. Always wanting those things that knocked you down, hurt you, almost killed you. The ones that I reached down, picked you up and saved you from. Yet two seconds later you put aside the hurt and you ask for the very thing that caused you pain. You stubborn child."

OMG. Only My God would choose this moment to get my attention, rebuke me and remind me of His relentless pursuit of my heart. O.nly M.y G.od.  Wanting what we had that hurt us because it's what we know, what we're comfortable with and what we think we deserve. I've worn those shoes. 

I love the Israelites in the Old Testament. They are so "me". They had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years but God saw their despair and sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. God took them out of slavery, gave them an incredible leader, protected them and provided manna from heaven for them to gather and eat each day. But over time, they grew tired of the manna. They grew tired of the daily provision of God.

Here's what happened in Numbers 11:4-6 (NIV):


4The rabble (foreigners traveling) with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

Looking back is a dangerous game. We tend to look back and romanticize what we were rescued from. The Israelites looked back at their time in Egypt, remembered the delicious food they had but forgot the harsh slavery they were under. We do the same thing. We remember "that" time in our life and how we felt special, beautiful, valued. But we forget the unhealth of our heart, our mind. We forget the fact that we were actually enslaved. I decide that the good ole days were my glory days and I begin to walk like an Egyptian (come on, do the move with me). I trade the glory of God for my glory days which were really more gory than glory, but I forget all that. I begin to digress into a past that is fiction in my head. I cry out to God that where He's brought me and what He's offering me today is subpar compared to what I had in...Egypt. I continue to walk like an Egyptian right into enslaving myself again and again. 

But God's offer is manna. Manna is translated, "What is it?". God's daily offer is, "What is it? What is it you need? What is the desire of your heart?".  Ask Him. He'll offer you what you need. He'll give you the manna that you need. But He'll only give you what you need for today. It's enough. His grace in this moment is enough for what you're facing today. He will always provide the amount of grace for what you right now.

I need to remember that. I'm beginning a workout challenge tomorrow that is going to kick my butt, literally. I might be so sore that I can't type for a month. I'm already worried about what I'm going to eat. How I'm going to probably starve to death on day one. I'm worried what I'm going to have to give up (mostly giving up my pride). 

My tendency will be to start, realize it's difficult, then look back and think, "It wasn't so bad back there. It wasn't totally awful when I hated going shopping b/c nothing fit well. It wasn't so bad getting winded just putting Emery in the car seat. It really wasn't so bad. And I got to eat anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. Remember the food? Remember the meat? It was SSSSSOOOOO good!". But that is all a lie. I can't walk like an Egyptian into freedom.  
I need manna, not meat. I need grace, not slavery. I need the Promised Land, not Egypt. 

So what is it that you need? What's your manna request? Ask Him. He'll give you what you need for today. He will give you what it is that you desperately need so that you can keep going. He's the God who wants to see us keep going until we reach the Promised Land. 

I'm praying that when you read this, you'll have a renewed sense of God's power and grace. And pray for me, that I don't walk like an Egyptian into Krispy Kreme and ruin everything! I'm a weak, weak woman!!





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.

Can't Never Could

Trying to get out the door to go anywhere with a 2 yr old requires patience, poise, and excellent time management...all of which I possess none of. So I said to Emery for the third time, "Pick up your sippy cup and go to the car. We need to get going or we're gonna be late."

My child continued to lay on our living room ottoman staring at the blank t.v. screen hoping that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse would miraculously reappear. She then threw her arms up in the air and yelled, "MY CAN'T, MAMA!" 

This could have been a teaching moment. But instead I threw down some solid 'theological' doctrine on her, "Can't never could, Emmy. Can't never could." Because if saying it once is effective then repeating it twice is the baptist thing to do (and my roots are baptist). 

She wanted me to pick her up and carry her to the car, but my hands were full. I had already given her everything she needed to get out the door. I dressed her, diapered her, put her shoes on her feet and tied them, and I fixed her hair in cute ponytails with bows. I had equipped her for what was ahead but to get where we were going, she had to move. She had to put her feet on the ground, put one foot in front of the other and direct her little body into action.  

She's not the only one in our family who struggles with this "I can't" problem. My 6 yr old niece, Karis, also occasionally gets the "I can't's". Being the godly woman I am, I offer her my sage wisdom when I riddle her with, "Karis, are you a Mex-I-CAN? Or are you a Mex-I-CAN'T?" Because she is half Latina  the answer is, "Yes, I'm a Mex-I-CAN!" But Karis' typical answer is, "Juju," said with an eye roll and a sigh, "I'm a Mex-I-CAN but I don't want to ________________." (Fill in the blank with any number of things she doesn't want to do: brush her hair, put her shoes on, go shopping with Juju, etc.)

Karis wants what Emmy wants, someone to do it for her. Even though we have prepared them, equipped them, believe in them and know they can do it, they still don't want to step out and do it. 

Karis and Emmy aren't the only ones in my family who have the "I can't" problem. They inherited it rightly from me and my sister and our Mom and her Mom and her Mom's Mom...and all the way back to Eve. Poor Eve, always the end of everyone's blame for their own sin and shortcomings. It's our nature to want as much as possible for as little as we can do to get it. Better yet, let's get other people to do "it" for us and then manipulate the outcome so that we get the praise. It's our laziness, our sin. I've often prayed this Psalm to God:

Psalm 90:17:
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.



But what I really mean when I pray it is, "God, just do it for me!" The word "establish" here is translated from the Hebrew meaning to be firm, to be stable, to be ready and able. But I don't just want God to make me ready, prepare me, lay the foundation...I want Him to just do it for me. Waaaaah! Someone call a waaambulance!

This is the place, in my mind, when God comes back at me with this, 
"Okay Jes, let me see if I got this right. You want me to send my Son to die for your sin. Then you want me to, through His blood, forgive you, love you, adopt you as my daughter and heir. Then you want me to give you the Holy Spirit inside of you to guide you - helping you discern decisions in life. Then you want me to bless your right decisions but forgive, without consequence, all your bad decisions. And also, you want special gifts from Me, like supernatural, God-given gifts that I will place inside you that sometimes you leverage for me and other times you leverage for your own self promotion. And, BONUS, when I send opportunities right to you, you want ME to send angel workers from Heaven to accomplish the work I sent you to do. Is that all? Is there anything else I can get you, princess?"

"Ummmm, since you asked, yes! I would also like the pink Barbie Malibu Mansion, please."

Silence from Heaven. (Don't judge me. I know you want that Malibu Mansion, too!)

God has saved me, forgiven me, loved me, adopted me, gifted me and prepared a way for me. It's my part to pray, listen, discern, obey and do. When we lay down, like Emery, and whine to God, "I CAN'T, FATHER!" we need to recognize that moment is when we are full of ourselves. Being full of yourself doesn't always look like pride and arrogance. Being full of yourself can look like fear, insecurity, depression, anxiety. If we let that rise to the top and rule our life, then when we look back over our life, it looks wasted and meaningless. God wants us to GO, DO, BE! 

Can't never could. Won't never will. 

But you and I, made in the image of almighty God, we CAN. We can send a card to encourage someone's broken heart. We can cook a meal for someone who is battling depression. We can volunteer to bring the snacks to our kid's soccer game. We can pray for someone who feels the pain of despair. We can speak truth into the life of a friend who is headed down a dark road. We can smile. We can be warm in a cold world. We can because He did. Jesus came to give us life to the fullest. My fullest and your fullest might look completely different. That's the beauty of His plan - we are all here to accomplish something for Him. 

Find your something. It's inside of you. Ask God to let it rise to the top of your thoughts, your passion and your pursuits. YOU CAN! You're a Mex-I-CAN! (maybe you're not...but maybe you're an Amer-I-CAN!)

Doesn't really matter your ethnicity, your social status, your age, your marital status (puuuulease!). What matters is the desire of your heart. Do you desire to accomplish and fulfill the plans that God has established for you to do? I believe you do. 

The foundation has been laid and it's firm. Get started and KEEP GOING!






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.

There's a Tear in My...

...last blog entry. It ended with me on the floor of a dressing room holding my 6 yr old niece, Karis, and my 2 yr old daughter, Emery, and we were all three crying. There was no tear in my beer because my hands were too full of crying babies to hold some "Mommy juice". All of this mayhem was caused by my prideful attitude that I could take these girls school shopping during nap time, and after a sleepover and a morning playdate at McDonalds. Brilliant. Just brilliant. 

We all three sat on the floor of the Justice dressing room crying. Out of sheer exhaustion we wept and rocked. And then it happened. I saw us - our reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirror hanging on the dressing room wall. There we were. My two girls clinging to me and me clinging back to them. I had what author Connie Sokol calls a "Keeper Moment". Connie says that a keeper moment is, "that moment when you just want to freeze time - bottle it up to savor and enjoy." 

I wanted to freeze this horrible, awful, embarrassing, sweaty moment. A moment when both of these sweet little babies needed me. They needed my full attention. They needed my arms to console them, my body to rock and calm them. They needed my love and selflessness to rise to the top and rescue them. I began to cry harder, but now my tears were out of appreciation for what I was holding in my arms. The greatest gift ever is getting to invest in and shape the lives of these two girls. To teach them who Jesus is. And isn't He the one who holds us when we're selfish, tired, worn out, undeserving, bratty and loud? Yes, yes He is. 


Psalms 55:16-17 
16  As for me, I call to God,
         and the Lord saves me.

17  Evening, morning and noon
         I cry out in distress,
         and he hears my voice.



I cry out in my distress. All. Day. Long. Some days are like that, aren't they? Whether you're 2 or 6 or 34 (gulp), we all have those moments don't we? Moments when we need God to cradle us in His arms and rock us back to peace. I have a lot of those moments. God is faithful - He always sweeps in and gives me just what I need. And in that awful, loud, crying moment on the dressing room floor, God gave Karis and Emery what they needed...me. And He gave me what I needed, a "keeper moment." I wanted to bottle it up, keep it and hold it in my heart forever. Because they won't always need me or want me or choose me. But I hope and pray that they always want Him, need Him and choose Him. 

So how did it all end? I began giggling. And then my giggles turned into laughter. And my laughter turned into howling, cackling, snorting laughter. Karis lifted her head from my left shoulder and Emery lifted her head from my right shoulder and they traded their crying for confusion. 

Emery said, in her broken 2 yr old vernacular, "Mama, why you laugh for?" 

And I replied, "Because this is the best moment ever!" 

To which Karis responded, "Juju, you are so weird!" 

And I laughed even harder. And then they began laughing. And then I did what I should have done from the beginning, I bought them candy and bribed them for the next thirty minutes until my Mom showed up to rescue me. 

Look for "Keeper Moments." You might have one with your aging parent, or during lunch with your best friends, or on a date night with your husband...or on the floor of a dressing room with your two favorite children in the whole universe while you're all crying your tired eyes out. 

I think a "Keeper Moment" is like a kiss from Heaven. It gives you the sweet momentum to KEEP GOING!
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.

Whining and Shopping and Tears...OH MY!

I took my niece back to school shopping on Friday. At the end of the day my Tribe Counselor, uh, I mean BFF, texted and asked how the day had gone, here is my response. (I'm the BLUE.)




Let me start from the beginning...

I love to shop. I'm good at it. Really good at it. And if you tell me what you're looking for (i.e. work clothes, wedding clothes, a casual outfit), I'll find and put together pieces of clothing that you wouldn't have expected would go together. Cuz I'm just that good. 

But on Friday I learned what I am NOT good at: Back to School Shopping. The shopping trip ended with three girls in the dressing room and all of us were crying. Like huge crocodile tears, snot and sweat kind of crying. 

Karis is my perfect angel niece. I love her. I consider her my first born. She calls me her "other mama" (mostly because I boss her around, but I'll take the "AWE! How sweet." assumptions if you're willing to give them). Karis is six and a half (you have to throw in the "half" at that stage of life). Karis starts first grade tomorrow. I can't believe she's going to be in the first grade. It seems like yesterday that I watched her parents bring her "tiny" 9-pound body home from the hospital where she aptly lifted her head, looked around and smiled. Ten months later this precious little angel looked at me and called me, "Juju." And her Juju I became. 

Karis' Mama is my younger and only sister, Jenni. Jenni hates shopping. Hates it. Like mother like daughter. Karis hates it also. You can imagine how painful shopping can be when the shopping-hating-Mom and the shopping-hating-daughter go shopping together. Someone might kill someone and tell God that someone died. Jenni came up with a solution and called Juju, "Will you please take Karis school shopping? I've got the money set aside, spend whatever, just make her buy clothes that she'll actually wear."  Boom! Juju to the rescue. (Is anyone recalling a Proverb about pride coming before the fall?)

I thought it would be the perfect time to have an end of summer sleepover at Juju's house. Sleepover followed by a fabulous day of shopping and then the girls were getting their hair cut. The sleepover turned out really great. Everybody went to bed on time. Everybody slept. We wake up on Friday and I got a text from my Mom suggesting that we go shopping early. (I should know by now to take those "suggestions" from my Mother as wise counsel, but as usual I ignored it. Pride puffing up...a fall will ensue!)

I thought, hmmm, everyone slept good, we need to eat, and since I don't use my kitchen, why don't we go to McDonald's and let the girls run out some energy on the tubes while they graze a sausage, egg, biscuit and cheese? I called my friend who was sitting her nephew and it was now a date...a playdate. Boom! Best Mom and Aunt EVER. (The fall is just over the horizon.) McDonald's was a hit! The kids ran and played like wild banshees while my friend and I tried to eat breakfast despite the smell of feet and kid sweat. 

Two hours later, I put two sweet little girls into my minivan and headed for the mall. Feeling very proud of myself for maneuvering the morning with such ease while taking care of not one, but two, children, I threw on my iPod and the girls and I began singing "God's not dead, He's surely alive!"  I smiled proudly as I looked into the rearview mirror and reapplied lipstick when, as though everything had gone into slow motion, I saw to my horror that Emery was rubbing her eyes. When my child rubs her eyes it is the tell-tell sign that the end is nigh. Get her to a bed, crib or pack-n-play YASAP (yesterday as soon as possible)! (The fall is now minutes away!) 


Fast forward...we are at the mall. Emery is doing something she never does; she is sitting in her stroller. I am walking so fast that Karis says, "Juju, slow down. My legs hurt." Crap. Don't slow me down, kid! We've got to get this thing knocked out before the little little turns into lucifer! 

I head straight for Justice. If you have a girl from ages 5-12, then you understand that it's the only place to shop. And the entire store was on sale for like a million percent off (I don't do math). So we stroll into Justice, along with 75,000 other people. I start putting outfits together like a BOSS! "Karis, do you like this?" "Yes, Juju." BOOM! Over and over and over until IT happened. Emery turned around in her stroller and yelled, "MAMA! HOLD YOU!" That was it. The trumpet had sounded. I prayed for the rapture, looked around. Dang it. I got left behind! I took a deep breath and yelled to Karis, "GO, BABY! Go grab that dressing room NOW!" Karis's legs took off quicker than her eyes could catch up with where I was pointing, but that baby was running to the dressing rooms and she got the first empty one she saw. I slid in behind her, parked the stroller, locked the curtain in place and said, "Hurry, baby! Put this on!" At this point, Emery is crying and screaming. I prayed during my pregnancy that God would give Emmy healthy strong lungs. Boy howdy, did God ever answer that prayer! This child has got to be the loudest cryer ever in the history of cryers. 

I unstrap Emmy. Put her on the little stool, while she claws at me trying to grab my neck so that she can hang from me like a monkey. Did I mention that she is still sobbing and screaming, "MOMMY! HOLD YOU, PWWWEEEEEEASE!" 

Karis is nervous and embarrassed and says, "Juju, Emmy is still crying." Yes, yes she is. I smile weakly and say, "I know, just keep trying on clothes, we gotta get this done. We'll be finished soon." 

Somewhere between eight and ten outfits later, Emery's freak out goes to another level. The level where it finally slices through all the layers of "calm and collected" that I had. I'm trying to help Karis put on very tight, skinny leggings and Emery is about to fall off the little dressing room stool because of her weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, so I turn to Emmy to calm her, Karis begins taking off the pants and I just lose it. "Karis! Put the pants ON! Pull them up. You know how to put pants on. You dress yourself everyday. Put them ON!" I turn back to Emery who attaches herself to me and is now a monkey baby hanging from my neck but she's a quiet monkey. I take a deep breath and turn back to Karis who is standing there, back against the wall, hands raising up to cover her face...her face that is completely scrunched up into the sweetest, most precious "ugly cry" that I've ever seen. I grab her, "Oh, Karis! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hurt your feelings! Juju got flustered and frustrated because she couldn't help both you and Emery. I didn't mean to yell at you. Please forgive me."

This is the point where I pull Karis on my left hip, Emmy on my right hip, sit on the floor and we all cry. 


(Stay tuned. I'll tell you the rest of the story later...)




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.

Throwback Thursday - Taste & See

We prayed about it. Fought about it. Disagreed about it. Prayed about it some more. Talked about it. Agreed about it. We were going to have a baby. Isn't that what people do? They decide to have one, dry their underpants together and VOILA! They're pregnant. That is what happened to us in 2008. 
It went something like this: 
Jes said, "Hey, let's start trying to get pregnant." 
Brad replied, "Okay. I agree, now is the time." 

One month later we were pregnant...with twins. Two months later we weren't. We had suffered a miscarriage. We found out the day before Thanksgiving. We had our first D&C the day after Thanksgiving. Needless to say, it was a tough Thanksgiving Day in the Phillips house. No one wanted to say the glib, "You'll try again. It'll happen. Just give it time. God has a plan. You'll be pregnant by Christmas." Everyone in my family knows better than to say things like that to me when I'm grieving for fear of getting throat punched. Instead my family gave me what I needed, a hand to hold, a tissue to wipe the tears away, a laugh at my expense (or my Mom's expense, or my Sister's expense), and most importantly, they gave me family time in the kitchen. 

If you know me at all, you'll think that last line was a major typo. "Jessica doesn't cook. She calls her kitchen an "accessory." Like a wallet that comes with a purse, a kitchen comes with a house." Yes, I know I'm no Martha Stewart. I'm more Frankie Heck from "The Middle" when it comes to cooking. But Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that I like being in the kitchen with my Mom, Sister, Mother-in-Law, and every other person we can squeeze in. Cook. Eat. Clean. Eat. Reheat. Eat. Repeat for the next three days or until the leftovers are gone. 

I didn't eat much that day. My appetite was subpar because my heart was broken. But the time I spent with my family filled me up. It didn't just fill up my stomach, it filled up my soul. 

God is so good. Someone needs to hear that, to be reminded of that. Even in our greatest heartache clouded with grief and questions and doubt, God is still good. 

Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man (woman) who trusts in Him!" 

I couldn't eat enough of my feelings on that Thanksgiving Day in 2008 to feel good. But I could taste the things of God and be renewed with a sense that He is good and I'm in good hands, even though I was hurt and didn't understand why this heartbreak had landed on us. 

The way that I practically "taste and see" is through gratitude. I write out what I'm thankful for. Or I spend time in prayer or praise just saying out loud to God the things that He's blessed me with. I count my blessings. It's corny, but it really does turn my frown upside down. And when my heart has been so heavy that a smile might just fracture my face, I praise Him, thank Him all while sobbing my eyes out to Him. 

Brad and I tasted and saw that the Lord was good during the first miscarriage, and the second miscarriage and about five surgeries & procedures and fertility drugs...and you know what we learned? The Lord is good. The Lord is trustworthy. And we are blessed!

God gave us a baby in 2011. A little girl, Emery Noel. I often tell my little Emmy that she's so sweet and yummy that I just want to eat her up. She giggles and says, "No eat me Mommy!" And I tell her, "Oh Emmy! I've tasted! I've seen! The Lord is good!" 

Trust Him. Even when your hope is dashed and your heart is hurting, He is good, He loves you and your biggest blessing and miracle is on it's way. Through Him you can KEEP GOING!

PS - Here's a throwback for you! Enjoy. 


Thanksgiving Day 2008

Count your blessings name them one-by-one!

Jenni & Mom 
(two of my life's biggest blessings)
Just a swingin'



Seeesters. Laughing til we cry.



My handsome hubby, Brad. BIG, HUGE blessing!
He was watching us crazy girls on the swing set. 


My niece, Karis Paige. 
She was one of the GREATEST blessings I counted that year 
(and every year)!




Fast Forward to August 2010

3 months pregnant with Emery



So happy!



We sure are puuurty after we've been airbrushed!




February 2011

Emery Noel Phillips




Thank you, Father, for blessing us so richly. 


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.

I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In

One of my favorite Jesus quotes is in John 16:33 when He warns his disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." 

Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. AAAAHHH! (is the song running through your head like it is mine?)

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and the word "trouble" in this verse is the Greek word "thlipsis" which translates "a pressing, pressing together, or pressure." It's the type of pressure that is literally hard on one's soul. Jesus was telling his followers, "The world is going to pressure you. Not the kind of pressure that makes you break out into forehead sweat, but like wreck your life, weigh you down, crush you kind of pressure." When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis.

And as the great 'theologian' Taylor Swift sang, we know it when it walks in, don't we. We know the trouble, the pressure, by name. It's name is infidelity. It's name is gossip. It's a financial decision that is going to break us. It's a word that someone said that cut us to the bone and we can't let it go. It presses in on us. Often times it's not even the 'big' pressures that weigh us down, it's the little ones. Traffic. Grocery store. Dinner. Homework. Anxiety. Doubt. Fear. The pressure mounts and we feel like we're going to suffocate under the crushing weight of it all. John MacArthur wrote that this type of pressure is like, "...squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil and of squeezing grapes to extract the juice." Have you ever felt squeezed by life to the point that you're drained, like you were once a solid and now you're...juice? Me too. 

But Jesus didn't stop with the warning. He didn't give the disciples a big dose of "waaah, waaah" and then go to the cross to die. No. Jesus gave them a warning but He left them with hope. He always left them with hope. Jesus said, "Take heart! I have overcome the world." To say it differently, Jesus told them to have courage and confidence. But His real answer wasn't just that, His real answer is found at what He said in the very beginning of the verse, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." 

When we feel the pressure, we look for relief in all sorts of different places. We eat. We drink. We have girls night out. We teach Sunday School. We arrange play dates for our kids. We go to the gym. We go shopping. But you won't find the peace you're looking for in food or wine or through your girlfriends. You won't find the peace you desperately need in your church work or through your perfect figure or through a new pair of strappy sandals. 

Only in Jesus will you find your peace. Only Jesus can wash away your sin and lift the weight of trouble this world bears down on you from your aching heart. Trust Him. Give Him your trouble today. Say it out loud and ask Him to help you. He will. We don't have peace because we don't ask for it. So ask. 

Jesus said it. Taylor sang it. I'm writing it. 



Dear Trouble, 

I knew who/what you were when you walked in. Because Jesus told me so. And I'd like to tell you that you're a no good, big fat jerk-face liar. I'm breaking up with you. I'm sick and tired of you weighing me down and holding me back. Don't call me. Don't text me. Don't facebook me. We're done. I've moved on. You've been replaced in my heart with PEACE! 
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brings me self-worth, value, confidence, a calm mind, hope, love, forgiveness...you know, all the things you could never offer me. 
So I'm riding off into the sunset with my Prince. And I'm gonna live happily ever after (in this moment with my resolve). And when I notice you walking into a room, I'm gonna turn around and go another direction and then I'm just gonna KEEP GOING! 

Asta La Vista, 
Jes



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.

Me Too, Part Two

I had a second "me too," moment through a brilliant woman who spoke at the Catalyst conference. Her name is Dr. Brene` Brown. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. She gave a TED talk in 2010 called "The Power of Vulnerability" that changed her own life and she goes into detail about it in her second TED talk from 2012, "Listening to Shame". I suggest you take 20 minutes for each talk and give an ear to her. She'll make you laugh as you identify with her vulnerability. 

Brene` says that shame, in women, says, "Do it all. Do it perfectly. And never let them see you sweat. Shame...is this web of unattainable competing, conflicting expectations about who we are supposed to be.  It's a straight jacket." 

A straight jacket. Do you ever feel imprisoned by your shame? Me too. 

Brene` says there is a remedy to shame. Something that makes it go away. And I want it. Here it is, "Empathy is the antidote to shame. The two most powerful words, when we're in struggle, "Me Too.". 

There is nothing that brings me into community with other moms better than when they look at me, with my three-day-old dirty hair, yoga pants stained with ice cream and my ten-year-old-too-small t-shirt that says, "I'm too pretty to work" and they smile and say, "Me too, sister. Me too." 

We've used (and over-used) a word in our culture in recent years, especially in the church world that I'm immersed in. The word is "community." It's what we call the group of people we do life with. Our people. The ones we identify with. The ones we go through the trials of life with, laugh with, barbecue with, workout with, scream to, cry to, pray for. Our posse. Our cronies. But a new word has emerged that I love better than the word "community". The new word is really an old word; a Biblical word. The new descriptive for "my people" is my "tribe." TribeIn the Old Testament when God chose Israel to be his people, His beloved chosen nation, He sovereignly placed the people into twelve tribes all stemming from Jacob (the leaders of the twelve tribes were Jacob's sons Genesis 49). The twelve tribes were a band of brothers and sisters who made it through tough times together. And they partied like rock stars when things went well (okay, maybe not. But they definitely knew how to celebrate a win together). 

Tribe. Sounds fierce. And my people are fierce. I don't surround myself with wimps. I ain't got time for that! My tribe is made up of people who have suffered everything from death, divorce, adultery, suicide, infertility, the pains of adoption, cancer, anxiety, depression, despair, alcoholism and any and every other "ism" there is. And yet, my tribe doesn't walk around with open wounds covered by bandages; wounds that still bleed and need healing. And my Tribe doesn't walk around hiding the places where they've been wounded. My Tribe doesn't pretend to be above it or over it. Nope. My tribe walks around with scars. Their scars tell the stories of how their wounds have been healed by God the Great Physician, the Healer, the Giver of Life, the Almighty. The glue that holds my Tribe together is vulnerability. We share our scars with each other. We share our pain, our weakness, our neediness. We are honest about where we just can't seem to get it or hold it together. We look at each other in the eyes, we listen and we reply, "Me too". 

Brene` says, "If we're going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. It's seductive to think, I'm gonna go in there and kick some ass when I'm bulletproof and when I'm perfect, but the truth is, that never happens...and that's not what we want to see. We want to be with you and across from you, and we just want the people we care about to care greatly." 

Me too, Brene`, me too. 

Find your Tribe. Share your scars (share your scars even while you're wearing those ice cream-stained yoga pants). Your Tribe will take you places you could never get to all by yourself.  

I know what you're thinking, "But this is hard. I want to give up." 

Yeah, me too. 
  
But instead of giving up, let's put on a new pair of shoes and get ready for the walk ahead and after you start...KEEP GOING

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.

Me Too, Part One

I recently heard a woman speak at a conference. Her name is Angie Smith She was speaking to a room full of women who were there to glean from her experience in women's ministry. She is a gorgeous red-head with a dry sense of humor and a kind heart. As she introduced herself she said something like, "I have four daughters. My twins are the older girls. They might literally be the perfect children. They obey. They don't throw tantrums. They are sweet and easy kids." She had almost lost me at this introduction until she said, "And my other two, the younger girls, well they're on Ebay." The room erputed in laughter and some applause. I was part of the crowd applauding and laughing hysterically. Heck, I could have picked up her tiny ginger-headed-frame, kissed her cheek and squeezed her. Your kids are on Ebay? Me too, sister. Me too. 


Brad was off work early last Friday. He suggested we go to dinner and then check out some furniture stores b/c we are turning our old Man Cave into the new estrogen-filled craft room. I faked a smile and said, "Great! Sounds great." We call these evenings "family dates", a time when just the three of us get gussied up, go to dinner and then find some unfortunate merchant establishment to let our child run wild through while we chase her saying, "Emmy, stop. Emmy don't touch that. Emmy you can't climb on that! Emmy, get down! Emmy, obey. Emmy, where are you?" It is not something I enjoy, not because I don't love my husband and my daughter, but because I'm totally sweaty, nervous and running in uncomfortable shoes the entire time. Not relaxing. Not a date. 


So we got gussied up. Translation: Daddy and Emery looked like models right out of the JC Penney catalog (the new JC Penney - the cute and relevant one with the hipsters on each page). Second translation: Mama showered, remembered deodorant and attempted to put on her cutest strappy sandals that are actually a disguise for the orthopedic brand I now wear. Yes, they really are orhopedic. And they really are...old, faded and abused, because they are expensive and this mama lives on the Dave Ramsey envelope system and can't buy $85 orthopedic strappy shoes just any ole time she wants. 


So being that the Phillips family is dressed, we jumped in the minivan and drive to the Olive Garden. It went fairly well at the O.G. Emmy ate breadsticks and fetuccini alfredo. Mama and Daddy walked out without food on their clothing. If anyone is keeping score, that is Emmy: 0, Parents: 2 (one point for being dressed and the second point for not wearing Emmy's food at dinner).


And then it happened, we went to the first furniture store. Emmy ran around like a wild cat hopped up on Mountain Dew and crack. She rocked in a tiny wooden toddler rocking chair until she nearly threw herself out of it only to pick herself up, say "owie" and then run to climb on a bed, stand up and then jump on the mattress. All before I could "run" across the store in my orthopedic sandals to stop her. This is store numero uno in my laser-focused-husband's stop of THREE furniture stores. That's three as in, "We just damaged property at the first store. Hope the cops don't beat us to the third store before we get there and can run through it like the parental fugitives we are.". 


Score is now Emmy: 1, Parents: 2. 


The second store experience was so bad that I can't describe it. I would need the tongues of angels to describe the atrocity that was "the second furniture store" experience. At one point, Emmy ran underneath a dining room table and hit her head in warp speed so hard that her body flew backwards onto the ground appearing lifeless. For two seconds. Then she stood up, hit me, and ran away screaming, "NO TABLE! GO TO TIME OUT!". The sales associates wouldn't even make eye contact with us as I ran after her trying not to threaten to beat her. We were that family. Again. 


Score: Emmy: 2, Parents 2. 


At this point, Mama and Daddy are red-faced, sweaty and tired. We should have known what was happening when Emmy suddenly got still and quiet. She wasn't winding down. She was pooping. And I live in Texas, y'all. That means there are no changing tables in public men's restrooms for Daddy to take a turn. It's all Mama. So I took her by the hand and began walking back across the store to the restroom. It was the 'walk of shame' as I passed well-behaved children and their horrified parents; I'm sure they were praying that our particular 'parenting style' wouldn't rub off on them as we walked by. No one made eye contact with me, which only made me feel more isolated and judged. 


By the time we made it to the entry of the restroom door, Emmy was finished making a mess in her pants and she was getting her second wind. She was hopping around, swinging my hand around like a rag doll and I was done. We passed an empty-nest couple trying out comfy office chairs and I smiled weakly and said, "Here. You can take her. She's only a dollar." They laughed and the gentleman replied, "Oh heck, hun, I'll give you two." Then he winked that sweet Grandpa kind of wink that says, "you'll make it" and I smiled back. Renewed by their confidence in me I entered the ladies room to tackle Emmy's bursting diaper while she screamed, "NAAAASTY" in her loudest 'outside' voice. I'm sure they heard her from outside the bathroom door. They probably giggled and maybe they remembered a time when they threatened to sell their children to strangers at a furniture store. But they didn't shame me. Nope. They showed empathy through their kind smiles. 

I often feel shame for my unsettled feelings in my role as wife and mother. I feel a sense of not deserving my beautiful baby girl and I feel shame over any conversation in which I really let loose and explain my frustrations as a mom. Listen up, I gave birth to myself! She is me incarnate. I know it. I love her - every single bit of her. I love that she is outgoing and loud and she dances even when there is no music playing. I love that she is opinionated, strong-willed and independent. I love that when she thinks something is funny she cackles with laughter like an old woman who has smoked her entire life. I love that she rocks her babies to sleep every night while she sings to them.  I love that she is aggressive and dominant and cray-to-tha-cray! love that she is imperfect and needs Jesus to redeem her soul. And I love being her Mama. 


But I also love when other Moms share how hard it is. I'm tired of the shame game. I appreciate a person who will let down their guard of pretend perfection and say, "I prayed and asked God to give me children, to make me a Mom. I didn't know it was going to be so difficult and exhausting. I feel so much shame for wanting alone time away from the very children I asked God to give me." Yeah, me too. 


(part two coming tomorrow!)








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.

Don't Be Two

I get a weekly email from a parenting website that tells me about my daughter's development. It's interesting and usually exactly on-point with what we're dealing with (i.e. when I ask her if she'd like some water and she screams "NO. DON'T LIKE IT. WANT A COKE." in front of God and everybody - at the health food store when I'm trying to look like the organic good Mom who gives her child a healthy alternative instead of a sugary gonna-eat-her-stomach-lining coke. Busted). Every week I look forward to the parenting email because it tells me something about my 2 year old that makes me feel like she's...normal. It's normal that she is testing boundaries. It's normal that she spends "some" time every day in time out and that I spend "some" time every day in tears. It's normal that she wants to put on her own shoes but doesn't know which foot they go on or how to tie/buckle them when/if she gets them on...leading to the mother of all meltdowns.  It's normal that she's not flexible. It's normal that she's a bit rigid. 

This is the "normalizing" email I got today from the parenting site:

"You may have noticed that your 2-year-old isn't exactly the most flexible person in the world. Her little brain is trying to understand how the world works, and once she gets a concept down, she expects it to stay that way. Having things happen the same way every time reassures your preschooler and gives her a confidence boost ("I knew that would happen!"). That's why she likes to sit in a certain chair or goes bananas when her cracker breaks in two. "

Whew! Great, my toddler is normal. She wants things to stay the same. She expects things to stay the same. She expects things to happen the same way every time - it gives her confidence. 

God poked fun at me as I read this. All I could think is that some days, okay, a lot of days, when it comes to my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I'm a normal two-year-old. 

I want things to stay the same. It gives me confidence - uh, no. It gives me a sense of control. If things stay the same, if I'm not flexible, then I'm in control. My expectations never have to shift. I can just stay the same. But that's not what's best for me. If I never have to change, then I also never have to grow up. When I always know what to expect, I can rely on myself, my feelings, my responses - but God wants me to rely on Him. God wants me to grow up and stop being a baby. He wants it for all of us. It's not normal for a Jesus follower to stop growing or never grow from the beginning.

 Paul gave a good tongue-lashing to the Corinthians when he said: 

"...when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?" 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT

Jealousy. Fighting. Controlled by the sinful nature. Sounds like a two-year-old. Sounds like me some days. 

Hebrews 5:11-13 NLT speaks about our spiritual growth (or lack thereof):

"11 There is much more we would like to say..., but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong."

Spiritually dull. Don't seem to listen. Again, sounds like a two-year-old and it sounds like me some days. Sounds like your kids, your marriage, your family. Sounds like mine, too. 

It's time to grow up. We've got to move on from spiritual milk and on to solid food. Spiritual milk looks like this: a Sunday morning sermon. That's certainly not a diss of any Pastor's effort to teach God's Word. It's an indictment against you and me, the Christ followers. If our only spiritual food is coming from the Sunday morning sermon, then we are starving. Can you only eat one meal in seven days? I can't. I get weak if I don't eat by 9am and then again at 11am and then again at 2pm and then again at 6pm. I would be sick if I only ate one meal in a seven day period. Sick. Weak. Useless. Many of us are sick and weak and useless to God because we aren't ingesting His Word regularly. His Word and our normal don't match up. 

We need to get healthy. We need to take in His Word so that we can be strong and ready and useful. Don't be two. We're too old to be two. We're too old to act like we're two. Growth happens a little bit every day. Grow up a little bit today. Read God's Word. Memorize a verse. Pray. Move on from spiritual milk and take in some solid food. Let's be mature. Let's stop being controlled by our sin. 

Start with some mooshy green beans today. You'll be chewing a steak in no time. God wants us to grow. He loves you. 

Start chewing solid food today and just KEEP GOING!



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.

Career Day

David was a shepherd boy. When he was about 15 years old, the prophet Samuel showed up in Bethlehem and anointed him as King of Israel (1 Samuel 16). But it wasn't until David was 30 that he actually took the throne and began to reign as King. I wonder if, on career day at the local Bethlehem Elementary School, David dressed up with a robe and a crown and dreamed of being king. Maybe he dressed up as a shepherd or a soldier or a musician - because those were all 'careers' he pursued. I can relate to David.  

We had career day at school when I was a kid. I was probably 9 years old and I dressed up in a suit and carried a leather briefcase that my Dad had purchased at a garage sale. I was a lawyer. I didn't just want to be a lawyer, that day, I was one. I felt successful. I looked good. The briefcase felt natural in my tiny hand. I could probably smack some law & order around my fifth grade class with it if I was strong enough to swing it around. It was the perfect career path for an ambitious little 9 year old Jessica. There were things I was good at and things I wanted in life that came naturally to me. I wanted to argue, win and get paid lots of money for doing it. I wanted justice. Law and order. That's my personality. 

But God came in the way He does in my life, out of left field where He'd been calling my name for quite a while, and He changed the course of my life. Instead of letting me chase the dollar and seek justice (or heaven forbid, help the bad guy so I could make the really big bucks), He called me into ministry. Like church ministry (hence my Twitter handle @churchladyjes). 

Church ministry, the place where you get paid quarters per hour, you turn the other cheek and you offer mercy, forgiveness and love. And that's what I did for about a decade (some of those years I wasn't even on staff, I was volunteering and getting paid in hugs and God's blessing on my life). 

I left my staff position at our church two and a half years ago when I gave birth to our daughter, Emery. I left for no other reason than Brad and I believed that God wanted me to be at home with her while she's little. It's a blessing to get to be home. I recognize that. I also recognize that God has called me to serve Him further than the walls I live in and He's been pressing that issue down on my heart lately. But for the flippin' life of me, I have NO idea what He's calling me to do. 

I've been struggling with my purpose, identity and insecurity. It's been a stronger struggle as of lately than ever before in my life. I find it frustrating. I'll be 34 at the end of this month. Shouldn't I be past this part? Shouldn't I be living out my purpose, identity and security instead of figuring it out? Yes, yes I should. Or maybe not yet. Maybe this is part of His plan for my life. Maybe this is the exact season of life I'm supposed to be in. The season where if I don't rely on Jesus as my purpose, identity and security, I'll act in my own pride, arrogance and flesh - and then I'll screw it all up (and I'll probably take some people down with me as I fall).  

David waited to be king. He waited for God to establish his place on the throne. He didn't kill King Saul to hurry up God's plan or 'help' God out. He waited on God's timing. He waited for 15 years. He walked the earth as the unknown, incognito King of God's chosen people. (Okay, he was 'known' in his circles - I think the Bible says that Saul had thousands of followers on Twitter but David had tens of thousands. Yeah. That sounds right.) But ultimately, he remained known by only One - the only One who mattered until it was "time" for him to go nationally 'viral' and take his seat on the throne. 

David whined & cried when it got hard. Especially when he was hard pressed by his enemies who were out to kill him. He's attributed as writing about 78 of the Psalms. I love the Psalms. Praising God one verse and in the next crying "Why did you leave me? Do you not love me? Why don't you just kill me or let me die?". 

I'm David. You're David. We've all been there. (Unless you're the person who dressed up as a lawyer on career day and then grew up and actually became a lawyer. If you're that person, chances are, we're not friends.) You're asking God, "Didn't you tell me I was gonna do (insert your calling here)?" Then you begin to question your "calling". Maybe you made it up. Maybe it wasn't the voice of God you heard calling you to be a doctor, a lawyer, a missionary, a wife, a dad...and your calling gets swept away by fear, panic and impatience. 

It's Career Day, people. What do you wanna be? Who do you wanna be? I'm asking God to give me clear direction for my life. I trust Him. He will tell me...when it's time. Until then, I'm clinging to Romans 11:29, "for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." 

Irrevocable. 

Don't give up on Career Day. Grab your briefcase or your stethoscope or your Bible or your fireman's jacket, say a prayer, and START in a direction and after you start...

KEEP GOING!

#startexp
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.

Don't Blame Yourself


Didn't I begin this "Top Ten" like a month ago? Sorry. 
(This is the #1 "Don't" on my list...drumroll please)

Suicide Survivor's Top Ten Things To Do (or NOT Do). 
DON'T BLAME YOURSELF

The words we heard more than any other following my Dad's suicide were, "He was on my mind the week he died. I should have called him." I nodded, put my hand on hundreds of shoulders, hugged them and reassured the person standing in front of me that his death wasn't their fault. 

It wasn't. 

Their phone call wouldn't have made much difference to my Dad. He had made up his mind. It was done. 

But that phone call, the one his friend didn't make, made a difference to that friend when they were attending the funeral of the person they didn't call when they knew they were supposed to call. 

Dad had been on my mind the week he killed himself. I felt a tug inside my heart to call him the day he went missing. I thought of him many times throughout that day. I even remember thinking, "Why is he on heart this heavily today? What is he up to?"  

But I still didn't call him. 

We guilt ourselves into believing that our phone call would have been the turning point in the other person's life. Is that prideful? Hopeful? I don't know. I do know that I let it go very early on in my grief recovery. Guilt was the place I knew that I wouldn't emerge from if I let myself dwell there for very long. I never looked at any of Dad's friends and thought, "Yes, it was your phone call that would have made my Dad stop drinking, go to rehab and turn his life around. It's your fault he's dead." That's ridiculous. I realized that if it was ridiculous for any of them, it was ridiculous for me also. So I forgave myself for not calling him. 

But here's my life lesson: when something inside of you says to call someone or send them a text or drop a card in the mail, then DO IT. (Yes, I just suggested snail mail on the internet machine! I feel like the hipster police might arrest me any minute and take away my MacBook Pro.)

Listen to the voice inside your heart and head. Obey that voice. Take the time to let the person know you're thinking of them. You don't have to fix them. That's not your job. Your job is to obey God's voice inside of you. Offer another person life, hope and love. Offer them Jesus with skin. I know it sounds so corny and seventh grade church camp fire with Reverend TimTom strumming his guitar while singing "Lead your friends to Him. Win them with your grin. Be a good friend. Be Jesus with skin." (Yes I just wrote that beautiful chorus. I'm available for weddings as well as seventh grade church camp fires.) 

But I actually mean it. Be Jesus with skin because what is Jesus so great at doing during prayer? Listening and interceding. Be that to someone. Listen to them. And then intercede for them. Pray with them. Pray for them. Your phone call may not change anything, but your prayer could move heaven and earth. 

Obey God's leading. Always obey. Blessing follows obedience. Regret follows disobedience. Don't live in regret anymore. Live in obedience to our life giving God. Because after the funeral the person you have to live with is yourself. Be a person you can live with.

And when you want to start playing the blame game with yourself don't. Just don't. You won't win. Pray and ask God to release you from that guilt. Ask God to help you to obey the next time He prompts you with His leading.  You can't live in the regret of the past if you want to be of use to Him today and, believe me friend, He's got SO much for you to do today! 

So let it go into His hands and as always:

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.