Category Archives: Real Life With A Husband

The Boot of the Problem

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The Boot of the Problem

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If I haven’t made it clear by now, I love boots. All kinds of ‘em. Tall. Short. Slouchy. Laced. Zipped. And especially, Cowgirl.

I also love animals. Cats, dogs, donkeys, cows, horses, chickens, guineas, geese…they all have a home on our family farm.

So it’s probably no surprise my 7-year-old daughter also has a love for animals and boots. But have you any idea what would happen if our two loves collided?

This…

Jessie' Phon pics 10-25-14 684

Meet Zoey. See her in the background, looking like the cat that ate the canary?

Upon returning home from church one Wednesday night last Fall, we were met at the door by our two dogs, Tanner, my 12 year old golden retriever, and Zoey, who I also call Newman. (If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you get this.)

Tanner and Zoey are part of the family. Our home is as much theirs as it is ours. Whenever we leave, they play in the yard. However, that night we were in a bit of a rush and they were inadvertently left inside.

We had been gone roughly 3.5 hours, which apparently was just enough time for a boot massacre.  I found the remains on Zoey’s bed.

Of all the things That Dog has destroyed, this time she purposely chose my daughter’s beloved cowgirl boot. Why do I say “purposely chose”? Because all of our boots stay tucked away in the boot bench in the entry way of our home.

Abbie’s boots were neatly put away right beside her brother’s, dad’s and mom’s boots. There were a total of eight boots Zoey could’ve picked from.

Apparently she likes pink.

Zoey ate the entire backside of that boot. She ATE it, y’all. There were no shredded leather pieces, no mess to clean. All that remained of her snack was a backless boot.

My daughter was in tears but I—I.Was.Furious! I yelled, beat That Dog’s rear with what remained of the boot, and threw her outside for the night. I seriously haven’t been that angry in I can’t remember how long. My blood was beyond boiling.

I know it’s just a boot. It’s a material possession that can be replaced. Sure it’s inconvenient but is it really worth getting this worked up over, you may ask?

Beyond the fact that our tight budget would’t allow me to run out and replace these boots, is the ever-so-lovely backstory of how Zoey came to be part of the Prestridge Family. Go back with me…

It was the summer of 2013. Our son had just turned 1 and was finally learning to walk, while I was finally beginning to recover from a year’s worth of sleep deprivation. My husband had taken a job an hour away from home, working roughly 60-70 hours a week, which left me to man the fort alone.

Bluntly, I was tired. (I think I’ve typed those words before…?) Between caring for our kids, running our household, serving at the church and All The Other Things I’m Committed To Do, I needed some slack. So when Stevie-P mentioned late one night that he wanted a puppy, it took me exactly zero seconds to firmly say Uhhh—No.

At first, I thought he was joking. Our furry family of 4 had downsized to 2 over the past year and a half and frankly, that was good for me. We were now a one-cat, one-dog family and I liked it. It was manageable for me considering all the other mouths and hineys I had to care for.

We were also fostering a dog at the time and I was literally working every day to find her a good home. Could I BE any busier?

But the next day when my husband broached the subject again, I realized this was no joke. In fact, this was to be A Very Big Deal.

First, this potential canine addition to our family was part Mastiff. If you don’t know what a Mastiff is, think back to the movie “The Sandlot.” Remember “The Beast”? He was a Mastiff. At full size, these dogs can weigh anywhere from 160 to 230 pounds. And their height? Let’s just say my almost 5 feet could be slightly rivaled.

Second, it would be a big addition to my daily routine. Have you ever had a puppy? Seriously, they are great practice for a baby. Middle of the night potty issues. Whining at all hours. Everything goes into their mouths… If you’re thinking of getting pregnant, get a puppy first.

Third, this was a big deal to me emotionally. Did my husband just not GET ALLLLLLL that I did in a day? Did he honestly think I wanted something else to be responsible for? Hadn’t he seen my plants? To me, this wasn’t about a dog, it was about him understanding and appreciating all the hard work I was doing.

Sure, he claimed he would “help” and “take care of her,” BUT HE WAS GONE FROM SUN UP TO AFTER SUNDOWN EVERY DAY. I would most definitely be The One teaching this dog to do her business outside and cleaning up her failed business attempts inside.

I had three points, people. I had solid reasons for not getting this dog. Why was this even a conversation?

I thought the issue was dead in the water…until my husband walked through the door two nights later with said Puppy in hand.

Remember the anger I described earlier about the boot? This anger trumped that.

Sure, she was adorable. Floppy ears that I’m a sucker for. Puppy breath that I love. Huge polka-dot bow around her neck because polka are just my favorite kind of dots. (He obviously knew what he was doing.)

But I was speechless. No, really. I seriously didn’t speak a single word for over an hour I think, and that is a feat for me. I could not believe my dear lamb of a husband would make such a big decision without my agreeing, or even worse, in spite of my disagreeing.

I wish I could tell y’all I was over it by the next morning, but I SO wasn’t. We had multiple, lengthy, heated *conversations* about this until I was sure he understood how I felt. And then we’d go at it again.

Yeah, I know, this was about a dog, but my hurt was coming from a much deeper place. For the first time in our marriage I felt betrayed and manipulated; misunderstood and underappreciated.

This wasn’t about what he did; it was about what it did to me.

Realizing this, he sincerely apologized—multiple times—and I forgave him, multiple times. I knew he hadn’t meant to hurt me so deeply. He did his best to make things right, even offering to give the dog back. Of course, I said no. The dog was an innocent bystander in this whole debacle and besides that, our daughter loved her. Life went on.

Though my Head knew this was a minor infraction on the grand scale of betrayal, my Heart was infuriated every time I looked at That Stinkin’ Dog. She was a constant reminder of my husband’s fault; Forgive and Forget was not an option. Every mess she made or issue she created didn’t make me mad at her, it made me mad at Steve all over again.

“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, The Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ~ Colossians 3:13

As my husband’s choice stared me in the face, I struggled to understand my feelings and control my temper. I honestly thought unforgiveness was the root of my problem. I studied forgiveness, read God’s words on the subject and consciously chose forgiveness every time I felt anger rising up.

Yet, I remained hostile and distant with my emotions. I had become The “B” Word–Bitter.

bit•ter•ness—(noun) anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.

Yep. That was me.

I’ve never been one to use that word much and really had never given it much thought, but this little conundrum allowed me to sample a taste.

How do I describe it? Bitterness occurs when someone else’s bad decision messes with my good life. When, through no fault of my own, some injustice is thrust upon me and, in my innocence, I am forced to bear it.

020I began withholding my affection and attention, NOT doing usual, helpful things for him. It started small, like not making his lunch for work or scratching his back when he asked. But before long, I was scoffing at his leadership and questioning his intelligence decision-making; disregarding his needs and flat-out ignoring his wants.

With all he had added to my plate, I felt totally justified.  Make life harder for me, will you? Well, it’s gonna affect you, too, Jack…

Our friendship began to unravel. We bickered and argued Every Single Day about whatever stupid topic d’jour.

I cried and it got me nowhere. I yelled and it got me a shouting match. I sulked to no avail. We were disconnected from each and we were both miserable.

For the first time in our 14+ years of marriage, I would go to bed angry or aloof, something we promised we’d never do. It just didn’t matter to me that he was upset, and vice versa.

Girls, with all the words I have I still cannot tell you how much this incident hurt our relationship.  (Click here to read even more gory details.)

It’s so easy to get sideways with your man when you feel he’s making a bad decision or when it seems he’s just not hearing you; to justify your anger and lack of respect.

He’s not loving me “as Christ loves the church,” so why should I do anything for him?

Because we are called to.

“…Live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.” ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

Return to Exhibit A: The Boot. Clearly, I haven’t gotten this verse down yet.

I’m still learning to intentionally count my blessings and not my headaches. Like Zoey choosing the pink boot, I must purposely choose to “live and act in a way worthy”; to be humble and gentle and patient because of my love.  It doesn’t come natural.

“Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison.” ~Ephesians 4:31 (VOICE)

I know the taste of this “poison”. One look at that half-eaten boot and all those emotions came flooding back; the urge to shout at my husband about HIS dog and blame him for this misfortune was on the tip of my tongue.

Lord, help me.

Once again I’ve shared way more information about my private sins than I’d care to, but I know I’m not alone.  After living this out and hearing the stories of other women, it seems lack of forgiveness is not the “boot” of our problem.

As believers, we understand we have been forgiven much so we, too, must forgive. We make huge strides to forgive, but inevitably the harsh taste lingers in our souls.

“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” ~ Job 10:1 (NIV)

Though we can belt out the song, we sincerely struggle to “Let It Go.” It’s so much easier to choose The Victim role and become dissatisfied with life, living out our days resenting what That Man or That Dog has done to us.

Rather than see the situation as an opportunity for even greater love, we view it as a chance to prove a point, to say I Told You So and live a melancholy life.

How about you? Is there some injustice you need to let go of?

For me, it was about a dog. Maybe it’s more for you, like when your husband isn’t wise with money, uses his time for things you think foolish or chooses to do the opposite of what you suggest. Those are very real, daily incidents every couple must learn to overcome.

Maybe, like me, you’re eyeball to eyeball with the consequence of someone else’s bad decision and Forgive and Forget is not an option.

Maybe the hurt you’ve endured makes my whole situation laughable. I know a deeper pain exists.

“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.” ~ Proverbs 17:25

Bitterness seems to be a natural response for us girls, especially when hurt by a loved oneBut as F.B. Meyer said, “As we pour out our bitterness God pours in His peace.”

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“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives our transgressions? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us, You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” ~Micah 7:18-19

The only One who truly has this Forgiveness-Without-Bitterness thing down is God.  It is only by His power at work in us that we’re able to choose a better way.

We can stomp around in our boots of bitterness, or we can replace them with a more graceful footing: Magnanimity.

mag•nan•i•mous—(adjective) generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty, resentfulness or vindictiveness.

I’ll take Magnanimity, size 6, please.

Jessie

P.S.  Since dealing with my bitterness, God truly has poured out His peace in our relationship.  It is by no means perfect, but God has slowly restored us to an even closer bond.  If you’re struggling with a relationship, hang in there.  Fight for it.  If you ask Him, the Holy Spirit will join you and strengthen you.  Take it to Him in prayer.  He won’t disappoint.

It’s My Party, I’ll Complain If I Want To

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Have you ever had A Moment? If you’re a mom, you know what I mean by A Moment.

It’s that point when it ALL comes out because—For The Love—MOMMA JUST CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE!

That’s exactly where I was a few months ago, except I didn’t have A Moment; I was having *Lots* of Moments and they were all starting to run together.

Like the night Me with All My Words was going on and on about Who Knows What, when my husband gently informed me that I am a Complainer.

Are you kidding me right now?! I was offended and for a moment All My Words were gone.

I tried to defend myself by saying, How would you know? You’re mostly with me at my two worst times of day, early morning and late at night.

But who was I kidding? In my heart I knew he was right. (Man, I hate it when he’s right!)

But rather than argue with me, he simply told me that if I couldn’t take his word for it, maybe I should ask someone who’s with me all the time.

And just who would that be?

About a week later as I sat frustrated and frowning, my precious, angel-faced-7-year-old lovingly came to my side. Putting her arm around my shoulder she sweetly asked, “Momma? Can you try not to be so grouchy? I really don’t like when you’re cranky, it makes me sad. I like it when you’re happy and fun.”

That stung, but even through my tears I still justified my attitude. Sometimes Momma’s Happy Pants just don’t fit. Momma is tired and quite frankly, the Cranky Pants are comfortable.

I didn’t get it.

Ohhh but then. One week later to the day—I kid you not—I turned on the radio to hear one of my favorite pastors preaching on… Complaining.

Bam. There it was. I hear You, Lord.

A lump formed in my throat as I listened. Tears began to fall. Guilty as charged.

For the first time ever, I understood what complaining really is, what it does to my heart and those around me, and even worse, what it does to God.

Unbeknownst to me, my Moments were a sign that I was in The Wilderness. (If you’re just joining me, check out “I Am a C” and “Welcome to the Wilderness” to get caught up.) Though I smiled and tried to be My Best Self, those closest to me knew the truth. I was going through the motions and I was miserable.

“Those who choose murmuring as their lifestyle will spend their lifetimes in the wilderness.” ~ James MacDonald

Complaining is one of the five attitudes that constitute this “murmuring” that Scripture refers to. Complaining is:

  1. Griping about something that IS wrong but doing nothing to change or affect it
  2. Griping about something this IS NOT wrong but differs from my preference

For Instance, it is not complaining when I’m served the wrong order at a restaurant and I politely ask that it be fixed. It is complaining if I eat the wrong food I was served and gripe about it to everyone at the table, never asking my server to fix the problem.

Complaining is also expressing dissatisfaction when things aren’t the way I think they should be.   Nothing is technically wrong; things just don’t match the Standard of Rightness in my head. If you have self-diagnosed OCD like me, you totally get what I mean. There IS a correct way to fold the towels and load the dishwasher.

Any fellow Complainers out there? My hand is up—y’all don’t leave me hangin’.

Honestly, I’m a pro. If there were an American Ninja Warrior Complaining Challenge, I would have a pretty good shot at the title. Whatever the topic, it doesn’t matter. I usually have no problem spotting something to complain about…

Gas prices. The government. Video cameras at traffic lights. Walmart only opening 4 of its 50 registers. Vaginal Mesh Sling law suit commercials during Full House. (Seriously, does that last one bother anyone else?)

But I can get even more personal with my complaining… My husband. My family. My house. My car. My church. My life situation in general. I can complain about anything, even the people and things I love most.

Confession? Sometimes I just like to complain. It makes me feel better. It’s like even if I can’t change things at least I can gripe about what bothers me. At least I can make my opinion known lest my disapproval go unnoticed by the world (because my opinion is THAT important, she says sarcastically.)

James MacDonald, also an admitted Complainer, writes, “The reason we complain is because it momentarily satisfies our sinful natures…by releasing negative emotional energy.”

See, even he agrees—it feels good to gripe. To “vent.” No big thing.

But then I remember something…

If-It-Feels-Good-Do-It Mentality always leads to A Not-So-Good Reality. God’s word promises I will reap what I sow. (Galatians 6:7-9)

With every complaint I utter, I plant a seed. What fruit do I reap from complaint seeds? A stinky personality and a bad attitude. And as we’ve learned, my attitude determines my ability to live the abundant life Jesus offers.

On top of that, my stinkin’ thinkin’ affects others. Have you ever been trapped in the car with a Complainer? It’s not long before you find yourself either harmonizing to the same ugly tune or plotting a McGuyver-style escape route in your head. (My poor family.)

Right now some of you may be thinking, Yeah, I know some Complainers, but not me. I keep my thoughts to myself.

Hold the phone right there, Introvert. Before you go thinking this is just a problem for us loose-lipped Extroverts, think again. As MacDonald says, “You’re not living in victory simply because you have a piece of duct take over your mouth.”

Complaining isn’t just that outburst of frustration; it is also the dissatisfaction we keep to ourselves. Even if I never speak a word, my unspoken negative thoughts still affect my attitude and experiences, leaving me with the same stinky fruit.

“May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing, even to You, my Rock and Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14

But here’s the worst thing I reap: Separation from God. He hears All of My Words and All of My Thoughts and judges them for what they are—sin. God hates sin and in His holiness He will not tolerate it from His children.

We don’t like to think of God this way, as Judge, but that’s who He is. He is the Ultimate Judge and Authority of Everything because He made everything. He gets the final say about what is right and wrong and He determines the consequences.

Friends, God has something to say about complaining. Let’s look at what happened to the children of Israel and learn from their mistakes.

“Do not regard lightly the disciple of The Lord…For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” ~Numbers 12:5-6

Who Did God Judge?

“The people were soon complaining about all their misfortunes, and The Lord heard them…” ~ Numbers 11:1

“The people…” Which People? The People who witnessed the plagues in Egypt and The Passover. The People finally freed from years of slavery. The People who walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. The people who followed God via a cloud by day and fire at night. The People who gathered miracles called Manna every morning.

These were Saved People, Blessed People, like you and I are today, yet they were unhappy because they focused on their “misfortunes.”   As a result, they totally missed the joy of the miracles within their midst.

What Did They Complain About?

These people complained about Everything. All.The.Time. If it didn’t match their taste or suit their liking, they complained about it. Just take a quick glance at the Book of Numbers…

“And they turned against Moses, whining, ‘Have you brought us here to die in the desert because there were not enough graves for us in Egypt?’” ~ 14:11

“So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” ~ 15:24

“The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate the bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” ~ 16:3

Life was changing for The People. They were finally free from captivity and movin’ on up to “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Unfortunately, the move wasn’t happening the way they had envisioned and God’s promises weren’t coming fast enough. They began to focus on the good old days (in captivity, mind you) and lost sight of the joy set before them. They were physically set free but still mentally living in bondage.

Who Did They Complain To?

“But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses…” ~ Numbers 17:3

“…They grumbled against Moses.” Or so they thought. Though The People voiced their complaints to Moses, God says they were actually complaining against Him.

“I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.” ~ Numbers 14:27

God heard their complaints and He took it personally. It wasn’t Moses’ idea to lead thousands of people through the desert, it was God’s. He was The Man with The Plan; there was a purpose behind everything He did.

How Did God Judge Them?

“…His anger flared out against them because of their complaints, so the fire of The Lord began destroying those at the far end of the camp.” ~Numbers 11:1

God heard their complaining—just their complaining—and He engulfed the outskirts of the camp with flames. The People DIED, y’all. Dead as doornails because they complained. How scary is that?

Have you any idea how many times my house and all its contents would have been torched by now if God were to judge me that way? God’s anger is righteous and just and it is to be feared. This is why we need a Savior.

What Does This Look Like Today?

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of The Lord…” ~ Numbers 11:1

Here’s an unpleasant truth: “God has entrusted to every person a measure of adversity” (MacDonald). God allows each of us just enough trouble or frustrations or unpleasant circumstances in order to draw us to Him and accomplish His plans. Sometimes those circumstances are major and sometimes they’re minor. Regardless, when I complain about adversity I’m essentially telling God, You’re not doing a good enough job for me.

Whenever I gripe about my job, I’m really complaining about the way God is providing for my physical needs. Whenever I whine about my childhood, I am questioning God’s intentions for me by allowing me to experience certain situations.

Y’all, God doesn’t have a Heavenly Complaint Box. He doesn’t sit around waiting to hear how I think He’s doing with my life and the suggestions I have for how to make it better. He is God; I am not. He sees The Big Picture; I don’t. It makes Him beyond angry when I think I can do His job better.

“Complaining is an attitude that if left unchecked will wither my capacity to experience joy and genuine thankfulness.” ~James MacDonald

Today, the consequences of complaining are not physical; the fallout is spiritual and emotional. Feelings of resentment, hopelessness, discontent, frustration. Lots of Moments.

For me, complaining about my husband led to fighting and disrespect. Complaining about my family and home led to comparison with others and feelings of inadequacy. Complaining about my church led to dissatisfaction and a critical spirit. Complaining about my work led to daily feelings of dread and drudgery.

But the biggest fallout? We become ungrateful.

Consider this illustration by Pastor MacDonald. It was the heartbreaking moment of realization for me.

Imagine for a moment you went out for a rare Date Night. Your oldest is babysitting the younger two. As you enter the house, expecting to find them in bed, you realize they are nowhere to be found. The house is quiet and dark and you begin to search frantically. As you walk through the house listening for them, you hear voices in the basement.

You open the door slowly and step down the stairs, only to realize it’s your children’s voices. They are sitting on the floor in a circle with a flashlight, obviously engrossed in conversation because they have no idea you are there.

You’re relieved to find them, but you’re also curious what they’re talking about. So you listen and hear…”I wish Dad would get a better job. Is he lazy?” “Why can’t he take care of us like the Smith’s at church or like the Joneses at school? Why can’t we have…?” “I’m so sick of Mom’s rules: ‘Go to school,’ and ‘Clean up your room.’ Who does she think she is?! I’m not gonna take her bossy ways anymore.”

You listen and the complaining goes on. At first, you’re hurt. You think, “I have tried so hard, I’ve done so much. How could it not be enough?” Your hurt lasts about ten seconds and then you’re angry. “The nerve of these kids! It’s never enough! The things I have done for them! They have no idea the sacrifices that we have made. Maybe we haven’t given them everything but we have done our best!”

As a parent, I totally get this. I understand how much God loves us, how He wants to do so much for us because I know how much I love and want to do for my own children. When we complain about what He’s doing or how He’s doing it, we are questioning God’s sovereignty, His love and His provision.

God wants to be close to us. He grants us eternal life forever but He also longs to give us abundant life NOW. Not perfect—abundant.

So How Do We Change?

If you’re a Complainer like me, all of this is clicking right about now. I was convinced of my sin and convicted to change.

  • First, I agreed with God that complaining is, in fact, sin.
  • Second, I admitted I am a Complainer and confessed my dissatisfaction has really been with Him.
  • Third, I repented.

“Repent” means to stop doing one thing and start doing another. Researchers agree; the best way to quit a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

Complaining is what I must stop and Thankfulness is what I must start.

“Less Attitude. More Gratitude.” ~ Unknown

Thankfulness must become a deliberate choice I consciously make. Whenever I am tempted to complain about our financial situation, I must consciously choose to reverse that thought and thank God for faithfully meeting our needs. Whenever I want to gripe about my church, I should instead thank The Lord for the people He’s given me to walk with and pray for their endeavors.

A practical way I’ve reminded myself to do this is with this verse:

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” ~ Philippians 1:3

I’ve literally taped note cards with this verse all over my house. I put it anywhere I am usually tempted to complain, like on my husband’s closet doors because he never remembers to close them. It’s a small thing, but something I would grumble about nonetheless. Whenever I see that verse, it reminds me to give thanks for the companion God has given me and dwell on the things he does do to help me.

“Do everything without murmuring or complaining…” ~ Philippians 2:14

I’m nowhere near victory just yet; I’m a Recovering Complainer. I ’m aware I have a sinful habit and I am actively seeking to change it.

I still have Moments, but I now know better than to complain. Instead, I allow that ache to point me toward my Creator and Sustainer, for He is the only One who can deliver the Promised Land living I desire.

If you’re still serious about leaving The Wilderness, don’t take your boots off just yet. There are four more attitudes to tackle before our journey is through.

Remember, attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time. We didn’t get here overnight, so we can’t expect to get moved overnight, either.

Hold your horses just a little bit longer.

Jessie

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When Daddy Ain’t Happy

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My dad picked flowers for my mom the other day and I don’t mean he picked flowers out at the florist.  He saw wildflowers out in the field, actually picked them and took them home to her.  Isn’t that just sweet?  What makes it even sweeter, in my opinion, is that after 39 years of marriage when Dad sees pretty flowers in a field, he still thinks of his Sweetheart.  He picks them and brings them to her, just to see her smile.

You may recall my post When Momma Ain’t Happy, where I described three wooden bunny figurines Momma had when I was a kid.  Each bunny held a sign:  “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”  “When Baby ain’t happy, nobody sleeps!” “When Daddy ain’t happy, nobody cares.”

What I didn’t mention in that post is how my mom altered the Daddy’s sign just a smidge.  She marked through “nobody” and wrote in “Everybody.”  She didn’t like the connotation that Daddy wasn’t important or that his needs and feelings were the least of everyone’s concern.  Regardless of whether she was happy, Momma wanted Daddy to have the respect and attention he deserved as the head of our family.

Lately, the Daddy Bunny around my house just hasn’t been happy, which is strange.  Since the day we met he’s been the most easy-going, phlegmatic person I know.  He’s like a duck; stuff just rolls off him.  He isn’t easily angered and doesn’t demand his own way, which is the opposite of me.  Even in the midst of fussing or commotion, he is willing to quietly wait for the noise to settle rather than yell over the chaos (like I do).  Our personalities complement each other and we have always enjoyed one another’s company… until recently.  Lately, I ruffle his feathers with just a word and he frosts my cookies with a simple glance.  We used to go for a drive and it was all “Peaceful Easy Feeling”; now it’s “Witchy Woman” and “Desperado.”  (For those of you non-Eagles fans, I know that metaphor was lost on you and that saddens me.)

So after months of arguing at the drop of the hat, usually about nothing, I finally had enough.  I stopped and actually thought about what’s been going on and asked myself, what the heck has changed?  Is it him?  Is it me?  Fifteen years and a couple of babies later, The Love of My Life has somehow become the most irritating person I know.  Why have all those “cute” quirks become annoying habits that render immediate fixing and why do I feel like I’m the one who needs to fix them?

While I know I do not bear the sole burden of my husband’s happiness, I realize my words, actions, and care for him has a lot to do with how he feels.  Truly, when Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.  Becoming a mother changed a lot of things about me, mostly for the better, but in some ways let’s just say I’ve digressed.  My husband used to be the center of my world, bless his heart.  Now, he’s still the center but there are a couple of little people I have to go through to get to him, like a miniature Great Wall of China.  Being Momma is the highest honor and blessing but I’ve got to be honest with y’all: it’s hard work.  Though no one’s fault, there simply comes a point in the evening when this momma just wants to clock out and sit down.  (Am I not allowed a 15 minute coffee break?  Hello?!  Labor Laws!)  While I can somehow muster the energy to get the kids fed and bathed, I find myself completely spent by the time Daddy Bunny gets home and needs my attention.  And sometimes, in that moment when there’s yet another person needing something from me instead of offering to help me, it’s easy to think (with teeth gnashed and hand on hip), “He’s a grown man; he can take care of himself.  I am too busy working and taking care of these little people HE helped create.  I’m tired!  Give me a break already and Get.It.Your.Self!”

Exhaustion unlocks the door for Frustration who swings it wide open for Disrespect.

Oy Vey.  I am ashamed to confess this has been my attitude since the birth of our son—he’ll be two in March—and that it got worse last summer when The Hubs brought home That Stinkin’ Dog.  (I’ve not introduced you to Zoey yet, but just know she’s a Mastiff-thorn in my side.)

Although I’ve been aware of my attitude and quietly trying to resolve it in my heart, The Lord recently gave me an opportunity to taste my own medicine:  I bore witness as another person blatantly disrespected my husband.  It. Went. All. Over. Me.  Have you ever had that feeling?  Kind of like, “I can talk about my family but you better watch what you say about them!”?  As I listened to the disrespect and condescension being hurled, I realized my own guilt.  Is this what I sound like?  Is this how God feels whenever I speak to my husband—His child—disrespectfully?

“…And the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband.”

~ Ephesians 5:33 (Living)

Heaven help me.

Seriously.  Heavenly Father, help me.  How do I respect my husband in everyday real life, even when I’m tired and frustrated?  What does it look like and why is it important?  Give me Your wisdom and power so I may obey You in this area.

Y’all have got to know that I do not come to you as a wife who has Arrived in this area; I come to you today from the thick of it.  I come as a sister in Christ needing solidarity in my own heart that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.  Although volume after volume has been written on this subject, I feel led to share my struggle with you, as well as the ways God has impressed upon my heart for me to submit to my own husband, that we may encourage one another as we become more like Christ.

This process hasn’t been cake, so take a deep breath with me.  Here’s where my dialog with the Holy Spirit begins…

First things first—get over yourself.  Submit to Me and then to him.

 “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

~ James 3:17

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

~ Ephesians 5:21

 “You wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, for that is what the Lord has planned for you.”

 ~ Colossians 3:18

Girls, let’s be honest.  Some of us cringe at the “S” word.  But God’s wisdom is submissive.  Jesus was submissive. Why do so many of us take issue with this word?

An evangelist friend of ours explains submission by breaking the word into two parts; “sub” as in under or beneath and “mission,” meaning task or job.  Now before you go thinking that means we’re “beneath” our men, “sub” in this context refers to a sort of support that comes from the base or bottom of a structure.  (Think sub-flooring.)  It basically means we lift, encourage or support our husband’s work or “mission”.  We’ve got their back, so to speak, in their endeavors.

Many a lady has misunderstood and misinterpreted the concept of submission.  Take a look around the feminized world and you know it’s true.  In our quest to prove we girls can do anything a man can do (and do it better), we are missing the blessings that submission brings.  This is exactly what Satan wants and just what he did to Eve in The Garden.  “You’re not less than Adam, you’re smarter than him.  You can be like him, probably even better.  In fact, you can be like God if you want.  Eating from that tree won’t kill you; that’s just what God wants you to think so you’ll stay subject to Him.  Go ahead, take a bite.  You don’t need someone telling you what to do.  Prove you can make your own decisions and be like God and Man.”  (Jessie rendition of Genesis 3:1-6)

“The woman was convinced. How lovely and fresh looking it was! And it would make her so wise! She ate some of the fruit and gave some to her husband, and he ate it too”

~Genesis 3:6

Translation of the original text implies Adam was by Eve’s side the entire time she chatted with The Serpent, but he apparently just stood there.  So Eve, being a competent woman, made the decision independent of her husband.  She took control of the situation and her husband, too.

Is it any wonder we battle the same feelings today?  The need to control our environment is part of our sin nature.  So when God was handing out The Curses, He cursed Eve with the exact opposite of control.

“Then God said to the woman, ‘You shall bear children in intense pain and suffering; yet even so, you shall welcome your husband’s affections, and he shall be your master.

~ Genesis 3:16

No control over childbirth, over whether or not it happens for us, when it happens or the pain that accompanies it.  Yet, our heart’s desire is for affection.  We want to lead but our husbands have been granted authority.  This is our Curse.

Understand that respect is important to Me and to him.

’If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty.”

~ Malachi 1:6

“You shall have no other God’s before me… I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

~Exodus 20:3-7

“Give to everyone what you owe them; if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

~ Romans 13:7

Do you know what a man’s greatest need is?  (Nope, it’s not THAT.)  Psychologists, scholarly experts, God’s Word—surprisingly, all of these agree.  A man’s greatest need is for respect.

In an article by Shaunti Feldhahn she states, “Men said they judge themselves—and feel that others judge them—based on the happiness and respect of their wives.”  Really?  My attitude of respect and level of happiness has that much of an impact on my husband?  Yes!  That’s how God made him!  If God demands our respect and man is made in the image of God, it should not surprise us that a man feels his manliest when he is shown respect.

We’re Rocky fans around here.  We own all five sequels—on VHS, thankyouverymuch.  Rocky IV is one of our favorites (the one with the Russian) and one scene in particular really drives home this point for me.  Apollo Creed has just been killed and Rocky is faced with the decision to fight the Russian himself.  He believes it’s something he has to do as a man, but his wife Adrien vehemently disagrees.  Out of fear she screams, “You can’t win!”  Rocky’s head and heart drop.

Though his spirit is crushed, Rocky heads off to Siberia to train for the fight.  Weeks later, after battling inner demons and questioning his abilities, Adrien shows up in Siberia, parka donned, and grants her husband the blessing of her confidence.  In true Rocky style, he kicks it into high gear and his workouts intensify.  He is ready for the fight, both physically and mentally.  *Spoiler Alert*  He beats the Russian (because He’s Rocky, after all) and wins the hearts of everyone in the arena.  Would that have happened without the support of his wife?  Probably not.  Being in that ring and fighting a stronger opponent isn’t what made Rocky feel his Rockiest; Adrien coming to Siberia is what did it.  Even Hollywood knows it took that pivotal moment to change the course of his work and the outcome of his battle.

Your marriage is a direct reflection of your relationship with Me.

“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

~ Ephesians 5:31-32

“You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth…”

~ Malachi 2:13-14

Like the magnifying mirror in my compact, my relationship with my husband reveals everything about my love for God.  All the tiny imperfections I overlook become huge and obvious when viewed from that side of the compact.  My bossiness, controlling nature and haughty thinking reveals that deep in my heart, I want to be the god of my life just like Eve did.  Even the unspoken thoughts I entertain affect the attitude of my heart, which directs my actions.  Basically, the way I think is the way I feel, and the way I feel is the way I act.  It’s a slippery slope.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

~ Luke 6:45

You look more like Me when you’re serving.

“Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

~ Philippians 2:7-8

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” Genesis 2:18

“She will not hinder him but help him all her life.”

~ Proverbs 31:12

Simply put:  Marriage isn’t about me, my happiness or my convenience; it’s about my spouse.  It’s not what can I get from him; it’s what can I give to him?  How can I, his Helpmate, actually help and not hinder him in his journey of becoming more like Christ?

Just as Dad brings Momma flowers, Momma brings iced water and a picnic lunch out to the field when Dad’s bailing hay.  They purposely do things they know the other likes.  It is a way they show their love and respect.

“Wanting to be cared for by a loving man and to create a home for him is not a goal that has been trained into females and imposed on their collective psyche by an old-fashioned society. The feminine desire has far deeper roots. It is something God gave Eve.”

~ Elizabeth Baker

The attitude of my heart must be that of a servant—not a maid—like Jesus, The King who stepped down from His throne for me.  I can show respect with the simplest things:  Serve his plate first at dinner.  Tidy the house before he comes home.  Turn down the bed and leave a note on his pillow when he gets in late.  Make him a cup of coffee in the morning.  Let him drive, even if I am in fact the better driver.  It may not be much, but do something to let him know it’s good to have him home.  Submission will take a bit of effort and time, but so does my relationship with Jesus—and I have never regretted time spent on Him.

Stop talking and start listening…to him and to Me.

You may look at the story of Adam and Eve and think, “If Adam would’ve just spoken up maybe we all wouldn’t be in this mess!”  But I wonder…was it that Adam stood silent or was it that Eve wouldn’t let him get a word in edgewise?

“The hardest thing in the world for a godly woman to learn to do in her marriage is to keep her mouth closed.”

~ Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman

Amen and AMEN!  Because I am SO loud and perfectionistic, it’s very easy for me to take over my husband’s responsibilities.  (If you want something done right…)  I am an outspoken, Type-A leader and I tend to unwittingly take charge of things.  Kind of like Eve, I usually think I know best.  (I’d like to think I’m not bossy, I just know what everyone should be doing—but let’s face it, I’m bossy.)

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

~ 1 Peter 3:1

Without words.  Those who know me know this is extreeeemely difficult for me.  Just look at the length of my blog posts—I use a lot of words, people.  But girls, this isn’t the most effective way to reach men.  Men want us to Get. To. The. Point. Already.  And believe it or not, they want to be heard, too.  They may not be Chester Chatterbox, but given the opportunity and timing they will usually say something.  None of us married a man we had never spoken with; he had to say something to get you to the altar!  Men don’t usually dive right in to heavy conversations about their feelings and they typically don’t want it coaxed out of them either.  The best way to know his heart is to listen to what he does say when he says it.

“Listening…means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.”

~ Alice Duer Miller

Kay Arthur writes, “Words are powerful.  They can either build others up or destroy them.”  In those moments of Mommy Exhaustion it’s easy to toss around phrases like “I feel like a married single parent,” or “He’s never home when I need him,” as if my husband simply doesn’t care or I’m some sort of martyr for bearing the God-given responsibility of caring for our children and home.  And how awful that I would speak such negativity to others (sigh), but I have.  Girls, I’ve been in our circles and I know what we say when we think it’s safe.  The truth is I should always speak highly of my husband, even if he’s the most annoying human being in my life at the moment.  How will others respect him if I can’t?

“Her husband has full confidence in her…”

~ Proverbs 31:11

“Her husband is respected at the city gate…”

~ Proverbs 31:23

Momma always said, “If you can’t say something nice…”  If I’m angry at him, I should tell HIM, not everyone else.  And if I do need counsel, I should find an impartial person who knows there are two sides to every story and who will simply listen and offer sound, godly advice.  If you don’t have someone like this to call on, go to a professional counselor.  There is no shame in that.  Many pastors offer counseling services and there are countless Christian therapists to choose from.  Even if your husband doesn’t go, talking things over with a godly counselor will help you gain perspective.

Let it go. Even if you can’t trust him, trust Me.

Some of you may say, “But Jessie, you don’t know MY husband!  If I didn’t make all the decisions there’s no telling where we’d be!”  You’re right, I do not know your husband or his heart, but I do know My God. Submitting to our husbands is an act of faith in our God.  Even if I can’t trust my husband, I can trust God.  He loves me AND my husband far more than I can fathom and He never fails.

 “My greatest expectations must be of God—not my husband.”

~ Bunny Wilson

Whether society likes it or not, God has set up a divine order that He won’t repeal to appease the feminist movement within our hearts.  Have you ever worked somewhere without a chain of command or assigned order?  Probably not because that would be chaotic.  Satan purposely seeks to stir things up and reverse God’s order because he knows “God operates in the context of unity” (Evans).  Satan’s goal is to disrupt God’s organizational flow chart for the home because “whatever he can divide, he can dominate” (Evans).

“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

~ 1 Corinthians 11:3

When I take control of the situation I’m telling God His order of doing things isn’t right.  I’m also telling my husband he isn’t smart enough, strong enough, good enough, whatever—to handle it.  We wives rationalize and justify our leadership because “I’m so much more ______ than he is.”  We forget God designed marriage and the family and He is pleased with it.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  If my husband wasn’t capable of leading our family, God would not have given us to him. 

“Order has nothing to do with equality.”

~ Dr. Tony Evans, Kingdom Woman

When I control the strings, I’m also showing my lack of faith in God and His power.  I’ve had many a lady ask, “How do I get my husband to _______?”  If we’re honest, we’ve all thought this at some point.  What we’re really asking is how do I control or manipulate my husband into doing what I think is right?  The truth is we’re not always right.  It pains me to say it, but it’s true.  God is the one who is Righteous and True; not me, not my husband.  And the same Holy Spirit that convicts and directs me is the very same One that speaks to my husband.  It’s not my job to convict or correct him.

“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of The Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

~ Proverbs 21:1

Submitting doesn’t mean agreeing, it means yielding the final decision to the driver God has placed at the wheel.  Whenever I do this, I find that my stress level goes shockingly down.  God has designed men with the ability to lead under pressure; they can handle it.  Women can do the same, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a man cry because he felt “overwhelmed.”

One of my favorite speakers on this subject is Bunny Wilson (coincidence her name is Bunny? I think not!)  She explains 1 Peter 3:1 so well.  She says God has given men authority, but we women have the influence.  (Yo, Adrien!)  Which is more powerful?  Neither.  They are equal!

“God is saying you are so influential, even without a word, that if you’ll just flat out love Me, your husband will be thirsty for the peace that you possess, even if you don’t agree with him on a particular decision.”

~ Bunny Wilson

Some of us mistakenly think submission doesn’t apply to us because our husband’s aren’t godly men.  Bunny says God knew we would think this way, so He answered us in 1 Peter 3:1.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word…”

Friend, if your husband is not a believer or if he is but just isn’t seeking to walk with the Lord, pray for him.  Submit to him.  Show him God’s power and love at work in you.  I can only imagine how frustrating and difficult this would be to do on your own power, wanting to “fix” him in this way.  But let it go.  Trust the God of The Universe to reach your husband’s heart and heal him.  Bunny says, “Simplistically, [submission] means for the wife, duck and get out of God’s way so He can have a clear shot at your husband.”  She shares her husband’s testimony: “He said when I began to submit, it put the fear of God in his heart because he knew he was no longer contending with me, he was dealing directly with God.”

Submission is probably the hardest charge we’re given as wives.  Have you read Proverbs 31?  “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies…” (v10).  Clearly, God knows being a godly wife is tough stuff!  But He’s made it clear; if I refuse to submit to my husband, I am refusing to submit to God and obey His word.  Believe me, I could write a book on all the ways I’ve failed my husband and God.  If you, like me, are guilty of bossiness, manipulation, disrespect… know that God will forgive us and help us start anew.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

~ 1 John 1:9

After confession, prayer and forgiveness, I am seeking repentance.  Repentance means to stop doing one thing and start doing the opposite.  By listening, I’ve identified three of my husband’s greatest concerns right now and I am seeking God’s power to help me serve him in those areas.  I’ve asked the Lord to show me tangible ways I can submit to my husband every day and He has.

When Daddy ain’t happy, I want to care.  I want my kids to care.  I want to do all that I can to positively impact my husband’s life, just as much as I want to impact my kids’ lives.  I agree with Gloria Gather who said,

“We can change the world inside our own houses.  Take the gift of this moment and make something beautiful of it.  Few worthwhile experiences just happen; memories are made on purpose.”

Thank you, Momma, for making a memory for me by changing the Daddy Bunny’s sign.  It was a purposeful act and it impacted my life.  I have tons of memories of Momma respecting Dad, saying things like, “Dad will be home soon, so let’s tidy up the house before he gets here.”  What I do not remember is hearing her complain when Dad was away working split or double shifts.

Momma obviously knows a thing or two about being a wife, seeing she’s been married to and madly in love with her high school sweetheart for nearly four decades.  I realize I’ve been blessed with a real-life example of unconditional love and unwavering commitment that is a rare find in this world.  But don’t think they’ve set some unattainable goal by having the perfect life or romance; I’ve seen my parents face seemingly insurmountable odds and hardships.  I’ve witnessed joy at the birth of a baby and sorrow at the death of that baby.  I’ve seen a home built and a home lost; a business open and a business close.  It hasn’t been 39 years of sunshine and wildflowers; it has been 39 years of commitment and sacrifice and determination. They are real people living a real life and that gives me hope.

“True marriage is not without conflict, but is ever resolving its conflict. This will mean determination, understanding, seeing things from the other’s point of view, humility, being willing to be the first to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

~ Anonymous

Experience has taught me God is always right.  (Imagine that!)  His ways are right, even if I don’t like them, even if I disagree with them.  When I submit to God and my husband, our marriage is pleasing to Him and for the most part, all The Bunnies are happy.  Truly nothing is more important to me than my relationship with God and my family.

 “This era will pass so quickly, and the present stresses will seem insignificant and remote. What will matter to you at the end of life will be the loving relationship you built with your family and your readiness to meet the Lord.”

~ Dr. James Dobson

Earlier this afternoon The Hubs and I got out our Eagles cd and you know what?  We’ve still got that Peaceful Easy Feeling after all.  We just had to turn it back on.

June Cleaver Moments in a Rosanne World

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Sometimes I feel like June Cleaver.  Pearls, heels, apron.  Immaculate home.  Dinner on the table.  Happy black and white television family.

Other times, I feel like Rosanne.

For the past month or so, I’ve been in Rosanne-mode.  Sickness has definitely found its way into our household, along with moodiness, impatience and lethargy.  Thus, our halls are still decked and it’s still beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  The New has been collected and squeezed in the closet beside The Old.  Nothing is in its usual place.  If you could see my house right now, you’d probably suggest us for an episode of Hoarders.

I hate sluggish seasons like this, as do most people, I’m sure.  As I’ve confessed more than once, I’m a List-Maker and a To-Doer, and there’s nothing like a good New Year to bring out the Organizer in me.  (I don’t know what it is about Christmas decorating and un-decorating that makes me want to rearrange all my furniture and clean every room from floor to ceiling.  I’m going to blame Momma; I’m quite sure this trait was inherited.)

I’m a productive person, so when I can’t accomplish something I’ve set my mind to or do something my brain says needs to be done, I feel tense.  And I cannot think in a cluttered space.  I can hardly function.  It’s like my brain short circuits and I just shut down.  Can’t write at a cluttered desk.  Can’t cook in a dirty kitchen.  Can’t sleep in a bed with Confused Covers.  I don’t even know how I’m writing this right now.

Having said, it’s easy to understand when the drudgeries of sickness find their way into my home, I feel down.  Really down.  Defeated almost.  It’s easy for me to emotionally implode and find myself back at The Pity Party.

Rationally, I know I am not defeated.  This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a momentary lapse and life eventually return to normal.  The Voices are telling me, “Hello, Crazy!  You’re sick.  You have a sick toddler, whiny kindergartener, and a husband whose back is out.  It’s okay that your house is a disaster and you’ve not accomplished your List.  Give us a break, would ya lady?”

So the other night, after weeks of NOT accomplishing things, or at least, not accomplishing them at my usual speed, The Holy Spirit made His way into The Pity Party.  He reminded me that my current circumstances will soon change, considering none of our conditions are chronic or life-threatening.  “But,” He suggested, “what if they were?  What if the surmounting laundry and dishes and disorder lasted not just a few weeks, but months?  Years?”

I began to recount the loved ones and friends I know, whose circumstances may not or will not soon change…

…My diabetic, artificial-hip-and-back-laden husband who endures relentless nerve pain, 24-7.

…My father-in-law who struggles with COPD, taking breathing treatments multiple times a day, every day.

…My parents, facing indescribable financial strain and loss.

…A friend with chronic migraines and painful Lupus…and a three year old son.

…A former youth group member who unexpectedly passed away last week, at the age of 30.

I was convicted.  My situation is NOT that bad.  So what if my house is in chaos?  At least I have a house and my family is together.   I realized this is a temporary setback for me; this, too, shall pass.  Then, after a moment of confession and repentance, The Lord overwhelmed my heart with love and compassion and mercy for those suffering around me.  While I do give myself a bit of permission to feel slightly disheartened by my struggles—for the stresses of sickness and Mommyhood ARE real—I realize they are nothing in comparison to others’.

The Holy Spirit proceeded to show me a few things…

You Are An Overcomer Through Christ.  Having been sick and uncomfortable lately, I realize I truly cannot fathom the pain and discomfort some people deal with on a moment-to-moment basis.  Even as you read this, some of you are in real, physical pain.  But Believer, know this:  You are an overcomer through Christ.  God’s got this!  And that means I’ve got this!  (If Christ is in me.)  One of my favorite songs is Mandisa’s “Overcomer” because it so clearly reminds me to not let discouraging situations get the better of me.  I find myself repeating the line, “Don’t quit; don’t give in; you’re an Overcomer.”  We ARE overcomers and we can boldly declare this because of Jesus.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you…But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.  And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.”

~ Romans 8:9-11

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

~ Romans 8:35 & 37

“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

~ Romans 8:32

My Problems Are Big, But My God Is Bigger.  I just can’t get my mind around the strength of those who truly are Overcomers.  Some of you have been through the wringer without losing your faith.  How do you keep your focus and sanity in the midst of chaos and noise?  Sick, clingy babies are okay for a day or two; but what about for a year or two?  How do you learn to deal with that kind of irritation without yourself becoming irritated?  I cannot grasp the sort of calm that many of you possess in the midst of trials.  It truly is supernatural.  Living paycheck to paycheck is daunting.  How do you so peacefully deal with surmounting financial pressure and the possibility of loss?  Your tenacity inspires me and makes me want to press on.

“…But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

~ Philippians 3:12

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

~ Philippians 4:7

“Now you have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing His will are yours during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

~ 1 Corinthians 1:7

“…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

~Philippians 1:6

“Know, therefore that The Lord your God is God; He is The Faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

~Deuteronomy 7:9

I’m Not Effective for Christ If I’m Focused On Myself.  When I’m sick or my household is ill, I very quickly get a one-track mind, which is Me, Myself and I.  As I confessed these things to Jesus, I realized I should ask that He make us well, not for my benefit, but for His.  In my heart, I want to be Jesus to the world around me, but when I’m solely focused on my own problems and wrapped up in my own little world, I can’t see anything beyond Me.

Example:  A couple of days after praying this, my eyes were opened to a homeless man standing on the corner by my local Walmart.  He’s been there for a few weeks, apparently, which means I’ve driven past him a few times and never even noticed him.  When headed to the store lately, I’ve been consumed by the fact that I barely have enough money to cover our needs and focused on not going over budget.  This week, the blinders were lifted and that’s when I met Paul.  Long story short, he and his two sons have been living out of an old minivan for the past 6 months since their family home burned.  Once I got my mind off of my circumstances, The Lord was able to use me to love and serve this family.  Our Life Group rallied together and provided Paul and his boys with food, blankets, toiletries and other basic needs.

As I consider all of this, I realize I am not capable of loving and living as Jesus commands.  It’s just not humanly possible; that’s why I need divine intervention every single day, every moment throughout the day, because this sinful body just can’t seem to hack it.

“We Christians glory in what Christ Jesus has done for us and realize that we are helpless to save ourselves.”

~Philippians 3:3b

 “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and The Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

~ Matthew 22:37-40

“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”

~ Philippians 4:13

Always Be Mindful Of Those Who Are Hurting.  Now here’s where it gets a little touchy.  The Lord pierced my heart at point-blank range with this one.  He’s allowed to; He’s God.  So, as I’m fully aware that I am not God, I’ll try not to do the same to you.  However, it hurt when I realized my guilt in this department… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

While I know not everyone is in This Place, being here has convicted me to be mindful of those who are, or who have been for some time—especially when speaking about my June Cleaver moments—particularly on Facebook.  In an attempt to share our lives, we hurriedly blab our thoughts and unwittingly cross the line between encouraging and gloating.  Quickly spoken words are often misused and written words are easily misinterpreted; they unintentionally become discouraging daggers aimed at our friends’ hearts and psyche.  We allow words to flow so freely when not looking people in the eye, without that face-to-face reminder that they’re struggling or hurting.

Consider a couple of instances:  One morning, when I was feeling particularly down, I came across a post by a well-meaning friend.  Her words were in no way intended to discourage, I know.  But because of This Place where I am, her spouting off her many accomplishments from the day left me feeling terribly inadequate and longing for better days.  It shouldn’t have, but let’s be honest—after reading that post, I felt like crap.  (Am I the only weakling who allows this to happen?)  Her words simply highlighted the fact (in my mind) that I was failing in multiple areas of my life.  Not gonna lie.  I cried a little.

Other comments, like some recent ones made by a favorite author/speaker of mine, make me just wanna reach across Facebook and shake someone.  Stop griping about the burden of your blessing; it’s not entertaining.  It’s paint.  It’ll dry and life will go on.  Many of us are just thankful we have a house with walls to paint.

Like Momma telling me, “If you can’t say something nice…,” The Lord smacked me with this scripture:

“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”

~ Proverbs 10:19 (The Message)

Or to put it another way…

“Don’t talk so much.  You keep putting your foot in your mouth.  Be sensible and turn off the flow!”

~ Proverbs 10:19 (Living)

I want you to know I’ve sincerely confessed and prayed over these words of mine, for I often use too many.

Friends, let’s seek to use our words to inspire and encourage others, even when we’re being Real and speaking about our everyday lives.  “Speak Life,” as Toby Mac so awesomely puts it.  As Believers, let’s be careful that social media doesn’t become our outlet for gripes and complaints.  No, we’re not perfect and yes, we do have gripes and complaints.  We’re sinful humans; how could we not?  But God makes it clear that we should control our tongues; scripture is laden with direction concerning our words.  Now before you go thinking I’m being preachy, you should know my saying this is a lot like The Pot calling The Kettle black; I’m so guilty of this.  Therefore, I must consciously choose to remember that everyone out there in Social Media Land, or Blog-Ville for that matter, does not have the same blessings or struggles as me.  When I share things, I should do so in a way that blesses others, encourages them, makes them think or gently rebukes when appropriate, in a way that pleases The Lord and brings glory to Him—not to me.  A fellow mom-friend made a wise comment recently that stuck with me.  She said she purposely doesn’t post a lot of “mommy” stuff on Facebook because, having lost a child of her own, she is mindful of ladies dealing with the sorrow of that loss or the pain of not being able to conceive.  I have never even thought of that because I haven’t dealt with it.  Oh Lord, help me be mindful of the hurt around me, even if it’s a hurt I do not understand.

“So speak encouraging words to one another.  Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“The tongue has the power of life and death…”

~ Proverbs 18:21

“Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?”

~ Job 12:11

So, to those of you feeling June Cleaver-ish today, You Rock.  Seriously.  I love when I have those days.  Just try not to rub it in.  And for those of you Roseanne-rs, get yourself ready for the Hoarders’ camera crew and I’ll send ‘em your way when they leave my house.  Regardless, spend a minute with Jesus.  Find your hope or perseverance or healing or rest in Him—He embodies all of that.  Time with Him is as refreshing and energizing as a hot shower.  Get an extra nudge, if you need it, and listen to the hope in the songs I’ve mentioned.  Or, maybe like me, you need to Turn-The-Facebook-Off and go spend some time with a real, living face.  Whatever you’re convicted to do or not do, just go with it.  Whatever struggles you’re having, see them as the exciting climax in The Great Adventure of Your Life.  Because Believer, it will have a happy ending.

Jessie

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

~ Romans 8:28

Click Here to watch Mandisa’s “Overcomer” video.

Click Here to watch Toby Mac’s “Speak Life” video.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Drama Queen

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I think writing is sometimes as therapeutic for me as a good cry or a hearty laugh with an old friend. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I tend to confess things to y’all. I don’t mean to, it just happens. My purpose is to be honest and real in the hopes that there are other women like me in the world. I think I’m pretty normal…?

Today, I have yet another confession.

Hi, my name is Jessie and I am a Drama Queen.

There. I said it.

I tend to “idle high”, as Jen Hatmaker once put it, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes I just find myself in a tizzy over, well, nothing. I think being the mom of little ones has a lot to do with it these days, but if I’m honest, I’ve been this way my entire life.

Here’s a bit of proof…

• When I was in junior high, I coined the phrase, “I have tender bones!” after finding myself at the bottom of the pile while bouncing on a trampoline with friends.

• The Hubs says I turn into Judge Judy when I’m tired…or hungry.

• I once sent an e-card to The Hubs and Momma that read, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” (See previous bullet point.)

• I’m usually in a bad mood every Monday morning.

• I make myself a pretty cup of coffee when I feel down.

• The blinds and curtains MUST stay open during daylight hours.

• My house usually seems clean, but like Monica Gellar, there’s a mystery closet somewhere that you DO NOT want to open.

• When I was a kid, I would never let anyone listen to me practice my vocals for fear of messing up in front of them. (Duh? Isn’t that why it’s called “practice”?!)

• I subconsciously lean heavily toward pessimism and perfectionism, although I consciously refuse to be either.

Anyone else out there, or is it just me?

I’ve recently written a lot about contentment and joy, because I find myself desperately wanting both. You probably think I already possess those qualities… Think again. I’m a great cheerleader and encourager for you, but for myself, not so much. I’m not always this happy, perky, “sparkly” person everyone sees. I wear my Cranky Pants way too often and my Drama Crown stays on standby. Today, I feel I need to confess that. I’m a grouch. I complain. I cry. I expect too much of myself and others and it leaves me (and those around me) feeling discouraged.

I so want the Lord to remove the layers of my heart where impatience and discontent and frustration lie. I don’t have time for those things, not if I want Him to use me to share His love and hope with others. I don’t want to be the thorny soil spoken of in Luke 8.

“Other seed landed in the thistle patches and the young grain stalks were soon choked out…The seed among the thorns represents those who listen and believe God’s words, but whose faith afterwards is choked out by worry and riches and the responsibilities and pleasures of life. And so they are never able to help anyone else to believe the Good News.” ~ Luke 8: 7,14 (Living)

I want to be the good soil…

“Still, the other fell on fertile soil; this seed grew and produced a crop one hundred times as large as he had planted…But the good soil represents honest, goodhearted people. They listen to God’s words and cling to them and steadily spread them to others who also soon believe.” ~Luke 8:8,15 (Living)

I’ve seen God do some truly AWE-inspiring things over the past couple of weeks. He’s proven His love and provided in ways beyond my imagination. I’m humbled to say He’s even used me in the process. Yet, even in the midst of such goodness, I find myself frazzled. All the little things and small stuff of life tend to choke out The Seed and keep me from rejoicing in the harvest He’s given.

So, I’ve been racking my brain. How do I beat this? How do I get this thing back on the rails?

Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

~ Philippians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Rejoice. Be gentle. Pray. Give thanks.

God promises, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:7 (Living)

So today, I’m going to rejoice, be gentle, pray and give thanks. For everything, in every situation. Even though it’s Monday. Even though it’s December 2nd AND Cyber Monday, and I’ve not purchased the first Christmas gift or hung the first decoration. Even though I’m sleep deprived, as my toddler-son hasn’t slept through the night in almost three weeks. Even though I can find multiple things to be in a tizzy about, I’m going to choose differently today. Stop the madness. Dial it down a few.  Ease up, Turbo! (Shelbea, that was for you.) Trust in The Truth and expect “His peace” to keep my heart “quiet and at rest.”

I’m going to take my tiara off today. Won’t you join me? Maybe I’m the only Queen on her throne today, but seeing as there are only 24 more shopping days until Christmas, I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. We Drama Queens tend to keep our tiaras pretty handy this time of year. So, whaddya say we give our crowns a rest and have us a cup of pretty coffee?

Cheers.

Jessie

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When Momma Ain’t Happy

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This one’s for the moms out there, particularly the ones with young’ins currently fluttering around their nest. The ones in the trenches. The ones with spit-up in their hair and snot on their shirt. The ones like me.

Nobody understands our job except us. We feel each others pain. We know what it’s like to actually schedule our next hot shower and wonder why we waste our time mopping the floors. (I really think a clean floor actually attracts spills.  It’s kinda like washing your car; as soon as you do, it rains or a bird poops on it.)  I totally agree with whoever said, “Cleaning your house while your children are young is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing.”

Motherhood is by far THE HARDEST JOB I’VE EVER HAD. And I’ve had tough jobs to tackle. I’ve worked long hours. But nothing–I repeat NOTHING–could have prepared me for this. It’s 24-on…24-on. There is no off. Even when you’re sick. No personal days, no vacation time.  I’m watching this realization unfold in real-time, through a friend who just had her first baby.  She reminds me of me, the first few weeks after having my first baby.  I remember crying one day and asking Momma if I’d ever go another day in life without having someone spit-up on me.  To be honest, the sheer enormity of caring for a new little human took me by surprise. I think it takes most of us by surprise.

Sometimes, in the most beautiful ways.

Caring for my family is both the hardest and most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It is a burden and an honor. It is also the most Christ-like thing I will ever do. It requires me to die to myself. To sacrifice. Everything. Time. Sleep. Money. My will and my wants.

It also requires me to bear the fruits of The Spirit. I MUST be Loving. Joyful. Peaceful. Patient. Kind. Good. Faithful. Gentle. Self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23).  Because when I’m not these things, life stinks for everyone.

Case in point.  Momma had three bunny figurines on a shelf when I was a kid.  One little bunny read, “When baby ain’t happy, nobody sleeps.”  The next read, “When Daddy ain’t happy, nobody cares.”  And the final bunny read, “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Amen sister-bunny! Preach it!

I’m beginning to own the fact that when I’m not happy, ain’t nobody happy.

See, we have different kinds of “pants” in our house.  We have Smarty Pants, for when you’re being brilliant and thinking  things through.  We have Happy Pants, for when you’re super-sweet and–well, happy!  Then we have Cranky Pants…you get the picture.  If I get up and put my Cranky Pants on, it seems the rest of the fam slips theirs on, too.  When I moan and complain about my endless piles of laundry or bottomless sink full of dishes, the stacks don’t get any smaller, I just feel miserable. Then my misery must need company because Daddy and the Little Bunnies usually follow my lead. Before you know it, ain’t nobody happy!  Cranky Pants for all!

Philipians 2:14 tells me, “Do everything without murmuring or complaining.” Ouch. That lil’ doozy of a verse smacks me in the face almost every day, probably because I have it hanging over the sink where I can see it…as I wash dishes.

Because I’m on the clock 24-7, I need that reminder–and others–so I literally post The Word in strategic spots around the house. 4×6 index cards are my friend. Momma taught me this trick and it’s stuck with me all these years. I honestly have no idea how anyone does this job without the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is my Source of Strength.  He is my Joy.  He is my Only Hope!

More than anything in all this world, I want my children to love God. Even more than I love Him. I want them to know Him intimately. Even better than I know Him. And I realize if that is to happen, it will be because of my consistent example of His love in their life.  Daddy is definitely important too, don’t get me wrong.  But God created mothers and fathers differently, to play different roles.  Mommas were created to nurture.  This is not something society has imposed on us; it is our God-given instinct and function.  We’re usually there for everything–therefore, we are the ones modeling God’s consistent, sacrificial love. We are the ones singing fun little songs with them, teaching them Scripture set to music.  We are the ones who hold them and kiss them after they’ve fallen.  We are the face of A Loving Savior, day in and day out.

Let’s be honest; our Cranky Pants tend to be comfy.  And whether we like it or not, we moms set the tone for our entire household.  It’s usually up to me to pick out what Pants we’re gonna wear for the day.  Yes, each person chooses their own behavior and attitude, but when I choose wrong, it’s catching.  When I choose wisely, that’s catching, too.

So let’s choose a different outfit this weekend.  If you’ve been in those Cranky Pants for a few days, take ’em off!  They probably need a washin’.  Put the whole family’s Cranky Pants in a big pile and leave ’em there.  Pull out the Happy Pants and do something fun.  Enjoy each other.    🙂

Jessie

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12, 14