Category Archives: Real Life With The Savior

Michael and Malachi

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You know, my whole life I’ve wanted friends. True friends.

The kind you consider family even though you don’t share the same tree or bloodline. The kind you don’t hesitate to call or text at 2am. The ones you invite over whether your house is clean or not, who’ve seen you ugly cry and still love you. Those kind of friends.

Remember those “Best Friend Shirts” we made in the 80’s? A childhood friend and I had a set, which of course we wore with matching side-ponytails and armloads of plastic bracelets. Or maybe it was Swatches, I can’t remember. All I know is we were true blue BFF’s.

Until she moved 2 hours away.

Time has taught me the true friends I’ve described are like precious jewels: incredibly valuable and extremely hard to find. And the funny thing is, they’re usually not the ones sporting a matching t-shirt.

You never know who your dearest friends will be, where you’ll meet them or what circumstances will bring you together. Friendship is fun like that. Adventurous, even. It keeps life interesting.

Take for instance my dear friend Michael Powell. He and Stevie-P were college roommates…and polar opposites! Though they shared a call to ministry, these two guys couldn’t be more different. And yet, they were the greatest of friends. They balanced each other.

After graduation Michael married his sweetheart, Mandy. Then just weeks later, he performed a portion of our wedding. We lived in the same town and hung out often, even went on a couple of foreign mission trips together. Good times for sure.

But then, they moved.

Distance may have changed our physical proximity and much has happened over the years since, but I’m blessed to say our friendship is still just that. A true friendship.

And, I’m excited to introduce you to Michael today, not just as our friend but as an incredible evangelist and author. His first book, Moments with Malachi, will be available on Amazon tomorrow– January 19, 2016!

This book is also like a good friend– it is one of my favorite reads. It’s challenging and insightful; really makes me evaluate my love for God as well as my response to His love for me.

I’ve used it for personal study as well as with a group. It’s great teaching delivered in a way only Michael Powell can offer!

Check out this excerpt:

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One of the greatest worship services my church ever experienced was at a wedding. Many of us drove over three hours to celebrate the union of Chris and Cassidy. I can’t think of a time when I have been so proud to be a pastor.
The event symbolized well the nature of our church. We celebrated romance during the wedding. We celebrated community at the reception. We celebrated dependency afterwards as five cars caravanned back at three in the morning. We celebrated Christ all along the way.

Malachi would have enjoyed the event. His book pleads for genuine romance to replace neglect and adultery. He begs for community during horrible struggles for power. He invites dependence upon the LORD, but is rejected and scorned.

The message of Malachi is easy to read and understand. Just do the opposite of what those who first heard the words of Malachi were doing. Malachi is a prophetic book written not because the people were failing to worship or offer sacrifices, but because the people weren’t interested in God anymore.

Those Malachi addressed were not great active sinners; they were great passive sinners. They weren’t running towards evil. They just weren’t running towards righteousness and God. They were minimalists asking, “What does God require?” and then making sure they didn’t do one thing more than what the letter of the law said to do.

Written around 400 BC, the temple and city wall had been rebuilt, but the Jews had failed to rebuild their own souls. They weren’t interested in God. The heartbeat of Malachi and the purpose of this devotional are to stimulate your interest in God. You may be interested enough to begin reading this book, but Malachi will soon show that often our standard of interest may fall far short of God’s. May God draw you nearer to His standard and closer to His heart as you read!

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If you’re like me, when you think of Malachi you immediately think of tithing. (LOL!) But as Michael makes evident, Malachi offers so much more.

Starting tomorrow, you can purchase a print copy of Moments with Malachi on Amazon for $11.99! It will also be available in any bookstore in the country within 4-6 weeks.

The audio version is FREE! and available on Michael’s blog. Visit www.upandoutpublishing.com to check it out. And while you’re there, sign up for Michael’s weekly newsletter.

I hope you’ll get a copy of Moments with Malachi and visit Michael’s blog for more insight and teaching. I think you’ll agree– they both make great friends!

~Jessie
“How natural it is that I should feel as I do about you, for you have a very special place in my heart. We have shared together the blessings of God…”  ~Philippians 1:7

P.S.  I’d like to give a giant-Thank You-hug to the friends who have loved our family as we grieve.  It is precisely those 2am calls and texts and dirty-house visits that have carried us through.  The Holy Spirit has without a doubt shown up in your hugs, tears, words and work.  We love you to the moon and praise God for our friendship.

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The One Thing

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The One Thing

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Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”
~ Luke 10:41-42 (VOICE)

I’ve read this story countless times now, trying to understand just what the Lord meant when He bluntly told me, Don’t be a Martha. Every time I do, the final verse intrigues me.

Mary has chosen that One Thing…”

It makes me think of the movie “City Slickers”. (You’ll have to pardon the gross use of movie analogies here lately. Sadly, my Mommy-Brain is reduced to operating via old song lyrics and movie quotes.)

Remember when Curly tells Mitch what the secret to life is? He holds up his finger and says, “One Thing.”

“What’s The One Thing?”

“That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

That’s how I feel every time I read this verse. What’s The One Thing, Lord?

I’ve always felt living my life for Jesus was The One Thing. Unashamed-of-The-Gospel, Do-the-Right-Thing, This-Little-Light-of-Mine living. Gimme a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Jesus and I’m good to go.

Maybe this comes from my missionary baptist heritage or maybe Talking and Doing are just my nature. Regardless, these are my comfort zones; they give me a sense of accomplishment and control.

But The Lord has recently given me some very conflicting directives.

Talk less.
Do less.
Pray more.

The most uncomfortable things for me?

NOT TALKING AND NOT DOING.

Not being the first to volunteer feels wrong on so many levels. Not sharing my thoughts or testimony is almost painful.

I mean, you don’t hear a lot of preachers spouting from the pulpit, “Clam up and do nothing!” So how can this be right?

Indeed, obedience and good works and love with action are hallmarks of my faith, but I’m learning they are not The One Thing to which Jesus referred.

In Mark 10, we meet a young rich man who also wanted to know The One Thing.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
[Jesus replied] “…You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ~Mark 10:17-21

What’s The One Thing he lacked?

Sacrifice? Faith? Love?

I’ve scratched my head over the past weeks, prayed, devoured commentaries and searched God’s Word for the answer. But one morning when I wasn’t even looking, I came to this…

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:21 (NIV)

I read these familiar words and asked myself, “Where is your treasure? What do you value most?”

Like all good Christian girls, I know The Right Answers:
-My relationship with God
-My family
-Advancing The Kingdom

I can honestly say I treasure these things because they each are extremely important to me; I do indeed value them. I even do The Deeds to prove it. But when I read this verse in The Message, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”~Matthew 6:21 (MSG)

What The Rich Man lacked was Heart.

In an unforeseen twist, The Lord flipped my well-meaning self-evaluation. “Jessie, where are you? Where is your HEART?”

Tears filled my eyes as the answer flooded my mind. I don’t know anymore, Lord.

It feels like my heart is everywhere and nowhere right now. I’m still SAYING The Right Things and DOING lots of things that are Right, but He has shown me I’m operating more out of obligation than passion. My Heart just isn’t in it anymore.

Maybe that’s what Martha was doing, too.

In Martha’s day, “hospitality was not merely a question of good manners, but a moral institution…which developed into a highly esteemed virtue in Jewish tradition.”

Martha was not simply trying to host an impressive meal for Jesus; according to The Law, she was obligated to. In some teachings, hospitality was considered even more important than prayer!

Martha was no doubt mortified by her sister’s failure to Do The Right Thing according their upbringing. Mary was being rebellious and immoral in front of a Rabbi; what was she thinking?!

As a Jew, Jesus was familiar with this tradition, too. He knew the importance of opening one’s home to serve travelers and strangers. He understood Martha’s tizzy–and her heart.

In that moment of distraction, Martha’s heart was in obeying The Law, Doing The Right Thing.

The young rich man had done The Right Thing all his life, obeyed every letter of The Law. He wanted to secure his seat, but Jesus wanted to secure his heart.

Doing The Right Thing isn’t The One Thing.

“Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!”~Galatians 6:15 (MSG)

Jesus came to fulfill The Law (Matt. 5:17) so we could live life free from The Law! So our hearts could be fixed on HIM, not The Right Thing.

Mary sat because she understood this.

Anyone can muster up the willpower to obey, do good deeds, or be kind and moral–even non-believers. But only those who treasure Jesus can Stop Doing or Sell Everything just to sit on the floor and listen to His voice.

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” ~Psalm 27:4

Martha was Talking; Mary was Seeking.

Martha was Doing; Mary was Dwelling.

Martha was Busy; Mary was Praying.

Obedience, good works and love with action are necessary, but like Martha, Jesus has shown me they are not The One Thing because they do not satisfy our hearts.

Mary’s heart was in The Right Place and Jesus said she found The One Thing that mattered–The Good Portion–and it would not be taken from her.

Jesus is The Good Portion. Literally, He is whole. Solid. Filling. Mary was satisfied.

So what’s The One Thing?

A Heart that’s in The Right Place…

At the feet of Jesus.

Jesus, You are The One Thing I need. Help me want You more than anything else, to drop everything to sit at Your feet and gaze upon Your beauty. Show me what to stop doing. Tell me when to stop talking. Meet me in prayer that I may be satisfied. In Jesus’ Name I ask these things.  Amen.

Jessie

To start at the beginning of this Martha-thon, see these posts:

Don’t Be A Martha!

You Might Be A Martha…

Hooked On A Feeling

Hooked On A Feeling

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“Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home. Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.

Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.

Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”

~Luke 10:38-42 (VOICE)
Okay! I’m treading water now and holding my breath as I discover what it means to Be A Martha with the Heart of A Mary. Just like swimming, this is a lesson I’ll never forget.
Today, I’m pondering Martha’s motivation. Why did she invite Jesus to her house?
Like Martha, I love to play Hostess. Throwing parties with all The Details is so much fun for me. Even the planning and organizing and shopping is exciting. (I know, I have a problem.)
Whatever the venue, I sincerely enjoy making people happy; I am a Pleaser at heart.
I’ve always thought delivering flowers to be one of the best jobs in the world. The surprise; the smile; the sentiment. What a joy knowing you’ve left someone feeling loved.
Reminds me of the movie “Bed of Roses” with Christian Slater. (SO good but seriously a tear-jerker.) His character, Lewis, loves arranging and delivering flowers to unsuspecting recipients and then watching their faces; so much so, he buys a flower shop and devotes his life to it.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m no florist. So for me, delivering a hot meal is the next best thing. I love making a comforting supper, taking it right to someone’s doorstep and seeing them smile. The feeling that follows is addictive.
It feels good to do good deeds, doesn’t it? Knowing I’ve made some kind of a difference is satisfying. Rewarding. It’s a Win-Win all the way around.
As Believers, it is our calling. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves; to be Salt and Light in the world. But if I’m brutally honest–which, unfortunately I am–sometimes The Martha in me enjoys The Deed and The Feeling more than The One I’m doing it for. 
I like tangible, Look-At-What-I-Did accomplishments. Donating clothes from my own closet. Making and serving a Pretty Coffee. Redecorating a room at the church. It’s gratifying to SEE the fruits of my labor and watch the joy others feel from my efforts.
The truth is, it’s harder to be satisfied by what I cannot see. 
Sometimes, just Jesus isn’t enough. (I cry as I type those words.) It’s so much easier to be satisfied by what I’ve done for Him than by what He’s done for me. I prefer the joy I can see Here and Now over that which is promised to come.
Like Martha, I get so caught up trying to be Salt and Light, I forget what that even means.
Jesus said I am the salt of the earth so that others may taste and see that He is good; He said I am the Light of the world so others may give glory to Him.
 
The more I really grasp this, the more I realize I don’t have to TRY at all; I AM because He is in me and He is Good!
And the more time I spend with Him in His word and in prayer, the saltier and brighter I become. Suddenly I’m no longer trying, I’m simply seasoning and reflecting.
Now I know:  When I walk away from some good deed feeling like I Made It Happen, that’s me trying. But when I walk away going How Did That Just Happen?, that’s Him giving me flavor and brilliance.
Sometimes I think I crave that Good Feeling because it makes me forget my own troubles. If I’m busy helping others there’s less time to face my own heart issues and sin.
Spoiler Alert: That’s why Lewis bought a flower shop. 
He had been a successful business man but lost his wife and baby during childbirth. His deep pain and sorrow prompted him to find a job that made him feel good. Living vicariously through others’ joy helped him forget his own worries and woes.
Doing good deeds and bringing joy in Jesus’ name is NOT wrong. It’s when I find healing through The Feeling more than through The Savior that I have a problem. 
Only Jesus can satisfy my longings. No matter how great, no good deed is good enough; no good feeling will ever match the warmth and joy I find in His presence. He is Good and He wants Good for us, but mostly, He just wants Us. 
Martha gave Him her deeds; Mary gave Him herself.
And Jesus said she found what is Good.
Lord, I want to give you Me today. Not my Deeds or Best Efforts, just Me. I want to find joy in Your presence alone. Please help the Martha in me to be hooked on You and not a feeling. In Jesus’ Name I ask this. Amen. 
 
~Jessie
“We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags…” ~Isaiah 64:6 (MSG)
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth…You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:13a,14-16 (MSG)

You Might Be A Martha…

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Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home. Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.

Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.

Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”

~Luke 10:38-42 (VOICE)

Welcome to the shallow end; glad you could join me!  I’m still here, dangling my toes off the steps, testing the waters with questions like…

Lord, what does it mean to Be A Martha? 

How does a girl to go from hospitable to hostile in less than 60? 

If I am in fact a Martha, didn’t You create me this way for a reason?

Although I still don’t have all the answers, I’ve confirmed I am without a doubt A Martha. And ironically, I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart is A Martha, too.

Perhaps you’re unsure as to your Martha-ness?  Like a good “You Might Be A Redneck” joke, let’s use a few simple questions and find out. C’mon, this will be fun!

You Might Be A Martha If…

You over-commit and then force–ahem–recruit your family or friends to help?

You over-achieve and find yourself working during the wee hours?

You over-react and freak out on your family?

If you’re female and answered Yes to at least one of these questions, You Might Be A Martha!

You Might Be A Martha If You Over-commit.

Martha asked Jesus and His posse over for supper, y’all. How much bigger of an event could you host?

Over-committing is probably the easiest Martha-misstep because There Is Just So Much. All Of The Time. Married or single, mother or not; balancing our commitments is tricky. Even before becoming a mother of two, I struggled to keep my schedule from being overloaded.

Host a party at my house? Okay!

Add another class to my schedule? Sure!

Take on extra hours at work? Great!

With so many Good Things to do, Yes slides out before I really have time to determine how More will affect my Must. I can handle a lot, but even Nutella isn’t worth anything if it’s spread too thin.

You Might Be A Martha If You Overachieve.

This little number may be advertised a First-born, Type-A issue only, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most of us girls struggle with this.

Exhibit A: Pinterest.

Not only do I overbook myself, but I plan to bring my Pinterest Best to every single thing I commit to. Visions of sugarplums dance in my head and fill my Boards.

I can make that! And maybe a couple of those! Oh and that’s cute, too!

Unfortunately, my overachieving ways usually leave me with two parting gifts: An over-extended budget and an under-accomplished list.

Exhibit B: Pinterest Fail.

You Might Be A Martha If You Over-react.

Hello, my name is Jessie and I am The Drama Queen Who Never Sits.

I’m always Up. Doing. Fixing. Planning. Everyone needs to be hugged and welcomed and cared for. No one goes unnoticed or hungry–not on my watch!

I overwork myself and then, like Martha, I get in a tizzy. I believe the lie that I’m The Only One Who Cares and I’m Doing Everything, forgetting I volunteered for all of it.

I get all worked up and before you know it, I’m interrupting Jesus, questioning His level of concern and telling Him what to do.

(This is the scene where the party music screeches to a halt.)

Martha was a spaz. Mary was calm. How’d she do that, Lord?

As I discussed the things I’m learning with my husband, he asked a legit question: Do you feel you worship as much as you work?

(That Stevie-P is one smart cookie.)

I know work is a form of worship but like any good Drama Queen, I operate in extremes. I’m guessing Martha probably did, too. The challenge is finding the balance between work and worship; knowing when to love with action and when to be still and let God be God.

But Lord, how do I “Be Still” when there’s SO much to do?

They say the devil is in the details and for Martha and me–yes, he is. I call it “attention to details”; Jesus called it “anxious and concerned” over things that don’t really matter.

Touche.

Hospitality is a spiritual gift FROM THE LORD. God gave me both the desire and ability to serve in this capacity, but I don’t have to do All The Things.

Wanting to host parties and tend to details is not wrong. It’s when my worship becomes busy-work that I need to slow my roll.

I believe that is exactly what Jesus wanted Martha to do.

Be still and sit with Me.

Don’t worry about your List.

Don’t think about what’s Next.

Just sit. Listen. Worship.

That’s what Mary did and Jesus said she found what is Good.

Jessie, it’s okay to be A Martha as long as you have the heart of A Mary. 

Thank you, Lord!

Now, to find A Mary heart…

If you’re still debating your Martha-standing, watch this video. If you can relate, You Might Be A Martha.😉

~Jessie

Don’t Be A Martha!

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Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home. Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.

Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.

Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”

~Luke 10:38-42 (VOICE)

As a girl raised in church, the story of Mary and Martha is one I’ve heard a gazillion times.

I get it. Martha was a Doer; Mary was a Sitter. Martha was a spaz; Mary was calm.

I’m a Martha. (Big shock, I know.)

Recently, I met up with a close friend/fellow Martha.  We talked about our jam-packed schedules, the frustration of  “doing all the work,” and our paradoxical desire to do more for Jesus.

By the time we finished our coffee we had solved all the world’s problems; found a cure for cancer and ended hunger. But something still felt unresolved. As we parted, the same strange thought occurred to us.

Don’t be a Martha!

Though we weren’t clear on specifics, we both knew what The Spirit was saying. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but we were totally being a couple of Martha’s.

Since then, we’ve been seeking to understand and mend our Martha ways.  I’ve revisited her story again and again, pushing aside the fog of familiarity for fresh insight. So many questions have come to mind…

Why did Martha invite Jesus to her home? What was her motive?

Was she the only one willing to invite Him over or was she just the first to volunteer?

Did she realize Who Jesus was, Who she was serving?

How did the story end? Did she ever sit down and listen to Him?

Why is this story even mentioned in Scripture? What is it God wants us girls to take from it?

Martha is now on my Official List of Bible Characters to Meet In Heaven.

It’s been a few weeks since the “Don’t Be A Martha” memo was delivered, so I’ve by NO means learned to swim these waters–imagine me sitting on the steps wearing floaties. The lesson has just begun and frankly, it’s a bit scary.

Over the next few posts I want to share what He’s teaching me. If you’re a Martha, too, I hope you’ll hold my hand as we wade deeper into the water and ask,

Lord, what do You mean, “Don’t Be A Martha”?

~Jessie

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…

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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.

Life in My Bubble

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It’s 2:53am. I’ve been awake now for a little over an hour. Racing thoughts, my husband’s cough and a leaky Pull-Up have hi-jacked my sleep. Might as well be productive.

I’ve been thinking lots of thoughts this week and I really don’t like them. I prefer to live in a rose-colored bubble.

I’ve randomly chosen the book of Luke as my morning read the past couple of weeks. Something about Jesus’ voice in this book has caught my attention and this week, His words have burst my happy little bubble.

Well, Jesus’ words and all that’s going on in the world right now.

After seeing My Girl and Stevie-P off the other morning, I decided to turn on the news. (I’m currently reading The Third Target by Joel C. Rosenberg and somehow his novels always spark my interest in current world events.)

I rarely turn the channel from Disney Jr. or Nick Jr. because every time I do I just wanna curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth until Jesus returns.

Nonetheless, I changed the channel.

Seriously people, how do we all sleep at night?

After yet another satanic display at the Grammy’s, preceded by the comments President Obama made at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast, coupled with the live burning of a Jordanian pilot and the cowardly and critical comments STILL being made about American Sniper and hero Chris Kyle, my heart is just raw. I can no longer ignore the unsettled feeling in my soul that everything is coming to a head.

I watched and read all I could stand, and then sent this text to Momma: I think I’ve figured it out. In order to function I just have to ignore what’s going on because if I don’t, all I want to do is sit and pray.

As I felt the urge to just turn it all off and retreat back inside my rose-colored bubble, I remembered a pledge I made as a young girl…

“To be ever alert to the conditions which exist throughout the world…”

Then, Jesus’ words in the chapters I’ve been reading began filling my mind.

“Anyone who is not for me is against me; if he isn’t helping me, he is hurting my cause.” ~ Luke 11:23

“For though you are careful to tithe even the smallest part of your income, you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave these other things undone.” ~ Luke 11:42

“Do you think I have come to give peace to the earth? No! Rather, strife and division!” Luke 12:51

Jesus? That seems a little harsh, don’t ya think?

But as I read His words again He asked…

Jessie, are you helping Me or hurting My cause?

Do you care about justice in the world and sharing the love of God?

Do you understand that all you’re seeing is the reality of a spiritual war?

Of course my defensive, knee-jerk answer was, “Well, I think I’m helping You? I try. I want to help. I want justice for the oppressed and for all to know Your love, and what’s happening in the world sickens me. But what more can I do?”

What more can I do…?

In that moment with Him, I felt so helpless. So unable to make a difference. So sad. Help me make sense of this, Jesus.

The truth is, I can’t and shouldn’t fight this feeling anymore. It is so tempting—no, it’s our way of life—to turn the channel and simply focus on the storms raging in our own hearts, the injustices felt within the four walls of our home and the tension between the lines of our bank statements.

When I think about it all, really think about it, I in fact cannot sleep at night.

My stomach turns at the thought of babies my kids’ ages being crucified or sold into sex slavery.

Even as I type these very words, tears fall as I realize how safe I am to sit here at my laptop and contemplate all this while my fellow sisters in Christ are literally staring evil in the eye, losing their children, their husbands, their homes—their lives.

I’m asking Jesus and myself, Is this where we as The Church stand today? Are we careful to tithe, to faithfully check off our Christian To Do List all the while turning a blind eye to the state of affairs around us?

Maybe it’s just my neck of the woods, but I’m just not hearing God’s people discuss these important matters.

Most people I talk to (not all, but most) really cannot articulate the details of the war going on in Syria, much less the persecution taking place in Iraq.

As a whole, are we clueless? Are we ignoring what’s going on because it’s just too much? Because it makes us feel inadequate or defeated?

We are quick to judge the President and his responses, but what about ourselves? What are we actually doing to make a difference?

The Holy Spirit scrolled my mind back to my text…You *should sit and pray.

“Father, may Your Name be honored for its holiness; send Your Kingdom soon. ” Luke 11:2

Jesus specifically told us what to pray. He said to seek The Father and honor Him and ask for His Kingdom to come, like now.

Why?

Because this world is not your Home.

How? How does Your Kingdom “come”?

My Kingdom comes through you, The Church.

“…Upon this rock I will build my church; and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven…” ~ Matthew 16:18b-19a

One of my favorite worship songs our church sings says, “Build Your Kingdom here, let the darkness fear. Show Your mighty hand; heal our streets and land. Set Your Church on fire; win this nation back. Change the atmosphere; build Your Kingdom here, we pray.”

We are the ones who usher in The Kingdom because we are supposed to be praying for it to come!

We are the ones He wants to use to make the darkness fear! Instead, we sit around and contemplate the darkness and end up being the ones fearful.

He will heal our streets and land through our feet and hands. Us—The Church. Not the President or NATO or health care reform or the economy.

We are the ones who need to change first. We are the thermostat that adjusts the atmosphere.

Yes, I know there are believers not only praying but Doing The Work out of their immense love for Jesus. I realize the gates of Hell will not prevail against The Church and I am hopeful.

But inside my bubble I just don’t hear many of us praying for Israel, praying for an end to genocide or against evil.

We cannot change the channel if we claim to love Jesus. We need to know what’s going on for our prayers to be effective.

Jesus said we have the keys to The Kingdom. Notice that word, keys. It’s plural.

In order for the Kingdom of God to come, we must not only pray but we must share the Gospel.

Honestly, when is the last time we actually shared The Gospel? Not a story about how God came through for us in a tight spot. Not an encouraging scripture for a friend or coworker who’s down. I mean The Gospel. 

The Good News that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life and that He died to free us from sin.

Lest you think I’m pointing fingers, I am so guilty of this. I can write and talk all day about how good God is, how faithful He is, how amazing He is to me. But when it comes to straight up telling people Jesus is The ONLY way to The Father, that’s a bit tougher.

Like most people, I fear rejection. I’m afraid of offending someone or of being called “narrow minded.”

But I must share it. The information I have is truly a life and death matter.

“…Those who welcome you are welcoming Me. And those who reject you are rejecting Me. And those who reject Me are rejecting God who sent me.” ~Luke 10:16

If sharing The Gospel isn’t easy for you, either—good. It’s not supposed to be. If it were easy we could do it on our own, in our own power.

Instead, it is challenging, which causes us to lean on Him, dig into His word and watch for opportunities to share. It takes effort.

“Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations…” ~ Matthew 28:19a

Another part of my childhood club motto was“…to carry The Gospel to every corner of the world.”

While I know these words probably won’t reach every corner of the world, they have somehow reached your corner today.

And while I feel most readers of this blog are other Christian Mommas with snot on their shirt and ketchup on their pants like me, I want to obey.

Beyond anything else I may write, sharing The Gospel must be my main objective.

So here it is, The Gospel of Jesus Christ as I believe it and understand it.

  • We’ve all sinned and will never be good enough for God. (Romans 3:23)
  • God is holy and just and hates sin, but He is merciful and loves us. (Romans 6:23)
  • God sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile that difference. (John 3:16)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. (1 John 1:9)
  • If we believe in our hearts that Jesus IS Lord, we are saved. (Romans 10:9)

And that’s it. Nothing fancy or rocket-sciency. Just faith.

My heart’s desire is for you to know Him. Really know Him and trust Him. He is so much more than I can describe, more than any blog could contain.

I pray that if you’ve never believed in Him before today, that in this moment you Get It. Trusting Jesus is more than head-knowledge. It’s personal.

It’s like sitting in a chair you’ve never sat in before. The only way to know if it will hold you up is to sit in it. It may look sturdy and maybe you’ve seen other people sit in it, but until you sit down—until you make it personal—it’s just head knowledge.  The only way to know is to sit in it yourself.

Sit in The Jesus Chair. Make Him your Rock and let Him redeem you; your past, your present, your future.

He may burst your bubble-world, too. But don’t worry, He has a better one in store.

Gracious Father, thank you for bursting my bubble with your Word this week. Thank you for the ways You’ve changed me and my little world, but mostly, thank you for your forgiveness of my sins. I ask that if anyone reading this has not trusted You, Jesus, as Savior and Lord of their life, that today, in this moment, they will call out to you. God, you are holy and righteous and we are so undeserving of Your love. Thank you for giving it anyway. In the name of Jesus alone I pray. Amen.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9

How do you stay tuned in to world events without feeling bombarded? What ideas, acronyms, etc. do you use for sharing The Gospel? I’d love to hear from you! Jessie