Sunday, September 8, 2013

Walk Like An Egyptian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can't Never Could

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't never could. Won't never will. 

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

There's a Tear in My...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Whining and Shopping and Tears...OH MY!

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

Let me start from the beginning...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Taste & See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Day 2008

Count your blessings name them one-by-one!

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

Seeesters. Laughing til we cry.

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

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

Fast Forward to August 2010

3 months pregnant with Emery

So happy!

We sure are puuurty after we've been airbrushed!

February 2011

Emery Noel Phillips

Thank you, Father, for blessing us so richly. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Trouble, 

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

Asta La Vista, 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Me Too, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me too, Brene`, me too. 

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

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

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Me Too, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

Score is now Emmy: 1, Parents: 2. 

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

Score: Emmy: 2, Parents 2. 

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

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

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

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

(part two coming tomorrow!)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Don't Be Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start chewing solid food today and just KEEP GOING!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Career Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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