Forgiveness??

If you were to make a list of the people in your life that you needed to forgive, could you be honest? Would your list have two names? 20? None? How many of those people are family members?

The family dynamics in Colossians 3:18-21 is God’s perfect plan. You can call me old-fashioned, sexist, barefoot and pregnant…I don’t care. It’s what I believe. Our family is supposed to be our first line of defense. Our parents to protect us. Our siblings to build and learn about friendships with, along with conflict resolution (even if that involves these hands! Right Lyss? You were so mean!). But instead we have strife. Jealousy. Bitterness. Anger. A house divided cannot stand (Mark 3:25). And no, I’m not referring to the SEC…at least not today haha!! Go Dawgs!

If there is division, it can destroy the family structure, causing us to “wander” solo. No one by our side to hold us accountable…yes we have friends, but we can talk about that later….that’s how Eve was able to be tempted. She was alone. When a sheep wanders away from the herd and it’s shepherd, it’s more vulnerable to its predators.

The funny thing about this blog post is that I don’t have an answer or resolve to what I just talked about. Which brings me to my next topic.

Today was my first counseling session at Elevate. I had one major issue in my life that was causing me a tremendous amount of stress. That’s what caused me to make an appointment in the first place. I wanted some healthy coping mechanisms for when I felt anxious. God had bigger plans, y’all. I wasn’t ready!! My first session and I’ve already learned that I’m dealing with un-forgiveness. I didn’t even know!!! It was so profound that I’ve decided I’m going to make this journey public. I’m going to blog after each one of my sessions. I will share my revelations, my heartaches, my joy and my victories. My darkest places. I really hope that my transparency will help you to see that you’re not alone. No, I won’t be sharing names if anyone, in case you were wondering! This is for my exposure, no anyone else’s.

I thought I knew how to forgive someone, but today I found out that I don’t. I’m excited to learn and share as I go. My hope is that it will inspire you to seek it out for you and your family too.

xoxo

Let them eat cake..er, cookie dough!

Last night, while making cookies with my kids, they mention to me they’ve never tried cookie dough. Real cookie dough. Growing up, I want allowed to eat it because of the raw eggs. “Salmonella!!”, my mom would say to us. So much that it became an actual fear. Irrational c yes, but there nonetheless.

When my kids said this, it triggered something in me that made me do something I’ve never done before. Let me give you a little background. I’ll start with a simple, yet profound statement. 

Sometimes it takes losing everything to make you appreciate what you have. 

As most of you already know, my ex-husband spent some time in prison. I’m not here to sling mud. He’s done his time. But it still happened. That left me to try and pick up the pieces and try to keep my family from unraveling. Well guess what? I failed. I was on the brink of losing my home (for the 2nd time). I was working 2 jobs and that still wasn’t enough to keep up with everything. So after taking to my then-husband, we both decided and agreed it would be best for our kids to stay with their grandparents in Tennessee while I tried to salvage what was left of my sanity and my dignity, and he went back to jail to finish out his sentence. Trust me when I say this, it was the last thing I wanted. It showed weakness. It showed failure. It showed that I wasn’t enough. That I couldn’t handle it. Insert whatever statement you want here. I promise you I’ve already beaten myself up for it at least a hundred times. But sometimes, as a mom, it means making hard decisions. I’ll never forget the day they left. I was devastated. I kept telling myself “it’s only for a short time.” The pain was unbearable. I closed myself off. I rarely talked to them on the phone because all it did was tear my heart out more each time. And theirs too. This went on for (roughly) 6 months, maybe 8. 

Side note, this isn’t something I’ve shared with many people. If you were apart of my life during this time, you knew. But I don’t go shouting it from the rooftops. Until today. 

Being a mom is hard. You’re responsible for teaching and raising kids, to grow into successful adults. There is so much pressure to be “perfect”. Have them in the best school. Sports. Dance. Church. Good grades. Before their father was arrested, I was the worst kind of helicopter mom. I gave them freedom, but not too much. Looking back I now see it wasn’t very much at all. Them being away from me for that long taught me a lot of things. One of the most important things it taught me was to LET GO. I was trying to control their every move and every outcome. I couldn’t just let them be kids. But now?! Now, on the weekends, they can have ice cream for breakfast (sometimes). They can walk in the grass barefoot. They can hang their arm out the window in the backseat. They spent all day yesterday in their pajamas. We had pizza delivered twice in a week! The little things in life that are meant to be enjoyed, are being enjoyed. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and a step back. Yes, it was awful while they were gone. I hated every single moment of it. But it made me better. Better for them and better for me. 

Cut yourself some slack, y’all. Parenting is hard. Parenting with an ex-spouse is even harder. Do the best you can with every day you’re with them, even on the days when you want to run and cry in a closet. 

I guess I’ll address the cookie dough thing. We are cookie dough last night. A lot of it. And they said it was the best thing they had ever tasted. Something as simple as cookie dough!! They danced around the kitchen and laughed with delight. Such a small moment but such a huge impact. There will be many more cookie dough dates in our future. Oh and by the way, no one got sick 😉

xoxo,                                                                                     Jess the Haute Mess

The Weekends are Always the Hardest

I have so much I want to say today I’m going to try and share this with you in the best way I know how, which is real, raw and painful.

The holidays are my thing. I love having a house full of people. I’m constantly baking, Christmas music is always playing. It’s a magical time. It’s a reminder of why we’re all here. Jesus. But lately, I’ve been dreading it. All of it. I don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving. I don’t want to put my Christmas tree up. I hear Christmas music and I cringe. I’ve dealt with these type of feelings when I was a teenager/young adult because I always felt alone. My birthday is on Christmas, and (most) everyone forgets. Wah, wah, right? I know. There are bigger problems in the world. This year is different though. My husband won’t be here for Thanksgiving. He won’t be here for Christmas. He won’t here for Bella’s birthday, my birthday, Elisha’s first Christmas or Paisley’s birthday. Like I’ve said before, I know military mom’s do this all the time. And again, I applaud you for your strength. I look to you for inspiration.

I mentioned in one of my last bog posts the story of Mary Magdalene and how important this story is to me. I’ve always felt a connection to her. Her love was lavish, uncontrollable and it made people uncomfortable. She was an outcast, or as I like to call her, a wierdo. Just like me. She acted ridiculous in front of Jesus and His disciples. She didn’t care at all. Because this is the same Mary that was caught in the act of sex, with someone that wasn’t her husband. The Pharisees dragged her out into the street. I’m certain she felt shame. She was naked and vulnerable and humiliated. I imagine she felt like the lowest person on earth; like she was of no value.

I want to backtrack a little bit on myself. I grew up from the age of 15 without a dad. I didn’t know what it was like to feel the love of a father. So much like Mary, there were times (and still are) that I feel shame. Guilt. Humiliation. Vulnerable. My heart was hardened.

But just like Mary, my first encounter with Jesus, my REAL encounter with Jesus, set me free. He came down to my level. He lifted my chin and looked me in my eyes and told me I was valuable to Him. Ever since then, it’s been a battle in my mind to remind myself that He sees me as cherished and valued.

Mary had a special relationship with Jesus. Her act of love was instigated by her, not the opposite. She had fallen at His feet when He drew the line in the sand. She had fallen at His feet during her display of extravagant worship. She experienced His love, protection and deliverance. He cast  7 demons out of her!

Lazarus was sick. So sick that he died. Jesus took 4 days to get to Lazarus. Martha ran to meet Him, but Mary stayed behind. Remember, Mary loved Jesus on a level that some of us may not ever understand (although I hope to). I believe she was feeling rejected and forgotten. If Jesus had been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. When Jesus finally arrived, He comforted Martha but He knew the love that Mary had for Him. He called Mary by name. She didn’t run to the grave to mourn. She ran to the place of her Savior’s feet that had been a source of comfort for her. The same place where she met Him the first time during her moment of humiliation and shame, the same place where she poured out her love on Him.  He stands her up to look into her eyes. She says to Him “Where have you been? You’re late.” I see this as a moment where she was mad at Him for not being there. She couldn’t hide her feelings towards Him. But being the Jesus that we serve, He looks at her with tears in His eyes (Jesus wept) and said “I’m not late. Take me to see my friend Lazarus.” In other words, TAKE ME TO THE SOURCE OF YOUR PAIN. He tells them to roll the stone away and He commands the grave wrappings to loosen and free him. This is significant because Jesus wants to come to Him raw. NO matter how angry we are with Him. He’s saying TAKE ME TO THE SOURCE OF YOUR PAIN and let Me fix it. When we are real with Him, even though He already knows, the bondage that has us bound can fall off at His command and set us free. What the devil meant for harm, Jesus turned it around and made it into something good.

So next time you’re (me) weeping uncontrollably on the bathroom floor, so badly that you’re blinded, cry out to Jesus. Take Him to the source of your pain.

I don’t have all the answers. All these words sound great. But it doesn’t bring my husband home. It doesn’t bring my family back together. But it reminds me that Jesus is FOR ME. HE IS FOR YOU. Not against me. Not against you. He has plans to give us a hope and a future. John 13:7 says “You do not realize what I am doing, but later you understand.” If you’re impatient like me, which I’m sure you’re not, this is so hard for me to grasp. It doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me hurt worse. I know it’s supposed to do the opposite. I’m just being honest with you because I know there is someone out there that is battling something and you feel like God has abandoned you. He hasn’t. Even though it feels like it, He hasn’t. Keep your hope and keep your faith Even if all you can muster up is the faith the size of a mustard seed. He said that’s all we need. My precious Bella told me the difference in hope and faith is that hope is something you think or want to happen but faith is something you know will happen. Out of the mouth of babes!

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Luke 7:47-“Therefore I tell you, her sins have been forgiven-as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little”

Be Blessed,

Jess the Haute Mess

It’s finally time for me to share this with you

The story that I’m about to share is an emotional one. I will preface a little bit. But first let me say, there are women out there that do this every day. Military wives. Single moms. Please know that I’m not discrediting you in any way. This is just my story.

My husband was arrested 6 days before I went into labor. This was my hardest pregnancy ever. I had lots of preterm labor issues, bed rest, bleeding…it was hard. I missed out on a lot of things because I was always in the hospital for something. My body doesn’t handle pregnancy well at all. I’m going to be very transparent here and say that I’ve had 4 miscarriages. Not many women want to talk about it because they feel alone or that something is wrong with them. But unfortunately, it’s more common than you think. You are not alone.

So back to my story. He was arrested 6 days before I went into labor. I thought he would be home the next day and we could just go back to our business until the next court date. But that wasn’t the case at all. His bond got denied because we had no legal representation. I cannot express to you the emotions that I was experiencing. Crippling fear. Sadness. Loneliness. Fear was the biggest one. I was so scared I was going to go into labor at any moment. I had moments of clarity and faith that said “he’ll be home before your son is born”. Well. It didn’t happen that way. God does things His way. And sometimes you don’t understand until you’re looking back on things.

At the Shine Conference this year at my church, the theme was “Brave”. The whole time I’m thinking, wow, I’m pretty brave. I’ve lost 4 babies and lost custody of my oldest to my ex-husband. I would’ve told you then that I was pretty brave. But God was setting me up for the things I had no idea we’re coming downstream.

My Pastor’s wife told me, “We’re praying and believing for a miracle. But we also need a plan B.” So I came up with a plan B. People that I would call if I did go into labor. My mom had already driven down the day after he was arrested to come and be a help to me. My oldest daughter, Bella, had told me about a dream she had that Elisha was born on a Wednesday. She was right.

It was 1:00a.m. on Wednesday morning. My contractions had been strong that day and were getting closer together. I woke my mom up and told her I was going to drive myself to the hospital and just to stay with the kids until she heard from me. As I was driving to the hospital, I got out my phone to start making my phone calls and the Holy Spirit stopped me. He told me “You and I are going to do this together.” I can’t explain to you the peace I had at that moment in time.

I get to the hospital and I’m 4 centimeters. I had been 4 centimeters for 2 weeks with no change. They kept me over night to see if I would progress. I just kept crying out to the Lord and singing over Elisha, songs of worship. One song that repeating on my playlist was “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel. It was also sang at the Shine Conference. (By the way, as I’m writing this out, I’m crying my eyes out. One because of God’s goodness and another because my husband still hasn’t been able to hold his son).

There was no change, so they sent me home the next morning. It was around 8 on Wednesday, July 22. But I knew he was going to be here that day. I talked to Billy and told him that today was going to be the day. He cried with me but said “Make sure to celebrate him. He deserves that. Don’t be sad because I’m not there. Be happy because you’re bringing forth God’s promise.” That was around 1:00 p.m. I had already been readmitted into the hospital with again, no change. My contractions started getting stronger and I asked my mom to take the kids downstairs to get a snack so they didn’t hear the pain I was in. I had no epidural. Well my water broke and I went from 4 cm to 8 cm in a minute. Literally. It was time to push. I was so scared and felt so alone. I looked up in the midst of my labor pains and anguish and I saw Jesus in the room with me. He was just sitting in the chair, very casual. Like I imagined Him to be when He was sleeping on the boat. No fear. Just peace. He nodded His head at me and somehow I mustered up the courage and strength to bring forth my son, with no one but Him to get me through it. It happened so fast.

In the picture I’m going to share, you can see the mixture of sadness and joy on my face. IMG_1163Here I had this perfect little baby. All alone in the room. No one to take pictures. No one to kiss me on the forehead. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But now, here I am, 3 months later, finally able to share it with you on a level that only my closet friends have heard. His name is Elisha (God is salvation) Silas (forest). Silas actually has a double meaning to me. Silas because Silas was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. Imprisoned while doing God’s will. And forest because sometimes, when the trees are thick and we can’t see where we’re going, Jesus will show up in the room, give you a gentle nod and guide you the rest of the way.

If you would have asked me in January if I would be able to do this without my husband, I would have said not a chance!! But God has taught me to be more dependent on Him. He has constantly provided for our family. I’ve had to go back to work, which has been hard because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for years and years. But there’s no one I trust more to take care of my babies than my mother. She gave everything up to move here and help me. Mom, I love you and I’m so grateful for all you do.

Please know that you are not alone. Even when you feel like you are, you’re not. This story isn’t over yet. My husband still isn’t home and I don’t know when he will be. But everyday I believe for a miracle. And you should too.

Jess the Haute Mess

It’s a……………

Hey y’all!

Today was a pretty surprising day for me. I can only remember one other time in my life where I was more shocked. But y’all already know that story.

Today I am 16 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I wasn’t really expecting them to tell me the gender this morning, but I was hopeful. My husband wasn’t able to be there because my 2 youngest are still sick with some nasty crud that has been going around. Side note: Parents!! Please keep your sick children at home!! So I was at the doctor’s office this morning and I told the sonographer that I didn’t want to know the gender because my hubby wasn’t there and we wanted to find out together. I had my head turned pretty much the entire sonogram. It was challenging for me!!

This pregnancy has mirrored my pregnancies with my 2 girls. Because of that, going in this morning, I was 99% sure that when I opened that envelope, it was going to say “It’s a girl”. We already had her name picked out! I hadn’t really entertained the idea of boy names because I was so convinced we were having a girl.

Well. I am excited and shocked to tell you….we are having a boy!! Billy (my husband, in case you didn’t know his name haha) dropped to his knees. I sincerely thought he was going to cry because he was so happy. My son, Isaac (who maintained his idea it was a boy this entire time) DID cry because he was so excited to have a baby brother. “Another boy like me, Mama!!” he said as he danced around the kitchen. Paisley, on the other hand, was downright mad. She cried too. She kicked her feet. She wouldn’t speak to us! Hopefully all of it will wear off by the time he gets here. Bella doesn’t know yet but I’m certain she will be just as surprised as the rest of us. I’m trying to think of a cute way to tell her. Any ideas? I’m open to suggestions!

Thank you for sharing this moment with me!!