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

Just some thoughts

If you had told me this time last year, what my upcoming year would look like, I wouldn’t believe you.

Let me backtrack a little bit.

My hubby used to travel for his job. We would move every 6 months or so. We we’re never able to take root anywhere, and I was totally comfortable that way. In fact, I tricked myself into believing I preferred it. If you didn’t grow roots anywhere, you couldn’t connect with anyone and if you didn’t connect with anyone, you couldn’t get hurt. Right?

We started going to our church about a year ago. We knew it was different from the first service we were there. Everyone was so happy and so friendly. It made me a little uncomfortable at first, just to be honest. I couldn’t understand how everyone I encountered that day could be so stinkin’ happy!! I didn’t realize it, but I had become dried up and bitter. There are not many things worse in life than the harsh self-realization that  you suck. I’m sorry, but it’s true!

So back to church. I had developed this mentality that I didn’t need to go to church to be close to God, that I could serve Him from home, blah blah blah. Any excuse I could come up with, I used. And let me say this. Those things are true. But what I learned is that it’s not about that. Yes, you need to be a part of a local church. The bible says so. But is your church life-giving? Going to church isn’t just about serving and honoring God. It’s about family. Friendships. Connections. Those weren’t things I was used to. So these super-happy people that I was encountering every Sunday, were breathing life into me without me even realizing it.

I have the tendency to shut people out. When things go crazy in my life, I hibernate. I think, “No one cares what’s going on in my life because they all have their own issues to deal with.” Or I think, “I can fix this myself.” Again, I was wrong!!

This weekend is the biggest weekend for most churches all year. We have 3 services on Sunday. Needless to say, everyone is busy preparing. Thursday night, I was on my way to worship practice. Yes, this one dried-up and bitter person is now serving, something I said I would never do again. See how love heals? Anyways….Thursday night. I’m pregnant. I had an issue arise on Thursday night that called for medical attention. I told my leader what was going on, and started to leave. I was doing the whole “hibernation” thing. Even though I told her what was going on, I tried to dart out the door before anyone could ask me how I was doing. BUT!!! God was not having it. I got stopped on my way out, “Hey. Are you ok?” So I reluctantly spilled the beans. She immediately took me by the arm, walked me down the stairs and to my car. But wait…there’s more. As I’m putting my foot in the car door, another friend stops me and says “I don’t think you should be driving. Let me drive you.” Now this may not seem like much of a big deal to you, but these are very busy people that took the time to show me they loved me and cared for me. Remember, it’s Easter weekend? I have never felt more loved at that moment, from someone other than my husband and kids, in my entire adult life.

Sometimes we need to chased. Sometimes we need to be linked arm to arm. We can’t do life by ourselves. I’ve tried. Not only is it hard, but it’s not fun. God didn’t create us to be alone. I now have a list of people I can call to pray with me, cry with me and laugh with me. I couldn’t say that a year ago.

God loves us like that. He will leave the 99 to find the 1. Don’t discredit your kind words to someone. You never know when your words will light up someone’s day, causing them in return to draw near to Jesus. Thank you, Pastor Tony and Pastor Sheryll for setting the example for your flock. I feel like I’ve been rehabilitated.

Side note: even as I was writing this, I got a phone call with an invitation to spend time together because they consider us family. I am forever grateful.

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!!

Chili. It’s what’s for dinner.

Hey y’all! Its been a long time. But now I’m back. And I have something special for you!

A few years ago, I had a thought. Let me warn you in advance. I can be a pretty deep-thinker. You ready for it??

What if you could have chili with the cornbread baked into it? :::drops microphone, exits stage:::

I know, right? I tried to warn you!

I love eating cornbread with my chili. It brings a little bit of sweetness to the savory chili. But I’m lazy. And I don’t like making a mess. You would think having 3 kids and another on the way, messes wouldn’t bother me. THEY DO. So I became a “problem-solver”. It’s kind of a dramatic title for such a miniscule problem (is it even really a problem?) What can I say. I’m a deep-thinking, problem-solver who has a flair for the dramatic! Wow that was a lot of hyphens. Moving on…….

Out of all the meals I’ve made for people over the years, my chili is one of the most requested and most loved. Now I’m going to share my recipe with you. Reluctantly, I might add. But giving is better than receiving. So take good care of it and use it wisely. By the way, you’re going to be SHOCKED at how easy it is. I’m almost embarassed by it. Ok not really. But it does taste like it’s been simmering all day, when in fact, I just threw it together. There, My secret is out!! I hope you enjoy!

Jessica’s Lazy Chili

2 cans tomato sauce (I use organic)

2 cans dark red kidney beans (again, I use organic)

2 cans chili beans in mild sauce (if you like hot, go for it, you crazy person!)

1 pound grass fed ground beef

1 1/2 Tablespoon chili seasoning (recipe to follow)

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix

Chili Seasoning

3 Tablespoons chili powder

3 teaspoons cumin

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

3 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all together in a airtight container. I use a mason jar.

For every pound of ground beef, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of chili seasoning

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*Disclaimer* I tried to make this once with homemade cornbread from scratch. It never made it to the execution stage. My husband said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So I didn’t! But if your little sweet heart desires to make it with homemade cornbread, go for it. And let me know how it turns out!

Preheat  your oven to 400 degrees

Brown the ground beef in a dutch oven. This beauty is one my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas several years ago. It gets used more than any other pan in my kitchen. I love it!!

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While this is browning and making your kitchen smell amazing, go ahead and make your cornbread according to the box instructions.

After your beef is mostly brown (don’t worry about getting it all done. It will go into the oven later), add your 2 cans of tomato sauce.

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Now for the chili seasoning. If you ask me, this is the star of the show. But you might think it’s the cornbread. That’s fair.

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Let this simmer for about 5 minutes. There’s no real logic here. I’m just giving you time to complete your next task. Which is an important one. RINSE YOUR KIDNEY BEANS. See all the bubbles? Those end up in your belly, causing you-know-what. Rinsing your beans will cut down on the oligosaccharides (oligo is a prefix meaning “a few” and saccharides is just a fancy name for sugar. Don’t you feel smarter??), which cause the music that escapes your butt. Don’t skip this part. You’re family will love you for it!

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Add them to your beef and tomato sauce mixture. Now add your chili beans. Stir well to incorporate.

This is the part where we get a little crazy. Remember your cornbread that you already mixed? Now you want to spoon it onto the top of your chili. Don’t be scared. Just go for it!

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It should look similar to this when you’re done. Or if you’re the creative type, you can do a heart or something else. No judgement here. You’re in a safe place.

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Now pop this bad boy into the oven for 35 minutes and walk away. Feel free to marvel at your amazingness for making such a delicious meal that everyone will be wowed by. :::Miss America wave:::

After 35 minutes is up, take it out of the oven and insert a butter knife through the middle. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, put it back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time and recheck. The cornbread can be a little sneaky (as you can see here). It looks “done” at the top but it can still be runny underneath. No one likes runny, undone cornbread.

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You’re done! Congratulations! Feel free to top your chili with shredded cheese, sour cream, jalapeños or anything else you like. See! I can be flexible!

I hope this warms you belly and your heart on this cold and rainy day. Cheers!

When the poop hits the fan

Today was a challenging day. To say the least.

I have 2 toddlers, ages 3 and 1 1/2. Most days, I feel like a zoo keeper. Wrangling monkey’s to be more specific.

Yesterday, I took Bella (8), Isaac (3) and Paisley (1 1/2) to an indoor inflatable playground. I’m not sure who had more fun, me or them. Until…

Isaac has been potty trained for some time now. He knows when he has to go. But I guess he was having too much fun and didn’t want to stop to go potty. He stopped in the middle of what he was doing and just started to go!! By go I mean poop. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Any good mom would have seen the signs.” Well, shut up and stop judging me. 🙂 

So back to today. We had a playdate with 2 moms with kids the same age as mine, so we’re all equally crazy/tired/insertanyadjectivehere. Aaaaaaand one of them are pregnant with their third!! See what I mean by crazy?

I really look forward to these playdates because it gives us all a chance to unload. It’s like therapy for me! I’m sure the people at Chick-Fil-A hate us…

Anyways, Isaac was playing again and just started to go!! It was awful. 2 days in a row? No one told me being a mom was like this!! Fortunately for me, my girlfriends are pretty amazing. Not only at being friends, but being moms. Remember what I said about therapy? We get to talking about this amazing (sarcasm) incident and guess what? I’m not alone!!!! I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. 

I know this post is a little different from my other ones, but I just wanted you to know this. You are not alone. You are not crazy. It’s extremely difficult raising little people; trying to mold them and teach them not to be jerks/bullies/lazy/insertadjectivehere. So laugh more. Play more. Tell them jokes. Be silly. Leave the dishes on the table for a little while longer. The laundry can wait 10 more minutes. ImageLife is too short. You’ll probably poop your pants as you get older and (hopefully) you kids will be right there to clean you up.