My little blue fishy friend.

So I’m a skeptic. And I kept finding ways to explain out that maybe the cooler wasn’t purple, and maybe the flowers aren’t that big of a deal. So I go into Saturday with the same prayer: show me mom. 

Saturday’s activity was a prayer drive around the city of Mumbai. For my group it involved going to a stretch of land and buildings that the Catholic Church owned and praying for them, their mission, and all who meet there. When we got out of the van, the first thing I saw was an advertisement for a school that meets there for kids with additional needs. On big letters on this billboard it says “we use individualized education plans”. I ask our local partner about it, and how it works. She fills me in, asks why. I let them know that I have a boy with additional needs. My boy at home who was being evaluated for an individualized education plan while I was on this trip. My trip leader invites me to pray over the school. As I begin to do so… I cry. A lot. Not a cute cry. I want so badly to be someone who looks cute when they cry. Alas… not a gifting I have. I pray for the students, the teachers, and the parents of those students. My leader tags on and prays for me. Seriously. No cute crying here. 

Walking away from it my roommate and small group sister Shalen hands me her tissues…which are Finding Dory branded. On my nightstand is my mom’s dory stuffed animal she kept in her cube at work. In my eulogy for her, I said that she reminded us to Just Keep Swimming. Just keep swimming was the 2nd post on this blog.

 

So so much for my skepticism. God answers. It may not be how or when we want, but because it is in his timing it is perfect.

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Purple Flowers

Thursday night, a woman in my small group(thank you Mitzi didi!) mentioned that one of the reasons she likes to go on trips is that she gets glimpses of her mom and sister who have both passed. I figured… why not. I want that. I want to see Mom. And Thursday night into Friday my prayer to God was “show me mom”. 

On Friday at camp they signed us up for white water rafting. So very much not my thing. I panicked. A lot. And had an anxiety attack when they took us to the river to prepare. They had broken us up into our boats, and in my boat was Adam, one of Mom’s coworkers, along with several other friends. Adam promised to be my buddy through this. Adam is good people. 

So after I calm down and the river is almost ready, they start sending us by group to our boats- all but my group. We have to wait, they’re bringing our boat from another location. My anxiety is such that once I have decided to have a thing happen, I need to do it immediately. I can no longer wait. But of course we’re waiting. And my im praying and singing(Peace be Still is my theme song for this trip) under this tree… and I look down and see purple flowers. My mom loved purple. I point them out to Adam who appropriately oohs and ahhhs. Like I said. Good people. He then says “Jess LOOK” and a purple looking cooler floats own down the river. Not one moment later they tell us our boat isn’t going to be able to go, and they profusely apologize. I immediately feel a weight lifted, empathy for the people in my boat who actually wanted to go, and just total relief and comfort. 

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If you thought that was good, just wait for part B of the story from the prayer drive. 

This is for the Dads…

“In my Father’s house,

There’s a place for me.

I’m a child of God, Yes I am”

And so goes my current favorite worship song. It’s easily singable, sticks in your head… some of my favorite qualities of a worship song.  It’s different this Sunday. Not just because I have become the arm raiser I always swore I wouldn’t be.  That couplet keeps sticking with me. There’s a place for me. Because my father prepares it. 

I recently got to see this lived out in this lifetime. My dad recently built and moved into a new house, and sold what I’ve called “home” for around ten years, a new record for my family. My parents moved into the old house when I was in college, but it was home to me. It’s where I slept leading up to marrying Cody. It’s where I curled under an Illini Snuggie and watched White Christmas and Food network and Dancing with the Stars with my mom. It’s home. 

My dad’s new place was put into the cavalcade of homes for our area.  I finally pestered him into giving me a FaceTime tour of the place, all prepped. During the tour a few things stood out to me. The first, is that my mom still has a place there. And is that not an eternal truth? That our homes in one life hold spaces for the other? Is she now on the other side, holding our spaces? She always told me that in heaven, we are perfectly happy and one with God. That leads me to believe that she’s ready when we are, but that heaven is a home on the Outer Banks with a nice cold glass of dry Riesling and Bella Luna’s bread pudding. 

At one point during the tour my dad lowers a chain and gives me the greatest truth: “this is your room”. It is, of course, the beach room.  well of course. I live far away from my family, but when I visit my father always has a place for me. It may not have as much of my things (yes, dad, there’s still plenty you’re holding for me. 😉), but it’s my room. It’s the one my father prepares for me. And if I believe my earthly father is good enough to prepare a place for me…so then doesn’t my Heavenly Father? Even without the house… if my dad one day moves into a one bedroom apartment, there will still be a place for me there. I am so fortunate to have such a good example of an earthly dad for this. 

God, today I thank you for Fathers. I thank you that you always have a place for me. I thank you specifically for my father, who reminds me of how good and loving you are. God, let him see how worthy he is, how enough he is, and how wonderful we all think he is. In your name, Amen. Attachment.png

10 very realistic things I want for Mother’s Day

1. Sleep. I just want to fall asleep easily.. you know, like my husband does. My lovely amazing man can fall asleep at any point- including mid conversation. On the other hand, my routine is: brush teeth, wash and moisturize my face, plug my phone in away from the bed, pee, turn on Bluetooth speaker with fave humor podcast, write in journal, meditate, put on eye mask, fight a demon, toss and turn till I get comfortable, and then offer up a live sacrifice. Then I sleep until said husband gets ready for work.

For Mother’s Day, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I fall asleep easily, and stay asleep past 6 am.

2. My children not to whine. Levi is so fully in the whining stage. Jesus, fix it. Just one day. Please.

3. No poopy diapers to change. Or I mean, no diapers to change at all.

4. To be absolved of mom guilt. I do a great job with the kids, and there isn’t much I would change. But if I could stop feeling guilty about the Cheerio mine under my couch or the fact that I would rather chop off a finger than do an art project with them.

5. A day that I get to celebrate what I did, not spending it deferring to all the other moms in my life. Listen, my mom, mother in law, grandmothers, aunts, et al are killing it. I didn’t get this amazing without the support of the women who came before me. But can I have a day? I have done some crazy awesome mom shit. Self five!

6. Great tasting food that doesn’t make me feel guilty or fat and no one shamed me for. Also it’s free. Also someone else makes it.

7. No expectations of reciprocity. A gift with expectations attached feels like absolute torture. Just don’t give if you’re expecting reciprocity in any fashion.

8. My mom. I mean… duh. Even though I’d like a day all about my own accomplishments, I’d give it up in a nanosecond for a day with her.

9. To feel a sense of belonging. Lately I just don’t feel like I fit with any other “mom groups”. I miss having an in person community like I did a few duty stations ago. I’m feeling isolated and it’s hard to live that way.

 

10. A unicorn carrying a saddlebag full of cash. V. Reasonable.

India

Since announcing to y’all that I’m  going to India in November, I’ve gotten a lot of questions. Well, really two questions over and over.

Why India?

Here’s my attempt at answering anymore.

– I️ couldn’t stay home anymore. I️ was encouraging others to get out and make a difference, and staying home as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I showed up for fundraisers and gofundme and slactivism, but I️ wasn’t going. And I️ need to. India has been on my heart for a long time, so it dovetailed nicely.
– I️ wanted to go with people with an established relationship. One of many things that have been problematic about mission trips, specifically foreign missions, is that we go and help these people this one time, and then we’re never heard from again. That puts local partners in a bad spot, to say the least. I️ wanted to go with someone who had an established relationship and presence in India, and Crossroads checks that box in a really lovely way.
– All I️ have ever been good at is love. When I take career tests, talent tests, mbti, whatever… I come out as a lover of people. I️ did chazown shortly after getting married and came up with a purpose to Love. And Love is a verb. Love doesn’t stay home. Love makes sure that it’s name is on the mouth of all it meets. And frankly, when hate is loud, Love can’t be silent. So I’m going somewhere else to make sure they know it. And hoping they can teach me even more about it.

So know you know why. Here comes the next question I️ got frequently: how can I️ help?

After the usual prayers and good vibes and all that, I️ also have a significant chunk of change to raise. I️ need to raise about $3000 before we go. You can always go to my site and just donate (https://www.crossroads.net/trips/giving/7979154#), but I’d also like a chance to earn it. So here are some services I️ can provide remotely. All prices are a base, everything is customizable.

Jess the organizers:
– Meal planning: creating a meal plan and grocery list for you. $25/month (this is not a diet thing. This is a stream lining your life thing)
– Organize your email inbox. Price upon request.

Jess the writer:
– monthly newsletter about my preparing for the trip, my current faves, etc $5

Jess the baker:
– newsletter about my monthly around the world bake, with history of the dish and the recipe I️ use $10/month
– 1 dozen shippable treats. Unfortunately, cupcakes don’t ship well. But I️ can send you cookies (current flavors: brown butter salted caramel chip, snickerdoodles, funfetti) or buttermilk biscuits. $30
– Newsletter and 1 dozen shippables ($35)
– Healthifying recipes, on request and price can vary. I’ll help you make your family favorite fit your current health goals.

 

Let me know if you hear of any remote opportunities in which I️ can sneak in to earn some money, or if you are interested in any of the above options.

Thank y’all so much
Jess

Cause/cause

 

My mom didn’t die of a Cause. My capitalization there is intentional. Of course she died of a cause, something causes you to die. But it wasn’t a Cause.

Take, for example, my Grandma Syl. My grandmother died when I was in high school due to complications of Multiple Sclerosis, a Cause. This was a disease she had for a long time. We all learned about it, I wrote papers about. After she died, we wore bracelets to remember her by. I’ve fundraised thousands of dollars for the NMSS.

My friend Ann Michele died of cancer. My uncle of a brain tumor. Friends and their spouses of war and the effects of war on a person. Causes. Things you can fundraise for. Things you can raise awareness for.

Mom didn’t die like that. I’ve wrestled with this for the better part of this year. Angry that there’s no concrete step to take in honor of her death. When we planned her funeral, there was no obvious charity to give to in her honor. A Cause would have changed that. A Cause might have given me a temporary focus. A way to feel like maybe one day this wouldn’t happen to someone else.

Recently I’ve come back to a quote I hung onto when mom first died. It’s from DeAngelo Williams, former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His mom died in 2015 after a long battle with Breast Cancer. Writing for the NFL Players Tribune during “My Cause, My Cleats” week he said : “A lot of people know that DeAngelo Williams’s mamma died. But I want you to know that she lived.”. What if the blessing is that mom didn’t die of a Cause?

Because my mom didn’t die of a Cause, my focus had to shift to how she lived. And y’all… she lived a great life. She was love to so many people. She sang and danced every day. She was Joy and a spiritual rock. Anyone who had a less than ideal home life became another one of her kids. She loved traveling and cruising specifically. She reunited families through her genealogy research. She was one of those innate cooks, who could personalize recipes instantly. She made everyone feel as though they were her favorite. She loved Christmas, specifically Christmas music. She was constantly thinking of others- sometimes to her detriment. To sit and obsess over her death is to miss the beautiful story and legacy she lived.

 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t miss her every single day because I do. And I still wish she was here. But I thank God that she didn’t die of a Cause, because that means I can focus on things like love and joy, and the impact my mom made on me by living those values.

 

Manna

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I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sent this message. Today it pings off to a friend from home. “I’m canceling today. It’s over. We’ll try again tomorrow. ”. As it leaves I look up from my phone to look at the surrounding chaos. My infant is crying. My toddler had a potty accident. My dog is whining to come down the stairs. There are cheerios and toys and spilled juice scattered everywhere-little toddler crafted land mines. My nerves are rattled- a byproduct of sleep deprivation and too much caffeine. I am longing for the days where I complained about the house being “too quiet”. I feel alone. Scrolling social media makes me feel more lonely, with all of the picture perfect moms staring back at me. Somehow in the midst of all this, a still, small voice screams:

I AM HERE.

I brush it aside, not giving it much of a thought. My husband eventually sends me off to Starbucks to regain what sanity I have left. Two under two is hard; Everyone needs me every time. As I sit in the corner with my coffee and a notebook, I am certain that the words will come. Nothing at first. I watch the teens gossiping about what so and so did on Snapchat and can you believe it? The older ladies meeting for a bible study. And then… ever so quietly That voice is back, and in truly laughable manner, it gives me an equation. Me, the girl who nearly failed pre-algebra. I scribble it down, and thank God that it’s so simple.

GRACE=MANNA

My brain flips to when the Israelites fled from Egypt. God sent them manna every day- just enough to make it through the day. Coming from and being afraid of scarcity, they first tried to store it up. It goes rancid- God is making sure they have just enough for each day. I wonder if there was an Israelite of my analytical heart, tabulating how much fell each day, noticing how it ebbed and flowed with cousin Bubba’s appetite, or Susan’s new baby. God accounted for these days and sent extra manna those days.

So it is also with the grace God gives us each and every day. I find myself reluctant to call on it, thinking that I need to save up grace for when I ~really~ mess up. I had myself convinced that Grace is only for my big mistakes. That’s the exact opposite of how this momming journey works. Motherhood is constantly humbling me, reminding me of just how much I need grace. Just when I’ve figured something out, the kids change and it’s all new again. Even going from child one to child two, the things that worked before don’t work anymore. It’s constantly reminding myself that this is not in or by my power, but His. God already knows what my day has in store. He knows that my infant is wanting to nurse non stop and that my toddler is toddlering the most. He knows these days come, and on those he gives me extra patience and grace to make it through. All I have to do is call for it, and it’s there. It’s like the Amazon Prime of my dreams, delivered to my door the second I press checkout.

A few weeks later, it’s another one of Those days. This time the toddler is upset because he isn’t allowed outside without pants on (I’m awful guys). My infant is cluster nursing at 11 months old. I don’t feel well. My husband is working longer hours. The dog is playing the “let me in/let me out” game. The cheerio land mines of a few weeks ago seem like nothing in comparison to the mess I currently am staring at. The same sleep deprivation/caffeine oversupply has me feeling like I’m the crazy one. I pick up my phone and text my friend my new go-to message:

“Praise God for constant Grace”.

Do I feel better instantly? No. I want to tell you that saying those words fixed everything. I want to say that every time I remember that I can call on grace for anything, it zaps my impatience away. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. What it does do, however, is give me the space to take a deep breath and be my kind of better mom. Somewhere between the Pinterest mom and the Amazon Prime mom is me. I still yell. I still get frustrated. I still look at my kids and house sometimes and wonder why I do this. But those days are lessened in their effect on me. They no longer make me wonder if I am really cut out to be a mom. In the middle of them, I have the solidarity of fellow moms and the grace and love of my God, who has never and will never let me go.