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A Prayer for the Stress

Dear Father.

a prayer for the stressI don’t even know where to begin. It’s all attacking me, dear Lord.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 26:7-8, NLT)

So here I am, to talk with you. But first I need to gather my wits and my thoughts. Are you sure you even want me like this? Maybe I should get my life together first and then come find you.

I’m sure you’d like me better if I wasn’t such a dramatic mess at the moment. If my laundry was folded and my career was on track and my kids knew how to write a proper thank you note. Maybe then I’d be more presentable.

But then I read,

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalm 37:7)

And I remember that maybe it’s not about me getting my stuff together first. Maybe it’s about being still.

Maybe it’s about your presence.

Maybe it’s absolutely about waiting patiently for you to act. Not me.

You’ve led your people for thousands of years– through deserts, across the sea, and around the world. Why do I forget and assume you can’t take care of my life?

Be my rock of safety, where I can always hide. (Psalm 71:3)
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given. (Psalm 105:4-5)

I don’t know how to handle the current messes in my life, Lord. Not my parenting, my marriage, my finances, nor my career– nothing is truly under my control.

And that bothers me more than it should.

My lack of control bothers me like a thousand fire ants climbing up my pajamas while I try to sleep.

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (Psalm 116:1-2)

I know I’m a control freak, Father, and I know that causes about 97% of my stress. But please bend down to listen to me anyway.

Help me remember that the stress only lessens when my mind is in the right place. When my attitude is completely focused on trusting you and being thankful for your presence, I can breathe again.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Remind me of those who have gone before, who accomplished great things because they were focused on one thing–your glory. May you glorify yourself through my life.

Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you. (Isaiah 26:12)

May you give me a proper perspective about all this stuff swirling around in my head. None of it is permanent. You are permanent. You are eternal.

And I am forever grateful for you,

Amen

 

 

 

The audacity of a 1973 Thunderbird

Yesterday I was waiting at a stop sign when a huge, enormous, gigantic classic car roared past me up the hill. It was shiny and sassy and loud. Audaciously so.

the audacity of a 73 ThunderbirdMy van regularly registers 4 miles per gallon on that same hill, so I can only imagine what that 1970s beast was getting– .0005 miles per gallon, perhaps? A number so low that oil sheiks are getting heart palpitations from the joy of it?

From the grin on the driver’s face, he didn’t care. He was wildly in love with his sassy, huge car. The vanity plate on the back read MITEALNG, which I take to mean Mighty Long, and I hope to heavens that’s a reference to the car itself or we’ve just stepped into very uncomfortable territory on this blog post.

Ahem. Let us continue. Back to the vehicle, shall we?

I’ve been married to a gearhead for enough years to recognize a classic car from the 70s when I see one, but I couldn’t pinpoint the model. So when Eric got home I said, “What’s the biggest car from the 70s you can think of?”

He calculated for a nanosecond and said, “Ford Thunderbird.” I Googled Thunderbird and KABOOM. I think it’s exactly the car. Long enough to barely fit into our living room, wide enough to need two parking spaces (if I’m the person doing the parking).

I’ve been reading Brazen by Leanna Tankersley, where she encourages readers to brazenly be who God has made them to be. To take the time to connect with their God-given, God-honoring desires and to then boldly be those individuals.

Audaciously so. Like a 1973 Thunderbird.

Some of us are trying our best to be sleek little compact cars with efficient, tidy engines when really we were designed to be giant, sassy broads (or gents). We’ve traded our big personalities in for quietness, meekness, and a slow, gentle march to our deaths. We’ve traded our gifts and joys for responsibility and social acceptability.

I’ve recently gotten to know the sweetest woman. She’s in her sixties and really one of the most gentle, kind creatures to grace earth. I love her. She stands as tall as my 5th grader and weighs about 82 pounds. A stiff wind could snatch her away before anyone could catch her. She apologizes for interrupting, never gives unsolicited advice, and serves with a smile. She’s wonderful.

Except sometimes I want to bring her in, sit her down, and feed her about six or twenty cupcakes. I want to say to her, “Go ahead. Speak your mind. Yell a little, if you need to. Because you deserve a place on earth, too. You get to take up room here like everyone else.”

And maybe even in those circumstances she’d be exactly the same person. Maybe her audacious personality takes the form of a tiny woman who listens and serves with joy. That’s great too.

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that being exactly who we’re designed to be is what brings God glory. When we go out into the world to be car lovers or cat lovers or quiet book readers, and bring the love of Christ along with us, then we’re going to be able to reach the world. We have enough people trying to be something admirable, but not being themselves. I don’t think that helps anyone, frankly.

I think the world is looking for real people who serve a real God. Imperfectly, but audaciously.

So, you. You out there on the interweb– go and be audaciously you today. Whether that means you’re as huge and loud as a Thunderbird or quiet and zippy as a Fiat 500, go do it.

Amen.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand, that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. (I Corinthians 12:14-18, NLT)

 

Family Stress? Here are some resources to help!

I don’t believe there has been a family relationship in the history of the world that’s stress free. In fact, of all the stresses we face, the very people we love the most often cause us the most angst. Who spends all our money? Who messes up our house? Who keeps us up all night? Who calls our very sanity into question on an hourly basis?

Family.

Blessed, blessed family.

I’d like to offer you wise counsel on how to manage your family relationships with as little stress as possible, but that’s not going to happen because 1) I am vastly unqualified for this responsibility and 2) there is no end to the kinds of family drama we all face. I could write for days and not scratch the surface.

family-stress

 

But have no fear. I’ve gathered an assortment of resources to help! I asked friends on Facebook for help, so many of these suggestions came from others. I hope you find exactly the thing you need to help your family succeed.

  • Focus on the Family and Family Life Today: Two classic resources for Christian families.
  • Jackie Bledsoe: His ministry is focused on building strong marriages. Check out his Date Night in a Box! It’s a free resource he offers on the site. (No, seriously. Go sign up for it right now. The “Drive-In Movie” suggestions are adorable and racy.)
  • The Happy Wives Club: Fawn Weaver’s a happy wife and she wanted to find other happy wives. She’s written a book called the Argument Free Marriage, and swears this is possible. (Eric and I are almost there, but we must admit to some intense conversations when we discuss whether or not the cat needs to continue living in our house.) ((Eric’s worried my plans to have the cat euthanized will “emotionally scar the children.”))
  • Care for the Family: My friend David recommended this site, and it has to be good because David’s been married for many years and has five children. He seems to have all his faculties firmly in tact at this point, so he must know something. (Also, the podcasts will help you perfect your British accent.)
  • Ministry Mom: Cheri Gamble’s website has resources to help us raise godly children. (Thanks for the suggestion, Barbara!)
  • Common Sense Media: I think we all have trouble monitoring the flood of media that comes at our family. My friend Jennifer recommends this website to help sort out the good, from the bad, from the worst.
  • The National Center for Biblical Parenting and Christian Mom Thoughts are two websites my friends Deb and Peter have used as they built a strong, united family.
  • Protect Young Minds: Pornography is way, way too easy to find in our own homes these days. This website helps us talk to our kids, and I’m so thankful my friend Scott brought it to my attention!

Thanks so much to all the readers who gave suggestions! If you have others, include them in the comments below.

And may your children behave tonight, may your spouse bring you flowers/not burn dinner/stop spending money, and may your cat not poop on the carpet again. May we all have stress-free evenings in our homes.

Amen.

***And also– I have an eBook for you, just Click Here! It’s a devotional on stress, so if these resources aren’t quite enough, let’s go try the Bible to see what it has to say. Wait. We should start with the Bible. But too often we don’t, and then we make the mess even messier. Let’s turn that around starting today!***

Money problems? Here are a ton of great resources for you!

I think most of us know we’re living in the most prosperous and fortunate society the world has ever seen. We understand that electricity and running water and furnaces are miracles we take for granted every day.

But this knowledge doesn’t help a family whose bank account is empty. Money problems don’t understand living in a prosperous society. When a person doesn’t know if she has enough money in the checking account to pay for the gas she needs to get to work– or, even worse, if her credit cards are also maxed out and she has absolutely no more options– it doesn’t really matter if she’s living in the first world. The pain is keen.

We can be very, very poor in the middle of very wealthy people. And that is stressful.

Even when our situations aren’t quite so dire, many of us face more outgo than income. And some of us have made terrible decisions and have to live with those consequences. No matter the cause, the stress is pretty much the same.

resources for financial problems

 

Luckily for us, there are tons and tons of great people who are ready to help. I’ve spent decades seeking out the best financial resources, and here are some of my old favorites and new finds.

  • Crown Financial Ministries: This is the best financial ministry I’ve found, and they have tons and tons of resources to help your family manage money in a God-honoring way.
  • Dave Ramsey: If you need someone to give you a swift kick in the pants to finally get your money under control, Dave’s willing to be that foot. Bless his blunt little heart.
  • His and Her Money: I just found this site last week and I love it so much. Talaat and Tai have a podcast, excellent advice, and– my favorite part– tons of success stories. The stories and interviews cover a wide range of salaries and debt amounts, which doubles the fun. Most of their interviews have links to new resources for financial management. You can spend all afternoon following rabbit trails of money advice around the internet!
  • iheartbudgets.net: What I love about Jacob is that he has the humility to admit he blew through $100,000 before he came to his senses. And now he tells us all about it, helping us avoid that same catastrophe. Read his story– it’s awesome.
  • sixfiguresunder.com: This family is working like crazy to pay off all of their debt from law school. They post their monthly progress right on the homepage, which is awesome, but they also have great articles about frugal living and budgeting.
  • modestmoney.com: If the above resources aren’t enough, this site has pages of other sites you might want to visit. You can stay busy for days just learning about personal finances.

Have I missed any of your favorites? Let me know!

How to celebrate your 55th wedding anniversary

Have I mentioned I’m a church secretary on the side? It’s what I do after I drop the kids off at school, but before I write and make dinner and then fall asleep on the couch.

ANYWAYS. I’m here at the church building right now, and an elderly couple just came in. They waved at me and headed right for the kitchen, where I shortly found them hard at work. He was sweeping up the floor and she was rolling up her sleeves, about to give the dishes in the sink a firm washing. That sink was going to be spotless by the time she was done with it.

I had other secretary-ish things to do and I forgot they were even here. After almost an hour they popped their heads into my office to say goodbye. Becky smiled at me and whispered, “It’s our fifty-fifth wedding anniversary today!” I congratulated her and we talked about their dinner plans, joking about how fifty-five years together means she’s not cooking dinner tonight.

But let’s analyze this situation for a moment, shall we? Part of their special day was spent cleaning up the church kitchen. No one would even know, except I decided to blab about it on the great wide webernet.

There’s a lesson here in humility, in service to others, and in caring for our church families. And since this sweet couple isn’t going to stand up and announce the lesson for us, I decided to do it for them.

May we serve one another for as many years as they’ve served each other and us.

Amen.

It’s possible she’s making up the truth as she goes along

I just finished an excellent book. Normally I’d tell you the name of it, but I have some concerns.

First of all, I’m about to seriously question the writer’s theology, faith, and ability to handle the Word of God. Since the sister has enough issues without me attacking her on the internet too (I’m not the first to have some concerns), I’ll keep mum on her name.

Second of all, even though the book is indeed excellently written, hysterically funny, and a total joy to behold, I don’t know that I’m comfortable recommending it to anyone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the Bible.

The Bible does indeed come up in her book, many times. The writer loves Jesus and has some keen– but uncomfortable–insights on how his followers should be conducting themselves. For example, when Christ tells us to love one another and to care for our neighbor, are we actually doing that? Or are we gathering ourselves into pious little groups and carefully excluding anyone who might contaminate us?

You know, just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did? The ones he publicly challenged and called hypocrites and children of hell?

Ouch.

These sorts of insights were so true and right I gasped out loud a few times as I read. She has a firm grasp on God’s love and what it requires as we relate to one another.

But then things got sticky, because I believe God’s love must be balanced with God’s truth. Sin is a terrible thing– it keeps us from God. A holy God cannot tolerate sin, and a holy God gets to determine what is sin and what is not.

Not us.

We don’t get to adore or ignore clear Scripture based on how comfortable or uncomfortable it is to us personally. Yes, there are cultural issues and historical events we might not apply on a daily basis (see also: women being silent in church and/or building an ark and waiting for animals to show up).

2 Timothy 3:5

But the clear parts– the parts about loving God, repenting of sin, and loving others– the parts no one can refute because they are so simple even children understand them, those we don’t get to rearrange to our comfort. As God’s people, we submit to his truth. We don’t bend it to fit our circumstances.

Here’s my point. We must be reading the Bible. We must have it open in front of our faces as much as possible, because otherwise it is terribly easy for a gregarious and charming person to lead us close to nice ideas, but actually far from God.

A lot of readers who enjoyed the book probably don’t read the Bible very often. They are blindly following the interpretations and whims of a woman who has neglected some key portions of the Word. And they are being tragically led astray.

Let’s not be those readers. Let’s immerse ourselves first in the Bible, so we will have the knowledge we need to discern the truth from the opinions.

Thoughts?

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Are you signed up for my super-duper newsletters yet? Here’s the link you need: Jessie’s Email Folks. It’ll be fun, and you’ll get the first updates and exciting news.

Permission to Trust God (Even If It Doesn’t Make Sense)

[Today I’m super excited to introduce you all to Andrew Gilmore, a fellow writer and Bible lover. I hope you love this guest post he wrote, and I hope you check out his website and other writing. His link’s at the bottom of the post!]

If God told you to jump off of a cliff would you do it?

Okay, not a fair question. But I ask it only to make this next one seem not so ridiculous: If you had leprosy and God told you to go skinny dipping in a muddy river, would you do it? Don’t answer just yet. Ponder it while I tell you this story:

There’s a lake not too far from my house. That sounds luxurious, I know, but believe me. It’s not. Even its name—Lake Thunderbird—evokes a sense of legitimacy. Despite pretense, Thunderbird’s not all that nice. The lake is a manmade reservoir and supplies drinking water for us Normanites and surrounding central Oklahoma communities. That it could be used as a “lake” for recreation almost seems like it was an afterthought.

But these aren’t the only reasons Thunderbird is lacking. You see the lake, for want of a rock bottom, is murky. And if you know anything about Oklahoma, you know our dirt isn’t brown; it’s red. That causes the lake to be exceptionally cloudy and give off that cesspool kind of a vibe. (Did I mention we drink that?) As a result the lake has rightly earned the nickname Dirtybird.

I bring up Lake Dirtybird because that’s the image I get when I read the story of Naaman. You remember him, right? The big bad Syrian who happened to have incurable leprosy. But when his wife’s servant girl mentioned there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman, the quest was on. What did he have to lose?

When Naaman came to Elijah for help, here’s what the prophet said: Go wash in the muddy nasty Jordan seven times and you will be healed. (That’s me paraphrasing.) How did Naaman respond? Angrily. “Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” (2 Kings 5:11). Hear that? He was so pompous, he referred to himself in the third person!


Naaman wanted to be healed, but he wanted to be healed his way. He had a preconceived notion of how things should go down, how God should do His job. What makes dipping in the Jordan seven times any more ridiculous than Elijah waving his hand like a crazy man?

Truth is, I act like Naaman all the time. I ask God for things, but then I get upset when they don’t come the way I expected, or when I have to do uncomfortable things to get them. God, please don’t ask me to swim in that lake. Naaman is a great reminder that God knows exactly what He’s doing, and we would do well to trust him (even if it means getting a little muddy).

 

GilmoreHeadshot
Andrew Gilmore

Andew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God, but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration they need to connect with their Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.

Tis the season to be sneaky

  
 I have gifts hidden in three separate zip codes at the moment. It will be a true Christmas miracle if I can remember where they all are before next week.

Our old house had many terrible features, like a stairway of death, a basement of horrors, and a complete and utter lack of respect for the profession of modern architecture, but it did have plenty of hidey holes for Christmas gifts. Not only that, but our kids were too terrified of the dark corners to go skulking around for gifts.

Also, spiders. That house had fat spiders in the dark corners. We were all afraid of those suckers.

We’ve lived in our new house for three years already, and the only downfall is the lack of decent hiding spaces for things like this. Well, that and the taxes, which are way higher than my liking. But this isn’t a gripe session about the tax code, so let’s go back to the storage issue.

We have one good room for all the random things like the cat litter, the washer and dryer, the water heater, and the furnace. Unless I want to build a fake wall onto the studs, I have to resort to madness to make sure our kids can’t find their gifts before Christmas.

Therefore and thus, this is where it’s all hidden:*

  • All the new socks and underwear are in the van glove compartment.
  • The new box of Q-tips Audrey asked for is buried in the back yard.
  • Caleb’s new apron and mixing bowl set have been mailed to Great Grandma’s for keeping.
  • Eric’s comprehensive set of Janet Evanovich books has been duck taped to the back wall of his mother’s closet. (He is going to be so surprised on Christmas morning!)

What about you? Where do you hide Christmas gifts?

*Portions of this post are complete lies, as my children have a tendency to go to school and read this blog to spy on me. I can’t blame them, as I would have done the same thing if blogs had existed in 1988.

Before We Get All Worked Up, Let’s Take a Moment

 

do not worry about tomorrowWe have been given this moment right here, right where we are. We have these people right around us, wherever we may be. We are in this place and we’re wearing these pants and yet…

Yet we’re probably not thinking about any of these right now things. We’re probably focused on the to do list on our counter and the looming holidays and the weird noise the van makes and we’re worried about the braces the kid needs before this spring.

We’re missing right now because our brains are already piling up problems that aren’t even here yet. We’re stacking them like a city of those cardboard bricks kids use in preschools– those bricks that come flopping down at the smallest toddler tornado.

Apparently this in not a new phenomena, because Jesus had to address it two thousand years ago. Ancient people were worriers, too.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.

Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:31-34, NLT)

I need to look around right now. I need to notice who’s in the room with me. How can I love them like a member of the Kingdom of Heaven should love them? I might not even know what that means, but maybe I can figure it out, one person at a time.

I need to think through my day– but just today. How can I bring glory to God through my stuff before I go to bed? Maybe I need to do all the same stuff as usual, but add a little bit of prayer, thankfulness, or joy into the usual routine.

I have a feeling that if I look at who and what is in front of me right this very moment, God has already supplied me with enough grace to do it well.

And I think he’s ready to supply you, as well.

 

Details, Schmetails.

I’ve been on a Brigg-Myers Personality test kick this week. This website here is my favorite version of the test. I’m an INFJ, which means I need harmony, my feelings are too easily hurt, and I make decisions without dithering. There was no mention of an INFJ’s ability to handle details.

Because details are dumb and I don’t understand why everyone is so insistent on them all the time.

Now Eric, on the other hand, received a personality report which included the words “meticulous to the point of perfectionism.” Truth.

So one of us is meticulous and the other one is Jessie. I get by thanks to scribbled lists left next to the coffee pot, and now my kids are old enough to keep track of me, too.

One of the things I can never remember is the references to specific Bible passages. I love the Bible, and I don’t say that in a Bible-banging nutty evangelical kind of way. I value its life and wisdom and story– and truth– above all else.


The fact that the very words of God are recorded in a book and that I am called to be a writer, inspired by that book, flattens me in awe. It literally takes my breath away that I get to be part of God’s amazing story.

But please don’t ask me to actually store references in my brain.

That’s why some smart person invented a concordance. It was probably some ancient version of Eric who was married to an ancient version of me. His love for his dingbat wife probably drove him to sit down and meticulously arrange the topics and words in alphabetical order so she could get on with her life.

My favorite Bible doesn’t have its own concordance. I have to rely heavily on biblegateway.com, and I’m on that site about five times a week. They’ve got all the key words, and the passages, and the translations! You need a verse translated into Polish? Bible Gateway. You need to find all the references to leeks in the ESV? (True story.) Bible Gateway.

You might notice the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid widget on the right side of the website. I’m happy to be part of their blogger grid, and if you’re also a Bible-based blogger, I can send you the email with the specifics on how to join.

So, all you non-detail oriented people, what kind of concordance do you use? And what other tricks do you use to get through life?

(If you’d like to stay updated on new projects and get the first opportunity to read them, you are cordially invited to sign up for my email newsletter. Click here for the sign up form.)

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