preparing for worst start...

Why You Shouldn’t Wait Another Day

I’ve been breathing into a paper bag over that 78 year-old guy that came kicking and screaming out of his own body bag at the morgue. I mean seriously—I think this is possibly my worst nightmare come to life. Except that in my nightmare I’ve pulled more of an Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy and someone’s given me a lighter for my coffin and I flick it open and yep…

Not only am I in a coffin. But, I’m in a coffin with another corpse, and all three of us are already in the ground. And, I’ve been saying to my inner demons for years “Oh that kind of stuff never happens” and then wham. Guy in body bag=girl in counseling.

At church on Sunday, a guy in Sunday School brought the body bag guy up, which I felt was a very good transition into part of the pastor’s sermon. In reminiscing about the birth of his son, he made a remark along the lines of “Don’t wait until someone’s dead before you tell them how much they meant to you, because well…they won’t be there to hear it.”

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I mean, isn’t this so true? I was thinking this very thing at the last funeral I attended. I folded my tissue square over square and looked around at the size of crowd. The pews were littered with people young and old who told me over and over again what the deceased had meant to them. The crowd was much larger than I ever expected—probably much larger than the woman would have expected. And I kept saying to myself, “I wonder if she really knew how much she meant to all these people?” I hope she did. But, why do we wait to tell people how much we care? That without them we would be a mess? That they are helping us live a better story. That they bring us joy and friendship and that we love doing life with them?

I had someone tell me one time that they knew what was going on with my family because they read my Facebook page. Ironically, this was a very lonely season for me. And I had gone to bed at night saying, “I wish I just had a good friend to process some of this junk with.” And apparently I did have a friend—well, sort of. I mean she was there. Technically, watching my page. But, I didn’t know. Al I knew is that my phone wasn’t ringing.

But, I am just as guilty of this kind of behavior as the next guy. I  do this all the time. Check out someone’s Facebook page and feel caught up with their life. Feel like I am participating in their story. But this is wrong—it’s being a bystander. It’s not participating. Is the sports enthusiast watching from the stands a part of the game? No. You can feel a part of the game, but it doesn’t mean that you are. And I think that social media makes it easy for us to feel like we are a part of things. When maybe, we’re not.

We’ve got to quit letting our busyness, our Facebook feeds, our assumptions, our laziness perhaps, stand in the way of telling people that we care. We need to call them and express gratitude. We need to meet them for coffee or catch an afternoon matinee with the people who are special to us. We need to write them a letter. We need to tell them how we feel about them—before our next opportunity to do so—is at their funeral. The one place where a missed opportunity doesn’t get a second chance.

On Thanksgiving

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Surprise! I’m eating for two!

nMB7YN6So, we all know that I need absolutely no excuse to have a good cupcake. And today, I’m not having just one—I’m having two. Yep, you guessed it! I’m eating for two. Well, not two humans per say. But, I AM eating a cupcake for me and one for my client and friend Amy Matayo’s Book Birthday Bash. Have you met Amy? If not, you are missing out on some awfully good self-depricating humor. I once thought I was appropriately sarcastic and funny on paper, until I met Amy. Her Facebook status’s even outshine someecards and that’s quite an accomplishment.

So, here’s the birthday scoop. Today is Amy’s REAL birthday AND her BOOK birthday. Her Contemporary Romance novel, The Wedding Game, is finally out. It has been a laborious 18 months! Here’s a few reasons you probably want to grab a copy:

1. Because a girl deserves a gift on her birthday and no better gift for an author than buying a copy of their book.

2. Because you love shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette so much you can’t wait for your fix.

3. Because Amy is funny, remember? And appropriately snarky.

4. Because Amy’s book won the prestigious GENESIS award in the Romance category from the American Christian Fiction Writer’s.

4. Because although I am NOT eating for two at the moment, at one point I did eat for three. And buying Amy’s book will help me feed my in real life triplets. Ahem. See…

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And if that’s not enough to convince you, maybe this little snippet will…

Cannon James has a plan: Sign on as a contestant for his father’s new reality show, marry a blonde hand-picked by the producers, and walk away two million dollars richer. It’s all been arranged. Easy. Clean. No regrets. Until Ellie McAllister ruins everything by winning the viewer’s vote. Now he has to convince America that he’s head over heels in love with her. Not easy to do since she’s a walking disaster.
Ellie McAllister has her own problems. She needs money, and she needs it now. Despite her parent’s objections and her belief that marriage is sacred, she signs on to The Wedding Game…and wins. Now she’s married to a guy she can’t stand, and if she wants her hands on the money, she has six months to make voters believe she loves him. Not easy to do since he’s the most arrogant man in America.
It doesn’t take long for Ellie and Cannon to realize they’ve made a mess of things…even less time for their feelings for one another to change. But is it too late for them? More importantly, can God turn the worst decision they’ve ever made into something worth redeeming?
So, happy birthday Amy! Hope it’s a great one!

Sticky Notes in Heaven

When I went back to work after my kids were born, my dad said I could use his free office space to do my work in. My dad found me an old metal desk and a filing cabinet and set me up in the office next door to Baxter. Baxter Dunagan was my dad’s best friend for as long as I can remember. My dad always told us the funny story of how he and Baxter’s budding friendship began. How, in college, several of my dad’s friends came late one night and hid at his house—Baxter in tow. They said my dad had to let them stay because they were being hunted…by their fraternity brothers. It wasn’t too long after my dad uttered these words…

“You mean, you guys are paying for people to do this to you?”

…that he too was paying the same people to do the same awful things to him. He and Baxter became good friends & fraternity brothers. By the next year, the tables had turned and it was Baxter and Trey who were hiding on the 2nd floor of the Sigma Chi House, but this time it was them picking off Delts with their BB gun’s for sport.  Or so the tales go.

There are some people who are just meant to be known in life—who need to be known. Baxter Dunagan was one of those people and our family was proud to call him a friend. Back when Baxter was alive, I remember thinking that if anything ever happened to my dad, that I could sit in the room with Baxter and feel a little of my dad’s own heartbeat. Because that’s what a real brother does—he takes on the very essence of his friends. And some aren’t pulled from the same womb, but they are cut from the same cloth. And God looks down and says, “Yo, those guys are just…cool.”

Baxter battled Hodgkins for over 17 years. I walked into Baxter’s office one morning after he’d been out for yet another procedure, and the conversation took its’ usual turn: baseball, triplets, office gossip, and then I asked him how he was. “Yo man, I’m alright,” he said with a little less Baxter than usual. “Really?” I said suspiciously. He said, “Hey man, sometimes God has to get your attention before you hear Him right. I mean the first time I went through this, fine. The second time, fine. The third time and I’m like I’m listening…But, not really still. Then when you watch all the blood drain out of your body…you are like “Hey, man—dude. God I got it. I finally got it. So, yeah man, ya know. I get it now. Took me awhile, but I get it. You know what I mean?”

And I got it too. That the farmer and the Maker had come to terms with their own ideas of sewing and reaping and the definition of a hard season. And that in a very Baxter way, he let me know that Christ had changed his heart. Maybe not even for the first time, but for the last time. Cause he needed to come to terms with what was happening to him. Baxter got it—he had peace—and in the midst of a really dark and painful time, God showed up.DSC_0181

After Baxter died, I moved my few belongings into his office. I got his desk. I got his sticky notes and some loose change. And every now and then a sticky note would fall out who knows where with his oilfield scribble on it. A business card would appear on my carpet after I swore I had gathered them all up. I’d find another bunch of rubber-banded pens and just laugh a little. I kept the picture of he and his wife up on my little metal filing cabinet and often thought about what he might be doing in Heaven. I felt like Baxter was one of a kind on Earth and probably shook Heaven up a bit when he arrived:

“Hey man, Peter! Quit trying to walk on my ‘feel-good’ pond. Just ’cause you walked on water once doesn’t mean you get to be on my pond. Yo! I added something new to the pond: God’s getting a new floating dock. Drew it out on these little yellow things called ‘sticky notes’. Now, there are 50 here. Whatever you do—DO NOT— let the Sons of Thunder get’em out of order.  You always wanted to know who Jesus liked better—follow the sticky note instructions and you just might get to claim that one before Hell freezes over. I’ll be back later, I gotta run pray for Lance Armstrong—Lazarus tells me his career is down for the count, but we can still pray for his soul.”

 

Some people think that God is stuffy. That Jesus was good, but that obeying rules wasn’t so cool. But, I beg to differ. When God made Baxter Dunagan—he broke the mold. And you can’t create salt of the Earth without being pretty cool yourself. Sometimes men die and life just keeps on moving. But, then there are others whose deaths mark the end of an era. The end of what should always be good and right in life. That is who Baxter was. He fought Hodgkins for over 17 years before complications from the cancer and the many rounds of treatments eventually took his life.

Baxter didn’t live long after our office talk. But, there are a few things that forever remind me of him: Nome, Texas, a bag of rice at the grocery store, tinted sunglasses, Livestrong bracelets, Columbia fishing shirts, and a freshly-wrapped stack of sticky notes. I imagine that Jesus has probably had to build Baxter an extra mansion just to house all those sticky notes. And if I was a betting woman, I’d put money on the idea that there’s a sticky note plastered to the front of every mansion door by now. So, Baxter—if an angel carries this little note up to Heaven for you to read—we sure do miss you. Burn bright and keep workin’ on that pond. The triplets love to fish.

—Jessie

P.S. Better keep praying for Lance. And while you’re at it, you might want to cut up that yellow bracelet you’re probably still wearing.

 

 

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For Hope

mHa8W8IYou can learn a lot about a person by the thing’s they search for on the Internet. I used to write on this blog. Well, not this one. It was this other blog that I canned ’cause it didn’t feel relevant anymore. I use to giggle at some of the ways people landed on it. Apparently, there is a tennis star that shares my name. Sometimes, people thought I was her—and they came to check out her picture— to figure out that I was definitely not the pretty blonde tennis star. Disappointing I’m sure. Sometimes the search terms were funny, and other times utterly ridiculous. It became my thing—you know—checking out what search terms would randomly land people in my tiny corner of the blogosphere.

So, while most bloggers pay attention to comments and hits and stats—I like to know how people get from their computer to my blog.

And today…there she was. Possibly the single, most relevant reason I can say that this blog exists. That YOUR blog should exist. The single most important reason for believers to be story-tellers and writers to quit worrying about blog traffic and hits and comments and that dirty word we love to hate called ‘platform.’

Christian mother, wants to die. pain all over for 20 years- needs help. 

Sometimes the difference between life and death is one blog. It may be one sentence. It may be one word in one sentence on one blog in someone’s big, painful world. Because behind millions of computers sit millions of people searching for a better tomorrow. And their search, just might turn up in your corner of the web. And you might have one shot to write them a letter.

To the woman—the Christian mother—who wants to die,

I am sorry that tomorrow is dark and your pain feels eternal. I can relate to that kind of brokenness. I prayed my pain would stop last year—I was hoping to end on an even number. You know—like the woman with that awful blood disorder in the Bible. She got to stop at 12—healed in an instant. I thought that in some cruel twist of irony God would grant me that number too. Ya know—keep it Biblical and all. I really wanted her number. I think about her too. What that kind of disease probably did to her—how it isolated her—how it must’ve slowly smashed her dreams and swallowed up her hope. I didn’t get to end on 10. Or 11. Or 12.

I turn 32 in September. When you have an invisible illness—or several in my case—sometimes you quit counting birthdays because you are too busy counting the number of years from the day the shoe dropped. I hate that about myself. That I count like that now. I hate that I can’t eat my red-velvet cupcake in pain-free peace. But, this is still my cup.

And this one day last fall, I felt just so very broken. I hadn’t left the house in weeks. And where my illness would usually ebb and flow, for weeks it lingered. I got really depressed because I felt I had hit a new level of sickness—a point of no return. I found my tennis shoes and although I couldn’t go far from the house, I made myself go for a walk. I love to walk. It makes me feel alive—normal. I pray on my walks too. But, on this day I was too hurt to pray. Too low to form words. Too tired to beg for healing in the 12th year. I walked for a long time. And I got more anxious and more depressed with each step. I had been trying so hard to feel good. I had strived myself into the ground and I still couldn’t resolve my pain. And you know what’s so strange—I have seen God do miracles. For that matter, I have been the recipient of His miracles. We’ve got history—myself and God. But, with this pain—for some reason—it’s been allowed to carry on. And I can’t tell you why.

As I rounded the corner of my street, I had completely lost it. The tears were carving out a twisted path in my day-old make-up, when out in the distance I noticed a man in a red jacket standing on the vacant lot by the lake. In the two years I have lived on this street, nobody has ever been there or has reason to be. I was at least 100 yards from him, and as if on cue, he turned and saw me. Stared at me actually. There was something about his expression—his eyes—that seemed compassionate and kind. He looked at me as if he knew my deepest secrets—as if he could read my thoughts. As if he were inviting me on a journey.

And in that moment I wish I could say I was miraculously healed—like the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s cloak—but I wasn’t. But, in a weird way, something did change. A part of me felt very different—restored. The heavy cloak of depression and desperation melted away even in the presence of the physical pain. And I saw my pain for what it was—temporal. And I saw Jesus for who He’s always been—my eternal friend. One way or another, I met Jesus again for the first time and the hundredth time by the lake that day. Oh, maybe a girl on a walk just encountered a man by the lake on a crisp, fall morning. And that’s alright by me. Either way, I want you to know that only God can do that kind of fixing. The kind of repair that our soul desperately needs, but our lips can’t utter. Only God has eyes that see that deep into a person’s soul—into their hurts.

I’d like to make you a promise. I’m going to write you down and stick you to my computer screen. I don’t know your name, but I know what you are searching for. For Hope. The kind that can dance with pain and still believe in a better tomorrow. Sweet friend, I ask for your healing in Jesus name. I pray that the Lord will send you help. Please, hold tight. I pray that God will intervene before your 21st year. And most of all, I pray for hope. 

-Jessie

Will you join me in prayer today for this woman?  For her healing? For her shaken faith?

For hope? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Why I Don’t Stand with Wendy Davis

“Yet the simple reality is 62 percent of Texans oppose late-term abortions after 20 weeks. Over 80 percent of Americans oppose abortions in the third trimester.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) 

In September of 2005, I became pregnant with quadruplets against interesting odds. My husband and I had hoped for the possibility of twins after doctors told me that having children would be a problem. I remember the day we saw three blinking hearts on the screen. I also remember the day, two weeks later on the very same screen, that there were four blinking hearts instead of three.

There is a perk to having multiples amidst a lot of the uncertainty and hardship—you get to see your babies on the big screen a lot sooner than most moms. You get to name them too. I was the Mom to Babies A, B, C, and D. A was strong and consistent. B was all boy and all over the place, although a bit small. C and D were healthy and growing. To be quite honest, becoming a mother to multiples is a mixed cup of relief, joy, excitement, and fear. I was relieved to realize my dream of becoming a mom. I was excited to meet them and would lie in bed and imagine who they might look and act like. But, I was afraid too. My mother almost died delivering my older sister. Toxemia was a very real threat in 2 of her 3 pregnancies. I was fearful of the possibility that I would deal with Toxemia and then petrified when I heard all the risks associated with multiple births.

But, in spite of the uncertainty—we made the Lord a promise.

No matter how scary the future seemed, no matter what doomsday scenario the doctors gave me, no matter what other people told us to do or said—we would honor the lives that God had given us.  I promised God that I would not, under any circumstance, ‘selectively reduce’ or ‘abort’ any of His creation.

That was my promise. God had been faithful to me—He had honored His promises and honoring the lives He was knitting together was the least I could do.

It wasn’t long before the doomsday scenarios began. The laundry list of risks was daunting and gave little room to hope that this journey would end well. My doctor asked us to selectively reduce the four babies down to a more reasonable number. Two was offered as a suggestion. Easier on mom and baby.

We declined.

I decided to build my house upon the rock of God’s word, and not the sands of uncertainty. I can’t say that I have always done my building the right way. I haven’t. I’ve built plenty of sand castles that washed right away when the waves crashed in and life got messy and dark. I promised God that I would choose life and every night I recited those verses back to Him. Promises of safety and good health and deliverance and protection—especially when the doctor’s ‘laundry list’ of risks came back to haunt me.

It wasn’t long before the rains came. And the storm broke. And it didn’t just move the sand around about my house. It decimated it. The waves crashed around every pillar and the thunder shook every beam. My faith was shaken, and my future seemed really uncertain.

I lost one baby a 14 weeks.  I was flat on my back for almost 4 months on strict bed rest. I had surgery at 20 weeks. I went into labor at 26 weeks. My body began shutting down at 26 weeks and 2 days when I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.

I said goodbye to my husband that night.

And when he kissed me goodbye, I kissed him back with tears in my eyes and closed my heart to the dream of becoming a mom, and the hope of my next breath.

And in the silence of that room, while nurses did their due diligence and monitors beeped, this 25-year-old girl wondered why God seemed to be flattening a house that had been built upon the rock. In my need to breathe, I asked God a lot of hard questions. I asked ‘why’ and I said ‘not now’ and even ‘why me’, but I never regretted giving my children the chance to live. I never regretted choosing life. And I told the Lord that over and over again in the midst of my struggle. ‘

“You give breath and life to all things” Acts 17:25. “Lord, it is YOU and only YOU who give breath and life to all things. Give us breath. Please give us life.”

And I went to sleep fully expecting to never live again.

But, God honors those that honor His commandments. People prayed for me that night. And there is no reason my condition should have reversed. But, it did. God delivered me from death. He drew me out of many waters and the next day I was still alive.  For the moment, I was still pregnant and I was still a mom-to-be.

Today, my triplets are vibrant 7-year-olds.

I think back on the day the doctors asked me to ‘selectively’ reduce so that my pregnancy would be safer and easier on me. There was nothing easy about it. But, I look into their faces and I think ‘What a loss it would have been to never know these children.’

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America, we are missing out. And Wendy Davis is right about a few things. She said, “We make choices– and have the opportunity to take chances that present themselves to us.” Yes, Wendy, we do make choices every day. I was presented with the opportunity to abort my children, and I chose the dangerous road. It was scary. It was not fun. I made a risky decision when I chose to carry four children at once. The outcome could have been different. I could have lost my life, but we chose to let God be Lord of our family. And despite the bumps, He was always there. And I have to believe that He wants to bless our great state for doing the right thing—for choosing life instead of death. And if you are an expectant mother considering all your options. I pray that God will give you wisdom and that fear will have no place in your decision. Motherhood is not always easy, but it is a gift.

When Wendy Davis says she’s giving a voice to women all across Texas, let the record show, that she isn’t speaking for me. Is it too much to ask that Texans stand up for life no matter how hard or uncertain the road might be? Is it too much to ask expectant moms to choose adoption instead of abortion? Is it too much to ask an expectant mother to make her decision before the first 20 weeks are past in her pregnancy? Wendy Davis says “this bill is about women across the state of Texas having the same chance that she had.” Wendy is right about that too. She got the right to live and breath. She got a chance at life—to be a mother, to learn, to leave her mark on Senate floors and life-altering legislation. Something that millions of babies each year won’t ever get to do because of abortion laws. And while Wendy is concerned about “the eyes of Texas, and the eyes of the country” our nation should be concerned about the eyes of the Lord.

As for me and my house—we will speak for ourselves. And we choose life. 

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

On the move and yet another ceramic bird

photo-5I bought another decorative bird today. Rest assured—it was a singleton and not a ‘triplet’ like last time. Although my heart is a little too fond of decorative items that come in three’s. I cannot imagine why. Yes, I’ve been caught red-handed once again in the bird department. Between birds and their eclectic nests—our new home is going to be in trouble.

For those of you following our frantic race to buy a new home—we have crossed the finish line of home ownership.

Yipee. Skippy.

My new client and friend, Trisha, can give me lots of pointers on how to manage it. Trust me. I’m totally going to need her mad home management skills. 

I think we all need a friend or five like Trisha. She has been praying for my summer of transition and when I was finally able to say, “Whew—we got a house.” She asked me what it was like and I said, “Well….hmm…it’s…well…kinda…umm…rooster chic?”

And then I proceeded to go into a very long-winded—and true to form Texas, drawling explanation—of how some houses in Texas were just suited for rooster decor. And then I realized maybe my description was ridiculously Texan and that she was going to think I was really weird and farm-ish. Until…Trisha emphatically interrupted and said, “I totally understand Rooster Chic!!!! I soooo get you!”

It’s nice to have friends that GET you and all your weird Texan ways. Did I mention that Trisha also rocked my agent world at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference?

photo-6No, it wasn’t because she won several awards. Cause she did. And it wasn’t because she pitched one of the most unique Middle Grade fiction novels I’ve ever heard. Cause she did that too. Nope—it was because she read of my obsessive love for gluten-free cupcakes and she LEFT CAMPUS and drove to find me a package of them. I walked into my day of appointments and was like…

Sweet. Mother. of. Abraham. Lincoln.

photo-7Who in the world got me these delectable gluten-free/dairy free CUPCAKES?!?!?!?! It was a random act of cupcake kindness! Who does that? Apparently…Trisha does. I had no trouble gobbling them up between pitches. Wreck-less. Abandon.

Between cupcakes and birds and nests and visions of shabby-chic roosters dancing in my head—yep—my personal bucket has been filled. Has anyone done something over-the-top nice for you lately? I’d love to hear your story.

Mirrors

A few weeks ago, I thought long and hard about ignoring the mirror for a while. Oh you’ve seen those social experiments before. Like this gal, who literally avoided a mirror for an entire year before she got married.

Sweet mother. 

She gets quite the prize for such a feat. So, it all started one day last week when I said hello to someone in town that technically should have known who I was…but they didn’t. They didn’t recognize me. ‘Oh come on’, I told myself…’It’s been years, did you really expect her to know you?”  yes. yes. yes. 

nVrl3BiAnd then my mirror began to taunt me.

‘You aren’t what you used to be.’

‘Is that a gray hair? Sweet mother…that IS a gray hair.’

‘Man, if you could only lose that last 20 lbs of baby weight. Aren’t your kids seven?!?!?!’

‘You should be sooo embarrassed—she didn’t. even. recognize. you.’

Ouch. I sat on the bed and cried my eyes out. But, the truth was…that wasn’t the first time I had passed a mirror and wanted to crack it with a baseball bat. I had felt the same way the week before…and the week before that….and the week before that. 

And you know we totally have plenty of baseball bats to accomplish this mirror-cracking feat.

And last week…it struck me (no not the bat)—that this cycle of self-loathing, this feeling inadequate stuff‚—has actually been brewing for years. Simmering beneath the surface of my psyche like an unwanted disease. See, nobody talks about the transition from teenager to womanhood as being a hard one on your self-esteem. We get our fill of that kind of talk when we transition from childhood to puberty. But, see that period for me was a welcomed transition. It was fun. I got used to finding that girl in my reflection. Then came adulthood, and I started asking, “Where did that girl go?” And if I were a betting woman, I have a feeling a lot of women are struggling in this place with me.

And you know what—I’m a bit sick of this. I’m not going to carry this anymore. I’m dropping it off at Jesus’ feet and I’m walking away. Today, let’s blow the lid of this thing—these degrading feelings we have toward ourselves. Let’s embrace the girl in the mirror and start treating her with the respect she deserves.

Is anybody with me? So, I’m over at Moms Together today talking about some spiritual and practical steps I’m taking to get free from this constant feeling of inadequacy. Would love for you to come over and chat for a bit.

-Jessie