Friday, December 28, 2012

(k)No(w) More of Me

I need to somehow figure out how to make myself far more productive—either that or suddenly require less rest. The latter will never happen. This body was made for sleeping.

So. Productivity is the answer.

Here’s the problem: I like to be involved in a lot, and I like to be good at whatever I do. In reality, the more I take on, the more my performance plummets. But the demands in my life aren’t going to walk away.

So. Productivity is the answer.

Here’s what all I want/have to do: work, clean, cook, read, exercise (which gets dropped off the list weekly), study the Bible, pray, write, watch television with my husband, play with my kids, spend more time with my students, hang out with friends, have a little quiet time to myself. That covers the majority of my weekly concerns, but doesn’t touch on the random projects that pop up.

I try constantly to give myself an out whenever I do poorly in one category. Christmas, moving, busyness in general: these are all great excuses for why things don’t get done to the best of my ability.

But—productivity is the answer.

There won’t suddenly be more of me. There won’t suddenly be more hours in the day. I have to use me and my hours to their maximum potential.

This means staying up a little later, but not too late. This means checking out Pinterest for new recipes and ideas, but not spending hours on it. This means going to bed with enough energy left to read. This means making better to do lists. This means working out my CrockPot more. This means saying in a minute and I cannot right now less often to my kids. This means doing a better job of asking my husband to help. This means putting my priorities in line. Productivity is the answer.

So goodbye, 2012. You were busy and blessed. Hello, 2013—you will be the same. But, I’m going to be ready for you: ready, willing, and able to be the BEST self possible. Here’s to purpose, priorities, and productivity. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You can never be "alone" "with" someone.

I like quotes. Quotes from writers, artists, comedians, and even my friends. 

In high school, one of my friends pointed out that you can never be "alone" "with" someone. Is that deep? Absurd? I'm not sure, but her quote stuck with me for more than thirteen years. 

I've been thinking and writing today about being alone. My family isn't home today, and I've spent several hours alone. On my own terms. Such is a sweetness I rarely consume. 

So I slept late. Researched while I drank coffee. Watched Property Brothers while I ate plain pasta. Walked to work (on my day off) to see a student try on a Hemingway costume for a photo shoot this Friday. And sat (where I presently sit) in our library, trying to feed off of the creative ambiance as I wrote a chapter in a devotional book I'm working on and write this entry. 

Wouldn't you feel like writing if you sat where I sit?

Besides the quote from my high school pal, other things that come to mind when I think of the word "alone" are

  • the ability to shower at an hour without the fear of waking a sleeping child,
  • the freedom to watch an episode of The Nanny in bed while flipping through Pinterest on my phone,
  • the chance to make plans with friends at any time without the mom-guilt of leaving family at home,
  • the blessing of eating pasta for 2/3rds of my daily meals,
  • and, of course, the giant hair, exploding pianos, and half-face veils in this music video.
Though I am sometimes (rarely...very very very rarely) alone, I am never lonely. God has “made known to me the paths of life” by filling me with joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11). Alone, but not abandoned, because I am always with Someone. 

this post is linked up with

Life: Unmasked

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Domestictitus: A Pinterest-Born Illness

I don't know what's happened to me. I have sudden urges to be all things domestic. Yes, I think I have a rare case of Domestictitus. And I'm pretty sure no one in my household wants me to recover. It all started with a little sewing project.

Inspired by my friend's creations (look here at Ashley Balding's monsters), I decided to make 20 monsters as treats for the kids coming to my son's first birthday party. Ashley helped me with the sewing machine part, but I did the hand sewing of all the felt facial features. Why? 

I don't know. 

All I can think of to blame is this illness.

And it didn't stop there. 

Suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, I started cooking. Yes, c-o-o-k-i-n-g!

A friend and I started meal planning for budgetary and personal challenge reasons. Now our families get new meals several times each week. Above is an adapted recipe from Pinterest. I call it Parmesan Chicken Parmesan. (I adapt all recipes, which is why I have trouble really need to follow those recipes perfectly. I guess my rebel-streak comes out even in the kitchen.) I mixed parmesan cheese, season salt, garlic powder, milk, and melted butter in a bowl and spread it all over raw chicken in a baking dish. Then I put some small chunks of butter hither and thither on top and baked for about 35 minutes on 350*. My husband actually said these words, "This is yummy." An unsolicited "yummy" from a man who is usually satisfied with a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Anytime. Anywhere there is a spoon.


Now I am making Christmas presents for people and taking lessons to overcome my fear of the sewing machine. I freak out when my kitchen counter is dirty. I clean my toilets three times a week. I'm doing art projects with my three-year-old. 

If a doctor asked me, upon reflection, the only thing I can think to blame my Domestictitus on is my newfound interest in Pinterest. It's the only new thing in my life that has exposed me to party planning, sewing projects, recipes, cleaning tips, and art projects (though I mostly blame the cleaning obsession with us having our house on the market for nine months, living in fear of the random showing). And, yes, I spend a little too much time scrolling through the endless amounts of new pins, but as soon as I can get that under better control, I'd have to say that I think the results of this illness/obsession are mostly positive. 

How else would I have thought to create these Halloween treats? 

But I'm not just taking ideas from others: in general, I'm just in a domestically-creative phase. Pattern-free, I made my baby's Halloween costume.

And then there was this stroke of genius, which I have to co-credit to my husband. 

 So...however I caught it, I think I'll keep it. Our house is cleaner, our tastebuds happier, our budget more productive, our kids more paint-covered, and my trips to Hobby Lobby more frequent. (Thank you, 40% off one item coupons.) And I'm even enjoying it, so I hope these desires stay strong. When it comes to my new domestic desires, I want to push forward with my favorite line from Tennyson's "Ulyssess" in mind: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!"

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friday favorite things | finding joy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lean Not on Your Own part 1

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

But my understanding is strong. And secure. And logically valid.

This verse was the first in a seven day devotional series on decision making I started yesterday. Why yesterday in particular? Because we are house hunting! 

If you follow this blog, you may remember this post about my learning humility from our condo being on the market for so many months. Well, we got a contract...hoping that all things go through for a closing in late November. Which means that, if everything does go through, we'll need a new home by that time. Which means that we are looking, in quite a short amount of time, for the house we want to suit our family for the next fifty-plus years. That's a lot of pressure, you say? I'm glad you agree with me!
In times like this, it's easy to

lean on my own understanding.

Why aren't there any suitable houses on the market in the target neighborhood I've thought, for more than a year now, that we are supposed to live in?

Am I supposed to open my mind to a different neighborhood?

Are we supposed to wait again?

What is the lesson here?

I am a professor, you see, and I think that lessons lie in pretty much...well...everything. I don't think it's a bad way to live--looking for learning in life's ups and downs and straight-ways, but it can be a little exhausting. Asking questions. Waiting for answers, or...more likely in my case...making up your own answers based on your own understanding. 

Lean not on that, Jessa. Lean on Me.

So I'm doing a lot of praying and listening to others and considering options outside of my own understanding.

I don't like it.

And that's another life lesson.

 House hunting in style with a scarf=my favorite fashion accessory. YAY for fall!

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From Inmates to Playdates

Friday, September 21, 2012


“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."

--Ernest Hemingway

Those who know me know I love Ernest Hemingway. From his intriguing life to his ingenuity in the craft of writing to his fondness of cats--Hemingway captivates me. In some ways, my research has brought me to believe that Hemingway had so many wives and so many lives (the war hero, the war corespondent  the hunter, the fisherman, the bull fighting enthusiast, the traveler...) because they were the fuel for his writing. 

"Write about what you know." That is the adage we pensmen hear: at the top of the list of author advice. 

What do I know? 

I know my faults. I see them glaring at me most days. I know my strengths, and I enjoy pushing myself towards being even better. 

I know love. Family. Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Elation. Sorrow. All of those things I know more acutely than I did before because of motherhood. 

I know that this balancing act of mothering, wifing, professoring, Christianing, writing, hoping, editing, friending, cooking, and every other bit that is my life is not easy. 

And I know that “today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."

I don't share this quote as a threat. (Why is she giving me so much pressure? I already stress about not meeting everyone's needs every day!) I share it as a reminder: don't forget today. In the midst of the chaos, find the beauty.

I am glad for the gift of today: another day to achieve goals, love others, reflect Glory, dream, eat, and sleep. And we don't have to accumulate spouses or excel at a multitude of hobbies to affect others with our gifts. Whatever stops you from finding fulfillment in today (worry? Corrie Ten Boom says, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength."), to to get past it because, as Dr. Seuss says, "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!"

And your being you today is a beautiful thing.

Above: A friend's small business, Mansion and Marsh, gave me this adorable tee shirt. Below: What fun it is to pull out the leggings! And I got this dress from Ross, one of my favorite stores. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Praying for You

A student just walked out of my office. I could tell her heart was heavy, and I thought I did my best to lighten things: to make possibilities seem brighter. But still, as I saw her leave, her shoulders low, my heart was low too.

And then I had a strong memory of one of the two times I cried in a college class (as a student). I'm not one who cries often in front of others. Once a professor showed Shadowlands, a movie based on the life of C. S. Lewis, and I admit I wept, as quietly as one may in a small classroom. The other time I cried in class, the time that came back to me when my student walked out my door, was when one of my Bible professors started class with a prayer. He was rattling off names. It took me a couple moments to realize what he was doing.

He was praying for each of us. By name.

Somehow hearing these names, hearing my name, felt powerful to me. And I cried.

Afterwards, he told us he did this every morning. All semester, I had this man (someone I really didn't know in the larger lecture class setting) praying for me every day.

The henna I have on my feet right now, in an effort to memorize the verse, is Philippians 4:6.

Don't be worried. Instead, in prayer and petition and with thanksgiving, bring everything to God in prayer. 

Worrying is in the nature of most people: we stress, we fret, we break down. But God says that, instead of being anxious, we should bring our requests (in thankfulness) to Him. This verse had made me start rephrasing my prayers. Whatever it is that is bothering me generally has its roots in one of God's blessings.

I want our condo to sell: I am so blessed we have a place to live that is warm and welcoming.
I worry I'm not doing a good enough job of multi-tasking: God has blessed me with a family and job and friends and talents and more.

Before I ask God to fix something, I try to think of the blessing in the brokenness.

And when my student walked out my door, I knew I couldn't fix what was hurting her. But I could pray for her. And for all of my students, being thankful that they are in my life, that I have a chance to be in theirs, and asking for peace, strength, and His presence revealed.

this post is linked with

Life In BloomBeholding Glory

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ways to Feel Pretty (during times that aren't pretty)

Let's face it: there are times when we feel a little more frightful and a little less "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). Blah days happen to the best of us, but there are a couple of ways to add some sunshine when the blah clouds approach.

1) Hold a baby.
Not only do you look more lovely face-snuggled up with a little one, you also stand a good chance of some of those sweetness-vibes rubbing off on you.
2) Belt it.
I just recently learned of the saving powers of the right belt. The dress below was a gift from Indonesia from Jenny Kemala, a fashion teacher at O'More College of Design. When I put it on, I was swallowed by the beautiful fabric. I figured the belt wouldn't help, but remembered Jenny telling me to try one, so I did. Belts can make you feel skinnier and more put together.

 3) Get some fake bling.
Early on in my pregnancies, I could no longer wear my wedding or engagement ring. I've gone through two pregnancies and hauled around babies ring-less. I finally decided about a month ago to get myself a honking new bit of bling: this fake yet lovely piece from Target. Since I'm pretty good at playing pretend, I have no difficulty drifting off into the belief that this is the giant diamond of my dreams, and my thrifty side rejoices.
 4) Hair experiment.
Sometimes all you want to do at the end of a long day is put your hair in a messy bun. If you are like me, you feel this is a sign of beauty-defeat. Last week I played around with the classic knot, twisting the front of my hair into a braid-like strand before tying everything off with a rubber band. I felt a bit more "together," and the style only took a minute longer than a regular bun.

 5) Walk in the Word.
I bought some henna, and I've been using a little trick to memorize Bible verses. I write the location on one foot and a part of the verse on the other. For about two weeks, I am daily reminded of God as I repeat the words over and over until they stick. After all that fades, I write in a new verse. Someone noticed and said, "You are walking in the Word!" I like that.
 6) Wear sunglasses.
My mom and I like to walk in the mornings before we have gotten ready for the day, pushing strollers as we chat and exercise. We tend to see more people than we'd like in this messy-faced/hair/body state. Then we realized we feel much more "in cognito" with the simple addition of a pair of sunglasses. The bigger the frames, the better you hide.
 7) Wear a tiara.
Wait--you don't wear a tiara to clean your house? Maybe you should some time.
 8) Laugh.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” --one of the most beautiful women of all time, Audrey Hepburn

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pleated poppy

Friday, August 24, 2012

Psalm 91

I was reading Psalm 91 and was thinking, "God, here it seems you are saying bad won't befall me if I trust in you, but bad things happen to faithful Christians all the time." (I am glad we serve a God who will listen to such words from my questioning spirit without immediately striking me with lightning.)

I still cannot understand the seeming-conflict with that truth of pain and this scripture—and it is the crux of where my fears hit (What if I have one of those "bad things to good people" disasters?)—yet I think the main key is at the end of the verse above: God will be with us in trouble (91:15) and has ultimate comfort and perfection—Heaven, where no bad will befall—ready for us (91:16). Christ's death gives us the chance to be delivered from death, and whatever happens here, we know we have the opportunity of being forever in His light (56:13). So I have to pray for my trust in Salvation to be solid and pray safety over those I love and pray for freedom from fear with words that echo one of the most honest men in scriptures: “Lord, I believe—help Thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

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Friday, August 17, 2012

James 3:13

Thinking this morning about the phrase "actions speak louder than words," but I feel like the James 3:13 (above) brings a new phrase we should live by: "actions and words must align." 

My words cannot distract from my Christian life any more than my lifestyle distract from my testimony. Why is it, further verses also question, that we find it so easy to spew out negativity and filth? 

I think it is because we must be letting those things creep into our hearts some way from somewhere. We need to pin point the areas of our lives that breed these evils that tend to show themselves through our words. I am trying to think today of what those things are in my life. What can I replace them with? I cannot leave a void--my heart craves to be full of something. 

What can I fill it with?

this post is linked up with

friday favorite things | finding joyBeholding Glory

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Grandmother's Legacy

I am part of a prayer group, and each Sunday I reflect on and pray about Heaven. I've been thinking of Heaven a lot lately, and my grandmother's passing last week has only further fueled my ponderings.

At my grandmother's funeral, her brother-in-law (a preacher) talked about the generations she has left behind, the legacy of Lola Bell—it is a fine legacy. We have some oddities here and there, but we are all believers raising our families in Christ, and that is something my grandmother was proud of. 

Her brother-in-law also talked about my grandmother's little girl, who died after only a few hours of life, and how they will get to be reunited. And a couple people at the funeral mentioned that we are sad because we will miss her presence in our life—not because of any fear about her being gone forever.

I feel Heaven is something I struggle with, to be honest with you all—my grandmother has been in decline for a while, and I've wished Heaven for her—so I know that my deep heart knows there is a Heaven, a place I knew she could go and finally have peace again. But lately the idea of getting old feels threatening to me rather than welcoming. My knee is bothering me and may need surgery, my grandmother passed (my third grandparent to leave this earth), and I turn 30 this year. My mortality seems so real.

But there is immortality in Christ. My prayer right now, today...this week, is for us to have an unshakeable faith in knowing of that immortality, and a peace that grows from that—and lives that reflect that knowledge and press to share the peace and hope of our Savior.

My grandmother's life has also made me think a lot lately about how to make this true in my life: "this is my story, this is my song: praising my Savior all the day long" (Fanny Crosby). The song is "Blessed Assurance," which is one of the things I want most in life. So does the chorus give us the secret: that giving our lives to Christ will give us the assurance of His love and presence and of Heaven, which is the ultimate example of His love (in that His death makes it possible for us to go there)?

Married for 61 years, faithfully following my preaching grandfather through various mission fields as a united team, Lola Bell Carter Hilliard was an excellent example to me of giving her life away. The past two weeks I've felt her spirit pushing me to do the same. I haven't figured out exactly how God wishes me to do so, but I am spending the entire week in prayer for my purpose to become obvious to me. I've come to these truths so far:

  1)    I need to give thanks more.
ü  Give glory to God in everything you do, giving thanks (Colossians 3:17). 
ü  Don't be anxious: bring everything to God in thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
  2)    I need to look outward more than inward, finding ways to help others in quietness and   kindness.
ü  Love others as I have loved you, and in this action, people will know you are Mine (John 13:34-35).

I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.

Palmer Hartsough

I keep hearing I look like her: the only better compliment I can think of is hearing I am like her. She was true beauty.

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The Alabaster Jar