Category Archives: Life

When You Just Can’t Catch a Breath

Sometimes we just can’t catch a breath. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the abundance of blessings surrounding us, and it’s not that our faith is gone. It’s just that nothing feels quite settled.

Maybe the news has been beating you down so constantly it has become a mental block. Maybe the circumstances you’ve prayed would change for so long haven’t budged and hope is hanging thin. Maybe the hurt of those around you is piling up and there’s nothing you can do, so you feel overwhelmed.

You know God is powerful and capable, but you also know sometimes circumstances don’t change this side of heaven, so you’re hesitant to expect him to move in a big way. You know prayers get answered, but also sometimes they don’t seem to get answered, so you’re hesitant to pour yourself into prayer.

Maybe the door to *fill in the blank* has been closed so many times, you’d rather not try to open it again than risk finding more pain on the other side.

If any of this rings true, here is my encouragement for you today:

You are enough. You are not deficient. Letting God carry you through the difficulties shows your strength and wisdom as you rely on him. In other words, stop trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You are not that strong in and of yourself. In his arms is the safest place to be.

God is still good. It’s true. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Emotions often lie or embellish. Emotions can help us gather information about ourselves, but they can’t be trusted without reason, logic, and prayer alongside them. Don’t believe everything they tell you or you’ll only end up hurt.

Your pain, hurt, hopelessness, faithlessness, mistakes…none of that defines you. God defines you. And he calls you:

            – a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

            – God’s child (John 1:12)

            – a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)

            – a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)

            – redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)

            – a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

If this is what God says of us, who are we to disagree?

When life feels heavy, don’t retreat. Seek community. Let loved ones help carry your load. Take a step in faith, no matter how small it may seem to anyone else.

And more than anything else, lean into God. Seek silence with him. Create space for him to wrap you in his arms and quietly remind you of his goodness, provision, and love. He’s just waiting for the opportunity to tell you.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you haven’t already, I invite you to sign up for my monthly email encouragements – you’ll receive my free historical romance novella (Love on a Whim) if you do!

Dear Weary Christian Parent

Dear Weary Christian Parent,

First of all, the fact that you’re weary shows that you care; that you’re in it for the long haul. So congratulate yourself for loving your children so thoroughly—you’re doing great.

I hope you know you’re not failing just because you got short with your child, forgot that appointment, or yelled when the chaos was too much. You’re human. And when you get real with them and ask your children’s forgiveness, it will likely come with hugs and smiles, just as it does so lavishly from our Father to us.

Don’t forget that you were never meant to “do it all.” Even Jesus had limits and boundaries. He didn’t heal every person in every town he visited. He rested. He sought solace to pray. He didn’t drive himself into the ground trying to be everything for everyone around him; he was human. And he simply kept his focus on where his Father was leading each day. And one more time for those in the back—he rested.

Remember to use your “yes” sparingly and intentionally. Saying yes to something means saying no to other things, be they organic playdates, much-needed family nights, or that alone time with God that you just haven’t managed to squeeze in lately. Whatever you say “yes” or “no” to, pray and think it through. You don’t win any prizes for having your children in the most activities…you only get burned out. Trust me—unless they are future Olympians, your children would much rather have a present, peaceful parent than a shelf full of trophies.

When things feel too hard and you wonder if you’re just crazy (as we all do), remember—parenting IS hard. Culture is against you and your desire to raise godly, moral humans. We are constantly at battle against the evil one who wants to guide our children away from us…away from God. No wonder you’re weary. Christian parenting takes diligence, patience, and lots of grace, and while it’s wonderful and rewarding, it’s also exhausting.

Let Jesus carry you. His strength is unlimited and it’s ours free through the power of the Holy Spirit. Walking in His strength is a pretty incredible privilege in the Christian life. It’s a game-changer.

A few last reminders for battling the weariness. Prioritize sleep as much as possible. Drink more water and less coffee. Laugh more. Carve out at least a few minutes of solitude to sit at the feet of God and lay your day before him, and you won’t regret it. You just might find your weariness being replaced with strength and the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Love,

Jessie

PS—One final thing. Don’t forget that YOU are the parent God decided your child needed. The pairing is purposeful. Move forward with confidence as you guide your child closer to knowing the God of the universe. Also, take a deep breath and calm those racing, worried thoughts. God’s got this. God’s got you.

A Powerful Trip to CANDLES Holocaust Museum

DOES HISTORY REALLY MATTER?

I dreaded history in school. Too many names, dates, and complex events that I didn’t care enough to understand. It all felt like a world away. Insignificant. Boring.

Imagine my surprise when, decades later, historical fiction began calling to me. Not only to read, but to write. As I began researching for a manuscript I was working on, all of a sudden history came alive. It mattered. The boring names were suddenly humans with real personalities and reasons for doing the things they did.

I hope everyone comes to understand just how important history is, for the purposes of knowing where we came from and where we’re going; knowing what to do, what not to do; when to take a stand, and when to let things blow over. We can only discern these things and work together to benefit our families and country when we know how it has all played out before.

THE POWER OF CANDLES HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

I recently visited CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. CANDLES stands for: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments, and the Center was started by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who lived most of her adult life in Indiana. She passed away in 2019, but spent the last thirty years of her life campaigning for forgiveness and hope.

It’s hard to fathom, but true: In Eva’s later life, she officially declared her forgiveness of Hitler—the one responsible for her horrendous childhood. She forgave the Nazis—those who killed most of her family in gas chambers. And more directly, she forgave Dr. Mengele—the Nazi doctor known for performing medical experiments on twin children in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He performed horrific and often deadly experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of twins, including Eva and her twin sister Miriam, when they were nine years old.

The Holocaust should never have happened, and yet it did. Why? Because Hitler understood how to systematically get people to abandon their core beliefs in favor of what he was convincing them to believe. Much of the public gladly went along with his ideas, as you can see in the image below, taken with permission from CANDLES Museum.

And once Hitler had his followers, it was simple to band together and carry out his goal of purging the human race of those he believed to be inferiors: Jews, homosexuals, Roma, disabled, or anyone else deemed an “asocial”. In the image below, also from the museum, you can see the specific, calculated steps involved in accomplishing the goal.

That intense level of dehumanization and trauma affects each Holocaust survivor uniquely, and many live the rest of their lives with unforgiveness in their hearts. I can’t say I blame them.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

But Eva chose a different path. Eva chose forgiveness. See below to read what forgiveness meant to her:

Maybe we haven’t been traumatized like the Holocaust victims, but we probably all have someone who takes negative residence in our minds and hearts. Someone who makes our anger rise just by thinking about them. We encounter situations time and again that require us to either forgive or live with the frustration that comes with withholding forgiveness.

When we face a person or situation that seems too big to move past, we would all do well to remember Eva, the nine-year-old girl who lived through nightmarish situations most of us can’t even begin to comprehend…and the grown woman who decided enough was enough and finally released the hate, anger, and bitterness in exchange for personal freedom and hope.

We can endeavor to move forward from wherever we feel stuck toward a place of peace and hope. With God’s help, that is. God is the master of forgiveness and fresh starts, and his power resides in us, giving us supernatural strength to do the seemingly impossible—like forgive.

YES, HISTORY DEFINITELY MATTERS

I love the famous quote by George Santayana that says: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If each of us educates ourselves on history, we will be strengthened and empowered to stand up against whatever the world may throw at us next, and together we can keep history from daring to repeat itself. We can also be empowered to forgive when the world does us harm. This is my prayer for each of us.

HISTORY THROUGH FICTION?

One way I love to engage with history is through historical fiction—it makes past events come alive. Let me recommend two favorites.

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin is historical romance that tells of the underground resistance in Paris during the Nazi takeover. It’s an incredible story that I highly recommend.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is a true story and offers lots of awe-inspiring details regarding how her family helped Jews hide out and escape the Nazis, and how Corrie herself survived a concentration camp seeing God’s hand everywhere she looked. This is a remarkable book I wish everyone would read.

And I’d love to share my free WW2 ebook novella, Love on a Whim, with you. You’ll dive into Yvonne’s life on a unique part of the homefront, working at a Canteen, feeding hungry soldiers as they pass through. As she struggles to see where God is leading, a friend’s quick decision just might change her life forever. Just follow the link above, enter your email, and the ebook will arrive in your inbox.

Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments your thoughts, questions, or what historical fiction book YOU recommend!

A Controversial Post … I Guess?

If you aren’t living under a rock, and I assume you’re not since you’re reading this, you know that on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the infamous Roe v Wade ruling from 1973, meaning abortion is no longer deemed an American “right” federally protected by the Constitution. The states now get to decide.

I really, really don’t like to get political online. I like to stay neutral when I can and use social media for connecting with readers, writers, and fellow moms and Jesus-followers. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strong political opinions – ask my close friends and family and you’ll be assured that I do. Sometimes I wade into the choppy online political waters, but I’ve learned that the interwebs aren’t the most productive places to spout opinions and convictions. 😉 However, to be honest, sometimes I don’t want to keep my mouth shut. Especially when it’s an issue of morality.

There is plenty of wiggle room for differences of opinions on many topics in the news these days. But I stand with my pastor, David Wigington, when he recently wrote these words…

“Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is a victory for unborn children and a victory for life. This ends federal protection for a practice that I believe grieves the heart of God and should grieve the heart of every follower of Jesus. Over 60 million babies have been aborted in my lifetime. Every one of those 60 million babies were known and loved by God. But yesterday’s ruling marks the beginning of the church’s work and not the end. The world needs to see us ACTING with compassion toward the unborn and the born and toward their mothers and fathers… saving these children is about MORE than just ending abortion. I’m also aware I have friends who have lived through horrible nightmares of their own and feel very differently than I do about this issue. Just know that I love you and I see you and I want to hear your story.”

Last night I saw someone being interviewed on the news saying pro-lifers don’t care about what happens to the baby once it’s born. The fact that this is widely believed disgusts me, so let me say loud and clear: YES, we need to protect ALL life, not only the unborn. YES, we need to provide assistance and counseling to pregnant women and do what we can to support them throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. YES, we need to make sure the child is loved and cared for after birth. YES, we have work to do in many different areas, and YES, there is healing and compassion for those on the other side of abortion. But in formulating our convictions, we have to start with life. None of it matters if life isn’t given a chance.

On June 24th, while I was celebrating a win for human life along with many others, some Christians were angered by the ruling. Pro-choicers chant “My body, my choice!” while pro-lifers respond, “But it’s not your body; it’s a baby’s body, with its own DNA and everything!” So where is the massive disconnect between sides? (And massive, it is!!) The truth is, there is an inherent difference to how we view the very definition of life. Pro-lifers don’t believe the issue has anything to do with women’s health; it’s a matter of a child’s inherent right to live. Pro-choicers don’t believe a fetus is a baby up to a certain point (and that point changes dramatically depending on who you’re talking to), and therefore they make it an issue of women’s healthcare.

According to a 2018 article from SSRN , 45% of Americans believe that the statement human life begins at conception is a philosophical or religious belief, while 95% of biologists believe it’s a fact that human life begins at conception.

Chew on that one for a minute. Keep chewing. Now, leaving God out of it for the sake of conversation with not-yet-Christians, who should we trust to define life? Biologists – whose job it is to study life? Or the American public with all their whims and opinions? I’ll leave that rhetorical.

People on both sides of the issue are extremely fired up right now, and I’m watching long-standing relationships crumble around me before my very eyes between people who can’t see beyond opinions to the person holding them. Whatever side you’re on, if you’re holding tightly to opinions but aren’t able to lay emotions aside and discuss your views using facts while also seeing clearly that the person you’re disagreeing with is a human being made in God’s image , you might want to rethink some things.

I could talk about this all day, but here’s my final thought. If we don’t show love to those we disagree with, the divide will only deepen. America’s temper is rising rapidly and it needs us all to take a deep breath before we speak. Find common ground as a starting point. Don’t shut people down. Remember that most pro-choicers have complex fears and reasons for believing so. While I will never agree with them, I can listen and love them and try to understand, all while praying they come to see life at every age and stage as the miracle it is – a gift worthy of protection from the instant God created it.

Let me leave you with a few verses that spoke to me this morning. I pray they soak into your heart as well.

“Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See than none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”  — 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-19, 23-24

50 Screen-Free Ideas to Beat Boredom at Home

Summer is upon us! According to the school calendar, that is. *Insert happy dance.* The cold winter, fool’s spring, second winter, and mud season have most of us – Midwesterners, at least – ready for the long days of summer. But for those of us with children, we may be facing long hours at home with kids who inevitably come to us with the dreaded words: I’m bored.

Not to worry! Read on for a list of 50 screen-free ideas to beat your school-age child’s boredom this summer. If you’re a family like us who limits screen time, this list is for you. Most of these ideas can be adapted to suit a broad age range. And if you don’t have kids at home, you may just want to tuck this list away for the next time the kids in your life visit…or even try them yourself!

Since my suggestions of chores are always met with groans by my children (can’t say I blame them), we came up with this list of fun, simple things to do at home on those days when there’s just nothing to do. Most are free, depending on what you do or don’t have lying around the house. I’m not claiming all these ideas are unique or mind-blowing, but it is nice to have them all compiled in one spot. Funny how easy it can be to forget the simple things when you’re booored. 😉

Here we go:

50 SCREEN-FREE IDEAS TO BEAT BOREDOM AT HOME

  1. Paint
  2. Bake
  3. Read
  4. Play in the hose
  5. Frisbee
  6. Play catch
  7. Train the family pet to do a new trick
  8. Write a real letter to a relative, friend, or celebrity
  9. Exercise
  10. Make up a dance
  11. Play an instrument
  12. Build a small boat out of household items and see if it floats
  13. Play Doh
  14. Board games
  15. Solitare (with real cards)
  16. Experiment with new hairstyles
  17. Sidewalk chalk
  18. Write a story
  19. Write a song
  20. Make up a skit
  21. Make homemade puppets
  22. Put on a puppet show
  23. Have a family talent show
  24. Dehydrate something (apple slices, for instance)
  25. Search for toads or caterpillars
  26. Puzzles
  27. Balance a broom handle on your palm in the yard – try to beat your time
  28. Leave wildflowers on someone’s porch
  29. Design a family flag
  30. Make a smoothie
  31. Research safe, local edible plants and forage
  32. Make a fort
  33. Water balloon fight
  34. Press flowers and use clear packing tape to create bookmarks
  35. Leaf rubbings
  36. Wildlife sketches
  37. Dig a hole
  38. Have a tea party – pretend with youngers or go all out with charcuterie with olders
  39. Legos
  40. Cross stitch
  41. Knit or crochet
  42. Make up jokes
  43. Call a relative and ask them about their childhood
  44. Wash the car
  45. Play dress-up
  46. Origami
  47. Carve a bar of soap into a piece of art
  48. Whittle
  49. Practice starting a fire (in a designated fire pit with adult supervision)
  50. Make a card for someone “just because”

Occasionally my kids lose screen time for one reason or another, and I have to say – after moping a little, they come alive and get really creative. I’m even planning on designating one day per week this summer as screen-free. Join me, and watch your kids develop new interests and ideas!

And if you have tween/teen children who could use some inspiration in their Christian faith this summer, my book, Power Up, was written exactly for that purpose. The spiritual formation of tweens is easy to overlook in a busy family life, so I hope you find this book to be a helpful resource this summer!

As precious as our children are, parenting is no easy task, and we need each other’s support, so feel free to share this with anyone who might find it useful. Also, let me know in the comments if you’re joining us for a screen-free day each week this summer! Let’s unplug and bring some simplicity and serenity back to childhood. And last, this list is certainly not comprehensive, so let me know below what ideas I’m missing – I’d love to extend our list!

Thanks for reading, and God bless!