Monday, October 31, 2011

The Past Four Months.

Well hello there. I feel like I should re-introduce myself since it’s been FOUR MONTHS since I’ve been inspired to post on here. Actually, let me take that back—I’ve felt inspired many times in that four months, however, I haven’t seemed to have time or make time to sit down and collect my thoughts. I’ve literally been “on the go” for four months now, and I can vaguely see the light at the end of the tunnel called “Christmas break.”

It’s been a pretty good four months… here’s the recap (or at least what I remember):
In July I went to the worldwide ZUMBA Instructors convention in Orlando with two dear friends and it was INSANE... in a good way. Imagine gathering around 7,000 dancing fanatics in crazy clothes from all over the world in one room with loud music. It was a dance party like none other. I learned a lot and it was tons of fun… despite not being able to feel my body for most of the time. It was also on this trip that I encountered an incident I like to refer to as the “not-so-lazy-river.” This story can only be done justice for me to tell in-person, so if you personally know me, ask me about it. It’s okay; I’m over it and will laugh with you.

Right when I think I can take a slight break from work, August appears and school starts back. However, speaking of school, this was the first August that I myself was not starting back to school in 21 years (insert a “thank you Jesus” here). Not only do I start to re-focus on my work for the new school year in August, but there’s also this event called the Kentucky State Fair that I’m asked to attend for work. Between kids’ exhibits, talent acts, free concerts, country ham, corn in a cup and deep-fried Snickers bars, I soaked up about all the state fair I could to hold me over until next August. Also, my best friend got married in August and it was such a fun and special day!

In September, I worked. A lot. I sold hundreds of country ham biscuits. I planned and taught programs. I raised a lot of money and organized a horse show. I taught kids how to eat with chopsticks. And I had one fun hangout day with my best friends from college. And then POOF!! September was gone.

I knew October was going to be crazy, as far as my work schedule, but it had a few unexpected turns along the way. I went to Atlanta for a week to visit my dear, sweet friend Sarah, who recently moved there for grad school. We attended Catalyst, a Christian-based leadership conference that had some amazzzzzing speakers and really renewed and inspired my heart. Also while there, I got to be a tourist (I know you're shocked...). We visited the Coca-Cola Factory, Centennial Olympic Park, among other attractions. We also saw the musical “Wicked” for the second time at the beautiful Fox Theatre.

The next week was spent in Tennessee with close to 200 high school students at a leadership conference. The kids seemed to have fun—and that’s what it’s all about—but I, too, enjoyed getting to know some of my co-workers better and realizing that I might just make it in this job.

The following week was spent doing the Mexican Hat Dance 200 times (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration) and teaching kids about safety.

And last week, I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska for the national 4-H agents’ conference, where I went to a really cool zoo, ate some great Omaha steaks, bought a dress at Target (because heaven forbid they don’t have the same dress in Lexington’s Target), went to some great workshops and seminars, bought homemade cheese (and then almost didn’t get through the airport with it) and had some great laughs with some fun co-workers.

All the while that these were very fun things, I was also dealing with the emotions of my grandmother’s (“Nannie” as I refer to her) diagnosis of kidney cancer, which is incredibly sad and I have still not completely dealt with. On the opposite end of the sad spectrum, I was also dealing with the emotions and territory of new beginnings with an incredible guy to which I just adore (and who happens to adore me, which is rather convenient). He deserves his very own post at a later date. ☺

Therefore, looking back on the past four months, I have experienced highs and lows, and often at the very exact same moment. (Yes, it’s possible.) Sometimes I wonder if life will ever slow down, and then I wonder if I’d be content or know what to do with myself if it actually did. I’m currently happy, thankful, scared, tired, and hopeful all at the same time. I am thankful that the Lord is in control and has kept me safe in His plan for the past four months… and will continue to for as long as He has planned. I just don’t know what I’d do without Him.

I promise to try not to let four more months go by. What have you been up to?
Much love to you all!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two Nephews and a Niece.

I love kids. Obviously I must, since my entire job revolves around them. However, even from the age of being a kid myself, I loved to play “house” and “mommy” and wrap up my baby dolls in towels or any form of blanket I could find. Children are a blessing from the Lord and it is the desire of my heart that someday He will bless me with one (or 2… or 3… or 4… ). However, until His timing, I am so blessed to get to love and spoil all of my friends kids instead!!

Since I’m an only child, I do not have any biological nieces or nephews. So instead, I tell my friends that if they let their kids call me Aunt Jessica, I will buy them things, babysit and pretty much spoil them in all ways possible. In the past 2 months, two of my friends from different paths of life have taken me up on this offer and given me two nephews and a niece!!

Let’s start out with my sweet boys, Abram and Ellis. Their momma and daddy, Liz and Tony, are two of my very dearest friends. Liz and I were college roommates and it has been so special to see her evolve into a wife and mother! Abram and Ellis are the product of a lot of prayers and God’s plan, as they were born in Ethiopia and brought to their forever home here in America in May. Being at the airport that day to see them come home will be one of the most memorable days of my life! Their story is a beautiful picture of adoption not only into a loving family here on earth, but the adoption Christ offers us into His family through His sacrifice on the cross. Abram and Ellis are the CUTEST boys ever (see below). Check out their story here:

Holly, myself and Cheryl waiting for our
sweet boys to arrive at the airport!

A little blurry, but Aunt Jess with Abram!
(And the "A" shirt I made him!)

Can he get any cuter? Baby Ellis.

The Wells' Family!

So if two nephews wasn’t exciting enough, I also became “Aunt Jess” to a sweet little princess born last week, Haleigh Jo! Her momma, Staci, is a co-worker who, after traveling around the country for ten days together, has become a dear, special friend as well. I learned of Haleigh Jo when her momma (who I hadn’t really known well for long) looked at me in the airport and told me that she had just found out she was pregnant, and that if anything happened on this trip, she needed someone else besides her husband to know. I was sworn to secrecy and had to take up for her being “tired” among our other co-workers on our travels. I joked with Staci that because of that kind of pressure she put on me, I automatically became an aunt to her child. Haleigh Jo is also the product of a lot of prayers, for a safe, healthy pregnancy and healthy baby-- which she is! It has already been discussed that she will come stay a week with me during the summers and I will teach her to play piano, teach her Zumba, jump on beds, let her eat as much sugar as she wants, and then send her back home. Haleigh Jo is pretty much the most perfect little girl ever, but then again, I’m a little partial.

Sleeping Princess! Haleigh Jo Thrasher

Haleigh Jo with some of her favorites!

Momma & Daddy & their pretty girl!

Aunt Jess, very glad to finally be holding HJT!

I am a pretty proud Aunt!!
“Children are a heritage from the Lord…” –Psalm 127:3

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just Right.

Hello, friends! So since my last post, I turned 26 (and am still not sure how I feel about it), GRADUATED with my master’s degree (I know you’re equally as excited if just for the fact that I’ll stop complaining about it!), got two new nephews (Abram & Ellis- the sweetest boys in the world!), had a successful moment at work (way to go demonstration kids!), saw my hand twin/dearest friend find true love (and marry him on the only day in April that it did not rain!), had some fun weekends (orange leaf. Forever 21. Baby penguins at the zoo.) and I’m probably forgetting much more.

It’s been a busy spring, but a good spring. I’ve got to love on a lot of people, which is my favorite, and I’ve even enjoyed a few of the rainy days (okay, maybe 3 out of 60… when I could hear it on my roof and then realized it was Saturday). I’m about to come into my busiest “season” of work for the entire year… camps. conferences. trips. events. The other day I told someone I was going to wait and start a project after the next 5 crazy, busy weeks of my life were over… and then I read this quote on someone’s Facebook status:

“Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.”---(Mark Victor Hansen)

Good gosh. You might as well have punched me in the face with this quote. Mark Victor Hansen (God Bless him) might as well have written “Dear Jessica”, then the quote, and “Love, Mark” at the end.

I love this quote. I love what is says and stands for. And sadly, I envy this quote because I am no good at doing this at all. I want to be, and I am praying about and daily working on having this mindset. I have seen in my family and community this year, more so than ever, than life is short and that we may not get the time here on earth to wait until everything is “just right” to start living our dreams and taking chances.

I’m much better at giving advice than taking it, but I hope that we all can get started now and not put off dreams until “things are just right.” Our version of “just right” and God’s version of “just right” are most likely totally different.

What are you going to stop putting off?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Farewell, 25...

I enjoy birthday’s… usually other people’s better than my own. Contrary to popular belief, I really don’t like being the center of attention and quite frankly sometimes don’t know how to deal with something being “about me.” Awkward, I know. However, I have some of the best friends and family IN THE WORLD that have made me feel so very special each year that I get older.

As I pass the “quarter” stage of life, and move on to 26, I am thankful for 25 and the good and bad that came with it…

In year 25, I started teaching Zumba. For those of you who do know me well, or stalk my Facebook page, may say I’m obsessed with it. It’s possible. I like to think that a more constructive word for my love and enjoyment for teaching these classes is “passionate.” As crazy as you may think I am about Zumba, it has been such a blessing in my life this year. Teaching these classes has pushed me wayyyy out of my comfort zone, allowed me to network and build friendships with many new people, make some extra money, get more involved in the community I work in, as well as the one I live in, have fun, believe in myself more and become a healthier me.

25 saw both challenges and rewards in my job. I work with some great people and great kids. I learned more about my “supervision style,” more about how I handle pressure, and through it all, hope I made a difference in the community.

25 marked the 20th year of me being in school…. And thankfully, the LAST!!! I finished my Master’s degree with God’s help, and a lot of love and support from many of you reading this!

In year 25, I purchased a new vehicle, which I love, love, love. Those of you who know me well know that I do spend a lot of time in a vehicle, thus I am very thankful to have the means to drive something I feel safe in and that has plenty of room!! (God Bless the Camaro.)

25 saw the Grand Canyon for the first time and went to a World Series baseball game. 25 had fun days at Keeneland, UK basketball games, camping trips, shopping trips, baseball games and concerts. 25 caught a few more bouquets and celebrated with friends as their families grew. 25 started this blog and actually posted stuff on it for practically a month!

25 saw people come in and out of my life, a lot of tough decisions, a lot of tears, a lot of laughs, love, heartbreak, truth, loss, new friends, old friends, prayers and blessings. Even though 25 was a good year and yet hard year, I am thankful for it.

I’m not really a “new year resolution” kind of person (no matter when one declares the “new year”) but I do hope that in year 26, I can laugh more, and love on people more. Show God’s love more. Try not to care what others think and be more comfortable in my own skin. Take a few more chances. Take a few more trips. Learn a new instrument or take up a new hobby. Keep learning (just not for another degree!)... And hopefully be blessed to write about 26 this time next year!

Thanks for the birthday wishes!! Love you all!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


First, let me apologize for being a slacker on the “31 Days of Life Lessons” blogging challenge. Initially, I had planned on consecutively blogging every day in the month of January, but I failed. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you— I did, in Day #1.)

Second, THANK YOU for reading this. I’ve been surprised and so thankful for the sweet comments and messages some of you have sent me about it. YOU re-confirm that I’m supposed to writing this!

Still wanting to keep my commitment, welcome life lesson #19:

“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. Joy costs pain.”

As you know, I’m all about trying to encourage people to tell great stories with their lives. It is a beautiful concept, but I fear that I forgot to mention that it’s not always going to be easy. Actually, there’s nothing easy about it at all— telling a great story is WORK.

Telling a great story is going to look different for each person, but is guaranteed to still require effort. change. chance. uncertainty. faith. trust. fear. and most likely tears (guys, it’s okay to cry. promise.) and pain. Sounds appealing, huh?

People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.

Joy costs pain.

I promise (and even more so, God promises) that doing what it takes to tell a great story is totally worth it now and in the future… so don’t be discouraged when you see a little more pain at times before joy. The joy will come, and when it does, you will be thankful for all the things you went through, and work you had to do to get to that place. It makes you a stronger person and more than that, makes your story better.

“… weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” Psalm 30:5

Hang in there… joy is on its’ way!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A great story.

As you know, the title of this blog, and a “life lesson” that I try to live by is “May we tell beautiful stories instead of waiting for stories to happen to us.” I want to tell you a story about someone who did just that.

I actually started typing this post on Monday morning, and had no more gotten the first sentence typed when my entire life changed. And today I come back to this life lesson, which I am even more inspired to take to heart.

Bryan had turned 23 last week. He was the youngest of seven of us grandchildren. He was always very laid-back, easy-going and very kind-hearted. I have so many childhood memories with him in them…. especially Easter egg hunts, playing on the hill beside our grandparents house and so many birthday parties, holiday gatherings and life milestones that he was always a part of. He was outnumbered by us girls, and we would try to talk him into playing Barbies and “house” with us instead of cars. Even though I was little myself, I couldn’t wait to push him around in my baby doll stroller… because what’s more fun that a REAL baby to put in it?

I do not understand why his life had to end this week, and as much as I want an explanation, I’m not supposed to know. I do not need to question God, because time and time again, He has shown me that His plans are better than ours. He is in control. But it’s still sad. hard. painful. heartbreaking.

However, through all of the heartbreak our family is going through, a beautiful story of his life has been told this week. Bryan lived for each day. He worked hard at his job, and at his relationships with family and friends. He had fun and enjoyed life. He was a loyal friend. He really cared about others. He told a beautiful story with his life, and the outpouring of love, prayers and support we received this week was a testament to that.

While at the moment, we cannot imagine anything good coming from our loss, we must trust the Lord that He can mend our hearts and make something beautiful out of this situation. So many people have asked if there’s anything they can do for our family—there is. First, pray. Pray for comfort. peace. healing. Second, make an extra effort to tell a beautiful story with your own life, just like Bryan did with his. Be caring. Help people. Take chances. Both show and tell people you love them. Do whatever you need to do to live each day to the fullest.

Our family is so very appreciative for all of the love and support that so many of you have shown us this week. It’s overwhelming, humbling and brought a great deal of peace and comfort.

Bryan will always be loved SO VERY MUCH by so many that knew him. I am so glad that I got to be a small part of his life story. What a great one it was.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths.” –Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day #18

#18: Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God no matter the conflict.

I cannot think about the concept of peace without thinking of the clip from the movie, Miss Congeniality, where all the pageant contestants want "world peace." (I tried to place the clip here for you, but it wouldn't let me, so CLICK HERE to see it.)

Ahhh, good ‘ol world peace. While I do laugh while seeing this clip, and as cheesy as it sounds to say it, wouldn’t it be great to have world peace?

There is conflict everywhere. There is conflict across the world, where brave and courageous American soldiers work for the safety of those near and far. (THANK YOU!) There is conflict in communities. schools. homes. relationships. friendships. families. the workplace. within yourself. Conflict will happen, and as long as we’re humans on this earth, we cannot escape it. It may be something huge, or something not even visible to anyone but yourself. However, when in conflict, emotions are high. stress is even higher. and panic and desperation sets in to find a solution.

That solution is peace.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God no matter the conflict.

When conflict arises, give it on over to God. Even though He already knows all about it, He loves for us to trust Him at His word and believe that He is in control. There is no conflict in your life too big for God. When we turn it over to Him, knowing He is with us every step of the way brings indescribable peace through the uncertainties. tears. dilemmas. knots in your stomach. disappointments. difficult conversations.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33

Don’t live in conflict.
Choose a better story. Choose peace.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day #17

Day #17: Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

(I wish I would’ve posted this a few days ago, as this wise and profound statement was made by a man who demonstrated his faith daily, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

This week, I got the chance to spend a few hours with a super cute kid who is nine months old…. and on the verge of walking. He is like a race car when he crawls (especially when he sees his brown blanket) and is testing the waters with this whole concept of walking. He pulls up on everything, and wants you to help him walk until he wants to sit down. He then pulls back up, walks, sits. And repeats. Over. And Over. And Over. He thinks it’s great. It’s what kids do in the process of learning to walk. And one day (very soon), he’ll only need you to hold one of his hands, and then “TA-DA!”…he’ll be walking on his own.

The process of walking is human nature. It just happens. Babies don’t question it. They don’t even really get scared (unless they fall down… and then a good cry and probably brown blanket does the trick). They get back up and go at it again until they get it…. One step at a time. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we did in life was with a similar attitude to this? That we didn’t question so many things. That we didn’t get so worked up over things. That we had enough faith to take that first step, even when we don’t see the whole staircase.

After my last knee surgery, in the literal sense, I really had to muster up some faith to take one step. I was leg-brace free and although the doctors and therapists said my knee would be fine to walk on, I stood frozen, most likely with a tear rolling down my face. (The tear ducts worked pretty good those months.) I remember it being one of the silliest yet scariest things I had to do. Literally take a step.

However, while a few of you might understand that kind of first step, this quote and blog is really about the “figurative” steps we have to take in our lives. Taking a chance. Changing careers. Moving. Starting friendships/relationships. Ending friendships/relationships. Trying something new. Forgiving someone. Following your gut. Or your heart. Believing in yourself. Trusting again. Making that phone call. Telling someone how you feel. Stop worrying about what the world might say. (Insert your own leap of faith here.)

Mustering up faith to take that first step isn’t always easy…. It can come with fear. anxiety. panic. But you CAN do it! And once you take that first step into the unknown, it gets easier. You take another step… and another… and before you know it, you will wonder why it took you so long to take that very first step…. And you will also be on your way to telling an even better story with your life.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” –Hebrews 11:1

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Start walking.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day #16

#16: If you succeed the first time, try something harder.

I know we’ve all heard the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” However, since I rarely seem to do or say things in a conventional way, I’d like to change that a bit to say “If at first you DO succeed, try, try again...and try something harder.”

I’m in no way being a “Debbie Downer” on success. (And if your name is Debbie and you’re reading this, I’m really sorry to associate you with being discouraged. I’m sure you’re great.) I love success! I love to attempt something and succeed. Within success there is a sense of pride and accomplishment that contributes to life. I love it when people around me give it their best and succeed. What I probably love the most is when the kiddo’s I work with try their hand at something and succeed. I don’t know a human that hates accomplishing a positive goal. I cannot picture Sandra Bullock accepting an Oscar by saying “Gosh, I wish I really hadn’t won this. I dedicated my whole life to working hard to get to where I am, but I really didn’t want to win this coveted award.” And if she really did say that, she’d be acting. It's her job.

In my mind, success has no real timeframe. It’s different for everyone. What takes you two weeks to accomplish might take me two years. However, no matter when we succeed, we can’t become complacent and think that was all we were meant to do.

Therefore, constructive and positive success is great. However, when you do succeed at something, KEEP TRYING. I’m not saying the first go-around at success wasn’t good enough, but I’m saying don’t stop with success. Keep setting goals. Keep working. Keep dreaming. Keep pushing yourself for further greatness. Keep making a difference in your life and the lives of others. Keep telling a better story every day.

If you succeed the first time, try something harder.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


#15: Live like someone died for you.

Because someone did.

There are going to be days in life when you feel completely alone, yet still surrounded by people. There will be days that you feel overcome with guilt. shame. helplessness. confusion. There will be days that you feel unlovable and that no one is ever going to understand. accept the real you. love you.
In these days, you can choose to sulk. be down about your life situation. give up hope. OR you can choose to live like someone died for you.

To live like someone died for you is to claim the peace, joy, forgiveness and love that Jesus died to give you, and spread it. Spread it through every part of your day. To live like someone died for you is to live with a purpose. To tell a better story.

God loved you and I so much that he gave his only child so that we could experience that love. His child, Jesus, was a man… human… with feelings and emotions just like us. And yet he was obedient and loved us too, so he let people mock him. Beat him. Call him names. Torture him. And hang him to die. All because he loved me. All because he loved you.

So when you feel like no one cares, or that the entire world (and/or your world) is falling to pieces, choose to live like someone died for you. People will notice the difference. And you’ll be amazed at the difference in your own attitude and heart.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” –John 3:16
(Want to know more? Click HERE!)

Day #14

(I'm a few days behind... forgive me!)

Day #14: This bad time you’re going through right now is merely IN your life. It’s not your whole life.

Okay, before going any further, read the above statement one more time.

Today (technically yesterday, since it’s now after midnight), I woke up in a cranky mood. As the day proceeded, everything I tried to do seemed to fall apart or have technical difficulty. I tried to be productive with the day but it felt like I was treading water, just trying to stay afloat. It was not my best day. However, I had to keep thinking that if I’m blessed with tomorrow, it’d be a new day, and hopefully a better one. My bad day was just one day IN my week… doesn’t mean I have to let it define my entire week, or for the purpose of this blog, my entire life.

We’re going to have bad days. There will be disappointing days. Day we question if we’re doing what we’re meant to do. Days that we’ll wish we could go back or forward instead of being in that particular moment. However, in all of these days (which could be back-to-back-to-back— you know the kind of week I’m talking about— or could be over a series of a lifetime), we must remember that these are just moments in our life and do not define what our entire life will be.

I’m a fairly dramatic person— sometimes for comedic relief and I am fully aware of it, and other times I really just am dramatic. I can remember a few times in my college years that I would call home, dramatically sobbing (however, first declaring that I indeed was alive and not in any danger to ease the worry of my parents) and declare that I would never make it through this or that, let alone make it through college. In that moment, I thought that bad time was my entire life falling to shambles, instead of just a moment of life that I happened to be in. My mom’s favorite line to use in my dramatic moments is “In five years, is this really going to matter?” Well, it has been several years since those dramatic phone calls to home, and to be honest, I can’t remember what a single one of them was specifically about.

I say all of this to remind you that no matter what is going on in your life right now that may not seem most desirable, do not let it define your outlook on the future, or outlook on life. Yes, things happen that alter our lives tremendously, but life will continue to go on and we must choose to process and learn from the tough times, and keep moving forward.

A verse that I’ve clung to for many, many years now tells me that “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope, and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

This bad time you’re going through right now is merely IN your life. It’s not your whole life.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day #13:

Day #13: Although you may not be getting what you want in life, you may be getting what you need.

Ahhh, the age-old “wants vs. needs” debate.
This is one of my favorite topics of discussion with the elementary school kids I work with. In conjunction with consumerism and economics lessons and programs, this talk always comes up. I sometimes name off, or hold up pictures, of items and ask them to tell me if they think it’s a WANT or a NEED.

And in this exercise, most 3rd and 4th graders voice that a television, video game system, movies and 4-wheeler are necessities to life. Food, water, air, and shelter are just “basics” that come later.

Ironically, you don’t have to be in 3rd or 4th grade to deal with wants and needs. By the time we have hit our adulthood, we can process the basics, but let’s face it, we can still struggle with differentiating wants and needs in our lives.

We might reallllllly want that:
picket fence.
smaller waist.
(insert your own want here)

But do we need it?

As the theme of this blog seems to go, life isn’t going to be just as we expected. Being a realist here, we’re not going to get everything that we want. However, the wonderful thing about that is (yes, wonderful can be found in it) is that the Lord still provides everything that we NEED. Maybe you do need a job—if the Lord knows that and sees that it is best for you and what you truly need, then He will provide. I know of couples who have wanted a family with kids for years and years, and when the Lord knew it was time that they needed it, He provided them with beautiful children.

Even better, sometimes the Lord sees that our need is completely different and even more amazing than what we could’ve imagined that we wanted.

“But my God shall supply ALL your needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:19 (note that it doesn’t say some of them… ALL of them)

So remember, although you may not be getting what you want in life, you may be getting exactly what you need.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day #12

Day #12: The great stories go to those who do not give into fear.

While trying to figure out how to tell a better story with your life, there are still going to be obstacles that get in the way. One of the largest, yet most unspoken and secretive obstacles in our lives is that of fear.

Everyone has fear. Some people classify fear into categories … big fears. small fears. silly, ridiculous fears. Some label fear with negative connotations… fear means weakness. insecurity. incompentence. I like to think that fear is fear, and that no matter what it consists of, it is something everyone deals with and is nothing to be ashamed of.

I think that the key of fear is maybe not trying so hard to get rid of it, but just not giving into it. As Day #7 noted, “Progress, no matter how slow, is all that matters.” Our lives will be filled with fear, but if we take steps toward facing it, and not let it cripple us, then we don’t give in and instead begin telling a better story.

Once I knew I wanted to tell a better story, I quickly realized that I had a lot of fear to face in order to do so. Again, sometimes society views fear as weakness and realizing this, I knew my first step towards facing fear was admitting I had fear. And by admitting I had fear, I mean literally telling people.

I fear rejection.
I fear failure.
I fear volleyball. (You think it’s silly? I do too. But it’s a literal fear I have from the 5th grade… ties in with the failure one. A blog post about this will come at a later time.)
I fear being alone.
I fear the things my children will have to face someday, and if I’ll be a good parent.

What are some of your fears in life?

We are human. Fear will happen, but we can’t let it overtake our lives. Even if it’s just telling someone about your fears, that is a start… and you can tell your friends and family, but I encourage you to tell the Lord about them too. He obviously knows them all anyhow, but He delights when we come to Him and more so, turn these fears over to Him.

“For God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

HE is greater than fear, and will help us move towards freedom.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day #11

#11: See awful as AWEful.

Have you ever just had an awful day? The kind of day where nothing goes right, everything falls apart, and you wish there was a “re-do” button for the day? Sure you have…. We all have… sometimes more times that we think necessary.

When it’s one of those days, or when something happens that you just think is terrible, try seeing awful as AWEful.

Merriam-Webster (the ultimate defining guru) defines the word AWE as the following: "a strong feeling of respect, fear or wonder." When I think of times I’ve been in awe of something, it usually has to do with babies, nature and traveling. Most recently, I was in complete and utter awe at my first sight of the Grand Canyon. I’m not going to lie- I had tears in my eyes when I looked at its beauty and more so, thought of the beauty of the One who created it.

Can you think of a time you’ve been in awe of something? One of those take-your-breath-away moments? I’m going to guess it probably wasn’t on one of your worst days. However, imagine if every time something “awful” happened, or we were down on our luck, that we tried to find “awe” in it…. That we trusted that the Lord had a plan, and that we could still find some joy, respect, fear or wonder in the situation.

I challenge you to never look at “awful” the same again! Instead, be “AWEful!”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day #10

#10: Don’t get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

I will be the first one to admit that I have been completely guilty of this, and am trying to improve. It’s always been important to me to get an education and find a job that I can really apply myself to and enjoy. I have that job, and feel that I’ve worked my way from the unpaid internships, volunteer hours, etc. to get there. However, even from the time I was fresh out of college, I jumped right into work and made that my top priority. I wanted to work my way up the career ladder and I did. However, once I made that step up (and move back home), I threw myself even more into my work, half because that’s what I do, and half because I was the new kid in town (who happened to be from out of town) and I had a lot to prove. Long hours. crazy hours. weekends. 12-passenger vans. Oh, and did I mentioned kids? I knew it was all part of the job, and I had willingly signed up for it.

I’m a fan of hard work. I think it’s important to be dedicated to a job you’ve committed to and do your best work always. I love my job. However, one year went by…. Two years went by… and one day, I finally read a sign that I had hanging in my office since the very first day on the job…
“Dear Lord, please help me not to be so busy making a living that I forget to make a life. Amen.”
It was as if a light from heaven appeared on that sign (insert angelic singing in the background here) and the Lord was actually saying, “Dear Jessica, You are way too busy trying to make a living. Slow down, and make a life. And make it a good one. Love, God.”

Again, careers are important. The money provided by these careers is important. Hard work is important. Goals are important. I have a great opportunity within my job to influence the lives of so many, especially youth, and I take that very seriously. However, if I’m not telling a good story with my entire life—especially life outside of work—then I know that my work will really not be complete.

Life is busy.
What consumes your time?
Do you make just a living? Or a life? Or both?
It’s possible to have both, but we must remember that loving God and loving people is what really matters, and the rest will fall into place.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day #9

Day 9: “I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God, even when He is silent. I believe.”

This is the beautiful chorus to a song called “I Believe in Love” by one of my favorite Christian bands, BarlowGirl. I started writing this blog, and then looked up the song on YouTube to let you hear it…. Instead, the story behind this song and lyrics itself says more than I could write.

Yes, I am aware that the video is 8 minutes and 25 seconds long… don’t act like you wouldn’t spend that much time on Facebook or checking your email anyhow! I promise if you take the time to listen (because the video itself is a little shaky), you will hopefully have a new perspective on things.

Again, “I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God, even when He is silent. I believe.”
Do you?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day #8

#8: Great things sometimes occur as a series of small things.

Going along with the theme of progress, sometimes we have to go through the small things in life to get to better, greater things. I think we often get this misconception that life should hand us everything we want, when we want it, and more so, it’s all going to be great, fun and exciting. Is this reality? Unfortunately, no.

Life isn’t always fun, but when it is, and when great things do happen, if we truly looked back on the path to “greatness,” it was most likely filled with smaller tasks/occurrences/happenings that had to happen first.

Cheesy comparisons include:
-A puzzle…. If it wasn’t for all the small pieces fitting together, you wouldn’t see the bigger picture of Mona Lisa, a cottage with flowers, or a cat (you know the puzzles I’m talking about).
-A Cake…. Through a series of individual ingredients that may not look like they’re delicious, out comes a yummy sweet treat to enjoy (in my instance, funfetti or red velvet flavor, haha). Even a teaspoon can make or break a recipe.
-Athletics…. Although I’m not very athletic, I hear that through some of the “smaller/less exciting” tasks such as practice, watching films, studying plays, etc. often leads to “great/more exciting” things, such as winning, going pro, etc.

So even if you don’t like to work puzzles, bake or play sports, I hope you get the gist of what I’m trying to say…. As we tell our life story, there are going to be “small things” (people. experiences. jobs. grief. joy.) that may seem insignificant or mundane, but remember that great things sometimes occur as a series of all of these small things coming together.

I sometimes like to think that God finds humor and pleasure in watching us humans, going through life and trying to make sense of it all…. He orchestrates every moment of our lives, and while we get worked up about the “small things” that might not seem to mean anything, He has a purpose for them all.

So get excited about the small things…. Greatness is coming!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day #7

#7: Progress, no matter how slow, is all that matters.

First off, let’s all give Jessica a pat on the back for blogging seven days straight! ☺ While this seems very silly, compared to my prior infrequent blogging, or material to blog, I’m quite proud.

That being said, today’s lesson seems very appropriate…. Progress, no matter how slow, is all that matters. Personally, last year this applied to several areas of my life, including my thesis. There were times that the more sentences I would type, the more confused and frustrated I got. However, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, I made progress (even if it’s taken me almost four years!). I’m still making progress, and while it still gets discouraging, at least I’m getting closer.

Your situation may not be the same as mine, but think of an issue/task/goal in your life…. Have you made progress? Yes, maybe it’s been slow, but looking back, at least you’ve seen a difference. Worked toward a goal. Been active in your own life.
If you haven’t made progress, or maybe have a brand new task at hand, remember that great things sometimes occur as a series of small things (sneak peak at tomorrow’s lesson!).

To progress means to move forward. Get moving!! Even a snail moves.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day #6

#6: If you succeed the first time, try something harder.

In the quest to live more of my life, reach my goals and tell a better story, this quote makes perfect sense. A good friend shared this statement with me months ago during a time of defeat in my job, thesis-writing and life. Nothing seemed to be working out and I felt that everything I touched fell to shambles (don't act like you haven't had one of these days/months/years, I know you have).

Looking back, I'm very glad nothing came together the first go-around. If all of these things had succeeded the first time, I wouldn't have appreciated the work it took to finally succeed, and more so, how much I grew as a person during that time.

I'm not against succeeding my no means-- there's a great sense of pride in reaching a goal or accomplishment. It's a big deal! However, often times when we don't succeed the first time, we get angry. want to give up. pull the "self-entitlement" card on life. If we'd only look at our "failure" as a refinement process instead, we'd be less stressed, and enjoy that sweet success even more, no matter how many times it took to get there.

Life is going to have bumps along the way. It's a guarantee. I think that failure is actually a success in it's own right-- it shows you're human. And it helps you work harder at reaching that goal-- and in turn, becoming a better you. So don't give up!!

If you succeed the first time, try something harder.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day #5

#5: “It doesn’t really matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”

At this point in your life, you’ve probably experienced the fact that life doesn’t always go as planned. If so, I would’ve already been married with kids, had my house with a porch swing, and been a college professor. However, what we expect from life doesn’t always come to pass. More so, what we feel that life “entitles” us is sometimes nowhere near the plan that God has for our lives.

I’m not saying it’s not good to have hopes, dreams and expectations… it’s our human nature, and I really believe that God puts desires in our hearts so that we can dream up big plans for our lives (and then for Him to show us that He has even better plans). However, we must remember that while we do have expectations of life, life has expectations of us as well.

I feel that if we handed life a letter with all of our expectations on it, this is what life would write back:
Dear Human,
Thanks for the letter. I’ll see what I can do. Now here’s what I expect from you….
1) Be kind, to yourself and to others.
2) Love people. REALLY love them.
3) Give.
4) Show compassion.
5) Teach, and learn.
6) Speak, and listen.
7) Be a better person every day.
8) Be helpful.
9) You’ll love me. You’ll hate me. Either way, trust me.
10) Don’t give up on me.


Dreams are good. Sometimes they become reality and sometimes they don’t. Either way, on the journey to telling a better story with our lives, it’s not really about us and what we want at all. It’s about life—and the One who created it—and how we can meet the expectations of a great story every day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day #4

#4: “View change as chance.”

I think back on some of the changes throughout my life… going from high school to college… going from college to the work force (and still desperately missing college)… seeing friendships and relationships come and go… and probably one of the most significant ones was changing careers and moving home. Yes, “home is where the heart is,” but my heart was not initially with this change. I was coming back to a place that I was supposed to know, yet I knew very few people, had no clue how to do my job, and was fairly confident that this was a change I would never get used to.

However, about a year-and-a-half into the change (yes, it really did take that long), my perspective started changing and I finally could view change as CHANCE.

I acknowledge that not everyone dislikes change—there are lots of good changes to be made. However, life is going to include some changes that we didn’t particularly ask for— heartbreak. sickness. unexpected events. loss.

Why do people dislike change so much?

Because change can be scary. Change often means stepping into the unknown, and as a culture that likes to be “in the know,” this can make us uneasy and very opposed to change. Unfortunately, change doesn’t come with a user-guide on what’s going to happen on the other side of the situation.

However, when you start viewing change as chance, it doesn’t quite seem so terrifying. A change, whether chosen or not, is a chance for a new story in your life. A new story—and maybe even a better story than you were telling before. (Sorry, had to add that “story” theme in there. I’m on a four-day roll.)

My scary career change ended up being a chance for me to influence youth, spend more time with my family, find out who I am in my job, meet so many sweet people I now consider dear friends, teach zumba, grow in my faith and the list could go on and on. Was it hard? Yes. Was it sad? Sometimes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Change = Chance. Even in the hardest situations, I hope you’ll look for the chance to take what life has presented you and tell a great story with it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day #3

Life Lesson, Day #3: "Don't just write a 'to do' list, write a 'to be' list."

I love 'to do' lists. I really do. It's not that I particularly like to be super busy (contrary to popular belief!) but I like to feel accomplished for the day, even if it's something small. For instance, writing today's blog was on today's 'to do' list. Some days if I feel like I'm not getting much done, I'll even write smaller things on the list just so I can cross them off. (Strange, I know.) There's just something about seeing a scribbled list with a bunch of lines through each item that brings some relief.

However, there came a point when I realized that my 'to do' lists were pretty insignificant. Yes, there are things at work that must be done and that is inevitable... but was there anything on my list that was really making a difference in my life, or the lives of others? More so, was there anything long-term that was going to help me tell a better story with my life? Sadly, the answer was no.

So I decided that instead of always just writing 'to do' lists, I would write a 'to be' list. What did I want 'to be'? What goals did I want to set? (short-term and long-term) What kind of person/daughter/friend/employee/teacher did I want to be? The list doesn't have to be complicated- it can be a list of words/adjectives, goals, etc. And once I made this list, I could incorporate it with my actual 'to do' list (because we know I couldn't give up that one) and it made life, as well as the non-optional 'to do' tasks, a lot easier.

So what's on your 'to do' list? More so, what's on your 'TO BE' list?

This year, I challenge you TO BE:
open to change.
confident in yourself and your abilities.
excited about life, no matter the circumstances.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Life Lessons, Day #2

#2: "You can't win if you don't play."

Basketball? Yes.
Scrabble? Yes.
Life? Yes, this is actually what I'm talking about.

This may seem like a very simple and obvious statement, but when I heard it on the radio a while back, I repeated it several times (yes, out loud, in my car) and at that moment, it was the most profound statement I'd ever heard.

Let's face it, nobody likes to lose. We want to win. We want the "blue ribbon, gold medal, new car" of life. However, we're not going to even have a shot at winning if we don't attempt to... so we have to play. We have to put ourselves out there and participate in life. Going along with yesterday's life lesson, we have to tell beautiful stories with our lives every single day. Again, this should be so obvious, however, why don't we always do this?

Fear. of. rejection. failure. losing.

As the old saying goes, "you win some, you lose some"... and this is true, but if you DON'T play... or put yourself out there... or go on that date... or make that career move... or set a goal... or try something new... or make that phone call... or step outside of your comfort zone... or believe in the wonderful person that you are... then let's face it, you won't just lose some, you'll lose every time.

Give yourself a chance to win!
Will you "win" the first time? Maybe. And then again, maybe not. However, at least you will know that you have made an effort to win, and that is HUGE!!

Don't live on the sidelines of your own life. "You can't win if you don't play!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Life Lessons, Day #1

I'm baaaaack.
I never promised I would be speedy at this blogging thing, but this time I really have something to write about.

A few weeks ago, a good friend challenged me to think about the life lessons I'd learned in 2010 and share them... on Facebook. So, for the next 31 days of January, my daily Facebook status will be a lesson, quote or even song lyric (you know this music nerd couldn't forget lyrics as inspiration) that really inspired and helped me grow in the past year.

A quote on a status can be powerful, but I thought what a good way to elaborate on these lessons and maybe even inspire someone else by blogging about them too. It really is my goal to post a status AND a blog every day in January... and if I don't, don't be a hater-- you'll get double the next day! :)

Here we go....
Life Lesson #1: May we tell beautiful stories instead of waiting for them to happen to us.

I've previously blogged about this quote from Donald Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." This book, but especially this quote, helped me realize that with each breath I take, I am telling a story. I know we've all heard the cliche that life is a book and sometimes big events are the "beginning of a new chapter." This can be true, but I had to realize that you don't have to wait for "big events" (in my instance, marriage, graduation, kids, new career, etc.) to write a new chapter, change the way you're telling your story, etc.

Let's face it, "big events" may or may not happen in your life, especially when you want them to. Soooo, don't wait to do things you've been wanting to do or make changes you've been wanting to make until the "big event" happens. DO. IT. NOW.

I know in a time of New Year's resolutions, people have most likely reflected on their lives, situations, etc... but now that you've read my life lesson, think back on those reflections, and consider how YOU can tell a better story with your life RIGHT NOW... not 20lbs. from now, not a wedding from now, etc. I'm not saying those aren't good things and goals to have, but if you start telling a beautiful story with your life in the present, it'll be more meaningful in the end.

Are you pleased with your own story?? Nobody's life is perfect (I don't care what they tell you, it's not) but by loving, caring, and living a better life, your definition of "perfect" may change, and you will WANT to tell a more beautiful story every day.

Happy 2011!