We’re all breaking our children a little bit.

 

So, we’re all breaking our children a little bit. It’s unavoidable in the human plight. But that doesn’t mean we don’t constantly strive to breed goodness into them, as well.

 

I’m over at The MOB Society today talking about how to fight the breaking process a bit. I’m not trying to guilt trip you, I promise. The last thing we need in the world is more mommy guilt. But I hope that it inspires you to work towards a wholer future. Click the link below to check it out.

 

One Way To Stop Breaking Your Children.

 

I’ve made many mistakes and have many regrets, especially from those beginning years. I share lessons that I learned in parenting toddlers, preschoolers, and children in my book Parenting Wild Things.

 

It contains the things I wish I had known before I started unintentionally breaking my children.

-Jessica

His Hands Find Me

It’s 11:30 PM and I am deep in sleep.

His hands find me.

My slumbering mind reaches slow towards the surface, towards his touch. I want to go back to the deep but my body reacts to the attention. My head, my shoulders, my back, his fingers trace electric patterns.

He is generous.

The world holds nothing but beauty.

***

It’s 3:00 AM and I flutter to the surface, reposition.

His hands find me.

Adrenaline carries me in a tidal wave toward the surface, towards his touch. His fists fly frantically and I raise my arms in protection. He batters against my weak barrier of forearms and fingers, unconscious to the struggle.

He isn’t fighting me. He’s fighting someone far away, in deserts of trauma, in wars without hope.

A wrist, a shoulder, I manage to cling to him.

“JEREMY, STOP. JEREMY, STOP. JEREMY, STOP.”

***

Still in my grasp, he goes limp.

Unsure if he’s awake, I lie frozen until he rolls, turns his back to me. I dare to relax.

His hands find me.

Reaching back, he pulls me close, an apology screaming loud in the silence. Emotions find their way to the surface, towards his touch. I drip quiet tears behind him, will calm into my lungs.

***

The world holds trauma.

The world holds beauty.

And we hold each other.

 

Jessica

When The Church Supports Abuse

Rain

 

I listened to a sermon recently about seeking God in the New Year. It was what you would expect from such a topic and had a few good points about clearing away the distractions in our life, yadda yadda, and making time to read our Bible and listen for God’s voice.

 

Of the typical bullet points made, one that was stressed as pivotal to discerning God’s voice in your life was to measure it against scripture. And then an example was given that I’ve heard for years to prove this point; a point I used to nod and amen to, but now gives me pause.

 

Verbatim, from the pulpit, what at least a couple hundred souls were told that morning:

 

“God is not telling you to leave your spouse.”

 

And I couldn’t help but frown. That is a bold and dangerous claim to make.

 

Many a woman trapped in an abusive relationship has found herself confused and stuck in the sticky web of such blanket statements made by those of faith.

 

She’s told that every marriage has it’s problems and that she should focus on his good qualities.  That she just needs to work on her own sins and be more submissive or respectful. That people give up too easily these days.

 

This is especially damaging if her abuser is the cunning sort whose blows strike with words instead of a closed fist.

 

She knows Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt but she quiets God’s still small voice because a louder, churchier voice tells her that marriage is forever. Always.

 

She’s scared to open up to anyone because one of her biggest fears is not being believed.

 

But no one knows the whole story except her and God. In her heart of hearts she may indeed hear Him calling her out.

 

Which is why we, as the church, need to be so very careful what we say to her.

 

Here’s the thing – I think i know what this pastor meant. I assume he was spinning the typical hypothetical of the mid-life crisis who wants to trade in his partner for a newer model or is selfishly seeking the freedom of his youth. The person who God, indeed, is not telling to leave his spouse.

 

I think if questioned further this pastor would allow for at least an addendum or two for divorce in the Christian home. I don’t doubt that he would say, “Oh of course, I would never suggest someone stay in an unsafe situation.”

 

But that caveat should have been made from the pulpit.

 

Because she is sitting out there, tired and scared and broken.

 

And she takes great stock in what you say. She may consider your message, your words, a sign from God – but they may not be.  So, please, tread lightly.

 

 She needs you to support her, mourn with her – not play the role of God in her head.

 

-Jessica

The Best Medicine.

 IMG_0283

“So, what do you like to do?”

 

She asks the question with a genuine curiosity. She’s trying to be helpful, suggest family activities for us based on our interests; The Local extending a hand to The Nomads.

 

“Well, Jeremy mostly likes to hike, bird watch, that kind of thing. He’s not a crowd person. He likes to be out in nature”, I say.

 

Which, I’m all too aware, rules out most genre of suggestion. No festivals, no parades, no malls, no markets – the typical festivities near the holiday season.

 

“But what about you? What do you like to do?” she asks.

 

I stand there with my mouth open, unable to form a response.

 

I don’t know. I don’t know what I like to do.

 

I’ve been married, one half of a whole for so long.  My whole has been knocked around a bit. It’s been pressed and shaped by the weight of PTSD, of introversion.

 

But as I stand there trying to formulate an answer I can’t decide if that’s normal or if we’re terribly out of balance.

 

What do I like to do?

 

Perhaps the problem lies more in the fact that my interests don’t lie outside of my own home. They can be contained within the bindings of a book, the clicking of a keyboard, the simple act of laughter.

 

I realize variations of this question have been asked of me from several directions lately.

 

“What do you want to watch?” he asks, every week.

“I just want to laugh” I say, every week.

 

No drama, no thriller, no action. Comedy – that’s all I want. All I have room for.

 

“What kind of games do you like to play?” the couple asked recently.

“Ones that make me laugh” is all I manage in reply.

 

Lightness, joy – these are all I want to do in my spare time. And they seem to happen so less frequently these days, take so much more effort. Life gets heavier and heavier and squeezes out the funny.

 

I read Madeleine L’engle’s Crosswicks Journals and I find so much comfort in them. So much solace in the fact that I’m not the only person who ever struggled finding a way to be all three of the things that they wholly are – wife, mother, writer.

 

She writes about this need for laughter.

 

“During . . . difficult years I was very much aware that if I lost my ability to laugh, I wouldn’t be able to write, either.” she says.

 

“One of the greatest weapons of all is laughter, . . . a sense of play which is sadly missing from the grown up world.” she says.

 

And I nod along with my yellow highlighter.

 

This is why every status, every tweet, is a laugh. Every conversation is laced with wit and dripping with sarcasm. Because I must inject a humorous spin on life, forced if necessary, or it just might swallow me whole.

 

What do I like to do? I like to laugh.

 

And maybe that’s a good enough answer for now.

 

 

-Jessica

The Community of Marriage {A Guest Post}

{While I’m on a small blog “break”, enjoy this sweet guest post.}

 

Hubs and I have been married for 12 1/2 years. We’ve moved 8 times, have 3 boys, and 2 weiner pups. I’m just putting those qualifiers out there for what Imma bouts to say: being married is harrrrrd. It ain’t for pansies.

 

I loved how Jessica summed up the need for community in this post:

So often we push away from friendships because we’ve been told or taught that we should be finding everything, everything, in our husband or wife. Certainly, there’s a balance to this stuff and our spouse is definitely a first priority – no doubt. But no one person can fill all of our needs. We were made for community, and community is not one person.

 

Just like I need community outside of my marriage to fill my needs as an individual, my marriage also needs community to fill our needs as a couple.

 

I didn’t always see it this way.  For many years, I believed that any issue between me and hubs was nobody else’s bidness. I didn’t consider sharing our challenges with anyone outside of our relationship simply because I didn’t think that was appropriate.  This an A-B conversation, so C yoself outta here.

 

What I’ve found to be true, however, is that it is within community that challenges are met and conquered.

 

I’m not suggesting that every single spat between spouses is a reason to text my BFF. But, if there is an issue that keeps coming up or that seems insurmountable, it should be shared. It’s completely appropriate and healthy to ask a trusted friend, pastor or counselor to help you sort things out {ideally together}.

 

Sometimes that third party isn’t even necessary.  I’ve found that in community, a solution often arises through casual conversation. In simply sharing her life with me, a friend’s experience is a gentle reproach. A tender push back against my hardened heart, a kind mirror that reveals where I might just be looking at things in the wrong way.

 

We need others to point out patterns, to affirm what we’re doing well, and to ask us the awkward questions that reveal the true state of a union-especially when we’re not willing to admit it ourselves.

 

Crazy thing is I can’t teach my husband how to be a husband. But, get him around a group of guys who all have the same goal-to maintain their covenant to God & their wives-and all kinds of lessons start flying around the room.

 

When I’m around other wives, I observe what it means to be a patient, generous woman.  So many times my questions are answered by just being in the presence of other couples, witness how they treat each other, make things work, and honor their covenant day in and day out.

 

You know what the awesomest part is? I get to share the good stuff, too.  I get to go on double dates.  I get to hear about my friend’s birthday surprise well before she does.  I am loved by others who love not just me, or hubs, but they love US. They value us a couple, view our marriage as a covenant, and are willing to do some hard work to see our marriage thrive.

 

——
Keri lives in the Greater Seattle area, where she can be found loving on her 3 boys, cheering on the Sounders with her hubs, and laughing uncontrollably with friends. In whatever time is left, she loves to read, watch movies, listen to new music, and blog about what God’s teaching her through it all at Pop Parables.

The Prohibition of Friendship Part 2

 

So, I’ve been talking about a big no-no this week – friendships between men and women. Even Christian men and women. Even married Christian men and women. Gasp.

 

And the most important thing I want you guys to understand about my position is . . .

 

Please believe me when I say I don’t write these things from a place of naivety or ignorance. I completely understand why people want to guard themselves from potential missteps. I am not making light of that reality in any way. I’m simply suggesting that just because a few fall doesn’t mean we all need to prohibit ourselves.

 

I’m not suggesting recklessness or a life without caution. The opposite, really. I’m proposing we treat cross-gender friendships on a case by case basis, examining each situation as the unique circumstance that it is. That we open ourselves to a place free of jealousy, insecurity, and suspicion so that we might experience the unity and strength available in Christ when we open ourselves up to others in close, holy community.

 

We need holy community. I need holy community. Even when or if that community involves people of the opposite sex. I think the body of Christ could benefit magnificently if more of us shed our jealousies and opened ourselves up to close friendships.

 

My friend Alise said something so full of truth recently when writing about navigating the often uncharted waters of cross-gender friendships in the church:

Sadly, rather than working through some of the difficult, messy parts of close relationships, we simply recommend against them. We focus on the potential for danger and ignore the potential merit that can spring from these friendships. We choose fear over love.

 

And that’s the long and short of it. At the end of the day most people won’t be willing to open themselves up to truly close friendship with people of the opposite sex. Because it is complicated and messy and takes a lot of stretching and growing and grace.

 

Which is frustrating and a little sad because for many (most?) that leaves us often floundering in a place of polite friendships. And polite friendships are nearly worse than no friendships at all. I’m tired of smile and nod friendships. It’s very hard to find someone who pings our soul’s little trustworthy radar. So it’s a shame that we have to rule out half the pings.

 

So, I’m just asking that we take a second look at the issue. Not to automatically regurgitate our current stand but to truly give it some thought. What could it hurt to just ponder?

 

The one thing we’re lacking above all in the church is intimacy. And that’s the heart of the issue.  Intimacy. We have to quit being so afraid of it or labeling it unfairly. Intimacy is messy. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s oh-so worth it.

 

The hard part is being brave enough to truly open ourselves up.

 

-Jessica

 

The Prohibition of Friendship

Everyone knows it’s not safe for men and women to be friends. Especially if they’re single. Or married. Or breathing.  Right? We have to put up “hedges of protection” and “guard our hearts” and what not. If not, we’ll turn into primal apes who can’t control themselves. Or something like that.

 

I’ve adopted the above party line for years. Because, ya know, it makes a sort of sense. And we know that we should be committed to our spouses. And we know affairs are real things that happen. Every day.

 

But recently I’ve been putting genuine thought into the subject and releasing the chains of jealousy from my own marriage. And it’s made me wonder if part of the problem isn’t our own emphasis of the issue – condemning men and women from being friends.

 

I think in doing so we’ve created a taboo, a big fat sexual elephant in the room that might have no business being there. Because let’s be honest here, what happens when you prohibit something? It makes the thing all the more desirable. And it creates a sense of guilt for an activity that might not even be wrong.

 

I think we’ve given too much credit to the “sinful nature” and haven’t put nearly enough stock into the power and discipline of a resurrected life. We see someone fall into weakness and unfaithfulness and we say, “See! The flesh can’t be trusted! We have to lock it away and throw away the key!”

 

But is that a balanced or reasonable reaction? Again, prohibition has never stopped an act, just driven it underground.

 

Like alcohol, cross-gender friendships are not inherently evil. And actually, they can make life more pleasant, more full. They’re mostly a danger if someone is particularly weak. Some people are alcoholics. But should that mean that no one is allowed to drink, or perhaps that certain people need to use more caution so they don’t stumble?

 

Recently someone of the opposite sex stopped by my house with a kind-hearted gift for my family . . . when I was home with my children but without my spouse. So I did what any good Christian would do. I stood there awkwardly in the door blocking admittance and finally offered, “I’d invite you in, but my husband isn’t home”.

 

Boom. In walked an 8 ton elephant of tension and weirdness.

 

Here’s where I think we can be a little overcautious. Again, that’s like saying, “Well, some people are alcoholics so no human being should ever be alone in the room with alcohol.”  Just because something is in proximity doesn’t even mean it’s a temptation.  I think we need to step away from such a fear-based standard with cross-gender friendships. We’re drawing attention to something that might not even be there to begin with. We’re creating the very situation of tension that we’re wanting to avoid.

 

Where is the room for power in Christ? Do we really think so little of the Spirit that dwells within us that simply because we get within so many feet of something we’ll lose all inhibitions and maturity? Even if we weren’t previously attracted to the thing? It really just doesn’t make any sense in that context.

 

It’s a cultural shame that a human can’t show up on the doorstep of another human with pure and charitable motives without being kept at arms length like they may or may not be a poisonous reptile. Jesus forbid they be invited in for a perfectly appropriate glass of water or a bit of conversation.

 

———————-

 

Now, before the conservative pitch forks and canned responses come out – wait. Just wait one more day. Stew. Think. And come back tomorrow for my closing statements on this issue. Please. :)

 

(Comments attacking and aggressive in nature will not be published)

 

-Jessica

 

*photo by luba v nel via dreamstime

The Jealous Wife

 

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds

 

I’ve been a jealous wife.  I probably wouldn’t have admitted it if asked, but I have made a habit of swimming in underlying currents of distrust in my marriage.

 

Generally my green-eyed monster manifested in the form of humor (cause that’s my go-to defense mechanism). I would jokingly ask about Jeremy’s latest facebook friend who I didn’t know.  I would jokingly tell him he wasn’t “allowed” to be funny in front of girls at school (his sense of humor is one of the things I find wildly attractive about him). I would make snarky, pointed jokes about girls in his life. The kind of jokes that aren’t really jokes.

 

But I’ve been thinking a lot about cross-gender friendships lately, in part, thanks to my friend Alise. She’s a huge advocate of healthy cross-gender relationships within Christian community. And it’s really made me reexamine what I think about friendship and attraction.

 

For one, as Alise points out so eloquently, our society has done a huge disservice to the concept of attraction by equating it with sexuality.  So we’ve branded attraction with fear and labels. But here’s the thing – there is plenty of room in a mature Christian environment for attraction to play out in a pure and nonsexual way.

 

We are attracted to all of our friendships, whether they’re male or female.

 

I’m attracted to Sarah Bessey’s down to earth and soul soothing manner, by our common interests and talents. And doesn’t it sound silly to assume that will lead to a sexual encounter? But if she were a man, I might be living in a place of guilt or shame for what I feel for her. For wanting to talk to her, confide in her, have her be a part of my life. For when she took both of my hands in both of hers and prayed for me.

 

But what attracts me to her, is the Jesus inside of her. The gifts he’s given her, his light that shines in her life. We shouldn’t have to “guard our heart” from the Jesus within others. It’s healthy and normal to be attracted to the Jesus in other believers.

 

It’s perfectly natural for people (any person, male or female) to be attracted to my husband’s sense of humor, his knowledge, his story, his convictions and beliefs. And it’s fear-based and legalistic of me to want to withhold  those things from the body of Christ because of my own insecurities.  His talents and abilities are free gifts to be used to build up the body of Christ. They aren’t mine to own. His physical body, his heart – that is what belongs to me.

 

As the body of Christ we grow stronger in community, in unity. And there’s no place for fear and jealousy in that. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.

 

And love always trusts.

 

There is plenty of room for caution, for common sense, without forbidding cross-gender friendships among mature Christian community. And I, for one, am finished with living in a place of jealousy and insecurity.

 

Because at the end of the day jealousy, suspicion, worry – it doesn’t do anything. Nothing good, anyway. It doesn’t prevent anything. It doesn’t fix anything. Who by worrying can add even one hour to their marriage? I’m pretty sure Jesus said that. Or something.

 

So I apologized to my husband for all the jokes that weren’t jokes. And I told him that I’m not going to make them anymore. That I trust him not to turn into a hormonal teenager just because he’s attracted to the Jesus in a female or a female is attracted to the Jesus in him.

 

And it wasn’t just lip service – I meant it. I felt it in my bones when the chains of jealousy fell from my heart.  After so many years of anxiety and possessiveness, I finally felt free to love him unselfishly.  There’s a power in loving freely and accepting the truth that you can only control yourself.

 

So I’m not the jealous wife anymore. And it feels good.

 

-Jessica

Thoughts on Friendship, Community, Intimacy, Oneness . . .

I’ve been thinking a lot about community and friendship the last few weeks (or months. or years). Really, I’ve been tearing down the framework I already had in place in a lot of ways and rebuilding it to something that is a little less culturally influenced.

God is all I need.

 

I’m parting ways with a church culture and mindset that takes phrases like “God is all I need” a little too far past what is just plain biblical common sense. Of course Jesus is all I need for salvation and glory, but He did not design me to run off of only Jesus fuel. In fact, one of the first things God did was create a human being that only had perfect, pure, untainted fellowship with Himself and then he said, “Hmmm, something’s missing here.” It’s not good for people to be alone. They need more than just me.

My spouse is all I need.

 

Following closely behind the “God is all I need” misconception is the “My spouse is all I need” folly.  I’m beginning to understand the idea that one of the many strains that we put on marriage is expecting it to fulfill us, expecting our spouse to fill all of our needs second to Christ.

 

So often we push away from friendships because we’ve been told or taught that we should be finding everything, everything, in our husband or wife. Certainly, there’s a balance to this stuff and our spouse is definitely a first priority – no doubt.  But no one person can fill all of our needs. We were made for community, and community is not one person.

 

That they may be one.

 

When a husband and wife marry the two become one. We know this.  We use this as a big part of our argument for why we shouldn’t invest too intimately in friendships outside of our spouse.  But Jesus also insisted that all believers be one. There’s truth and power and wholeness to be found somewhere in all that oneness.

 

And I think there’s a real possibility that we won’t experience this life to it’s fullest, to it’s wholest, if we live a fear-based life that’s built out of legalistic hedges of protection that guard against the very intimacy, the very oneness, where the power of Christ is found – including community outside of our spouse.

 

This post is just a primer to things I’m sorting out and contemplating in my thinker these days. There will be more to come.

 

 

-Jessica

Close Enough To Forget

 

Remember when his touch was everything? With a side of lightening bolts? I know that relationships settle and grow but don’t let the bedroom magic completely slip away.

 

How? Well, I’m over at Finding Heaven Today with one very very simple suggestion.

 

Curious? Click the link below.

 

When His Touch Meant Something

 

-Jessica