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Running The Race of Faith

Running The Race of Faith

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"
Hebrews 12:1 A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend that left me feeling sad after we got off the phone. I love this friend dearly, but after chatting I realized we are no longer in the same place in our friendship that we used to be for so long. To be perfectly honest, this feeling has been coming on for some time, and the shift in our friendship happened over the course of several years. But after this particular conversation, it became truly evident that we were on different pages. As I do with everything now, I went to the Lord with it. I shared with Him my feelings of sadness and discouragement surrounding this friendship. I shared my grief in feeling like we can't talk the way we used to to, or share in the same way we once had. I laid my heart bare. I'm sure there are many women who can relate with me. We have friendships that we've had for years, and then something happens that derails it or changes it in a way we didn't expect. It's sad. It leaves us heartbroken and wondering if we did something wrong. And a hole forms in our hearts when these friendships no longer give us the life and communion they once did. But I want to share something with you that God showed me. I pray it encourages your heart the way it did mine. The Christian Walk, Is Like a Marathon As I was pouring my heart out to the Lord, the Holy Spirit suddenly brought to my mind Hebrews 12:1. I began to meditate on the verse, rolling the words over in my head, wondering why God was speaking that verse to me specifically. As I was thinking on the words " let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" suddenly God gave me a faith picture in my heart. He showed me a marathon. He showed me how each person in the Christian walk is running in this marathon together. Some people are running faster than others, some are running slower. He showed me that the spectators on the outside are those who haven't committed their lives to Christ. Some people stand outside the marathon lines and they taunt the Christians as they run by. Some people throw insults, some are indifferent, and some even throw stones. But then He showed me something else. He showed me myself, running in this race. He showed me how He had ordered my life so that when I first recommitted my life to Christ, I would be running alongside women who would help me in my faith walk as I learned to commune with Him. He showed me how as we ran together, we laughed and prayed and helped one another along. When one of us fell down, we came alongside and picked up our fellow woman. Sometimes, we carried each other when we were too weak to run by ourselves. God showed me that when I needed them most, He happened to bring women into my life that I needed. They cried with me, laughed with me, and most importantly, loved me. And then He brought to my mind a pivotal prayer that I prayed early on in my faith journey. He told me, "You didn't know it my beloved, but that prayer you prayed set you up to run at a different pace." Prayers Can Change Our Running Pace I heard a sermon one day that radically changed my faith. I heard a pastor preach about speaking in tongues, and the importance of it in our lives as Christians. At the time, I had all of the normal arguments come to mind as to why this pastor was nothing more than a charismatic quack. And I mean that in the kindest, most Christian possible way. Growing up in a Christian home, my dad had plenty to say as to why speaking in tongues was the "devil's work." It wasn't until year's later, shortly after hearing this sermon, that I asked my mom why dad always said that. She said something to the affect of, "Well, he's probably so against it because when he received Christ he also received the gift of speaking in tongues in the same moment, and he started using that gift. But then he was attacked by Satan and never did it again." That intrigued me. I didn't realize my dad could speak in tongues. I also found it interesting that Satan attacked him for it. I had always heard that if Satan was leaving you alone, then you're doing something wrong. He only goes after those who are moving and shaking his hell-ish hole. So, I brought my insecurities and fears to the Lord, and I started asking Him about it. Really, at the time, all I did was talk to God about my fears surrounding the idea of speaking in tongues, and that I thought it was an absurd idea. But one day God asked me to look into His Word and see what it said about the topic. So, after a few months, I did. I realized the Bible actually has quite a lot to say about it. I Corinthians 14:1-5 "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification." I found it interesting that a man or woman who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, and that Paul wished that all Christians spoke in tongues. The dictionary definition of edifies is to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually; uplift. I began to realize that this spiritual gift was something to be desired, as Paul said. I wondered how it would edify me in ways that I couldn't comprehend. Further down in that chapter Paul says "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;" and that one verse caught my attention. I pondered on Paul's ministry, and that no one can argue he had the biggest impact on the sharing and spreading of the gospel. There is no man that made more of a difference for the growth of the early church than Paul. I started thinking about Paul's ministry, and that I also wanted to be effective for the kingdom of God. I chewed on this for a few more weeks, and then one day I made a decision. I decided I wanted this gift, and started I praying for the gift of tongues. The first part of I Corinthians 14 says to desire spiritual gifts. The actual Greek word here is zeloo, which means to burn with zeal, to desire earnestly, pursue. So I decided to take God at His Word, and I prayed for the gift of tongues earnestly. Nothing happened for awhile, but during the time I was praying for this gift, God was preparing my heart to handle it. He burned away the fears and lies I had about tongues, and he replaced them with the Truth of what His Word said about the gift. In the time I prayed, He showed me how the very first believers who received the gift of the Holy Spirit also received tongues in the very same moment. The mark of those early believers was the gift of tongues. Acts 2:1-4 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." I prayed for a year, and nothing happened. But I didn't realize at the time the impurities in my thoughts surrounding tongues were becoming pure. And after a year I began to covet the gift and pray earnestly. And God started preparing my heart to receive it. And then one day, it happened. He loosened my tongue, and suddenly I was able to speak in the unknown language. That one gift, began to radically change my prayer life and set me up in ways I couldn't see at the time. Because every time I pray in tongues, I am edifying myself. Lies have no place in the presence of Truth. The Holy Spirit works in me in ways I don't understand, but the fruit that comes later is life changing. Circumstances Can Change Our Running Pace Not only do certain prayers change the pace at which we run, but sometimes things happens to us that we didn't foresee or predict. Circumstances in our lives change the course and pace in which we run. When we lose people close to us, lose our job, lose our health, those circumstances give us a choice in that moment. When a devastating situation happens to us, how we choose to respond to it will forever affect our faith. If we invite the presence of Jesus into that place, He will become our Comforter and Healer. We will begin to see Him in a new light, and our trust in God grows. Our faith is strengthened when we act on it, and put our trust in the One who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) I think the best thing about that verse is that Jesus is the author of our faith, and the one who finishes it. We don't have to worry about our measure of faith, because it comes from God! The more we come to Him with our measly little faith that we have, the more He grows it under His care. After I received the gift of praying in tongues I began to be attacked by Satan, just like my dad. I was living at my parents house at the time, and I remember being asleep one night and waking up with a terrible feeling of dread surrounding me. When I sat up I saw a demon outside my window, staring at me. I shut my eyes as tight as I could and prayed and declared the name of Jesus over myself, my room, and my life. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. A few nights later I woke up to something, I assume a demon as well, flipping my body over in my bed. I slept on the couch for the rest of the night. The next day I was telling my mom about this and she freaked out. That night my dad anointed my room with oil and prayed over it. Those attacks never happened again. And something happened, my faith began to grow. My faith began to grow because I saw the power of my dad's prayer and the power of the anointed oil. But my faith also started growing because I realized that me praying in tongues was shaking the demonic realm, or they wouldn't have come for me. Those two instances in my life changed the way I saw prayer. When we pray, hell's gates quake. Never underestimate the power of your prayers. The attacks continued in different ways. I ended up getting into a few car accidents and it impacted my health. I started having panic attacks when I would get into the car to drive. I was so afraid to drive and the terror of it would well up in me. I hated that feeling. I knew it wasn't of God, but I didn't know what to do. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I began listening to sermons in my car every time I got in. It was the only thing that worked to keep my mind off of my fears, and focused on the presence of Jesus. It wasn't until years later that I heard this preached in a sermon: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17) What I didn't know is that I was building my faith by listening to the Word of God in my car. My car accidents caused fear, which I responded to by focusing on Jesus instead of on my fear. Don't get me wrong, I was very, very fearful for a long time. But God used my car rides to replace the lies of my fears with the Truths of His Word, and slowly my anxiety lessened until one day, it was no longer an issue at all. In fact, now I never think about being fearful in the car. Why? Because My God goes before me, and He protects me. And I know that, in the deepest parts of my soul, I know that to be true. I didn't build my faith, God did. I just sat and listened and listened and listened to ease my fears. And slowly, my faith grew. My Running Pace Has Changed How we respond to difficulties in our lives, or what we pray for in the quiet moments we spend with the Lord, will change the pace at which we run this Christian marathon. God showed me in the faith picture that He gave me, that the prayer I prayed 10 years ago changed the pace at which I now run. He showed me that I no longer run at the same pace as my dear friends do. My prayer language has radically changed my faith and my entire life. I was pondering this faith picture He gave me and He showed me that my new running pace is faster than it was previously, because my faith has grown enough to handle the faster pace. He showed me my heart, and that I have exercised it the way a runner does. He said to my heart, you have practiced perseverance, and grown it as a runner grows their heart muscles. The more you practice My ways, the more your spiritual muscles grow. In my mind's eye, He told me to turn around as I was running. I turned and I saw where I used to run. The pace at which I used to run was slower, more fearful, and quick to believe a lie. As quickly as the faith picture came to me, it was gone. But the vision brought clarity to my situation, and a comfort to my soul. Jesus comforted my soul by showing me that running at a different pace than I once did, is a blessing. While it does mean that I am mourning the loss of what my friendships once were, I am excited for the runners God will bring into my life who are filled with faith and push my walk to greater heights. I look forward with anticipation to the new friends God is preparing me to embrace. Women who are like me, desiring the gifts of spirit and praying for them to fill our lives. I pray this circle of women wants to take communion, breaking bread and doing it often, remembering that Jesus died on the cross and was broken so that we may live. Dear friend, if you read this and it resonates with you, we should probably be friends. Lol! But also, I pray it fills your soul with comfort the way that it did mine. It's absolutely ok to be sad what we are leaving behind when we pick up our pace, but may we push forward in perseverance, knowing that God has something greater in our future for us. Just like a marathon, we might find ourselves running alone for awhile. We might look around and realize it's just us, pounding pavement during the rain and sleet. Or maybe you feel like you've been through a hail storm at night, and you're just trying to stay upright in your run. I've been there. Sometimes God separates us so that the only thing we hear other than our own breath, is the breath of Jesus as He runs next to us. If this is you, rejoice in your season of running alone. It is during my seasons of running solo with the Lord that I gave gained greater distance than I ever thought possible. Keep going. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." II Timothy 4:7-8 One day we will stand before our King, and He will place a crown of righteousness on our heads. We will know that we fought the good fight, and finished the race. So, just as Paul said in Hebrews, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. God gives each of us a race to run that is purposed specifically to that which He has called us to do. My friend, lace up your shoes, put on your armor, and let's run. With Joy, Jessica

My Favorite Things: What I Loved Following My C-Section Birth

My Favorite Things: What I Loved Following My C-Section Birth

Maybe you're planning to have a C-section, or maybe you found out that a C-section is your only option like it was for me with my second pregnancy. Either way, if you want a C-section or have to have one, this list of my favorite things to have postpartum is for you! When I found out my second pregnancy was twins, my doctor let me know a caesarean birth was pretty likely. It's a lot harder to flip two babies into a head down position when they're lacking the space to do it! I did quite a bit of research into what I would need postop, and after having gone through it, I can tell you with certainty why you will appreciate having these things too. 1 - The Perfect Postpartum Panties I'm not kidding when I say these are absolutely going to be your best friend. These undies are so comfortable, the cotton is breathable, and with no elastic or tight edging they won't irritate your swollen belly or stitches. I wore them every day for almost 8 weeks while I was healing from the C-Section. I wore them again after having abdominal surgery. Plus, they come in several different colors. Trust me, they are perfect. Buy them here. 2 - Nursing Nightgowns I LOVED these nightgowns from motherhood maternity. I lived in them, especially while my stomach was swollen and sore following the C-section surgery. I had a really hard time wearing sweatpants for a few weeks while everything was tender and healing, and these nightgowns were the best. They are as soft as they look in the picture, come in different colors, and because they are nursing nightgowns they worked perfectly for unstrapping and nursing or pumping. Seriously, between my favorite underwear and these nightgowns, it was the closest to being comfortable post surgery as you can get. Buy them here. 3 - My Favorite Comfy Pants One of my close girlfriends sent me these pants before my surgery, and I ended up loving them so much I bought a second pair. The colors are cute, they have a few different patterns, and they are comfy. Like, comfy. It took me 3-4 weeks before I even felt like putting pants on. But once my belly wasn't as tender, these were the only pants I was able to wear. The drawstring band keeps them up and doesn't squeeze tender skin the way elastic does. Trust me, I think you'll love them too. Find the comfy pants here! 4 - Postpartum Mesh Undies If your hospital nurses don't load you up with goodies before you leave, or you forget to raid all of the drawers, you might want to order a few of these to get you through the first week or two. One of the things I enjoyed the most about a C-section was that I was cleaned out pretty well and didn't bleed nearly as much as I did following my vaginal birth. That being said, there is still some bleeding and it's nice to have disposable undies that can be tossed in the trash. I bought a few extras to have around and I'm glad I did. You can find them here. 5 - Scar Cream A C-section wasn't my first choice for my second birth, but not everyone feels the same way as me! If a C-section birth is in your future, you're probably thinking about that scar and if there's any way to lighten it up or make it less obvious. I used this for a few months following surgery after everything had healed up, and I think it worked really well for me. A year postop I had a very faint scar line, and honestly I barely noticed it. I recommend trying this product out! 6 - My Favorite Laxatives Since you're going to be a mom, or you're already a mom, 💩 is going to become a part of your regular vocabulary. That first postpartum poop for me was awful. Between the pain meds backing me up, and being backed up anyway before even going into labor because the twins blocked my bowels, I was in for a world of hurt. Dulcolax chews helped get things moving. It doesn't really matter which way you give birth to your baby, these will be a very necessary part of your postpartum journey. Get them here, and I pray you have a better experience than me. Seriously. 7 - Antibacterial Soap This soap came recommended by several surgery websites and friends of mine that had a C-section before I did. While it may or may not be necessary to wash with antibacterial soap following your caesarean birth, it did make me feel better knowing that I was washing away any bacteria and keeping my incision as clean as possible. I ended up having zero issues or infections, and my scar healed extremely well. I think this soap helped with that. 8 - Comfy Cardigans I ended up wearing cardigans a lot during the first few months postpartum. Since I spent an entire month in nightgowns, I tended to get chilly at night, and sometimes during the day. Having comfortable cardigans with pockets to stash cough drops in, my Airpods, phone, chapstick, and any other random items that I wanted to carry around with me was useful. And they kept me warm. You can find wonderful cardigans here! But this is one of my favorites. 9 - My Favorite Nursing Bras I tried several different types of nursing bras and these ones are truly my favorite. They provide wonderful support, are padded to help with leaking and keep you from showing those leaks, and work well whether you're full or depleted. They come in a few colors, black, nude and purple. After nursing I would tighten the straps up, and before going to bed I would loosen them to accommodate waking up with full breasts. But I have to say, the incredible support was my favorite. I lived in these for over a year. Worth it. I hope you find this list helpful! I honestly couldn't get by without these things, which is why they're my favorite. Trust me when I say those panties WILL be your best friend. I pray you have a very blessed pregnancy, labor, and birth! I often quoted my favorite verse while I was pregnant, and it was nice to have it in my head when I went into labor. Perhaps it will strengthen your heart the way it did mine. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9 With Joy, Jessica Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links from Amazon. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!

The God Who Saves

The God Who Saves

The very title instills peace, gratitude and joy throughout my whole being. When we think about God, about our Savior Jesus Christ, do we think about Him as the God who saves us? The God who saves us in ALL areas of our life? For a long time, I thought of God just as the saver of my soul. I didn't think of Him as being Lord in every area, and that meant that He saves in all areas. In order to see Jesus as God truly meant us to see Him, we have to have a perspective shift in our minds. We have to truly read the scriptures and understand them the way that God meant them. One of the things that completely changed my perspective of Jesus and His ministry, was when I finally realized that the New Testament should begin at the cross, at the point of His death. Our modern Bible has the New Testament beginning at the birth of Jesus, but the true New Testament begins at the death of our Lord. Because in His death, he fulfilled every single law of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17). It was in the this fulfilling of the Law of the Prophets of Moses that a new era was ushered in, the era of grace. I know there are a lot of people that preach that we need the law and grace. They preach that law mixed with grace is our salvation. But this is simply not true! The purpose of the law was to show us our need for a Savior. Because when God gave the 10 commandments, He didn't just mean that we shouldn't murder, He meant that any murderous or hateful thoughts within us are a sin. So this one law, encompasses not only us not murdering someone we dislike, but also not having any hateful or unlikeable thoughts toward someone! Jesus came to show us that we can't keep the law. We are not perfect people, and we are simply unable to keep any of them with any ability in ourselves. Jesus came to say to us, "I know you can't keep the law. And that's why I'm here. My death will bring life, true life, life more abundant for you." Because when Jesus died, He gave us the opportunity to accept Him and receive His salvation as the gift that it is. Not something that we can earn through keeping any of God's commandments, because we can't. The law shows us our shortcomings, so that in our shortcomings, we will admit our need for Jesus. And when we can finally admit that and believe correctly that we can't save ourselves, but that we also can't earn our way out of lust, anger, depression, anxiety, or whatever our struggle is, then we will see Jesus as Our God Who Saves. And then, we will be saved. The All Encompassing Word: Saved Romans 10:9 "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved (sozo)." Sozo is the Greek word for saved, and it is used 110 times in the New Testament. In the Greek, the word Sozo in a nutshell means salvation, deliverance and healing. If we break that word down even a little bit further, it means to rescue from danger or destruction AND to save one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, and restore to health. In essence, the word Greek word for sozo is an all encompassing word to save you mind, body and spirit. It's no accident that the Greek language is considered the most exact language in our world, and that Jesus "happened" to come during the time when the Romans were in power in Israel. Greek was the native tongue for Jesus and His disciples. God happened to place His Son in the world during an era where the most precise language was being taught. So when we study the Bible and His Word, we have to look at the original Greek and study the meaning behind the words as God meant them to be used. Sozo = Healing Matthew 9:22 "But Jesus turning and seeing her said 'Daughter take courage your faith has made you well (sozo)' and at once the woman was made well (sozo)." Mark 10:52 "Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well (sozo)." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. James 5:13-15 "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save (sozo) the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." There are so many examples of how salvation is our healing, how the very death of Christ on the cross, is our healing. When Jesus died, he bought the right for us to be healed. Isaiah 53:5 "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." But how does our healing come? It comes through faith. And if we look at how our faith grows, it doesn't grow when we look at ourselves. When we search our hearts and try to find it, we will always find ourselves lacking. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17). And later in that verse, Paul says how will they hear without a preacher? So find preachers that increase your faith and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. We can't save ourselves. We can't heal ourselves. But Jesus can, and he does. Not only that, but He is willing! (Matthew 8:3) The devil wants us focused on ourselves and our circumstances, because in doing that we are defeated. We lose sight of our salvation, and then we lose the sozo, the healing of our Savior. Keep your eyes and mind focused on Christ. Listen to sermons day in and day out. If you are afflicted and it affects you all day every day, then focus on Jesus all day, every day. That is how our faith grows. And by faith, we are healed. Something I feel led to say though, is that God also works through modern medicine and doctors as well. So if there is something serious happening, then pray for discernment that God would provide you with the right answers for your healing. It might possibly be a mix of modern medicine and God's hand. I heard the testimony of a woman who was being called to be a doctor by the Lord. She was wrestling with this conundrum, that if God is the ultimate healer, than what was her role and why did He give her a desire to be a doctor? Why be a doctor, when we have God? And God spoke to her heart, and said that all good things are from above, and medicine is a good thing. Doctors are saving lives and extending the lives of those who might otherwise die. So God said to her, I am also in medicine. I am in the advancement of technology. I want to use your hands to heal others. She said after that, she looked at herself not as the healer, but as the physician's assistant, and God as her boss. And the Lord has blessed her work, and she uses it as her ministry. If God leads you to see a doctor, to heal you with medicine which He has also created, then let's celebrate that this is the way He has chosen to heal us! Most importantly though, be in the Word, listening to sermons, and let the Holy Spirit lead you to the answer. Rest in the Lord, and He will guide your path. Sozo = Deliverance "And those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon possessed had been made well (sozo)." 2 Timothy 4:17 "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me (sozo) unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Deliverance, from the word to deliver, means to carry and turn over, to give into another's possession or keeping; surrender. It means to bring to the support of a candidate or a cause, to utter or pronounce, to set free or liberate, to release or save, to disburden oneself of thoughts, opinions...and there's quite a few more definitions. In Matthew 14 we see Peter walk on the water toward Jesus. As he kept his eyes on the Lord, he was able to walk on the water, in the midst of the storm. It didn't matter how much the wind howled, or the seas rocked. While Peter's eyes were fixed on Jesus, he was able to walk on the water and not sink below the waves. The minute Peter looked around him, he started sinking. "But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” The word save here is sozo. In the next verse Jesus stretches out His hand and caught Peter. Jesus delivered Peter from death, He protected him, He preserved his life. That's what Jesus does for you and me today. He protects us from the enemy and preserves us. But we have to keep our eyes fixed on Him. When we take our eyes off of Him, we'll notice how boisterous the wind is, and then we'll become afraid like Peter did. When he acted out in faith, he walked on water. He was above waves, and walked into the storm, unafraid. He did something brave, and something no one else has ever done except for Jesus! Ever! That's the way I want to live. I want to live knowing my God protects me and preserves me while I walk with Him. Sozo also means to set free or liberate, to release or save, to disburden oneself of thoughts, opinions. That's where God has mostly shown me His saving power. I have yet to walk on water (here's to hoping 😉), but I have seen Him deliver me over and over again. Shortly after I fully surrendered my life to Christ, He started working in my heart to change me and transform me unto Him. At the time I was so depressed and heartbroken. My depression and sadness was so great that sometimes I wondered if it would be better to not live at all - in fact I was probably borderline suicidal. During my worst days and nights, I would scream at God, tormented by the demons that had haunted me for years. The problem was, I hadn't realized they were haunting me because in college, I had embraced a sinful life. But when the light of God flooded my heart, the dark corners didn't appreciate being lit up. I was tormented by the darkness day in and day out for a long, long time. But during this time, I stayed faithful to the Lord. Not always very well, and not without fighting and wrestling with Him, but I came back day after day. One day I woke up and was no longer bothered by evil spirits, because the battles I had been fighting with God by my side defeated the darkness. We had won this war. Together. My Jesus saves. I have so many examples of the saving grace of Jesus. The only way I have ever won a battle against anxiety, depression, sickness, defeat, is by looking at Jesus. Pick up the Bible, read God's Word. Pray, scream, yell, but invite Jesus into the place that needs saving. Watch as His grace sozo's your mind and your heart. It's not without a lot of discipline and hard work on your part, but "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) Be patient, even in affliction, for it will produce perseverance. I used to be afraid of perseverance because I didn't like that it would mean suffering in the meantime. Now however, when the storms of life come, my faith isn't impacted while the world becomes fearful. Look to Jesus, He will save you. Sozo = Salvation The most obvious form of the word is salvation. When we call out to Jesus, confess with our mouth that He is Lord and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead, then we will be saved. (Romans 10:9) God saves our souls. There's a hole in our hearts that only He can fill. We can search for meaning and purpose in every single thing this world has to offer: career, family, friends, health, wealth, chasing dreams and climbing mountains, but nothing will ever replace the love of Jesus when we invite Him in. It doesn't matter what we chase, it won't fill us, redeem us, or give us fullness. When we submit our lives to Christ, we die to ourselves. It sounds not fun, I get it. I was pretty happy to live my sin-filled life in college. I enjoyed the partying and I listened to the lies that Satan told me that a life with Jesus would be boring (Believing The Right Thing: Replacing Satan's Lies With God's Truth). Oh how wrong I was! My life has been way more exciting and joyful than one day of partying ever was. Yes, there is pain in walking with God. But there's no less pain when we're not, it's just that we numb it with vices like drinking, drugs, sex and adventures. We hop from relationship to relationship, and seek out careers that will bring us fortune and fame. We chase life experiences that keep our adrenaline going while avoiding the crash by lining up the next adventure before the current one is even finished. What's hard about receiving Christ is that when we slow down, he opens up the cracks in our heart and shows us the ugliness that's been there all along. Old traumas are brought to the service, and the pain of our past is brought to the forefront. He opens up the wounds that never healed, and instead festered below the surface. He asks that we give our hurts over to Him for safe keeping, that we surrender them. When we do that, He does a new work and transforms us into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The cracks and wounds are filled with His healing power, and we are made complete and perfect. It doesn't matter what you chase or what your god is in this life, it won't save you and it won't fill you. Only Jesus can do that. My Jesus Saves I am a firsthand witness of the power of Jesus Christ. I have been healed of anxiety, depression, guilt, a painful past, and broken and failed relationships. Childhood traumas and events that used to keep me in a prison of self-doubt and fear are gone. The chains of bondage have been broken. I have mourned severe loss and come out on the other side stronger than I was before. (Mourn The Loss) The only constant through every battle I have faced was and is, Jesus. He has sozo'd every single area of my life and continues to work new life and salvation in my heart. Turn to Him. Look unto Him. Don't take your eyes off of Him and you will one day wake up and find that the old you has gone, and the new you has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Writing to you with joy, Jessica

Enjoying Florida's Emerald Coast: Fort Walton Beach & Destin

Enjoying Florida's Emerald Coast: Fort Walton Beach & Destin

At the end of August we took a trip to the Emerald Coast for Mikael's grandmother's funeral. We decided to stay a week to really enjoy Florida with our family. Mikael and I have been to Destin a few times but bringing kids to the beach is an experience I'll never forget! I will admit though, it was a little exhausting trying to keep them from eating sand or running straight into the ocean. It made me slightly nostalgic for the days when all I had to worry about staying hydrated while in the sun... Other than us being crazy parents trying to keep our kids alive, we did enjoy bringing our kids to the beach and seeing the pure delight on their faces when they experienced the ocean for the first time. Destin has a few unique sights to offer the every day traveler. If you're thinking of heading to the Emerald Coast, put Fort Walton Beach and Destin on your list! 1. Visit the Beach In my opinion, the number one reason to visit Florida is the beach! Bring or rent a tent to have an all-day family beach experience (without worrying about littles burning). Both Destin and Fort Walton Beach have great beaches that boasts the white sugar sand and perfect teal waters. I listed out my favorite beaches by location - I hope you find the time to stop by a few of these for the day! Destin Henderson Beach & Henderson Beach State Park - listed as one of the best beaches in the country, Henderson Beach is a beautiful place to spend time either by yourself, or with others. You won't be disappointed! James Lee Beach - an absolutely beautiful beach with white sand and emerald water. June White Decker Beach - it's a nice beach, but plan to get here early if you want a spot! It's a smaller beach and space fills up quickly. Norriego Point - located near the boardwalk in Destin, it's perfectly situated between the Choctawhatchee Bay and the gulf. Fort Walton Beach John Beasley Park - this one is hands down my favorite beach spot. A small boardwalk nearby has coffee, restaurants, ice cream and public restrooms for changing. There are showers at the boardwalk to rinse the sand off before going to the car. Okaloosa Island Beach - located near condos and a small boardwalk, this beach also has nearby showers to rinse off after enjoying the beach. Wayside Park, Okaloosa Island - charming beach with an expansive boardwalk nearby and local restaurants. Garniers Beach Park - if you're looking for something a little quieter in a neighborhood, this is your beach! Located in the Choctawhatchee Bay, it has a swimming area, play equipment and picnic tables. You really can't go wrong with any of the beaches in Fort Walton and Destin. They are all picture perfect.
Play in the sand with beach toys or just hang by the water! 2. Catch a Dolphin Tour There are quite a few private, custom and charter boats that offer dolphin tours in and around Destin and Fort Walton Beach. Destin is a great place to see dolphins regularly, and often times you can spot them off in the distance from the ocean shore line on the beach. A boat ride or cruise usually runs between $30-50 per person. There are a handful of custom options, like sunset dolphin cruises and those are slightly pricier. A private dolphin cruise and chartered cruise will run you $300-900 depending on the company, and is a good option for parties and families. There are so many great ways to see dolphins in Florida and taking a cruise is an (almost) guaranteed way of catching a glimpse of these fun-loving creatures. 3. Mini Golf & Amusement Parks Okaloosa Island and Destin both have popular mini golf courses right near the beach. When you're tired of the sand and sun, head over for a afternoon of play. Okaloosa National Mini Golf & Ice Cream - destination offering 2 separate 18-hole mini-golf courses along with a selection of 23 ice creams. Wild Willy's Adventure Zone - amusement park with go-karts, mini-golf, bumper cars & boats, kids' rides & arcade. Goofy Golf - located north of Fort Walton near Ocean City, Goofy Golf is a small, family-friendly mini-golf course that provides a quirky setting for the game. The Track, Destin - amusement park with go-karts, mini-golf, bumper cars & boats, kids' rides & arcade. 4. The Boardwalks I love visiting the boardwalks. Destin and Okaloosa Island have great boardwalks, right near the beach. Grab a drink, shop, or eat dinner and watch the sun set over the golf! Destin Harbor Boardwalk The Destin boardwalk is a bustling destination for bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, boating and tourist attractions. It stretches nearly a quarter mile and is the perfect spot to take in the beach and sunset near the pier or enjoy lunch and dinner by the water. There are so many restaurants to choose from! I recommend AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar for some amazing seafood. If you're stopping for brunch or lunch, head over to Marine Cafe or Margaritaville. The Boardwalk, Okaloosa Island The boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is far smaller than in Destin, but it's charming and quaint and has everything that you need. Grab dinner at Al's Beach Club and Burger Bar and enjoy a Rum Float. Trust me, it's fantastic. Have a coffee from Oasis and sit out on the boardwalk or eat gelato near the ocean. Either way, you can't go wrong! And having showers and public restrooms on the boardwalk make it easy to spend an entire day at the beach. 5. Enjoy a Sunset Cruise Many of the dolphin tours also offer sunset cruises, as well as dolphin sunset tours. Enjoy a group cruise or private trip later in the evening and watch the sun set over the gulf. There's nothing better than watching the sun set over the ocean. 6. Big Kahuna's Water & Adventure Park If you get tired of the ocean, then head to the water park! Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park is located in Destin and features over 40 water attractions. It has everything from water slides, a wave pool, lazy river and multiple pools. The park also features several thrill ride attractions and a miniature golf course. A few special rides for kiddos makes this a great one-stop shop for fun. There are several different price options for the adventure park, ranging from $14-35. Choose the right package for you and your family! 7. Rent a Boat - Head to Crab Island! Probably the neatest destination in Destin is located in the middle of Choctawhatchee Bay, Crab Island. Crab Island is a submerged sandbar just off the shore of Destin, you could practically swim there! But if swimming through the bay isn't your jam, rent a boat or a jet ski and head over to the island. A Crab Island Shuttle Boat sells roundtrip tickets to those who don't want to rent a boat. On the weekends the entire island is packed with anchored boats and in the middle of the sandbar is a floating bar, serving up drinks all day. The submerged sandbar has an average depth of 1-4 feet and is a great way to spend the day. I hope you make it to the Emerald Coast! And if you stay in Destin and Fort Walton Beach, let me know what you enjoyed and what we should hit up the next time we're there. It's one of our favorite places to visit, and we definitely look forward to heading back. Happy travels! With Joy, Jessica

Mourn The Loss

Mourn The Loss

I think one of the most human verses in the entire Bible is also the shortest one: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) I don't know about you, but I was taught to see vulnerable emotions as a lack of strength. As a result, I grew up viewing crying and sadness as a weakness. Instead of learning how to properly manage and handle sadness, depression or loss, I stuffed those deep down within me. But the problem is by not dealing with my emotions, they end up coming out sideways in my relationships and in my life. Sadness left unhandled can end up being expressed in other ways, like anger or depression, anxiety or hopelessness. But it can also affect the body in ways we don't always realize. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about sadness and how it can affect our bodies, so it behooves us to learn how to deal with sadness, and there's no better way than to allow Jesus to teach us how to mourn. Why Should We Mourn? Proverbs 17:22 says "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." I want to take a look at the New Living Translation, because I think it will bring some more clarity to this verse. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." To be broken in spirit, or to have a crushed spirit, literally saps up our strength and dries up our bones. A broken spirit, a broken heart, to be brokenhearted or sad, can actually dry our body up from the inside out. Health issues can arise in our body if we stuff our emotions, and if we don't mourn our losses. Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV) "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Proverbs 12:25 (NKJV) "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad." Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV) "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit?" When we mourn things that have happened to us, we work through our sadness and grief. As we mourn, a healing work begins in our hearts and our bodies won't take on our pain. Let's take a look at the word medicine in Proverbs 17:22. The Hebrew word for medicine is gēhâ, which actually means cure. Gēhâ is derived from the root word gāhâ, which means to remove a bandage from a wound, heal it, cure it. So the cure, or medicine for our sorrow, is to have a cheerful heart! Seems simple right? Except, we can't just suddenly "be happy" when we're in a fog of sadness. Cheerfulness is far from us when sorrow reigns in our hearts. The Bible says Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), and yet I only see a handful of Bible verses in which he cried, and in one of those he was so deeply anguished that his body sweated blood in anticipation of the cross. In all my sorrows, there is nothing that has made my body sweat blood because of how deeply affected I was by my circumstances. And do you know what He did while in anguish? He went straight to His father, our Lord, with His agony. He prayed. It's pretty safe to say, that the man who sweat blood in anticipation of carrying my sins to the cross, can also comfort me in my darkest days. The man who was beaten until his form was so marred that he was unrecognizable as a human, as a man, endured so much agony that I can say by His stripes I am healed. (Isaiah 53:5). It's to that man that I take my sorrows and share with Him my losses. Isaiah 52:14 (NLT) "But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man." So, why should we mourn? We should mourn because when we do, our spirit is healed. We should mourn because on the other side of darkness, pain and sadness, is cheerfulness and joy. We should mourn, because mourning is the medicine, in it we find our cure. And we should mourn, because Jesus showed us that he also grieved, and deeply. But on the other side of our mourning, perhaps we will find the secret that Sherwood Wirt writes about in his book Jesus Man of Joy. Wirt writes, "Jesus was a man of such gladness of Spirit, such freedom and openness and magnetism in His attitude, that He was irresistible." On the other side of our mourning season, we will experience joy and gladness of heart. So then, what does mourning look like? Cry It Out Our greatest teacher is Jesus, and he showed us exactly how to mourn. When Lazarus died, he wept. For the longest time I actually believed that meant he wailed or sobbed aloud, but the word used in this verse is actually dakryo, which is to shed tears or cry silently. How many times do we as women cry silently? We cry silently into our pillows at night, being careful not to wake the person next us. We cry as we stir the food on the stove, or in the shower where no one can see us. We cry when we spent all morning cleaning the house, only to have a toddler or child spill their juice all over the carpet and we find ourselves on our knees again. And the tears silently fall when we feel underappreciated or unseen. In these moments we can take comfort that Jesus also cried, in the very same way as us. He cried when Lazarus died, and again before the cross. In our moments of crying, invite the Lord into that place. Share those deepest hurts and unfulfilled longings with the one who already knows what's in your heart. I used to fall into the trap of not sharing it all with Him, thinking what's the point? He knows it all anyway, and yet He does nothing. So why share what I feel? Because our healing comes when we cry out to the Lord. When we share our innermost desires and shattered hearts with God, He hears us. He listens to us, He communes with us, and He helps us walk through our pain. I can't tell you how many times I have cried out to God about a disappointing experience, and when I do, I wake up the next day feeling better than the day before, and a little more healed. Healing happens when we cry it out and invite Jesus into that space. The One who carried ALL of our sins, hurts, aches and pains, shame and disease to the cross, is the one who cares about everything you're feeling. Tell Him. Tell Him everything. But don't leave it there, ask Him to heal your hurts and to bind your wounds. (Psalm 147:3) And then step back and watch as the ashes of your brokenness birth a new tree, filled with His fruits. Through Our Tears, We Glimpse Heaven "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matthew 13:44 I was 7 months pregnant when my best friend called to chat with me and catch up. She was battling cancer and had been for awhile, but she sounded upbeat and positive about the new medical trial they had her on. We laughed a lot, and it was one of those conversations that felt normal, like before the cancer had taken away a lot of her life. Three days later her mom called, and I knew. I knew my best friend had lost her battle, and that she was calling to tell me it was over. I picked up the phone, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. Her voice shook as she shared with me Lauren's final hours and when the doctors knew the fight was over. The worst part of it was, Lauren must have known when she called me that she was saying goodbye, but I didn't know that. I don't know how I would have handled the news had she told me the truth, but I know one thing: I would have had a lot more I wanted to say. I was walking out of work the next day, still in shock, and I vividly remember telling Jesus, "I want to be close to you, I want to share with you everything I'm feeling, but right now, I know I need some space. I can't grieve this right now." Being near Jesus has a way of changing us. We can't help but become more like Him the more we draw near to Him. Part of becoming more like Him, is dealing with painful things that might derail us from who He wants us to become. And it wasn't that I didn't want to be near Him, but I wasn't sure how grief would affect my unborn baby girl. Somehow in my heart, I knew the best thing for her was to put grief aside for the time being and to focus on being the healthiest I could be. So I shared this all with Him, that I desired my relationship with Him more than anything, but He had ordained my pregnancy, and protecting my baby was my upmost priority. In that moment, walking out of work, I could feel the presence of Jesus. I felt His hand hold mine as He walked me to my car. He whispered into my soul, "I will be here, when you are ready. I am always near, just call on me." I have never felt more cared for than I did in that moment. He didn't judge me for saying I needed space. He just loved me as I was. Do you know what He did for me over the course of the next few months? He gave me a supernatural joy that filled my heart and my soul in a way that went beyond human comprehension. I couldn't have cried if I had wanted to. Jesus heard my heart's desire, and then He answered me in a way that I hadn't expected. He filled my whole being with joy, so that my unborn baby would experience a mama filled with gladness. He gave me a hidden treasure, the joy of heaven, and let me experience that for the rest of my pregnancy. That is my Jesus! That is my God! Is that your God? Call upon Him, tell Him of your worries, cares and desires, and He will draw near to you. Psalm 145:18-19 "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them." (emphasis mine) Don't Stuff It and Forget It While I enjoyed the joy God gave me during my pregnancy, I knew it had to come to an end at some point. I expected I would start dealing with it after Skylar was born, I didn't expect to be such a wreck immediately after her birth, before even leaving the hospital. I experienced postpartum depression and the grief of losing my best friend all at the same time. There were days when all I did was cry, and I began to wonder if I would be depressed forever. There were nights when my husband held me while I sobbed, for a long time. In my grief, he showed me what Paul meant when he wrote: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her..." (Ephesians 5:25). He showed me a glimpse of heaven during those hard nights. There were definitely times when I wondered if I needed something to help with the sadness. Every time I thought about it though, Jesus brought my focus back to Him. He reminded me that He was the same one who held my hand and gave me joy while I was pregnant, and that He would also be my counselor in my grief. Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus our Wonderful Counselor, that through His birth He will come as one who counsels us, if we let Him. I have found in my walk with Him that there is no one who counsels me better, or gives me better advice and wisdom then the person of Jesus. Let's look at these two words, Wonderful Counselor. The word Wonderful is derived from the Hebrew word pele, which means a miracle. The word Counselor is the word yāʿas, which means to consult together, to deliberate, to resolve, to give counsel, purpose, devise, plan, to guide. There's actually a lot of meaning in this one word! When we approach Jesus with our hurts and sadness, he gives us counsel, but it goes further than that. He consults and deliberates with us through our grief and pain, and helps us resolve it and guides us as we work through it. But it doesn't end there! Through His counsel, we find purpose, and He gives us new plans, new life. He makes a miracle out of our pain! He is truly our wonderful counselor! I'm definitely not saying that counselors and therapists aren't a worthy investment, but make sure that the one who is advising you is above all else, leading you to the person of Jesus. God cautions us against ungodly counsel (Psalm 1:1), so be in prayer with Him about finding the right counselor in your time of need. I knew for myself, that Jesus was all I needed. He walked me through my intense grief. He dealt with me gently during my sad moments and I slowly moved forward, day by day. Sometimes, I was only holding on hour by hour when depression would overtake me. And that's ok. The key is to keep moving forward, keep sharing with Him, and keep walking through the valley of the shadow of death. On the other side, you will see the Son. Give God The Mud You know what else is ok? It's ok to tell Jesus just how horrible the whole situation is. Some of us go through some really awful things in life, but you know what? He's not afraid of a little muck and a little ick. He can handle any mud you sling at Him, and He will love you through it all. He just wants you to keep coming back to Him, keep talking to Him, keep looking at Him and beholding Him. When we do that, our mud and our ick that we sling at Him, he spins it into fine gold and gives it back to us. The more we share our mud with Him, the more He can work a miracle in our hearts and remove the mud, and replace it with heavenly treasure, heavenly goodness, heavenly gold. One day you will wake up and the pain won't be quite as intense, and you will have learned to love deeper, have greater compassion for your neighbor, and experience a joy that goes beyond anything this earthly happiness can offer. Purpose is born out of the pain, and when we look in the mirror, we find we have changed. Loss Is Hard But don't be afraid to truly mourn the loss. All of our losses matter to God, whether they are big or small. I mourned the loss of having an ideal pregnancy when I was pregnant with my twins (it was definitely NOT ideal). I mourned the loss of not having a breastfeeding journey with my twins like I did with my firstborn. I mourned the loss of our dog when she passed, of my children growing out of newborn clothes into bigger onesies, and the loss of my friendships when we moved across the country. There are so many big things we have to mourn in our journey through this life, but there are also little losses along the way too. These little losses, while they might seem silly or insignificant, they matter so much to God. It's important that we mourn our little losses too. Bitterness, in any form, has no ability to take root and grow in our hearts when we deal with the little things as well as the big things. And guess what? Jesus wants to hear about it all. So bring it to God when you're sad because you move from one home to another, even if the new home is bigger and better; but it doesn't contain the memories of your old one. Mourn the loss of loved ones when they pass on. Mourn the loss of your favorite boots, or favorite jacket when it's time to put it in the grave (trash). Mourn the loss of pets when it's their time. Mourn the loss of divorce, broken friendships, miscarriages and an empty womb. God cares about all of it. (1 Peter 5:7) I pray that as you read this, you are encouraged. I pray that you find comfort in knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ also go through similar trials and suffering, and they come out on the other end. There is an end to the the valley, but you have to walk through it to get there. On the other side you will find peace, joy, gladness. And you will be blessed. You will be oh, so blessed. James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:2-3) Perseverance is the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. But it also means continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation. Perseverance is a state of grace! So know this my friend, during your season of mourning, your faith is producing perseverance and you are in a continual state of grace. And your faith, while it's being tested during your state of sadness, is growing. It may seem dark now, but the darkest part of the night is right before dawn. Soon you will see the streaks of light in your life as the shadows begin to recede, and the sun breaks forth. Press forward, press ever on until the glorious end. And know this, nothing, absolutely nothing, is wasted when we put our trust in Jesus. Writing to you with joy, Jessica

How We Potty Trained Our Toddler in 4 Days

How We Potty Trained Our Toddler in 4 Days

*Mostly* When our daughter turned 2 I knew we would eventually have to deal with potty training her. Honestly, it terrified me. So much so that I put it off for 8 months. Well, that and my twins were born 6 weeks after she turned 2 so….. We finally decided to tackle the toilet over Thanksgiving break. My husband and I discussed how we *expected* the weekend to go, and we knew we were in this together. I read in a parenting magazine that some experts believe the best time to potty train is between 27-32 months; and we were quickly arriving at 32 months. The Method(s) We Used I researched a few methods before we decided on the no pants method combined with the Montessori method (MM). After reading about all the ways we could go about it, this seemed like the perfect fit for us. The Montessori Method focuses on a gradual process of toilet training, and for most people that means putting their kids on the toilet often and letting them get used to the idea from a young age. We didn't end up following this part of the process, instead opting to go all out in one weekend with no pants. But we did pull part of the MM by allowing Skylar to use pull-ups and diapers during naps and bedtime. Our main goal for Skylar was to have her potty trained during the day, and we figured we would worry about naps and bedtime later. One of the Montessori recommendations is to have toddlers use the regular toilet whenever possible – which means not using a typical toddler potty chair on the floor. When Skylar was 28 months we bought two potty training seats from Amazon that would allow her to use the regular toilet and (when ready), be able to use it herself without assistance from us. Getting Her Ready The potty seats arrived and we spent a few months talking to her about using the toilet “like a big girl.” I also started bringing her into the bathroom with me and showed her what I was doing and we talked about the process. We had her sit on “her” toilet a few times. We showed her a few Cocomelon videos about JJ using the potty “like a big boy” ….you get the idea. Our plan was to have her comfortable with it before making the transition. Around 30 months she started using one specific corner of our living room to do her business (in the diaper of course), and then telling us “poopy! Mommy change diaper!” It was then that we realized she was exhibiting the final sign of “readiness” and at this point, we were putting off toilet training. Preparing… And so, we picked a weekend to make it happen. The bare bottom method suggests having a long weekend or stretch of 4-5 days in which this is the only focus for the family. We decided Thanksgiving during Covid when we wouldn’t be traveling or seeing anyone was the perfect time for us to tackle the beast. The toilet, not our kid . The weekend before Thanksgiving, Skylar and I went on a mommy/me date to Target and picked out fun underwear. We talked constantly for the next 5 days about how fun it would be to wear Paw Patrol panties. I made a sticker chart and showed her the book of stickers she would get for using the potty, washing her hands, flushing by herself, asking us to use the potty, etc. We prepped both bathrooms (one upstairs, one downstairs) with the potty chairs, stickers, a coloring book and crayons, anything that would make the experience fun for her. Most importantly though, we mentally prepped for the hard days ahead. We knew there would be tears, fights, accidents, and drama, and we were ready for it. Being mentally prepared kept us from overreacting when she threw fits all weekend. We also prepared ourselves for it not working out, just in case. Day 1 The first thing we did Thanksgiving morning was take the diaper off and put her on the potty (not excited about it). We had explained for days what was going to happen, but she still wanted the diaper. We left her bare bottomed, knowing accidents would happen but also not wanting to wash undies all day. Every 30-45 minutes we put her on the potty (kicking and screaming at times), even if she didn’t have to go. The idea was to get her used to using the toilet. At naptime we put on a pullup and she realized that if she took a nap, she could go in her “diaper”. I’m not going to lie, we weren’t sure if we were doing the right thing on this one… After her nap we gave her the iPad when she went to the bathroom to help ease her anxiety. She would sit for 10-15 minutes at a time on the toilet, getting used to it, and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It relieved her fears and she started to relax. By the end of the day, she went in the toilet once! Progress! At night we put on her pullups again. Day 2 Day 2 was really tough. She woke up and we took off the pullups and she bawled her eyes out. We knew it would be difficult, but man, there were a lot of tears and temper tantrums on day 2. I won’t sugar coat it, it sucked. There were a lot of accidents. Every time we stuck her on the toilet it was a battle. Total war zone in the Hallstrom Home day 2. When we told her it was naptime, she literally ran up the stairs to her bedroom and asked for a diaper… I was beginning to get anxious about the naptime pullup and wondering if it was a mistake. But I didn’t want to change the routine just yet so on the pullup went, and she happily hopped into bed. It was a tough day, but like I said, we had prepared for bad days. We just took deep breaths, opened a bottle of wine, and soldiered on. Day 3 When I got Skylar up in the morning and we took off the pullup she cried again. I had heard that day 3 is the hardest day, and most parents want to quit the whole thing. On day 3 we decided to reward her BIG time if she went on the toilet. For the first 2 days, she only peed a handful of times on the toilet. Every other time it was on the carpet , hardwood floor (better!), or on the couch . So we upped the ante. We told her she would get a spoonful of ice cream for every successful toilet experience. It worked. She only had one accident all day. On the evening of day 3 she pooped, and we threw her the biggest party, complete with a bowl of ice cream. She was feeling pretty awesome that night. We felt tentatively hopeful. Day 4 Day 4 she woke up and ran straight for the toilet, declaring on the way, “ice cream!” Ha! I was digging the enthusiasm. We kept up the 45 minute bathroom trip routine all day, to ensure she didn’t have any accidents. Skylar still wasn’t letting us know when she needed to go, and she hadn’t quite gotten the hang of ‘knowing’ her body. So our routine continued. Ice cream included. Day 4 she consumed a lot of ice cream . And we stuck with pullups at naptime and bedtime. 2 Weeks Later… It took two weeks for her to start realizing when she needed to use the toilet. The first week we stuck with putting her on the potty every 45 minutes. We gradually increased the time to 90 minutes as she started to understand the process. Around day 14 of our training, she woke up with a dry pullup at naptime. Cue my shock. And I was pretty sure it was a fluke. It wasn’t. She never peed again during naptime. And then the most amazing thing happened…she stopped peeing at night too. That one surprised me the most. Even with the pullup on, she would wait until morning to use the toilet. I felt better about letting her gradually let go of the “diaper”. I was positive I was doing the wrong thing the whole time, but I think she found security in the pullup, and when she was ready, she trained herself. In Conclusion I don’t know if everyone would experience the same kind of success we did by combining the Montessori and bare bottom method (she did get her pants back), but we certainly loved the outcome. She was completely trained by Christmas, night and day, with zero accidents. At the end of the day, you know your kid and their learning style. And if something isn’t working, it’s ok to change it! We’re all learning how to be parents as we go along. I prayed A LOT before we entered into our potty training weekend. If you’re not sure what method to use or how to go about it, I would suggest praying about it. I prayed for wisdom, courage, patience, and for our kiddo to persevere through the hard days. I attribute any success we had to prayer. God hears us, He answers, and He guides us. With Joy, Jessica Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links from Amazon. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!

The Power Of Praying Over Our Children

The Power Of Praying Over Our Children

"And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up."
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 There are so many important prayers we should be, and can be, praying over our children. I pray for their safety, for their security, for freedom from fear, that they feel loved and accepted, for their friendships and for their relationships with their siblings and us as their parents. I pray for their emotions and that they have a sound mind grounded in the Truth of Christ. My husband and I have taken oil and prayed over our children's rooms; that nothing would be allowed in that is of the devil. We pray for the breaking of strongholds in our lives, that they wouldn't affect our children, and for strongholds to not spring up in their lives. I mean, the list is endless! I think the absolute most important job as a parent is praying for our kids. We can read every parenting book on the planet, but unless we are rooted in Christ with the Bible as our guide, praying for them and ourselves, our efforts will be futile. Praying For Our Children Daily When I first had Skylar 3 years ago, I bought The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. It's a fantastic book, and one I recommend that every parent has in their arsenal! There are 32 chapters in the book, and the first chapter is beginning with praying for me as the parent, that I would become a praying parent. I believe praying that for myself has made a huge difference in being receptive to the words God wants me to pray over my kids. Learning how to pray for our kids first starts in us being malleable and teachable in the ways of the Lord. I also love that each chapter focuses on a different area in our kids' lives that we can be praying for. It's not an accident that she does her chapters so that we can be praying each day for a new topic, effectively covering them in prayer every single day of the month throughout the year. But, there is one prayer that I started praying for my kids that stands out above all others. It has not only shown me that they are grasping who Jesus is, and that Jesus is teaching their hearts in ways I don't even realize, but this prayer has also humbled me when my daughter has spoken Truth back to me. The Number One Prayer Of all the prayers I pray for my children, the prayer for wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of Christ is my number one prayer. I want them to grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus. The most important thing we can do is teach them about Jesus, what His death on the cross did for us and how we are redeemed through His death and resurrection. I want them to know wisdom. To have understanding that is beyond human comprehension. Wisdom is a gift, but when it's paired with understanding in how and when to use that wisdom, it is life-giving. I want them to have an understanding of the wisdom God has given them, that their spiritual eyes would be opened to Jesus. So I pray Ephesians 1:17-18 over my children every night before bed. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints"
Ephesians 1:17-18 I pray this verse over myself and Mikael too. In fact, I have it written on a notecard in my Bible, and every time I open my Bible, I pray this over our family. How God Gives Wisdom To Our Children I started praying Ephesians 1 over my kids sometime this spring, after listening to a sermon about why this is such an important prayer for us as Christians. Just like most prayers we pray, we almost never see how it's actively working or affecting our lives for many months, or even years. It takes time for prayer to cultivate in our hearts. When we plant the seeds of a new prayer, and water it by praying that prayer over and over, it takes hold and roots begin to grow. But just like a real plant, it takes awhile for those roots to deepen and for the plant to sprout forth above ground. All that to say, it was probably 5 or so months before I saw the fruit of this prayer taking place. One particular afternoon, I was having a challenging day with my kids. Both of the twins were going through a developmental leap, and on top of that, they were both teething and working on getting some molars through. So, to say they were whiny for most of the day, would be an understatement. By the time I got them down for a nap and sat down with my daughter, I was spent. I was emotionally and physically spent. I don't say that as an excuse for what happened next with my behavior, but to give context for the day as a whole. I made my daughter and myself lunch, and we sat down together. Part way through she decided she didn't want her lunch anymore. She started demanding a different lunch. I explained that no, I wasn't making her a different lunch, because I had already given her a choice and she didn't choose that option when she had a choice. She got angry with me, and flipped her plate up. Peanut butter and jelly flew all over the kitchen, and y'all, I was pissed. It had been a tough morning, and my daughter could feel it. In that moment, I angrily told her to clean it up, and we were done. I put her in time-out and left the room to take a breather. Before I left the room, I looked back at her one last time, and there was anger in my eyes, and she felt it when I looked at her. Her little face fell and I know she could feel how upset I was. I'm definitely not proud of losing my temper, or the anger that she felt. I went back to where she was in time-out after I had cooled down and prayed over the situation. I sat down next to her and she looked up at me and said "Mommy has evil anger in her eyes, it makes me sad." Oof. I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the gut. In my spirit, the Holy Spirit confirmed what she had said. There had been evil in my anger toward her. I hugged her and apologized for my behavior in my anger, and we talked about her behavior and how she had acted. I used that moment to speak to her about how what I did was wrong, and what she did was wrong. It was a definite teaching moment, and I believe I was the one being taught. I wasn't really sure what to do with that knowledge when she spoke those words to me in that moment. She had spoken wisdom to me, and I realized immediately that the Holy Spirit had given her a special discernment regarding my behavior and my anger. I think she saw something in the spiritual realm. Am I certain of that? No, but there was something in the way that she said it, and the way the Holy Spirit confirmed her words to me internally. I knew there was evil surrounding my anger that day. For a few weeks after, that day swirled in my mind and I prayed about it and talked with the Lord about it. I received a visual picture from the Lord while I was in church one Sunday, showing me the stronghold anger has had on my family for many generations. In the Spirit, I saw my grandmother, and her anger toward my father. I saw my father in turn, choosing not to break that cycle of anger when he accepted Christ, but instead gave in to the spirit of anger over and over. I remember being on the brunt end of angry words many times while I was growing up. In that moment in church, I realized that this stronghold was a generational one, cursing my family line. I saw what my daughter had seen that day, that a spirit of anger sometimes took over and spewed hatred through me. I saw that there was a line from my grandmother, connecting to my father, which connected to me, and I realized in that moment that if I did nothing, if I sat aside, it would connect from me to my children as well. I Refuse To Do Nothing As soon as the Lord gave me that vision while we were worshipping in church, I realized what needed to happen next. I began praying. I prayed that the blood of Jesus would cover this generational chord connecting back to my ancestors, and that it would be broken. I prayed that the stronghold Satan had had on our lives, would be demolished into fine dust. I saw myself in the Spirit, picking up the Sword, and using the Truth of God's Word to bring down this demonic scheme. Ephesians 6:10-18 came to my mind and realized how I needed to pray. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." (Ephesians 6:10-18) Anger is nothing more than a demonic ploy; just like alcoholism, or pornography, or pride, or depression, or fear, or bitterness. That is not to say that it isn't damaging or that it isn't powerful. It absolutely is. But when our eyes are opened to the ways of the devil, the tools he is using to bind us, then we can deal with it using the weapons that God has given us. However, our eyes need to be opened to the lies first. God used my little girl to open my eyes and truly see the generational curse for what it really is; a Satanic tool to keep me bound in a stronghold. The devil is hoping I do nothing to combat his fiery darts, and that I pass that anger on to my children. So, That Day, I Prayed I took up the sword of the Spirit, and I recognized, I am a daughter of the King. I have been given all power of heaven and earth to combat the lies of the enemy, and the evil one. I am no longer a slave to my anger! While the worship surrounded me and God's people sang his praises, I prayed in my heart, that the generational curse of anger that had been in my family line for (I don't know how long) would be broken that day right then and there. I prayed the blood of Jesus and His finished work at the cross would cover me, my children, and my family, and I told the spirit of anger it was no longer welcome in my home. I would not give it any more energy or attention, for I have been set apart by God, made righteous by the death of His son. I declared myself set free from the bondage of anger. Friends, we have been given every spiritual blessing that exists in the heavenly realms because of Christ! (Ephesians 1:3) So we must walk worthy of our calling! What does that mean? It means to take up the Sword of the Spirit. All that means, is that we wage war against darkness using the Word of God. We don't have to come up with fancy or eloquent speech, or worry that don't have the words to say. God has given us every single word we could ever need in His Word. He has given us the power to stand strong against the evil one, if we will simply use His Word to wage the war. I didn't use my words, I used the Truth of God's Word to declare that this Satanic stronghold no longer had power over me, and I declared the blood of Jesus over myself, my family, my anger, my situation, and over this stronghold. When we wage war like this, the devil has no choice but to flee. The blood of Jesus and His finished work sets us free! I don't know if that was the end of the war or not, but I will be using the same tactics if that evil anger comes into my heart again. Before my eyes betray what my heart feels, I will be waging war against the principalities of darkness and against the schemes of the devil. Anger is not welcome here any more. I don't care how many times I need to pick up the Sword and remind myself of my standing in Christ to pull this stronghold down; it is worth it to break the bondage for future generations. Let Us Not Be Too Proud To Learn From The Weak I have never seen myself as "mighty" in the way the world values might. Maybe it's because I'm so short that I don't view myself that way 😉. But in the eyes of my daughter, I am mighty, and she is weak. And yet, God used the "weak" things of this world to take down my might. (1 Corinthians 1:27) He used my little girl to humble me. I pray I never become so proud, that I am beyond being humbled by the "weak". I pray that I remain teachable, no matter who is the one doing the teaching. For when I am weak, then I am made strong. "And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 My weakness, my anger, became the catalyst and reason for me waging war against this stronghold. In that moment, I fully understood this verse in Corinthians. I fully realized that only Christ, his power, his grace, would defeat the schemes of the devil, and I used the Word of God, to confound Satan and his demons. Anger is nothing more than a demonic spirit, and what power does it have over Christ and His sanctifying blood that washes me clean? Who can come against the power of God and His Might?? Nothing I say! Nothing can stand when God is on our side! So pick up the Sword of the Spirit! Whatever you are wrestling with today, tell that thing who you are! You are made righteous by the power and blood of Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17) You are sanctified and made perfect in the beloved! I promise you, that you will taste and see the goodness of the Lord as your enemies flee and strongholds come crumbling down. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stand against the Word of God. Whatever you are dealing with today, find your verse, or verses, that you can hold onto. God has already given you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, just for believing in Him and accepting His Son's death as Truth! So grab on to your blessings. Tell yourself over and over, that by His stripes you are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) Whatever you need from Him, talk with Him, and then declare His Word over your life and situation. He tells us over and over in His Word that He is our God. We need to pick up the Sword and act like He is our God. Oh, How Jesus Loves His Children! When Jesus walked on this earth He used little children to illustrate over and over how we should be and act as Christians. Little children have no pretenses when they approach Him, they just come! They come just as they are, and they don't pretend to be something they are not. They know God loves them for who they are, not because of what they do, or how they behave, or how they act. Jesus tells us to be like them. He uses them to teach us that when we are made least, then we will be great. Not that we will be great in and of ourselves, but that in us becoming less, then He can become MORE. As we die to ourselves, as each part of ourselves becomes burned in the fire, or is put to death by the Sword of Truth, or is laid at the feet of Jesus and left there, more of Him fills our beings making us whole and Holy. So as we become least, he becomes great in us. His greatness fills us and shines from us. Paul said he takes pleasure in His weaknesses. I don't think I'm at a place yet where I can say I take pleasure in my weaknesses, but I pray some day I will be. What I do know, is that I experienced a true joy in my Spirit in that church service as part of my self died to make way for a new creation in Christ to rise up. Leading up to that day though, I was very aware of my weakness, and I did not enjoy it. I was humbled by my daughter, but I am thankful that I kept pressing into God and I didn't ignore the teaching He had for me. I know that in my prayers, strongholds are crumbling around me, and Satan no longer has a hold on my anger like he once did. I see anger for what it really is, a demonic tool. But I see myself made righteous through Christ (Romans 3:22), and now I can all the more boldly declare that in my weakness, I am made strong! The next time an evil spirit with it's angry ideas and words comes at me, (if it even dares to 😉), I will wage war by picking up the Word. I know how much damage the fiery darts of the evil one can do to us as humans, I can only imagine what the cleansing water of Jesus' blood and His Word do to those who come against us. I don't know how much God's Word stings or hurts the devil, but I know this, his fire is put out when we speak the Truth, and Satan doesn't hang around long when we wage war. That which is in us, is greater than that which is in the world. (1 John 4:4) So pick up God's Word my beloved! And let's wage war and not only act like the daughters and sons we are, but possess the inheritance we have received through Christ. God declares that we are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). That means, we are a royal priesthood and kings! (Revelation 1:6) When a priest prays, heaven hears and mountains are moved. When a king commands, people jump to do their bidding. God says that we are as His Son is, let's walk in our inheritance and break down those strongholds. As always, I'm ready to pray for you and jump into the battle with you. We're all in this together! With Joy, Jessica

Kitchen Table Makeover

Kitchen Table Makeover

I finally got around to refinishing our kitchen table, which has been on my to-do list for the last 4 years (no joke!) I’m delighted with the result, and this technique completely transformed our kitchen, giving it a light, airy feel. If you’re in the mood to refresh your table, give this technique a try! My husband and I bought this table when we first got married for $50 on Craigslist, and I’ve had every intention of painting it ever since. I finally got around to doing it. Mostly, the impending birth of our twins spurred me on. At 20 weeks pregnant, (like a crazy person!) I finally got out the chalk paint and set about refinishing our table. While our table looked nice before, the yellow wood is not exactly my taste. What You Will Need Power sander, or a sanding tool Rustoleum chalk paint in Linen White, Country Gray & Charcoal (see picture below!) Old white T-shirts, cut up into sections Plastic cups or a paint holder (I used plastic cups and spoons and tossed them when I was done) Brushes Polyvine wax finish varnish Amazon bench (optional) PAINT & TOOLS I USED: So, Let's Get Started! 1 – First, I gave my table and chairs a light sanding. I chose not to use a chemical stripping agent to strip the wax sealant off the table and chairs – I opted instead for sanding to give my furniture texture for the paint to hold onto. I used my power sander with 220 grit paper for sanding each piece. 2 – After sanding the table and chairs, I decided I wanted a bench to add more seating to our table. Especially since we will have 5 in our family after the twins arrive… So I went online and found this one on Amazon. I ordered it and followed the same technique for the bench that I used for the table. 3 – Next I wiped down the table, chairs, and bench with water and a little bit of soap to remove any sanding dust. 4 – I started by painting everything with Rustoleum chalk paint in linen white as my base coat. And a tip I learned early is to thin the paint out with just a little bit of water (less than a 1/2 tsp). If you mix the water in with the paint before starting– it will help your paint go on smoother without leaving streaks. Each coat will be slightly thinner, but I noticed I had less dripping while each piece was drying. I ended up doing 3 thinner coats but the coverage turned out great. One thing to note, the bench legs had a slight cream tint to them, so painted those white as well. I also painted a few coats of white on the bench top to have as a base. We want everything to match! 5 – After applying the white coats of paint, I then mixed two cups of paint to come up with the colors I wanted to create texture on the table top. In one plastic cup I mixed linen white with the charcoal gray. And in the other plastic cup I mixed country gray with a little bit of linen white and a little bit of charcoal gray. I spent time playing with the paint until I got the exact colors I liked. 6 – Next, I worked in small sections, brushing on both colors from my cups, and then I wiped each section with a piece of my husband’s old white T-shirt until I got the look I wanted. If the color was too dark, I used the linen white paint mix to tone the color down. And in the same way, whenever I saw a really light area, I darkened it using my charcoal gray mix. I used my rag to wipe every area until I had the right gray texture I wanted. 7 – Finally, I gave the top of my table and bench a light sanding. Then I wiped everything down to remove any dust or dirt (or dog hair) that might be lurking on my furniture. 8 – Lastly, I used the polyvine wax finish varnish to seal the furniture. I put down 3 coats, waiting a half day between applications. This is my favorite finish for chalk paint because it gives my furniture a glossy finish without the high maintenance of wax. I also like this finish better than Rustoleum Matte Finish. The polyvine wax is thicker and has a nicer hold when everything is dry. AND HERE’S THE FINISHED PRODUCT! And that’s it! We let our kitchen table sit for 7 days before we used it. I can confidently say that it has held up really well and 5 months later, the paint isn’t chipping at all. I also ended up buying foam chair pads from Bed Bath & Beyond for our chairs. It gives a little more cushion for the tush and looks nice too. If you try this chalk painting technique for your table, let me know! I would love to hear from you and how your project turned out! With Joy, Jessica P.S. Follow me on social media to keep up with our family as we find adventures and do this thing called life! I am on Instagram and Pinterest! And if you liked this post, check out my kid table and chairs chalk paint makeover! Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links from Amazon. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!

DIY Chalk Paint Dresser Makeover

DIY Chalk Paint Dresser Makeover

I'm in love with repurposing old furniture. I enjoy the satisfaction of taking something old and turning it into something new. If you’ve seen any of my other DIY chalk paint projects, you know it’s a passion of mine! My husband inherited this old dresser from his great-aunt, and I’ve been itching to get my hands on it for years. I finally decided how I wanted it to look, and took the plunge into transforming it. As you can see, this dresser is very well-loved. If you look closely, it has gouges and water damage. I had to sand the water damaged spots to remove them, but I left the minor flaws and scrapes alone. The dresser is over a hundred years old, and I love that it has unique character flaws. For this project, I used the same technique that I did for my kitchen table makeover, because I loved the final result. So without further ado… What You Will Need Power sander, or a sanding tool Rustoleum chalk paint in Linen White, Country Gray & Charcoal (see picture below!) Old white T-shirts, cut up into sections Plastic cups or a paint holder (I used plastic cups and spoons and tossed them when I was done) Brushes Polyvine wax finish varnish Let's Go! 1 – First off, I took everything out of the drawers, removed the hardware, and sanded the drawers and main dresser. I used my power sander with 220 grit paper for sanding each piece. I gave extra love and attention to the water stains, making sure not to over sand those areas. The idea was to remove the stains as much as possible but not make the wood uneven in any area. 2 – Next I used soap and water and wiped the entire dresser to remove any sanding dust. I did this a few times to really clean the entire thing. 3 – I started by painting everything with Rustoleum chalk paint in linen white as my base coat. I ended up doing 3 coats of paint because the old wood needed extra love. Three coats later… 4 – After applying the linen white, I mixed two cups of paint. In one plastic cup I mixed linen white with the country gray. And in the other cup I mixed country gray with a little bit of linen white and a little bit of charcoal gray. I spent time playing with the colors until I got the exact shades I liked. 5 – Next, I worked in small sections, brushing on both colors from my cups, and then wiped each section with the old T-shirt until I got the look I wanted. I spent time playing with each section of the dresser to create the right overall texture I was looking for. 6 – Before applying the top coat, I sanded every piece again to create a distressed look and smooth out the paint. 7 – To seal my dresser, I used the Polyvine wax finish varnish. I brushed on 3 coats, waiting a half day between applications. This is my favorite finish for chalk paint because it gives furniture a glossy finish without the high maintenance of wax. 8 – Finally, I put the dresser back together and added the hardware. I deliberated between painting the hardware or replacing it altogether. In the end I left it as is. The handles are weathered and worn, and they’re original. I ended up liking the antique brass with the gray paint. That’s It! I let the dresser sit in a corner for a few weeks before we used it. I can confidently say that it has held up really well and 1 year later, the paint isn’t chipping at all. If you try this chalk painting technique for your dresser, let me know! I would love to hear from you and how your project turned out. With Joy, Jessica Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links from Amazon. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!

Looking Back On Our Engagement Photos

Looking Back On Our Engagement Photos

A close girlfriend of mine called today to ask about my wedding dress (she’s currently dress shopping), and if I had any pictures of it that she could use as a reference for what she’s looking to buy. Her question sent me down the rabbit hole of looking at old pictures from my wedding, which then led me to our engagement photos. I realized while I was reminiscing that we took our engagement pictures exactly 4 years ago this week. I can’t believe how quickly time flies! In 4 years we’ve managed to pop out 3 kids (2 of those were at the same time, but wow), move across the country to Virginia, and live in 2 different apartments and a townhouse. It amazes me how much we can fit into the span of a year! Our engagement session took place in downtown Minneapolis near the Stone Arch Bridge. Versatile Photography was amazing and we were able to do 2 outfit changes as well as shoot all kinds of poses under the bridge and on top of it to create the perfect shot. Toward the end it started to rain, but we didn’t care. Love will do that to you. Our first outfit choice was a little more laid back, whites and blues. For our second, we decided to dress it up a bit more with a suit and dress. I loved that we got two completely different looks. The more laid back version we shot under the bridge by the water, and the snazzier outfit choice on top of the bridge with the city in the background. Both looks show off the two sides of our personality – we like to go out, but we also like to Netflix and chill. If you're taking your engagement pictures soon, congratulations! I'm so happy for you and I pray for God's blessings on your wedding and marriage. I hope these inspire you and I look forward to hearing from you. With Joy, Jessica

Baby & Toddler Christmas Pictures

Baby & Toddler Christmas Pictures

Who doesn’t love a baby, a Christmas tree, and twinkling lights? I’m all for it. I love taking pictures of our babies in front of the Christmas tree right now – and if you’re looking for ideas, maybe these will inspire you. One thing to note – I took all of these pictures with my iPhone! And I’m not a professional photographer, just a mom playing around with her kids. Babies & A Christmas Tree Babies In A Box Babies & Ornaments Babies, Ornaments & Twinkle Lights Mommy & Me Matching PJ’s If you try any of these or have new ideas for me, share them below! I’m always looking for new photography inspiration. With Joy, Jessica

Chalk Paint Trunk Makeover

Chalk Paint Trunk Makeover

Transforming that garbage find (literally!) into a work of art… I was bringing the recycle out to the dumpster one day at our old apartment, and I found a trunk someone was throwing out. I ran back upstairs and told my husband he just had to get it for me. Pretty sure he didn’t think it was a good idea at the time (someone else’s trash and all that)…but I’m glad I made him do it. I transformed that old trunk into a a darling toy box for my daughter’s room. Bonus, it holds all those old toys we don’t want her to know we have anymore. You know which ones I’m talking about. 😉 And this project required no sanding, which is awesome. All I did was paint it and put a finish on at the end. Super simple! What You Will Need Rustoleum chalk paint in Linen White & Country Gray (see picture below!) Painter’s tape Brushes Polyvine wax finish varnish Let's Get Started! 1 – First off, I wiped the trunk with soap and water to clean it. And since we picked it up from the trash, I gave it an extra wipe down just in case. Can’t be too careful. 2 – After cleaning, I painted my first coat of Country Grey and waited until it completely dried before doing a second coat. I only painted two coats and spot checked for thinner areas, adding paint where needed. (If you want to tape the handles and edges, feel free to do so. I didn’t, because I knew I would be painting those next.) 3 – Next, I taped around the edges and handles with blue painter’s tape. I tried to be as precise as possible with the tape to reduce any touchups needed at the end. 4 – On to the handles! I used two coats of paint on the handles and edges with the Linen White. 5 – Because I wanted my trunk to have a little bit of character I added some white brush strokes. I lightly dipped my brush in the white paint, removing almost all of the excess except for a small bit of paint on the end of the brush, and then ever so slightly grazed over the trunk top, bottom and sides. The white brush strokes gave the trunk an overall antique-y look and feel. 6 – Lastly, I covered the whole trunk in two coats of the Polyvine wax finish to seal the paint and finish my project. Ta-da! That’s it! Drop me a comment if you try this paint project out. And if you like this one, check out my DIY kitchen table and Kid Table Makeover posts. Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest to stay up-to-date on our latest adventures! With Joy, Jessica Please note that this blog post includes affiliate links from Amazon. If you do choose to purchase something, I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thank you for your support!