How do you love your enemy?

Matthew 5:43-48 English Standard Version (ESV)

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If you have hung around in Christian circles for any length of time you know the above verse or have at least heard it. You also know that this is a difficult task. If you were to ask me who my enemy was I could not come up with a single face in my mind or someone that just irritates me to the core. (That was written 7 months ago and since then I can say I have acquired a few “enemies”) But as a teacher there was always a kid or two that really just rubbed me the wrong way and so I got to thinking about how can I love those kids in my classroom that drive me crazy. Well, let me tell you in all those years of teaching I just stuck it out and didn’t worry about “loving” them. I simply dealt with them. I realize now that we need to pray and that is important but I think there is another step we can take and this is where it may be hard.

Get to know them. And I don’t mean just say hi and smile at them. Although that would be a nice start. I mean actually engage them in conversation. Invite them over for dinner or go out and try to have a conversation with them. Don’t focus on what makes you angry with them. Try to truly learn about them and their personality. What it is that makes them your enemy? Easier said then done right?

The reason I write this is because I have found that sometimes when I first meet someone I don’t really care for them or maybe we don’t click. Then before I know it they actually start to annoy me and upset me by things that they say or do. Then as time goes on and I begin to understand the person and where they are coming from something starts to happen. I start to like them and make connections with them and understand them better. I understand this is very difficult. Even has a write this I think, I don’t even want to see these people that are my “enemies” but I also need to see them as God sees them, as sinner just like me. I am not “better” than they are and they are not better than me. I believe people are the way they are because of life experiences. That doesn’t mean we should allow these people to walk all over us or take advantage of us. Sometimes the only thing we can do for them is pray. But knowing their past can help us to sympathize and possibly even help them and point them toward Christ.

What are some ways or suggestions you have to love your enemy?

Jessica

The importance of photos

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Growing up my dad was always the one taking the photos. We ALWAYS moaned and groaned because we had to take another picture! Most of us take a TON of pictures of our kids but are we ever in any of the pictures? A couple of years ago we went to Disney and I forked over the dough for the PhotoPass. That way we could have our family pictures taken as much as we wanted and then download them at the end of our trip. This way I could be in the photos without having to always hand our phone over to a stranger. Why don’t I take more photos of myself? I don’t care about the way I look or I’m not the one doing something cute and funny! BUT after talking with another mom months ago who hated being in photos more then I, I had a realization.

See my dad died when I was pregnant with my first child. My mom died just about 1.5 years ago. When those things happen you tend to look through old photos to put on display and I realized there were photos of my parents but not a ton of them. There were more of my dad then my mom. Now these were the only link between me and them. My kids aren’t going to remember a lot of what we did growing up but they will be able to look at pictures. Although I was present at EVERY event, preparing, cheering, etc. will they remember? Probably not, so I feel it’s important to have pictures. Also they like to see us change and progress just as much as we want to see them change and progress throughout life. What better memories can we pass down to our kids?

So the next time you pull out your phone have someone else take the picture. Or do a crazy family selfie. Pass the camera around and even let the kids take pictures. Get everyone involved and take lots of pictures. You just never know when they will be all you have left of someone.

Jessica

My attitude SUCKS!

Warning: Raw feelings and thoughts ahead.

There I said it! Although I am realizing that I’m not the only one that struggles. I want, I want, I want. I want some peace and quiet. I want to go on vacation. I want to get some projects done. You get the idea. It struck me while I was in church last week that my attitude really sucks on many things but in particular on money. Adam and I honestly have never struggled with money but both of my parents filed for bankruptcy and it never seemed like we had enough money growing up. When I got my first “real” job in teaching I banked a ton of money and lived off a little. My parents and I each paid a third for college and I went to a state school. Adam had his college paid for and so we graduated with no debt and always contributed to 401Ks, 403Bs, Roth IRAs, etc. So why is money such an issue for me? Well it all boils down to FEAR! Fear of failure. Fear I won’t have enough. Fear I will make a mistake.

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This should come as no surprise because I suffer from anxiety. I learned something new about the word fear though. It stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. I have a tendency to over think EVERY thing. Really does worrying help anything? I either need to let it go or act because the way I manage my money is something I DO have control over to some degree. Its all about perspective. How do I view my own financial situation among other things?

I wrote this post about 6 month ago and never finished this and have more thoughts about my attitude and perspective. In regards to finances, I am a firm believer that we have money for what is important to us. We all want to have more then we have no matter the amount we make. We all make choices on what we can and cannot buy. It’s interesting when I say “I can’t afford X” but then I purchase Y. What I really mean is that wasn’t a priority and that is ok! I also personally need to come from a position of trust. We lay out a budget and need to stick with it. Of course things come up and we can deal with them. When we were first married it was a lot simpler but now there are so many moving parts it can be hard to keep track of. We really have no issues here it all just comes from my anxiety and background. I’m trying to learn to let loose and have fun sometimes and not obsess about how much everything costs! It sucks the fun right out of it!

As far as attitude in other parts of my life…. I’ve been squeezed a lot lately and I haven’t liked what has come out. We were at Target the other day and Adam and two of the girls were ahead of us and I was with Kayla. Kayla needed to stop because her foot hurt so I responded to a text. It became clear that her shoes were hurting her and she needed carried. She is heavy and Adam was ahead so I carried her as far as I could and then put her down. When we got to the car I opened the door and got in and closed mine and a few second later Kayla began screaming. She has put in hand on the door jam and I had closed my door on her fingers! I felt awful but was instantly angry and mostly at myself but when Maya tried to help I snapped at her and then left to get some ice. I mad that Adam didn’t stay back so he could cary Kayla and then mad at myself for not noticing her hand and then for snapping at Maya! I could go into more detail about events before this as well but don’t want to bore you but they all are very self centered and have to do with me and my worry and anxiety… BOTTOM LINE!

Tonight as we were going over finances I got upset again. We had fraudulent charges and had to cancel our credit card and get new ones. It was several phone calls and now we won’t have our credit card for our trip in a couple of days! We will also have to change all the places that automatically charge our credit card, which is a big headache. The list of little things goes on and so do my outbursts.

So what is the point of all this? There needs to be some change. I find I get like this when I have too many things happening or going on and the stress comes at me in little bits and pieces until they end up in a large heap. I also need to remove myself from the situation and look at it as if a stranger would and assess is this really that big of a deal? I’m a perfectionist and expect myself to be perfect but I can’t possibly be nor can anyone else. I need to give myself a little grace. Also I need to not assume the worst of people. In the case of Target Adam didn’t know I needed help. Maya was actually going to suggest we had an instant ice pack in the van but I didn’t listen. I admitted I messed up and apologized to everyone before we even left Target but still it could have been avoided.

Where do you see yourself being squeezed and what are your tips for dealing with it?

Thanks for listening to my raw, jumbled thoughts tonight.

Jessica

Today I will choose joy!

So a week or so ago this was the scenario on a Sunday morning:

We got up in time to be on time, but there was a hair snaffoo, a kid that only ate a banana for breakfast, it had snowed, and dress shoes were forgotten. And we were late…. again! Adam dropped us off at the door and we ran into church 10 minutes late for the girls to all sing at service. As I dropped them off at their practice before hand and gathered their coats and boots I walked past a window. It had a sticker that shouted “Today I will choose joy!” It’s amazing how God speaks to us in the most unsuspecting ways with the most interesting situations. That caused me to stop and immediately begin to evaluate my life. Nothing new. I’ve heard it a million times. But today was different.

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The Bible says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” James 1:2. Joy is a choice and I have to say I don’t always choose joy.  The word contentment also comes to mind frequently. I can’t change the circumstances but I can change how I react and I have been convicted of that lately. I’m also learning if I can’t find joy in a particular activity or commitment that maybe it’s time to give up that activity or commitment. And it’s ok to do that with no hard feelings. I’ve been squeezed a lot lately and don’t like what’s been coming out. Sure we all get mad and upset at times, but it shouldn’t be the norm. How do I take care of myself and set good boundaries or let things go so that I can be joyful? Or maybe it’s more a matter of prayer and conscience effort on a daily basis?

Adam and I have had this conversation a lot lately. Here is another scenario. For some reason, I have never really enjoyed the holidays. They make me crabby and frankly I’d be ok with skipping them. Add to the fact that last year we miscarried our fourth baby and lost my mom right before thanksgiving and it just doesn’t feel like the joyous, wonderful time of the year it should. Both my parents are gone now and we haven’t regularly celebrated with my side of the family. Adams family goes in many directions and we celebrate with them, but not on Christmas Day. So I wondered what we should do. I lamented to Adam that I had a vision of what I wanted Christmas to look like. Adam simply said, “Then make it that way!” He was right. What do I have to lose? Why sit here and complain when I can take action and make things the way I want them to be! I can be grumpy about the holidays each year they come up or I can make a choice and do something about it. So I chose Joy! Its funny how when you change your attitude the whole world changes before your eyes.

So for Thanksgiving we went to Michigan to visit our close friends and enjoyed hanging out there. The week leading up to Christmas we have planned with fun family activities. We have started traditions of game nights on Christmas Eve after church and opening gifts as a family Christmas morning. We also celebrate St. Nicks Day.

When life starts squeezing you, what will you respond with? What do you want your holidays to look like? Envision them. Write them down. Don’t stop there. Execute!

Jessica

Monday

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday…. we all wore our orange shirts that we got for the commissioning at church to make travel easier. Once we got here in NYC we were going to dinner or other places and had people stop us and ask what we were doing and overall the response was very positive and they wished us well. That was an encouraging start to the week.

Today began at 8AM with worship and then we had a meeting. We were on the streets by 10:30AM and it was a rough start.  It was easy to say hi to people or how are you doing as they walked by but it as much harder to say “Is there something I can pray about for you today?” Once we got into a rhythm it was much easier. At first I stumbled over words to say but it did get easier. Sometimes it was harder when someone said “yes” because you got a lot of “no” or just a lot of people walking on the other side of the sidewalk, avoiding you looking down. It was fairly discouraging  to stand there for an hour and not get to pray with one single person, but things did turn around!

So to explain a bit we set up a prayer station on the corner of a street and then spread out on the street corners and asked people if we could pray for them. We had the story booklets available to use and beaded bracelets to help explain the gospel as well.

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Me in my prayer vest. I know you are jealous and want one! It’s important to remember to take off your sunglasses when actually talking to someone.

So a couple things that I did NOT expect. I knew it would be hot and I knew it would be physical but until you stand on your feet for 5 hours straight asking a lot of people if we could pray for them you don’t realize just how exhausting it is! I also did not expect to get hit on! One guy came up to me and I asked him if he needed prayer and he said he needed a lady. As I proceeded to chat I realized he was trying to pick me up!  Another guy was talking on his phone and put down his phone and walked over and told me I was beautiful. Luckily these were the only two times today and I pray it doesn’t happen anymore but again something I didn’t expect. Several people walked up and down the same street several times in a day and I was not ready for that. It turned out to be a good thing because then people got to know us and weren’t not intimidated by us but rather glad to see us again. It was great to call those people by name. A person may have talked to one person in our group and saw another one of us and thanked us for what we were doing. Lastly, I didn’t expect that people would just shout as they walked by “hey pray for this” or “pray for that.”

There were a lot of wonderful things that happened today too. I prayed for a women that wanted me to pray about injustice at work and so I did. A while later she came back with a bottle of water for Adam and I and thanked us for praying for her. I had people come up to me crying. One lady because she was worried her son was making bad choices and she felt like she was losing him. I found it much easier to pray with women and especially moms. I had one single mom that wanted prayers for her son who had ADHD and an older son that she was butting heads with as he was gaining his independence. I learned to slow down and take time praying with them addressing each issue and then proceed to see if they had ever heard “The Story.” Many people were receptive to what we had to say if they took the time to stop by. There were also plenty of no thank yous. It’s amazing the amount of people that are a steady stream on the street all day long. Not shortage of people to ask by any means.

We got to have lunch at a nice place that had salads. That seems to be common around here where they throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl for you and toss it all around. It has been very easy to find healthy things to eat.  There was a couple I stopped that had just gotten a carrot juice and beet juice at a local place and was able to pray with them. But lots of healthy food choices!

It’s hard to know if we made a difference but as we talked we know we are just one touch that they may be receiving. Groups before us have laid the groundwork as well because some people remember our group being around last year and proceed to tell us about what they learned. It was a great opportunity to review the gospel with them again or to ask them what they remembered or what impacted them. It was evident as we watched people walk up and down the street just how broken the world is and how people are searching for answers in something. It just a matter of if they are ready to hear the answers we have for them.

I regret not having a small notebook with me to take notes in. I plan to do that tomorrow to actually track the prayers and get a more accurate picture of who I talked with. Tomorrow we are going to a park in Manhattan and surveying people so it will be a slightly different task.

Praise for today:

  • We made it back in time to miss the rain.
  • We were all safe.
  • We were able to stay hydrated and although it was hot it was tolerable.
  • We took the time to pray with people on the street.
  • People were kind to us.
  • We were able to talk to the police and our leader used kind words to not have them hassle us.

Prayers needed:

  • Strength and endurance as the week goes on and we become more tired.
  • Rest and full nights rest of sleep without interruption.
  • Pray that people’s hearts would be open and receptive to hearing the message that we have to offer.

Thank you all for your support. It has been an adventure. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. Stay tuned to more updates. I may post again about our evening adventure.

Jessica

Sunday

It’s been a very long day but a good day. We were up around 6 this morning and were able to wait until after the severe storm in Eldridge passed before we got in the car to go to church. Adam’s dad and brother came and got us so the tee didn’t have to leave a car at the church all week. We arrived at 7pm and were on our way by 7:30am. We had a fine trip on the bus and made one stop at a rest stop. The airport was smooth sailing. We checked in and got through security and had two full hours before our flight. The flight was a little rough but overall it was fine. By the time we reached altitude it was time to come back down. We took another bus to the hotel and then got our rooms. We walked to a place called Montys for dinner which was awesome pizza and salads. 

Right after dinner we had worship and a sermon which was very cool. The man preaching had an amazing story of surviving 7 strokes in one day. He talked about how the Lord was with his through that and how God was a provider, healer, righteous, etc. The one point that stood out to me is that peace is not the absence of struggle. Peace is calm in the midst of trouble. There were some awesome points made about what we will experience this week.

We got to meet our cord group and tomorrow we will be in Brookyn at a prayer station. We were also told that Brooklyn Tabernacle prays for their Borough 24/7 and she told us we will see he fruit of that tomorrow. We got to pray with one another about our fears for the week. 

We are very tired and it’s been a long day of travel so we are going to get some rest so we can be ready in the morning. On a funny note, I went into the bathroom at the hotel and this is what I saw.


I had to laugh because I had never seen anything like it. I know today’s report hasn’t been very exciting but it’s mostly a travel day. If you have questions feel free to ask and I will try to address them.

Good night!

Jessica

How do you compare?

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We all know the comparison game and it’s a dangerous one. I could go on about contentment because really when we compare we aren’t being content with what God has given us.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

We must learn to be content in situations and I have the head knowledge and know that comparison is dangerous and yet I. still. do. it! Shame on me! Let’s first look at a few of the dangers of comparison.

  1. When we compare ourselves to others it shows that we are not content with what we have.
  2. When we compare ourselves to others we end up wanting more and can become greedy.
  3. When we compare ourselves to others we can end up proud, thinking “Well, at least my life isn’t that bad.”
  4. When we compare ourselves to others we can either over inflate ourselves or not give ourselves enough grace.

So what can we do about it? Well, we just need to stop and I know that is easier said than done!  So, I have come up with another solution. Yes, the ultimate goal is to stop doing it, but sometimes by trying not to do something, we end up doing it even more. For instance, say I tell you not to think about the number 13. By all means do not think about 13. It is an evil number that 13 and I don’t want you thinking about it. What are you going to think about? You guessed it… the number 13! So instead we need to replace it with something else. Say the number 29 instead.

Why not compare ourselves to ourselves? I know it may sound a little crazy but why not? There are several areas in my life I can compare. Let’s go first with material things because we all know that can be a hot topic. My house is a simple example. I think of the very first house we owned. It was 1950’s 1200 square feet. No dishwasher. A tiny bathroom where my knees hit the sink when I sat on the toilet. You get the picture. Now almost 11 years later, I see what I’m living in. We now have a 2012 house that is 2500 square feet and my bathroom is plenty large.

Or maybe think about vacations. When we were first married Adam and I never went anywhere except to visit family. That was our vacation. This past year we all drove to Disney as a family.

More important things like attitude come to mind as well. When we were first married, Adam and I would argue. I was known to go to bed angry and then wake up like it was all resolved. I would never, ever, even attempt to apologize because of course nothing could be my fault! Well, now 12 years into marriage, I can admit that I am wrong and apologize to his face. These things didn’t happen overnight and sometimes they are still hard. There were times when I could only email an apology and then maybe I could say an apology a day or two after the argument happened. In each area I took little baby steps, but man look how far I’ve come!

We attended a few different churches in Michigan but I remember going to one and leaving feeling like I knew absolutely nothing about the bible at all! After putting in time at bible studies, as well as studying on my own, many of the stories and verses are now familiar to me. I am still reminded that I have a ways to go when I cannot answer all my kids questions, but that’s ok. Look how far I have come.

My point is not to be prideful but it is to recognize that each of us changes each and every day even if it’s a little. If we allow the holy spirit to work in our hearts there is so much that can happen. Who cares what someone else did or what someone else is doing? Focus on what you are doing. If you don’t love what you are doing then change it! There is no shame in that.

Identify an area that you struggle in when it comes to comparison and then go back and compare yourself to yourself about 5-10 ago. How far have you come? Where do you want to go next? Anyone willing to share?

Jessica