Seeing Light in the Dark

This past week was full of surprises, blessings and humbling experiences, no doubt sent from God to inspire and awaken my sleeping soul.

Over the weekend, my partner and I, who are working on developing a non-profit, were invited to be interviewed on gun control and have a photo shoot in the park. Incredible. To top our week off, we were asked to join in on a meeting dedicated to stopping the violence that has been occurring all too frequently on the Northside area of Pittsburgh.  I realized that our goal of working with the youth, inspiring them to create change and creating a platform for them to speak out on racial issues was not so distant in my future. After almost a year of putting this project into motion things are finally falling into place and the name of the organization is finally getting the attention it deserves.

With all that being said, because I’m still trying to catch my breath, my plans for New York are being put on hold. (I know, I know…) But don’t worry, my disappointment is not what you think. In fact, the more ideas, opportunities and experiences that keep coming our way have been leading me to this.

We are told we must contend with 3 things: The World, The Flesh and The Devil.

We see and feel disappointments from others, we become disappointed with ourselves and Satan certainly celebrates in our disappointment because after all, the world is his playground, he created disappointment.

Sometimes disappointment leads us to the truth, no matter how big the let down. The problem is, we do not always choose to see the light while we’re in the dark.  I realized that I wanted to move to New York for all the wrong reasons right now. Let down after let down and false promises led me to this: God has a plan for me and I realized that with everything happening here, the light had been shining so bright but because disappointment had left me in the shadows, I had chosen not to see it because that feeling had distracted me from my faith in His plan.

So as it stands, I am embracing Pittsburgh for the moment and the Northside community where we will be diligently working on our efforts to stop the violence. Pittsburgh has already had 71 deaths in Allegheny County and the year is not over. Most of these murders are committed by youth and against youth. So here I’ll stay where the light shines brightest because with that, I believe I can accomplish anything.

Have you ever wanted something for the wrong reasons only to realize you were staring at what He wanted all along?

 

Love,

Jessica

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Christian Mothers, Love One Another

This blog has been a long time coming.

It’s going to be a call out to our judgmental, prideful, and worldly hearts. It’s a hot topic these days. I may offend some people, but honestly I think we could use that. It’s about us, moms. About how we stare down our noses at other moms and the way they parent. There is nothing that gets my blood boiling faster these days other than seeing a mother criticize or argue with another mother over breastfeeding versus formula, organic versus processed, epidural or home birth, etc.

I honestly feel like Satan has taken a beautiful, Spirit-lead role and demeaned it down to nit picking each other to make ourselves feel better. Image

Let me back up {and take a deep breath}. I have been the blessed mother of Jude Garrison Taylor for almost 2 years. He is a gift. He is passionate {stubborn}, adventurous {dangerous}, funny {wild}, loving {momma’s boy} and a picky eater {ugh}. I literally think he is the best kid in the world, and I love being his mother. I’m still learning how this looks every day, and most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing! I pray a lot more and ask for a lot of wisdom. I am also pregnant with our second baby boy, Graham, and we are beyond grateful for this gift too.

However, I have never felt more judged or more “watched” since becoming a mother. I have never been in a stage where other women were so quick to give their two cents on what I should or shouldn’t’ do, how I should calm down or try their tactic {which is unsolicited}, or felt more boundaries being pushed past in really inappropriate ways. The guilt or feeling of failure as a mother immediately had come right after their words, and I realized that it was not from God. But still, it hurts. It hurts to feel that because I had an emergency c-section some women think I am weak or failed at giving birth. It hurts that some women look down at me because my son weaned himself from breastfeeding at 6 months old, and I had to use formula. It hurts that some see Jude carrying around a bag of Cheezits, and shake their heads in disgust. I just don’t get it. Why are we this way to each other?

Why, when mothering is so hard already, takes so much prayer and strength, would we beat each other down like this?

Why can’t we just love each other and be there for each other when we are going crazy?Why do we feel like failures because we aren’t doing the million Pinterest ideas for homemade organic snacks or creative fun activities, and really we just got through the day without any meltdowns? I call that a success! How is arguing over birth or your right to show everyone your breasts in public while you nurse really the best thing to do with our time? It breaks my heart.

Christian mothers, we need to get back to a few basics. One being that the point of mothering is to lead our sweet and rebellious children to the only thing that will truly give them a full, rich, life: Jesus. Not organic produce or breast milk. JESUS. The other being that these children are not our own, they are God’s. He knows their deepest needs, He loves them more than we do, and He wants better things for them than you can come up with. There is no need to argue or fight with anyone for them. He will fight for them. He will satisfy them. There is no need to judge any mother for how she is mothering because He is leading her in the way she should go. Trust God with her mothering, and trust her to trust Him with what she should do. Let the Spirit lead each person to what Jesus is calling them to do, whether that is having their baby in a bathtub or having them in a hospital. Let’s encourage and lift up all of our beautiful and brave mother friends, and support them in whatever God is asking of them.

I’ve got to say this in full disclosure: I do buy organic products often. I think breastfeeding is great. I also used formula. I also let Jude eat hot dogs and ice cream. I really hope to have a vaginal birth this second time. I do think about what I put in my family’s bellies but I also love to get them fries & nugs! BUT none of these things is the MAIN THING. These are fleeting, worldly things.

The main thing is that I discipline my children towards righteousness. That I lead them towards repentance. That I rejoice over their choices to be kind and giving. That I model how to be a servant. That I love them with the love Christ has loved me with.That I take a breath and realize He is in control of them and every detail of their life.

Can we free each other from feeling guilt and shame as mothers? Can we just love and accept each one as a sweet gift to the body of Christ and trust her to do what God asks of her? Can we just lay down our own insecurities as mothers and let each woman feel the freedom God has given her to parent? I would so love this. I know I’ve been guilty of judgment and these words and prayers are for my heart first, and for yours next.

Children are a gift from above, along with every other good thing we have. I hope we steward them well for God’s glory and for their joy. That they would know Him, love Him, and honor Him should be the only fighting we ever fight for, sweet Mommas.

Chavon

Growing Up Broken


Growing up, I was a daydreamer. I would lay out in the grass, sun warming my skin and just dream.

I’d dream of a family that would sit at the table every night, laughing and sharing their thoughts and excitements, while passing around bowls of homemade potatoes and bread.

I’d dream of a mom that kissed away my fears, that engulfed me with love, and that would cuddle up next to me at night, reading me stories before tucking me into bed.

That’s not the mom I had.

The mom I had wasn’t addicted to drugs or suffering from a severe mental illness. She wasn’t a junkie and there no diagnosis that would help understand her.

She simply didn’t have the capacity to love me.

I was 8 when my mother came into my room and made me watch as she took each ceramic doll I had collected over the years and smashed them all against the wall, laughing as their angelic, plastered smiles shattered and fell into small piles onto the carpet.

I was 10 when she started locking me in my bedroom with a padlock and key, every night, leaving me terrified of fires or being forgotten or trapped.

I was 13 when she told me she loved my two younger brothers more. That I was a mistake, detailing all I had taken away from her, just from the unfortunate occurrence of my birth.

I was 17 when she cancelled me off of her insurance, as I laid in the emergency room, having serious heart arrhythmia from a bad combination of diet pills and years of bulimia.

And at 18, just a few days after my high school graduation, she kicked me out; taking just a week to convert my old bedroom into a personal at home gym.

I was broken. My heart ached and I encountered the most crippling depression I could ever imagine. I welcomed death, but lacked the courage to greet it personally.

I was lost, alone, and utterly defeated.

But luckily, God wasn’t done with me yet.

There were times over my life that I got very angry with God. I didn’t want to see Him or face Him. I turned my back to Him completely.

And when I did speak to Him, or even acknowledge Him, it wasn’t friendly..

Why didn’t I deserve a family?

Why didn’t I deserve love?

Why had I even been born?

or worse…

Why am I not good enough for her?

Why am I not good enough to be spared this pain?

and of course….

Why did this happen to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

The Why’s and constant longing for my mother set the tone for my late teens and early twenties. I became a shell of a person, desperate for love however I could get it. Lie, cheat or steal, I needed that emptiness filled.

But my God is so good, he snatched me back when I wasn’t even looking.

My heart began to turn towards mission trips and volunteering. I began to slowly let God back in, although at first it was a very slow and cautious relationship. The closer I got to Him, the more I let Him use me. And the more He used me, the more I felt a sense of purpose, a worth outside of being my mother’s daughter.

That’s not to say I didn’t still struggle. I still had anger and hate in my heart. And right below that ugliness was a deep depression that could consume me at any given moment. It was a hole of self-hatred that I could not fill.

I wanted a mom.

I needed a mom.

But every time I tried to reach out to her, she’d slam that door on me, leaving me more broken than before. ‘Not being good enough’ for your own mother’s love is something I just couldn’t move beyond.

Then, God came in for the save.

Just a few months ago, I was blow drying my hair when he spoke to me clearer and louder than I had every heard before.

“You would have nothing you have right now if not for her. This life wouldn’t be yours, if not for her.”

It literally knocked the wind out of me. What??! I should THANK her? Be happy at the brokenness that was my life for so many years? I just couldn’t accept that.

The answer came quick:

Yes.

And there it hit me and healed me almost instantly.

I idolized my mother. I would do anything she wanted and I followed her like a sad puppy, begging for love and attention. I was going to be a nurse, just like her, because she was…even though I can’t stand the sight of blood.

And the few times I went to youth group with friends, she called it “a cult” and mocked me.

God had bigger plans for me.

He was going to use me. He wanted me and needed me to carry His message to others. I was going to work in the midst of disasters to bring people His hope.

And for that to happen, we BOTH were going to have to deal with some heartache.

And here I am now, living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, 1,200miles away from the family that threw me away, doing just that.

There was nothing and no one that could heal that hurt but God.

I have no anger or resentment now. My sadness is gone. I’m no longer the fragile, little girl, praying through teary eyes that God would give me a mom that could love me.

Instead, I’m all God’s child, and there is more than enough love to fill me up.

I have learned that being a Christian doesn’t mean that we will live a life without pain, but that despite, or in some cases because of that hurt and pain, we WILL be used for the good of God.

Jenny

A Mirror Image

I am a Facebooker. I have apps on my phone and my IPad for the times I am away from my home computer, where I always have it up. This alone isn’t a problem. I mean Facebook is great for staying connecting, networking, and keeping in touch with friends and family. But I don’t always use it for that….

For me, the balancing act is using Facebook to check in and not to check up on my own insecurities and doubts by comparing myself to others. This has been harder of a balancing act while I struggle with my weight and the self esteem issues that come with it.

But to compare myself to others, and with that comparison, strive to change myself or feel poorly about who I am, is such a deprecating thing to do to God.

It’s saying that what he made is flawed or not as beautiful as other things he’s created.

It’s ungrateful.  It’s like receiving a beautiful, hand made, knitted sweater as a gift but as you hold it up to your body, you can’t help but think of that perfect navy sweater you saw in the window at the mall. You no longer see the love in the stitching, the time it took to craft it to perfection, the character and depth it has. You want more. You want better.

In Psalms 139:12 it says “ Oh yes, you shaped me first inside- then out” (The Message)

God crafted us from the inside first, then out. But each were perfect to him. Each were made and crafted to his perfection, so who are we to look at it and say it’s not good enough?

Psalms goes on in verse 13-15  “ I thank you High God- you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration- what a creation!”

Sometimes, I look at what God has created and I wish I could be better. In doing this, I miss the love, the time and the uniqueness that God put into making me. I miss out on an opportunity to praise Him for what he has done.

I feel like we all can strive everyday to be “better” as a Christian, or to fix the sin in our lives that separates us from God. But when we scroll through Facebook and want to BE someone else, that’s a dangerous path.

God didn’t want me to be anyone but me. In fact, I should look at what he has marvelously made and rejoice Him! He gave me brown hair because it makes me beautiful to Him. I am tall because He wanted me to be tall. Everything I am is because He knew my life’s story and created me to live it.

My flaws are so beautiful to Him. My body is perfect to Him. My laugh, my teeth, my eyes, they are all woven into a unique masterpiece that was created to fulfill some void this world would have if I was not in it.

In short, I am the most beautiful, perfect and glorious ME I can be. Striving for anything else just takes my eyes off of God.

For me, I think it becomes a very thin line between striving to be a better version of yourself and striving to be a different person.

Can I get an Amen to that?

For example, I look at friends who are competing in races ( which I have ALWAYS wanted to do)  and instead of using is as MOTIVATION to complete my own dream, I use it as self-deprecation that who I am isn’t good enough.

The kicker: God loves me just as much if I’m out of shape or fit and running a race. He loves me in my struggles and my victories. I don’t need to “fix” myself to win His love, I just need to be me, the ME He created.

Because comparing myself to others is not only harmful to myself, but it breaks God’s heart.

He sees my mess and thinks its beautiful. How humbling is that??

Jenny