Browsing Category: Writing

Do it Scared: Choosing to Not Live Life in Fear

This past summer I claimed the saying, “Do it scared!” because I realized I have allowed myself to NOT do many things, because I was scared. Scared of what people would say or think, scared of whether I would succeed or fail.

It is infinitely easier to live in the dream of “someday” than it is to step out and do the thing you fear.

I turned 35 this past summer. I’ve realized something over the last few years…that I’ve lived most of my life in fear, or should I say I’ve existed in fear, because not doing things you want to do because you’re afraid isn’t living. The biggest thing I did was I finally got a tattoo.

For the past 20 years I’ve talked about it, but I finally did it. Believe me, all that day, waiting for my appointment, I kept telling myself this was the stupidest thing to do and more than once I picked up my phone to cancel the appointment, but I didn’t. I did it scared.

I did it knowing that I may regret it or that people may look down on me for it, but I did it. I didn’t let all my fears of “if” and “maybe” keep me from doing something.

You see, the thing about our fears are that they’re usually unfounded. Of course, there are those fears that are healthy fears, that keep us safe, but by and large they’re non-existent.

Fears are things we’ve put in place to keep ourselves in our comfort zone.  It’s an excuse we use to give ourselves permission to not even try.

This fall, I brandished my perfectionism as an excuse to not do something. I realized it was actually my fear of failing, of not meeting expectations (mine and other’s). It’s ridiculous! I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my Halloween costume to look like, but I was scared of messing it up.

I’ve never considered myself much of a perfectionist. Yes, I like things to be just-so, but for the most part I can let things slide, but I’ve realized something, my perfectionism manifests itself in fear. I let me fear of things not being just-so, keep me from even trying.  After 6 weeks of procrastinating I did it scared.  I made the first cut, stitched the first seam, and it came out awesome!

Fear is not from God. We are not meant to live in a constant state of fear. We are meant to live in the knowledge that we are marked as Christ’s own, that we are to live our lives to His glory, and if we are living in fear, we’re not doing that.

When I was younger I would always tell myself, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives me strength”, and it always helped me to move forward in spite of fear. Did I always use it the way the verse was meant to be used, no probably not, but it certainly helped me to act even when I was afraid.

Do not let fear keep you from living your life to it’s fullest. You will mess up. You will be disappointed at how things turn out.  But those mess ups and disappointments will be nothing compared to the regret you will feel when you have lived your life and, at the end, think of all the “I should haves…” that you never did.

Live the life God has given you. Trust in Him and who He created you to be, the life He planned for you to live. Don’t let fear keep you from being who you are. Don’t let what other people might think or say keep you from living your one and only life. Be BRAVE (my word for 2018).

***And FYI getting my tattoo was awesome, and yes I will be getting another ;-)

To teach is to touch a life forever.

I found out this morning that one of my professors from college passed away last Friday. Most of the time, and for most professors, this would have just been sad news, but not for this professor. Mr. Hennessy was no ordinary college writing professor, not to me or any number of other students.

I went to SUNY Oneonta originally for Broadcast Journalism, which morphed and changed many times over 4 years, but twice I was fortunate to have Mr. Hennessy as a teacher, Composition 100 and Composition 200 (the red folder with my essays and notes still sits right above my desk).

His was my favorite class, he was my favorite teacher. 

I’ve often said that I didn’t learn how to write properly until I was in college, until I was in his class. He took so much time to go over drafts with us, to work out kinks, explain how things could be better, and question you and what you were trying to say and why. His door was always open, and he was only a phone call away.

There was so much to love about him. He was witty and had quite the sense of humor. But the best part was that he was also of Irish lineage.

I remember how excited he was when I asked him to write my letter of recommendation to study at University College Cork in Ireland. Of course, they had to be sealed, so I never did know what that letter said. But I do know how thrilled he was that I was going to get to visit our beloved Ireland.

There was one times, as a freshman, that I ended up having to take my 8 year old sister with me to class. He was more than welcoming to have her there. Ten minutes into the lecture he stopped everything, because something that had never happened in class had happened, was happening…there was a student who was actually paying attention, my sister.

I’m so glad that I saw him in Hannaford this past summer, that I was able to tell him about the past 14 years and how much he meant to me.

The part that has stuck with me over the past 14 years, since I last had Mr. Hennessy, was that he was the first person (besides my mother) to really believe in me and tell me I was a writer. He was the person who brought me alongside him, showing me how to wield my words in the best way: “Jessica, I can see your name in the by-line someday”.

Other than this little place online, it hasn’t happened yet, but someday and you can bet Denis Hennessy’s name will be in the acknowledgments. Thank you Mr. Hennessy, for being such a wonderful teacher, a friend, and an upstanding Irishman.

 

 

A Lenten Dare: Finding God’s Gifts in the Everyday

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the Everyday

We’re so often concerned with the self denial aspect of Lent, that we completely forget about what the purpose of that self denial is: To draw us closer to God. What if there was a way to draw us closer to God, without our feeling resentful that we’re missing out on caffeine and chocolate? There is.

Intentionally seeking and finding God’s gifts in the everyday.

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the EverydaySix years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousands Gifts. During the reading of it I had decided to take up Ann’s challenge of counting the gifts that I received from my heavenly father. The timing perfectly coinciding with the beginning of Lent. What if, rather than giving something up for Lent, I took something on. Did something that ACTUALLY drew me closer to God, rather than filled me with resentment.

Every day I challenged myself to find 25 things that were gifts from God. Sometimes they were big huge things. Sometimes they were just little mundane things (more me grasping for filling 25 spaces). All were gifts. At the end of Lent I had a list of 1000 gifts.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

We focus so hard on the denying ourselves part that we completely ignore the later: FOLLOW ME.

All the self denial in the world amounts to nothing, if we don’t follow Him.

That dare took me on a journey: A journey of seeking and seeing God and His gifts to me, in the everyday. I got more out of Lent that year than I ever did before. In the taking of time was the giving from God, showing me just how abundantly He has blessed me.

There were days when it was easy to think of 25 gifts (both good and bad days). There were days when I struggled to think of 5 gifts, praying for God to open my eyes to what I knew was staring me in the face. On those days He knew I was desperate for His presence. That I needed to see His gifts and feel His love; and He was faithful, always revealing His heart for me. I truly believe that if you open your eyes to His gifts you will see them. They are all there, just waiting: Seek and ye shall find!

Our brains have an incredible way of rewiring themselves. The more we seek, the more we will find. We can move from being people who “know” that we are blessed, to people who know just HOW we are blessed. How much greater can our faith be in a loving and caring God, when we are wholly aware of His presence in our lives?! When we’ve trained our minds to seek His gifts not just when everything is “coming up roses”, but also when things aren’t going according to our plan?

This dare is not meant to create a list of favorites or special moments. But to be a conscious recognition of all the ways in which God bestows His gifts during and through ALL circumstances: Reminding us of His constant goodness, grace, and generosity. It’s meant to really make us think, to make us aware of the world around us, to make us aware of God’s His presence and His love.

This Lent I dare you.

Can you find 25 gifts each day of Lent? Or even just 5? Ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to His goodness. You can following along on Instagram with me as I share my discoveries this Lent (@JessicaM.White)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
James 1:17

Overcoming Creative’s Block

This blogging thing hasn’t been coming easy to me the past few months. I think I feel so far removed from my creativity that I feel as though overcoming creative block is impossible.  I’ve allowed myself to get to the place of “Why am I even trying?!”  Which is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s the truth. I see so few people reading and sharing blogs, see so many who are writing and creating beautiful spaces, that my space seems rather more an eye-sore, than a heart-salve.Overcoming creative block

I tell myself it doesn’t matter if I don’t have perfectly curated graphics and pinnable images. That it isn’t necessary if the words resonant with at least one person. The problem is that I desperately WANT to create that visual beauty in whatever way it is birthed. I take pictures and look at them and wait and ruminate (did you know that you should wait before sharing a picture on INSTA-gram? That it’s better to really be intentional about the photo and what you say?) and then convince myself no one wants to see this, that it’s not as good as I want it to be, so why bother. Of course, this has also bled over into my quilting as well.

Can you tell that sometimes most times I am my own worst enemy and critic?

But who isn’t?! We all are. I’d love to tell you that I figured out the fail proof way of being free in one’s creativity without feeling like a failure or that it’s good, but not nearly good enough. Or that good enough is good ENOUGH. I don’t. I don’t know how. I do know that it takes a bit less moaning and groaning and bit a more just doing it. Just putting fingers to the keys, blades to the fabric, and needles to the thread: Letting the words and fabric fall where they may.

Sometimes the hardest part of starting is getting started.

That’s where I feel I am.

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (READ IT if you consider yourself a creative of any sort). Unfortunately, I had a library copy that I couldn’t mark up, because there was so much delicious goodness in that book (seriously, just google quotes from the book)! So much that just spoke to my struggling creative soul, and ALL OF IT telling me to just get over it, over myself, and just do a little bit, just START! That if I don’t even do that, then I’m doing myself and the world a disservice by not delving into my God-given creativity.

The bottom line: I need to get over what I expect my writing should look like; I need to get over feeling as though, if I can’t do “perfection” then I shouldn’t try; I need to get over this hurdle and just write. That’s what I need to do. I need to convince myself that I am a writer, even if I don’t have any “published” works. That I don’t need to have a certain pen and paper or laptop (even though I function much better when I’m not distracted by things that are seriously bugging me). That I can just string words together and let them exist for now, maybe to be edited…maybe not.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with this, because if I was Big Magic wouldn’t be as popular a book as it is, and there wouldn’t be a plethora of writing groups on facebook: Obviously, a lot of people struggle with their creativity. Who’s with me?! Who’s struggling to creating, whether it be with words, paints, fabrics or something else. I know I’m not alone.

Be Still and Know….

Originally published March 2013 at LifeintheWhiteHouse.com as part of 5 Minute Friday.

Rest….

 Ahh…rest….sweet Friday night. The last day of the week without Matthew home with me. The last day in which it is all me for hours on end, day after day {minus the few hours in the evening that he and the kids are all awake at the same time…or Oma stops in for a visit}.
Tomorrow won’t be much different than today, but there is rest in knowing that I don’t have to go-it-alone another day. Because, isn’t that the hardest thing? Going it alone day after day.
 Be still

But we don’t have to.

We never have to. All we have to do is ask, ask Him who is the provider of all rest, true rest, to do this life with us.

 But, how often we don’t. Ask that is.
It feels like weakness to say we can’t live this life, do this life on our own. That we need someone, something to help us get through not only the days, but some times the minutes even seconds. To provide us with those fresh breaths of rest. Rest not only for our bodies and minds, but for our very souls.
But it isn’t weakness.
We weren’t meant to do this life alone. We were meant to do this life WITH God, with others at our sides. We are meant to take rest, as often as we need it, in Him, in His word. I know for myself, I don’t take the rest that is offered so freely to me. But, oh, how I need it.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10