I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been filling my mixed media journal with paintings that have no words. I’ve been struggling to find the ways to speak and pray what is going through my mind.
Right now, I’m broken.
Before I launched Gritty Faith, one of the things that weighed on my mind was how would I lead a community built on faith as I battled my own personal crisis? It is one thing to lead from a place of healing, but it is entirely different when you are deep in the trenches yourself.
I pondered this thought for many months. And ultimately, I landed on the reassurance that by the time my next personal crisis rolled around (and I knew it would someday because… well life) I would have a team. I would have people that knew how to do the things when I could not.
But apparently that was just my plan, not God’s. Because here I am, once again deep in the trenches… less than a year in.
Right now I am broken.
I am broken watching my in-laws—two people I deeply love—fight COVID. Two people battling to regain their life as they know it.
I am broken because we cannot physically be there to help. The only comfort we can provide is through a screen connecting our living room with the ICU.
I am broken at the thought of what ifs and the heavy realization that we have moved into the sandwich generation, where we are caring for both our parents and our children.
I am broken because the timing of my first year as an entrepreneur is in the middle of a global pandemic where normal no longer exists.
And I am broken, because God didn’t even give me the time I needed before He laid more on me and my family, despite everything I have sacrificed.
Over the last week, I have thought a lot about all of this brokenness. This isn’t the first time I have been a heap of shattered pieces. I know this place. I know there is a way out, even if I cannot see it now.
When I am quiet, I can still hear the beat of my heart and the steady rhythm of my sister’s voice whispering, “Faith Over Fear, Faith Over Fear.”
Even if I am broken in this moment, God is still there.
Even if I do not understand the whys, He knows the plan.
Even if I doubt His intentions, He is still weaving His Golden Thread.
Yesterday, He sent me a good friend to check in. She didn’t offer lukewarm prayers, advice, or help. She simply sat with me in my brokenness and allowed me to be. No fixing. No judgement. No suggestions.
She was a God Thing to me yesterday. She was the thing that got me through that tough moment.
And today, He sent another to check in on me and give me exactly what I needed in the next moment.
And tomorrow, I’m sure there will be another breadcrumb. Maybe it will be a well-placed written word, a song on the radio, or maybe I’ll finally see the meaning in all those paintings with no words.
It is because of moments like this that I choose gritty faith. Life can be incomprehensibly hard and ugly and just plain unfair. I need my faith to be able to withstand the battle. I don’t want it wrapped up in ribbons and bows and flowers–a gorgeous book of perfectly scripted verses. I need my faith to be used and abused, dirty and imperfect, torn and battered—and still hold strong.
Right now, I may not be a very good leader. But, I know we have built this community on gritty faith and I know I am in good company as I dig myself out of these trenches.
P.S. If you’re the praying type, send a few up for healing. These grandkids are looking forward to the day they can hug Grandma and Grandpa again.
As we turn the corner into July, we are reminded of the mix bag of emotions this month can be for so many. In our home, July is notorious for mulberry stained feet, popsicle mustaches, and wonky tan lines. But in between late summer nights and lazy summer mornings marks not only birthdates but also dates we said our goodbyes as loved ones passed. Finding balance in between the yo-yo of happy days and waves of grief can be difficult to say the least.
I know there are many of you who are walking this path right along with us. You have your own invisible dates marked on the calendar that hold memories of hard conversations, diagnosis, accidents, or funerals. Invisible dates hidden behind the upbeat events of the current day but still weighing heavy on your heart.
One of our goals here at The Norway Center Store and Gritty Faith Magazine is to hold that space for you. Hold that space to just be present in the moment, whether it is a flood of happiness or a downpour of grief-stricken memories.
We see you. Allow the wave to wash over you. Take the time you need. And step by step keep moving forward. We are here for you.
Faith Over Fear.
Today, my daughter informed me that she is just going to start telling people I am Barbie.
Aleigha is my oldest and at 14, she has a front row seat to everything that I am working to build. She sees the late nights and early mornings. She is the first to help out, picking up my slack when I cannot dig myself out of the to-dos. She switches out laundry, helps her siblings, starts supper, and keeps an eye on the calendar for details I often forget. She knows without a doubt the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into everything built over the last 2+ years.
And today she told me, “I don’t really know how to answer people when they ask what you do. So, I’m just going to start telling them that you are Barbie… because she does everything too.”
From the outside, it has to look messy. I’m sure my life appears to be a ping-pong ball that just can’t quite settle. And some days it feels like that, but mostly it just feels right.
I’ve always been the type that prefers movement over standstill, project over predictability. I am figure-it-out-er in every definition of the word. And I happen to be drawn to a lot of different things—very, very passionately.
For a long time, this bothered me. I thought, if I could just figure out what I was meant to be then I could run full force ahead and be the best at it. But every time I got a little momentum, something shiny would cross my path and I would go full squirrel, chasing after something new. It didn’t sit right with me for a long time. I questioned what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I content? Why couldn’t I just be ordinary, clock-in, clock-out and be happy?
A few months ago, I read Marie Forleo’s book, Everything is Figureoutable. Within the book, Marie shares a story so familiar to mine, where she was jumping from one thing to the next, unsettled because she always felt like she never quite fit in. She shares how she struggled to answer the question of what she did for a living, until one day a little voice whispered in her head, “You are a Multipassionate Entrepreneur.” The day I read that line, I was like, “YES! I have a title!”
Nowadays, I throw my blood, sweat and tears into claiming the titles that I always knew where there. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a business woman who works dang hard to make sure others are seen and heard.
This morning, I was listening to a podcast with Arlan Hamilton as a guest and this exact same topic was brought up… mind you the same day my daughter decided my new title was Barbie. The way Arlan described it was, “…to me it is all the same color, just a different hue.” And that basically sums it up.
You see what I have come to realize is that every little sidetracked-squirrel moment in my life had purpose. During the phase where I bounced around in many art mediums, I learned the time and value and effort it took to learn the craft of quilting, and collage, and restoration. This helps me now to understand the value of the makers we work alongside. The hours upon hours of business research I did and my former career prepared me to take care of my own business and find resources to take the next step. The journaling throughout my life lead me to writing, co-authoring a book, and founding Gritty Faith Magazine. And the abstract painting at my workshop bench whenever I was falling apart at the seams, prepared me to take my place as a Prayer Artist. All of it, as messy and disconnected as it once seemed, lead me here - to building the foundation of The Norway Center Store.
My birthday is coming up next week. It is always a joy-fueled yet difficult day. It is a reminder of my grandpa’s funeral the day I turned 31. It is a reminder of the hardest conversation that happened the night before I turned 32, when we found out Ang’s chemo treatments were not working. And it is a reminder that I am living well beyond a point that my sister was ever able to.
Every year, I remind myself that I have a choice. I can be sucked into the grief and allow the devil to steal my peace or I can celebrate everything that I have been given and the privilege of becoming another year older.
This year I am celebrating.
This year I am looking into my daughter’s eyes and remembering who I was at 14—full of ambition and curiosity of who I would one day become. This year I am going to celebrate the 20+ years it has taken for me to grow into the woman I am today and all the little squirrel-tangents it took to get here.
This year I am celebrating being alive, even if my life is messy and imperfect and doesn’t quite make sense to anyone else.
This year I am celebrating all the ways God has woven my path together and everything He has planned for me next because it is not my title that qualifies me for His calling.
So today, I invite you to share, what squirrel-tangent lead to you where you are today? I would love to know.
I used to sit in the back pew at church distracted and defiant.
I believed in God but had a hard time connecting with Him.
Nothing there resonated with me.
The rules. The outdated stories. The lengthy verses. The songs that made we want to doze off.
Sitting in that back pew, I didn’t feel alive with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t even feel connected to God.
And I felt like a bad Christian.
Have you ever felt this way?
Where the relationship feels one sided?
Where the Bible doesn’t make sense?
When you feel completely disconnected from His promises and vision for your life?
For me, I went on like this for a long time… a lukewarm Christian. Doing my part in showing up but struggling to really connect with God. To really know Him.
And then my world began unraveling. Stress from my job, tension in my marriage, sickness in my children, death of my loved ones… bit by bit the chaos consumed me.
I wanted nothing more than to connect with my Maker, to truly feel like I could lean on Him to get me through. To feel that peace and presence that they preached about. Yet, every time I looked for it in that back pew, it was nowhere to be found.
Slowly God started answering my unspoken prayers, drawing me closer through my own unique language - storytelling and paint.
When I was struggling, I’d find myself in my workshop, pouring out the pain on canvas. It was later I would discover why I finally felt heard here. I was praying through art.
When I needed direction, He would send me real people that would look me in the eyes and share their story of how He got them through their battles. Their testimony was relatable and tangible and provided the proof I needed of the ways He was working today – in their life and in mine.
He planted bold women and men of faith into my life who prayed over me, and gave me tools, and lead me out of the trenches one step at a time.
Every story led me one step closer to Him. Every interaction and quick “praying about you” text showed me evidence of the ways He was moving on my behalf, even when I was too tired to do the work.
Turns out, He didn’t save me a timeslot each Sunday morning to connect over the shhh’ing of my children and the crunching of goldfish in the back pew. He had been trying to connect with me through the people, the conversations, the music, and the quiet He weaved into my life every single day. Church was a piece of that puzzle but not the place where we really got to know each other.
If this resonates with you, I invite you to subscribe to Gritty Faith Magazine where we share authentic stories of faith.
Our Gritty Faith community is real people sharing real stories of how God has gotten them through the hard stuff.
Because we know that sometimes it just takes someone who has been there to hold your hand and lead you out of the trenches.
Come on. Let’s dig into our gritty faith together.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of Purpose + Grit and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. My husband Kyle and I live in an old general store, converted to residence, with our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard, Roxy. You will usually find me with paint on my clothes creating my next artwork piece.