Married in The Middle of The Mess- Alyssa Nitz

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Thanks Alyssa For letting us share this awesome blog! We love you!

SEE ALYSSAS BLOG HERE


Every night after we put the kids to bed, we come downstairs and survey the damage. Most of the dinner mess is still out. There are splatters of olive oil on the stove, dirty dishes piled up around the sink. There’s enough food debris under Jacob and Lucy’s seats to assemble another dinner plate, given you had a very low bar of cleanliness. If you drift your eyes into the living room you’ll see colorful stacking cups strewn across the floor, pillows and blankets pulled off the couch, and a half empty snack cup of Cheerios on the ottoman. The play room? Oh heavens. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Two tired gazes meet each other’s after two full days, and we get to work. We wipe down counters and sweep up crumbs. We crawl around on our hands and knees, throwing toys into their designated bins. We yell bits and pieces of disjointed conversation back and forth as we scramble around. When it’s all done, we retire to the sectional, and look at each other for what feels like the first time all day. It’s our couple hours of rest together. Later on we’ll bust out some chips and salsa, find something we both want to watch on Netflix, and stare at our phones on and off, but for a moment we just sit.

Here. In the middle of this mess we are married. We created our mess and we love our mess…but it’s a mess. Navigating the intersection of chaos and intimacy is difficult. Giving your best to someone when you have the least to give is hard. Connecting while juggling can feel impossible. It feels like each person longs to be seen, while we can’t keep our eyes from darting in a dozen different directions. This is the stage of being married while parenting young children, establishing a career, maintaining a home, fostering friendships and family relationships, and all the other odds and ends life throws at us.

I’m beginning to understand that unless Zac and I are extremely intentional in this season, our marriage can become a contribution to the mess. I’m learning we need to have both hands on the wheel right now. If we coast, we coast into a rut. There’s no room for marital apathy in the trenches of parenting young children. Fried nerves and total exhaustion can easily result in irritation and short fuses. Times of fun and connection can be usurped by the allure of numbing out. It’s not because we don’t love each other and enjoy being together, but because we are just. so. tired.

There are a few things we have learned to do in order to hold each other’s gaze in the storm. We are regularly messing up and needing forgiveness. We are far from perfect, but we are doing our best to stay connected in the midst of the crazy. 

1. Date Nights In

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe date nights out are important, and we prioritize them as frequently as we can. Realistically, however, weekly date nights aren’t always possible. Sometimes things like newborn babies, financial limitations, and lack of childcare can thwart your plans of a regular date night. When you can’t get out as much as you’d like, there are some ways to make a night in feel special. Sitting outside when the weather is nice with a glass of wine and a chartcuterie (sliced meats, crackers, fruit, cheese, etc.) tray, playing a board game or card game and ordering a pizza, or of course, renting a movie and making a snack together are all fun ways to make staying at home feel like a date.

2. Play Together

Being an adult can be soul-crushingly serious. Being silly and belly-laughing with your spouse can breathe life back into you. There is so much demanding our thoughtfulness and decorum that letting loose with your person is such a bonding experience. It’s kinda like, oh hey, I like being around you. Thank you for reminding me I’m not just a robot for productivity, work, and child-rearing. I’m not sure if it’s because we got together when we were teenagers, and I’ve never fully matured around him or what, but Zac sees a goofy side of me that no one else will ever see. Or at least I hope not.

3. Daily Connection Time

This means screens down, T.V. off, focused energy and attention on your spouse for as long as it takes to really “check in” with how one another is doing that day. I am preaching to myself here, believe me. I try so hard to stay off my phone around my kids all day that at night once everyone is asleep, I can easily turn into an iPhone zombie. In an effort not to be “that mom” whose always on my phone,I can end up being “that wife” instead. When we make ourselves take this time daily, I feel much more connected to Zac and seen by him as well.

So we choose. We choose to pursue one another. We choose not to be part of the wreckage of our household at the end of the day. We choose each other, because the constant of our family is us. It was the two of us before anyone else showed up, and at the end of this wild ride, it will be the two of us again. We let our oneness coexist with the space of sippy cups and responsibility. We try to find each other among the mess of it all. We’re still here. We’re still us. A bride and groom who decided to start something so beautiful and so messy together.

PRUNING: When you cant see the big picture... rely on the one who does

"We're coming out of a pruning season"- My coin phrase for the past 6 months. 

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I could stop there. It would be easy to stop there, and leave it at that. I've struggled to write in the past 6 months (hence the empty blog). But I cant. I know there is a message here, one to be shared, and one that will be an encouragement to many.

If you are familiar with The Bible, you will know that gardening analogies are all over the place in that thing, and it’s AMAZINGLY HELPFUL IN PRUNING SEASONS (just saying).

About 8 months ago every time I opened my Bible, it seemed to mysteriously open to gardening stories. Passages about "being connected to the vine" or "watering" or "seasons".

I've walked with God for 9 years now, so I know a bit about how he tries to tell me things.... it started to grab my attention.

"Alright God, Gardening is a thing for me now..."

If you've ever met me, I'm an "all in" kind of person.. so this would explain my next course of action...

I went home and told my husband I would plant a garden.

He reminded me that I haven’t kept more than an aloe plant alive for a year.. But I pressed on.

Rude.

And

Correct.

So, I asked my neighbor who is legitimately the most amazing gardener  (you should see our houses next to one another.. HA), if she would help me garden this year.

I also thought maybe it meant that we would have a community garden at The Nest (still do), and so I met in person with the local "master gardeners of the city in Akron" <-- yes that is a thing! They're incredible!

I read gardening books.

I started a gardening notebook and goal planning thing.

I had a gardening pinterest board.

But guys...

I never actually ended up planting a garden.

 

Want to know why?

I learned about how much PREP work goes into having a garden.

How much you have to know.

How much you learn along the way.

How much you have to plan for.

And how much tending work needs to be done.

 

AND THEN, in the midst of my planning,  I saw the connection.

God was speaking to me about gardening, because I had a garden I was tending at The Nest... one that he was showing me how to plan properly for what was ahead.

STEPS OF GARDENING:

PREP WORK: PLANNING

(side note: I literally just heard my dad’s voice say... "Miss (his pet name for me), 80% of the work is prep work... you gotta do it right, or else you won’t get the end goal you want)

1) Decide where Garden bed is going to be.

2) Decide what plants you want and what grows best next to one another.

3) Buy your plants and seeds, soil, fertilizer, and tools.

 

WORKING

4) The soil get’s tilled, manure is added, other things are added to it (I told you I’m not a professional.. yet).

5) The seeds are planted

6) Water the seeds

 

WAITING

(this is the part where I was at my friends when it came to The Nest.. the lovely waiting game)

6) The roots grow.

7) The shoots grow.

8) They sprout… YAY

9) They're pretty to look at, so you stare at them in pride.

10) You water them.

11) You fertilize them.

12) You tend to the whole garden by pulling the weeds that grew up like crazy when you fertilized.

13) You prune the large plants, pull off fruit and veggies here and there so that the nutrients can keep distributing properly throughout the plant

 

THE PRUNING::: (keep going)....

14) The pruned bed looks bare, weird, and kind of like you just did a step backwards when you just had a huge beautiful garden bed

15) You fertilize again

16) The garden is watered

 

And then.. (before the harvest)... Here's the big point:

YOU REALIZE YOU ARE A GARDENER.

 

 

You see, anyone can plant a garden and see the initial thing grow up the first time. It’s the ones who are willing to take the time to prune, to stick it out for the end goal, that are called gardeners.

Maybe it is weird that I am writing about this as we enter into fall, where everything beautiful dies slowly, we can all of our veggies and fruits, and get snuggly inside. Or maybe it’s not weird at all.

I think gardening is a skill, a talent, a patience analogy that is used over and over again biblically for a reason.

Maybe it’s exactly where you're supposed to be as you wonder what the HECK is happening in your life, as I just so happen to feel led to talk about pruning.

Because here's the thing.

PRUNING SUCKS.

BUT GOD LOVES EVERY PERSON THAT IS PRUNED. You know how I know?

 

John 15:2
“"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me."
&& this:
Hebrews 12:6
"because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
 

SIX MONTHS AGO I was sitting on my kitchen floor, weeping, asking God if he wanted me to close The Nest. 

The past 4 months have been the most excruciating seasons of my life in personal relationships.

The past 10 weeks have been series after series of hard conversations in multiple spheres of my life.

I have spent numerous hours working, planning, strategizing, and PRAYING on my face about what to do in various situations at, around, and in The Nest.

8 weeks ago my husband felt like in the midst of what felt like death all around me, that he was supposed to quit his job and work full time as business manager at The Nest. Convenient. So we currently are raising support in the ministry we do here in Akron and Ellet, all while everything seemed to be "failing" around us.

I almost freaked out. Because it was all too much. It was all so lonely and terrifying, with so much change on the horizon, and I saw nothing except death around me.

 

AND then. I remembered the seasons.

This garden thing that kept popping up.

Perfect timing.

I remembered what happens after the pruning.

I fell on my face in gratitude that God these entire past months, had been preparing me for what was ahead. He was speaking over and over hoping that I would trust in the harvest, trust in the promise of his faithfulness, That I'd be quick to obey, without delay.

Dear friends, if you are in a pruning season. I NEED TO TELL YOU.. its for purpose.

 

To many of us have sought out to make the God of the universe in OUR image, instead of submitting and allowing the GOD of the universe fashion us into HIS image.

 

Do not be afraid.

He does everything with purpose, and if it's something that wasn't in his design for you.. he will bring purpose OUT of it if you let him.

He’s more intricately involved in the details of your life than you could ever imagine.

 

Our pruning season at The Nest..

Was an entire summer dedicated to seemingly one million behind the scenes conversations, gigantic sticky notes up on the wall of all the issues, solutions, strategies and possibilities you could ever imagine.

We talked merger with other organizations.

We talked selling our building.

I cried, and shook. I was angry and sad. I lamented, and felt lost a lot of the time.

There are things I cannot even mention in a blog post, that I went through leading this organization this summer, that if someone told me 4.5 years ago I would have to do, I would have NEVER said yes.

BUT YOU GUYS. I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THE PRUNING SEASONS.

ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE SUCKING THE GOOD NUTRIENTS THAT AREN’T NECESSARY, DIE IN YOU WHEN YOU TURN TO JESUS.

IT CAUSES YOU TO EXAMINE THE ROOT OF YOUR PLANT

IT CAUSES YOU TO QUESTION THROWING THE WHOLE GARDEN OUT AND STARTING AGAIN NEXT YEAR BECAUSE IT LOOKS SO UGLY.

 

It’s the best space to be. 

In pruning, you are at the mercy, at the very hands of the true MASTER Gardener.

He is the BEST pruner.

He knows what needs to go, and he knows what needs to stay.

He cuts the withering leaves off with gentleness, and care.

And he waters at just the right times.

He fertilizes with the best nutrients,

and HE HAS THE VISION in his head of the END result.

The finished garden.

THE HARVEST.

For those of you who have ears to hear this, the point of what I am saying.. HEAR IT, because in the midst of what felt like death all around me….

THINGS shifted.

The big vision came.

 

In the pruning season, the shift is never the moment you "start to see the shoot come out of the ground".

Because "blessed are those who believe without seeing".

The shift.. is in your heart, friend.

When you realize you GET TO join in your master's work. That you also GET TO plant a garden. And you GET TO learn from the BEST master gardener in all of the land.

That even though when you see a bed full of dirt, worms, a few weeds, and... nothing else, you keep watering.

WHY?

Because you remember that you planted seeds all over that thing.

That you tilled that soil faithfully.

That you put the good stuff in there to make it grow.

So now you water, and you wait.

The pruning season in life... feels a lot like that.

Going back to the bare ground with tiny little shoots in it.

Making sure that soil is nutrient rich.

That you've prepared yourself for the "vision" that this is going to take awhile for the seeds to sprout and come out of the ground... but sure enough your vision stands firm. You WILL have a garden.

This vision is what drives you to water everyday.

This is what drives you to weed.

This vision is what drives you.

 

That was my summer.

In my garden called The Nest.

Back at the bare ground/ soil with my faithful shoots.

Soil being tilled up, nutrients being poured back in.

Planting seeds like a mad woman.

Watering it day and night. Waiting for the shoots to come up like God promised they would.

 

The perspective shift. Is never the moment you see it all happening.

It’s before that.

It’s the moment where you believed that it would come to life like it always does.

This summer, as an organization, we cut some services, some classes, some programs at The Nest. We kept our CORE main groups, the exact same that they've always been, and spent time investing in our leaders.

This summer we also refocused our attention on an entire section of The Nest that was lacking. Our ability to train and pour into leaders who are Christians at The Nest was struggling. Giving good training to share the hope that they have in Jesus with those around them in non threatening but real ways, became a priority again.

This summer we changed our official documented filing to religious at The Nest allowing us to do both A & B effectively to serve all groups of people who are coming to The Nest where they are at.

This summer we cried and pounded our heads into walls a lot.

This summer I had a lot of tears I was fighting back as I watched things die that I had spent hours and years helping create.

 

BUT GUESS WHAT.

This summer I also saw a team of leaders who are SO grounded be SO excited about where The Nest is headed, and more all in than I've ever had with a team before.

This summer we saw people get healed from physical illnesses and mental illness through the name of Jesus.

This summer we led a few friends to relationship with Christ :)

This summer WE GOT TO dedicate our time to hear God's heart for The Nest, and what he was actually going to do, and where we were headed.

This summer we teamed up with YWAM akron as a couple (Brandon and I), in hopes to bring deeper further training in the future to our families ministering to the heart of Jesus every day at The Nest.

 

I've never felt so stripped down in my entire life of myself than this summer... in ALL of the ways that I needed.

AND

I've also never felt SO sure that the season we are headed into is one of absolute favor, provision, freedom, the miraculous all around us, and that a movement is being birthed right here in the midst of the bare soil with tiny shoots.

Months ago, God gave me that vision of the garden. Before we ever started being pruned away.

Why?

Because he's a good Father, and he always wants to speak.

Are we listening?

 

So my friends, as we close out a season of pruning and we THANK GOD for his discipline, his pruning, and his heart to get us to rely on him... we encourage you.

In the midst of the bare ground.

Can you take a step back?

Can you see the big picture of what he’s doing in your life?

If it feels like he's "taking away" , he may be.

But rest assured in the "big picture" of the garden.

That the soil has been tilled.

The fertilizer is in.

The seeds will be planted if you "say yes" even in this dark season

and the refreshing water will cause them to sprout up and grow.

 

Fun fact? for those of you who have been around The Nest for the past 4.5 years, you know that we have been all about Isaiah 61.... have you ever caught what the ending statement of that chapter is?

 

" For as the soil makes the sprout come up

   and a garden causes seeds to grow,

so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness

   and praise spring up before all nations."

Isaiah 61: 11

 

 

Miscarriage.

Miscarriage. - By Courtney Cooper

As I sit in this waiting room, you are consuming my every thought and emotion.

I find myself asking Why me? Why my baby? What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me again?

After working so hard to try and move forward from our first encounter, I finally felt like I was at peace with you, and here you are again.

Two and a half years ago you walked into my life for the first time. You brought with you more emotions than I had ever thought possible in one breath. You left me feeling scared, lonely, depressed, sad, angry, and so much more. You brought forth the biggest challenge that I had ever yet to face. You almost won and succeeded in crushing my faith, but I beat you and I moved forward.

The daughter that I once feared I would never have has shown me more in one year than I could have ever hoped for. She has shown me that there can still be happiness after going through something so absolutely heartbreaking.

She has shown me to never lose faith in god and the plan that he has for me. She has shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and to continue to fight and persevere, because you never know what tomorrow may bring.

But now miscarriage, you are back and I am back here in this darkness that you bring.

I am back here asking myself all the questions a woman going through a miscarriage asks herself.

In this moment I remind myself that this to shall pass, even though it feels like it won't. Even though it feels like I will never smile or laugh or ever rid this pain I'm feeling.

Every woman's situation is different.

Every woman has a story of her own. But every woman deserves to know she is not alone, that this is not her fault, that there is no right or wrong way to feel or handle this, and that there are so many people out there feeling the same exact way.

So to the woman...

who wasn't far enough along to have an ultrasound. It's ok to keep those positive pregnancy tests until you're ready to throw them away. It's the only physical memory of your baby that you have left.

To the woman who was bleeding but is still getting positive pregnancy tests. It's ok to be scared and confused.

To the woman whose friends and family keep saying things like "when are you going to have kids" or "when are you going to have another one." It's ok to tell them it's not up for discussion and stand firm in that.

To the woman whose friends and family are saying things like "well at least you know you can get pregnant" or "at least you have your son and/or daughter" or at least you weren't that far along." There is no "at least" about it.

To the woman who had her pregnancy announcement planned and ready to share because she was almost in the "safe zone." Save that announcement. It is a memory of your child and that is something to cherish and hold as a keepsake of them.

To the woman who is reminded of her loss every time she goes to the bathroom because she just won't stop bleeding. I promise you that the bleeding will stop and you wont dread going to the bathroom anymore.

To the woman who finds herself suddenly surrounded by pregnant women and babies. It's ok to fake that smile yet feel envy inside. To the woman who can't understand how her husband is holding it together so well or why he doesn't seem sad. He's hurting inside and just as disappointed as you are, he's just trying to be strong for you.

To the woman who keeps questioning herself and wondering what she could have done differently. This is not in any way shape or form a result of something that you did wrong.

To the woman who feels silly for spending 50 dollars on pregnancy tests because she didn't have the patience to wait until her missed period. A price tag could never be placed on the joy you felt when you saw that positive line for the first time.

To the woman who has had 4 pregnancies, but no baby that's gotten the chance to stay here with her. You are a mom of 4 beautiful angels in heaven.

To the woman who just wants to give up and be done trying because she never wants to go through this pain again. I know you feel this way now, and you may for a long time.

Don't underestimate how strong you are.

You WILL get through this and want to try again. And to all the women who have suffered such a big loss.

You are not alone!

Birthed a Baby and a Vision..

Its been four years my friends.

Four years ago, my firstborn biological Son came into the world.. and simultaneously God birthed a vision in me (Jenna, founder of The Nest), for this place.

I am sitting here today in the office.. kind of in awe.

Like what in the world, how did we get here?

How do we have a non-profit, serve hundreds of families, own a building, and are changing the way people look at care for a mother, a family, and children?

WHAT IN THE WORLD.

I am in awe.

 "God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, he's so good to me". - the song on repeat in my head today.

 

Four years ago, My Hylan was born, and through a traumatic and near death experience, I begged the Lord, the exact words... "please God, don't that be the last time I hold my son." 

The picture above is the moment he was born, i DID get to hold him, and within minutes he was taken as I fought for my life.

If i close my eyes long enough, I can remember every nano-second of that experience.

Every emotion, every reality, that now seems so distant and far off in the whirlwind of life.

Trauma is crazy like that. How your brain protects itself, but also can bring you straight back to that place if triggered, either by chance or by your own will.

Sometimes, it's healthy for me to go back there. To remember where I was, and where I've been.

To have perspective on birth, new motherhood, struggle, depression, and sheer exhaustion.

 

 

And all I can do, four years later, when I look back is just sit in awe.

and say.. what in the world!?

I literally had no idea.

I had NO idea.

you guys.. I HAD NO IDEA.

^you get the point

Slash.. i don't think I would have ever said YES if God had given me the big picture right then.

"Oh, Jenna BTW I am gonna allow you to go through really immense pain, like literally your organs will fall out, you'll want to die you are in so much pain, then you'll go through struggles to bond, ptsd, depression... but don't worry sweets, you will come out on top. you'll be healed. I promise.. and then you'll catalyst a vision for this thing I've had in the works for awhile.. its called The Nest."

uhm. no gracias senor.

I would have been like... eh you can try the lady in the room next door, I am not really feelin it.

I'd like to have an easy delivery, recovery period... and actually, i want to live overseas! not two doors down from my parents dedicated to the town i grew up in my whole life. ;)

 

Oh... I love God.

He knows what we need, who we are, and what we were built to withstand so much more than we do.

Seriously, if he gave us the full picture of life, we would be scared to death. I mean... you guys, I STILL feel this way. I feel like this is still the beginning of the picture. I maybe see like 20% of it? and I am a VISIONARY by NATURE. I'm scared for what this blog will say in 4 years from NOW.

All to say.

 

I don't know your circumstances friend.

I don't even know what season of life you are in.

 

BUT I DO KNOW THIS.

God is moving. He's searching for people willing to say yes. Yes to everything he has.. not just parts of it. (Ps that includes suffering, because in our suffering we also show his glory!)

One of the sweetest thoughts I have often, is what God thought of me during that time. How did he respond to my pain, anguish, suffering, and cries for help from him? Did he cry? Did he hold my hand through those around me? Probably.

But the thing I feel the most?

Is that he believed in me.

he trusted me with his vision for moms and for families.


I see that as a parent, because I feel that for my children. All four of them. My youngest of the two oldest adopted.. I genuinely believe in him. He's on his own right now, struggling through life.. but I believe in him. I KNOW that he can do this. I KNOW that he can come out on top... but at the same time.. I am not right up in his business through it all. Actually, we don't even talk at all. I pray behind the scenes. I move heaven and earth in my prayers (did you know you can do that?) , and I believe with all of my might when everything otherwise tells me not to.

"don't you know.. the teacher is always quiet during the test?" (one of my favorite phrases)

Someone told me not too long ago, when this weary Jenna sat down with him to explain how I wasn't sure I could keep going, keep doing this, keep pioneering a vision that I wasn't even sure of in its fullness....

"Oh, sweetie. God didn't give you this vision IN SPITE of you.. he gave it to you BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU".

Cue all of the tears.

 

It's not weird for me, even one bit, to tell you that God believed in me.

Or even to tell you that he's my biggest fan, and cheering me on.

Not because of Me... or because at the end of the day Jenna will be the best.

But because he uses us, for his glory.

It's the HIM in ME that he is cheering on.

Because he is BEAUTIFUL in the way he brings things full circle. 

Because he is faithful, even when we are not..  cannot, have not, and do not.

Because he is just, and right, and realer than the two shoes that are on my feet.

 

I reflect on these past four years.

And Im in awe.

I am humbled by the pain we've went through.

I am humbled by the surrender we've HAD to go through.

I am encouraged by the PEOPLE who came alongside us in and out of every season to support this vision and dream God gave me.

I am propelled by the vision he keeps giving us as a community piece by piece.

 

And now?

now.. I am headed home...

to my little boy, who still doesn't even know...

that this place, his FAVORITE place in the world (he says he wants to work at the Nest when he grows up).

Started through his life.

The nest was birthed at his birth. 

We just didn't know it yet.

This is HIS heritage.

And I just get to start it and dedicate parts of it to him.

 

WHAT IN THE WORLD.

full circle.

full awe.

full surrender.

 

 

 

 

 

When you're grieving silently...

I've been reminded lately as we've entered into the season of "spring" and new hope arises,

how many are still in a stage of grief around me.

Grieving unborn babies, wayward children, parents who are no longer with us, and the list goes on.

 

This message, this is for the woman, the man, the friend, who is grieving silently. 

 

For the one whose community felt so close after the initial shock of the loss,

but now seems so far away.

The one who is struggling to get your feet on the ground in the morning, 

let alone be productive, and excited for a "new season" to come along.

Who feels as if spring is coming for everyone else,

but for you, your still stuck in the dead of winter.

 

This is just a reminder that you are not alone.

 

Last night, my oldest adopted kiddo (20) shared at our foster adoptive support group at The Nest, and the grief welled up inside me... i knew, unavoidable. 

Not the grief of his life. I literally rejoice every single day over this kid, and the ways God has healed him, the decisions he has made in the past year, and his future that is ever before him.

I grieve because my other one, the one locked in my heart.. is somewhere out there.. on his own.

 

The funny thing about grief, is that is comes in waves.

You grieve things that aren't even dead, did you know that?

 

Of course you grieve true death, and loss.

But you also grieve relationships that are broken, which you desperately want to be mended.

You grieve your idea of "parents" that maybe never was what it ended up being.

 

In life, no matter who you are, grief is unavoidable.

And grief has a way of coming around and welling up inside when we least expect it.

 

I don't really know how to explain to people anymore the place we are in with our youngest of our oldest 2 not with us physically. The traumatic shock of it is gone for everyone else, but sometimes it wells up and overtakes me without me noticing.

Grief.

Its weird like that.

 

But heres the thing. As we go into spring.. I recognize that only parts of my heart will remain in winter.

(this is a metaphor by the way).

As in, My heart will always be saddened when I think of the grief we've experienced in the past year and a half over our second oldest and the life he's chosen away from us.

My heart will always grieve for my oldest when he talks of his brother, and how a limb seems to be missing from him, from time to time.

The tears will ALWAYS come when my 4 year old asks "when is Logie coming home mommy?".. even though he hasn't lived in our physical house for over 2 years now.

 

Grief is inevitable when a person leaves.

Whether by choice, or not.

But there are waves.

There are parts of our hearts which carry on into spring, new blossom, new waves of excitement, new gifts, and new rejoicing.

And there are parts of our heart that stay in winter.

 

They ebb and flow, without regard to whats "convenient" to us.

 

And if I've learnt anything along the way in my small journey with grief, it's that there is hope in my heart for a future that is not yet seen.

One eternally, and one here on earth.

And to that, I cling, I long for, and I hope for.

Hope.

Im clinging to that with you today, friend.

Marriage: It starts with Choices.... - by Leah Keiffer

---> A marriage story and perspective given on her own account by Leah Kieffer! Please feel free to reach out to her if this story speaks to you by CONTACTING US


I’m sitting here wondering how I ever ended up being asked to write this blog on the topic of marriage, and at the same time I’m so thankful I could cry! In the midst of some of our most exhaustive years as mothers and fathers, where does our teammate end up in that mix? Do we forget who we married along the way?

Think back to when you were dating.

You find out what you like about the other person, you spend late nights talking on the phone; you truly seek to know each other.You go out of your way to make the other one smile or to make a bad day better. You intentionally do little things to show you care. You want to spend as many moments as possible, together.

The feeling of knowing you have found your person, how exciting it is to know you met your husband.  That he is the one for you, for forever.

Once you’re newlyweds, most people say you’re in the honeymoon stage; completely inseparable and so grateful you found the one who completes you.

So no one talks about what happens next.. or rather how hard it is to remain in the newlywed stage. What do you do when your marriage leaves the honeymoon stage, when suddenly you’re both being pulled in opposite directions with a work week that never seems to end, when you begin working towards separate goals, when you stop communicating because you’re too tired of your words falling on deaf ears?

And what about when you’re an exhausted parent trying to raise your little one(s)? What do you do when your marriage becomes silent car rides and petty arguments that never seem to address the real issues?

When it becomes devaluing and belittling and unkind and you scream at each other when your babe is asleep, calling each other names you can never take back, then crying yourself to sleep. But, a new day comes and you wake up to fake smile, face the day and try to be brave for your little one? Because the days just keep going and time never slows.

In as brief as I can explain to you all in written word, this is my story. This was my marriage-

for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

 

The heaviness of those vows, paired with feeling suffocated and trapped.

Guys, I never want to feel any of these things ever again.

So, who told us when we got married and had kids that those efforts from our dating stage stopped?

Who told us we suddenly need all this “alone time?” (also, I’m not referring to being tired and needing a time out to rest/ recuperate  )

When we are dating and engaged, we can’t even handle the thought of not seeing our person for one day. But now that we’re married we need to have time alone? It doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

Most all of us have heard 1 Corinthians 13 either at our own wedding or someone else’s. Now stick with me for a second, the passage reads,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.    It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

What if we changed some of the wording in those verses, instead of ‘love’-

insert your name, instead of the word ‘it’- I. Read it out loud to yourself with the replacements.

It stings to read it in first person.

I’d be ecstatic to sit here and give everyone struggling in their marriages an easy step

by step guide of how to get your marriage back on track. And to tell you everything I

did to change my attitude and to change all of our bad habits. I simply can’t.

 

But what I can tell you is that it started with a choice.

I chose to start being responsible for myself and my own actions and my own responses.

A simple, calm phrase I started saying when a fight was starting was

“I don’t want to fight, you’re my friend.”

I don’t have all the right answers for whoever is reading this today.

But I can tell you if you’re reading this, it is not too late to try.

Carve out uninterrupted time with your spouse to communicate, even if it’s within your own house for 5-10 minutes a day; no cell phones, no electronics, no kids. Purposefully do something to show the other one you care, make the extra effort to say “I see you”- your husbands want you to notice them and appreciate them. Most every guy in my family says the number one way he feels love is primarily through feeling respected and valued. Husbands, your wives might need your extra hands at the end of long day — kind and patient hands that show her, “hey, I’m here to help YOU- let’s clean up the kitchen or get the kids in bed or fold this last load of laundry.” And intentionally doing those things together so you can BOTH sit down together. I don’t mean rushing through what needs done or doing them in anger or with an attitude because that 100% defeats the purpose and we as women will not feel valued, seen, or loved.

 

Neither of you should forget the other one works ALL day.

It might not be the same work, but it is work none the less that needs to be accomplished for your home to sustain. Your bad day does not trump your spouse’s bad day. You can’t override the way the other one feels, even if you don’t fully understand- marriage counseling is a great tool to learn to hear your spouse and work to understand even when you don’t. You should try to balance each other and lift each other up. Otherwise, you will be creating valleys within your marriage that are extremely hard to climb out of.

 

And I have wrestled with this last part, whether or not I should share it, but I wouldn’t

be telling you all the whole truth if I didn’t. Every idea and tool I can give you is great,

but these things are not what saved my marriage. All of these ideas helped us, and we

still strive toward each of them daily. But, for us without Jesus, none of this was

possible. HE gave me the want to fight FOR my husband, HE gave me the want to

understand my husband, HE gave me the want to learn how to communicate without

screaming at each other, HE gave me the feelings of guilt when I was keeping records

of all the wrongs done to me, HE gave me the want to swallow my pride and apologize,

HE gave me the ability to forgive all the hurts and all the ugly words and actually move

forward, HE showed me how to love my husband and HE pointed out that respect is my

guys first love language.

 

Friends, NONE of these ideas were mine; in fact I NEVER would have told you all that I

would even be doing those things. Because I was done! The fact is my husband and I

were going to get a divorce, we couldn’t agree on anything anymore and we were at

the end of our ropes with no kindness, no patience, no understanding and no want to

even try left.

Exhausted and wounded by each other.

 

But at some point between my sleepless nights and all my tears and all my prayers, God met me there in my dark valley. I had been begging God to meet my husband there too and to repair us. AND HE DID! I desperately wanted to show my daughter what marriage and love and kindness looked like lived out. I wanted her to have standards for when she reaches teen years. I wanted her to have Godly husband and wife example, people who modeled who/ what she would look for in her own spouse one day. Those were the primary desires of my heart under all the anger and hurt. And Jesus showed up, just as He always will.

I would encourage you all still reading to think back, and try to figure out when you lost the feeling of gratitude for your other half- and then swallow some pride so you can apologize. Your marriage can be healed and redeemed and restored.

You can love each other daily like newlyweds do- even with babies! And I hate to say it, but ladies please remember our babies will grow up and they will find their own paths and build their own lives and leave our nests.

When they go on and move forward, will you still recognize your spouse?

Or will all the years of wounding each other finally take their toll?- It crushes my heart to even type that sentence.

Think back to when you initially met and fell in love and start waking up each morning choosing to love your spouse, above your kiddos. Love and marriage do go hand in hand.

 

And I have learned it starts with choices,

and a sacrificial love for your other half.

WHY The Mighty OAKS?--> our New Shirt!

I've written on it before, I KNOW I'll write on it again.

MIGHTY OAKS is the vision of The Nest.

almost 4 years ago, when God originally gave me the vision of The Nest (and how small it really was at the time).. he put the verses of Isaiah 61 on my heart.

Over the years, they have unfolded more and more.. as I've seen our place in them.

"binding up the brokenhearted"

"setting the captives free"

 

But mainly, when I think about our mission here, why in the WORLD we invest into the sphere of society that is our literal foundation & most important building block to ALL spheres (FAMILY)...

I think of MIGHTY OAK TREES.

 

"They will be called Oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

For the display of his splendor"

 

I think of an oak tree.

They start out as a seedling.

They take FOREVER to grow full into their might.

But they are strong under the storm.

They last forever.

 

That is our vision for families.

That they would be mighty, strong, unbreakable, unmovable, and the foundational change in our society.

 

SO WHAT IS MORE FITTING FOR OUR FIRST T-SHIRT FOR SALE AT THE NEST?

Our mighty oaks Tee!

Its beautiful.

It's fair trade.. MADE IN HAITI, employing those who need jobs to support their families.

Its comfy

 It's a statement of boldness in truth.

AND OUR VISION.

 

 

SO GRAB YOURS TODAY in our TSHIRT Shop!

 

We're EXCITED!

** EACH AND EVERY SHIRT's PROFIT GOES DIRECTLY BACK TO OPERATING THE NEST! **

 

 

Knowing my Father's voice.

It's still imprinted on my mind.

"So much of the woman's journey is doing things that are  unnatural for her. That, to me, is what The Proverbs 31 woman is. She does things that both come naturally, and do not come naturally. Just as my wife cried as she leaked from her breast sitting at his grave. Because she was still nursing our fourteen month old son when he died."

These words wrecked me this weekend that I experienced at The Nest's annual Christmas tea.

And the thoughts have been swirling,

"what does it mean to lean into the things that I am naturally gifted in? and the things that are down right unnatural for me..."

 

Magic happened this past Saturday that was so much more than a pretty tea with fancy clothes, and fancy food.

Healing happened.

I could have never planned for it to have the effect that it did, although I know the one who did.

Months ago God put it on my heart to move in a direction with this annual event that hosts 100 women, to talk about the Proverbs 31 woman. To instill hope and identity in a group of people whom have listened to culture, other's voices for far too long.

To draw them back to their creators voice.

To their Father.

 

Why?

Because he's done that for me this year.

A year that started out in the pure glory and joy of bringing my daughter into this world through birth. A story that could have been like the story of my first. One filled with trauma, angst, near death, pain, sorrow. Instead... it was a story of healing, of miracle, of joy, of purity.

I say often Reyna Jean is a song over my life.

Because her life is a literal reminder of how intimately involved my Father in heaven is in my life.

That he isn't a distant God.

That he knows my inmost needs, desires, and heart.

That he has not allowed suffering in my life for no purpose.

"so much of a woman's life

is doing what feels unnatural"

 

Whats natural to you, may not be whats natural for me.

Natural for Jenna = working, passion, moving and shaking, change, busy, relationship, conversation, one on one time, prophetic voice.

Unnatural for Jenna = mothering my small children, homemaking, being present, being still, saying no, trusting others to do something I want to do, small moments, large groups of people.

 

Women naturally live our life in seasons.

Seasons of nurturing, working, living, hosting, dreaming, imparting.

Seasons.

Seasons of truth, struggle, perseverance, loneliness, fulfillment

Seasons.

 

I've been in a season this year of remembering what my Father's voice sounds like.

That he tells me I am enough.

That he made me the way I am on purpose.

That he didn't give me this mission for family in spite of me, but because I am me.

That he has gone before me.

That I can fully and confidently trust in him.

To listen to the one who reminds me to be bold.

To listen to the one who reminds me to call people back to who they originally are.

To listen to the one who binds up the brokenhearted.

To obey the one who sets the oppressed free from the struggles in their mind.

 

I was more than thrilled about our Christmas Tea on Saturday.

Not because of the amount of money we made, which we did better than any other tea we have had in the past!

BUT because of the honor and dignity that was placed back onto us as women this day.

 

By our speakers who all five brought to light how utterly different they were created.

But that they were created on purpose.

And they were supposed to live in that specific purpose.

 

Healing happened and started on this day.

A day of reminding ourselves that we were on purpose.

 

Do you know who's voice that really was on Saturday?

Not just the voice of Judge Todd McKinney as he prayed, or the voices of the other AMAZING women who spoke.... but the voice of our Father himself through them.

 

I don't know if you are in a season of Natural or Unnatural.

Regardless, take heart dear one.

I've been in both.

And he is in BOTH.

 

Why your #GivingTuesday should be at The Nest!

Why your #GivingTuesday should be at The Nest!

https://www.gofundme.com/3h37rsk8

Grateful Hearts <3

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving.. which just so happens to be my most FAVORITE holiday ever.. I thought I'd talk about Gratitude.

AS you all know, The month of November is deemed #nocomplainnovember for The Nest. Its pretty much... interesting.. to say the least.

 

Some of the observations I've had this year in Not complaining (or actively trying not to)... is that it was wayyyy easier this year than last year. Thats good!

Second, don't break your dominate arm and have surgery , and have your husband go away out of town for a week for work... in the midst of no complain November #blessings.

Third, its cool to see how many people are willing to take a step into gratitude. And it was SO interesting to see how that affected the way people responded after our most recent election.

 

I think that having a grateful heart means so much more than going around a table on Thanksgiving and saying two things that you are grateful for. 

Once a wise man told me (and I think of this often), you can measure/ see where your heart is at with God when you listen to the presence or lack of GRATITUDE in your own prayers.

 

I think its worth noting that being grateful.. is a heart stance. Its a recognition of what is greater, who is in control, and what blessings we truly have received.

But, its also not being naive. The world sucks sometimes, things are so freaking hard. There is death, confusion, and just straight up crazy in this day and age.

 

So whats the balance between a grateful and positive heart, and a realistic stance?

uhm.. i dont know... I genuinely meant that as a question.

 

BUT I hope if there is one thing you have learnt from no complain November ... is thanksgiving is NOT just saying what you're thankful for. But consciously choosing to have a grateful and positive spirit and heart.

 

A tongue that speaks life, truth, and grace... rather than death, lies, and malice. A spirit of gratitude, energy, and joy, and one that lifts people up! Lets make no complain November travel into the New years with us too guys!

 

It's an honor to be on this journey with you!

 

 

 

 

No Complain November!!

To be honest, it's pretty much the most ironic thing in the world that I opened up my computer this morning and saw that it was November 1.

It's tradition, for me that I spend the month of November reflecting on gratitude and practicing the art of being thankful. I'm obsessed with November, and Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday! 

Funny thing about the Thanksgiving season...  it Is also the season where Cold weather kicks in, kids start to get sick, money starts to get tight, moods start to get... Moody?, we start to feel fat and pale, Family drama arises... And it's just so much fun to complain!

This is why I challenge you, and myself, to dedicate this month..

To Gratitude.

Here's the thing though, so many of us Think that being thankful means we write Down 10 things we are grateful for, and call it a day.

The reality is... Our are kids are watching us. If you ever wonder why your kid is a complainer, whiny, or being a turd ball... First action, look in the mirror. 

The funny thing is... When you "Give up" complaining... All the complaining from everyone else sticks out like a sore thumb, and then you realize, how much we as people complain. SO you will also get to practice your GRACE ;)

 

So here's my challenge...

Dedicate one month...

Yes, one entire month

To give up... Complaining!

I'm not even asking you to give up something good like chocolate... I'm asking you to give up something that kills your spirit.

 

Best part?

I'm in this with you.

Ironic part?

I broke my right arm on Saturday... and cant do much of anything without wanting to complain. ;)

 

Lets do this, and let's see how it changes our hearts and our families.

 

Who's with me?

 

 

***Some practicals***

-make a star chart for yourself for each day you go without complaining(Fun fact:: you can include your kids on this t00)

-give yourself a Prize at the end of each week or at the end of the month! Starbucks anyone? Trip to target? Pedicure that you would never spend on yourself? Do it. Work for it.

 

Now finally,

For all the naysayers out there...

I'm confronting you.

You don't want to do this, but you of all people, probably should. The person who resisted this the most... Is legitimately holding on to their complaining and negative spirit.. So just do it with me! Try it. If I can do this with a broken arm, you can do this too!

Comment below if you're in, and We'll hold each other accountable throughout the month! 

Here we go!

No Small Loss Remembers My Loss

My immaculate Kaydance was born on February 3, 2009. Seven pounds, nine ounces, she was perfect.

Expecting parents joke and say they don’t care what gender their baby is, as long as he or she is healthy. Well,

I loved Kaydance even though she wasn’t. 

At twenty weeks pregnant, we found out our soon-to- be little girl was being diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, a congenital heart defect in which the pulmonary valve does not form, obstructing blood flow from the heart to the lungs.

Its cause is unknown and rare, occurring in about 7-8 per 100,000 live births. With all the technology we have, the outcome is favorable.

I had an emergency caesarean section, after a failed pitocin drip. At 1:33 pm, my baby drew her first breath of air and was immediately taken to an adjoining OR room, where a breathing tube was inserted. I was moved to a recovery room, where we awaited the arrival of Kaydance. About forty-five minutes later, five people suited up in jumpers that read “Akron Children’s Transport Team”, came in pushing a box containing a sweet bundle of joy. I was able to slip my hand in the small opening provided to touch her for only a moment.

In that consequential moment, I saw the future, the upcoming fight that I would not give in to. 

As if taken from a movie scene, in one small and slow motion, the transport team moved my daughter out of the room, bound for the children’s hospital a mile away.

Over the next six weeks, Kaydance underwent three open heart surgeries, multiple “minor” surgeries, a bout with sepsis, and several cardiac arrests. When she was four-weeks- old, the children’s hospital said they couldn’t do any more for her and life-flighted her to the Cleveland Clinic to be put on the heart transplant list.

Kaydance suffered a stroke during the plane ride, but fortunately she was so young they didn’t think it would affect her long-term.

Luckily, Cleveland had one more idea before deciding she needed a new heart. That is when she underwent her third open heart surgery. Following the surgery, she began to see tremendous improvements.

It wouldn’t be long before we could take her home.

Then came March 20th .

I could sense something was wrong when I entered her room that morning. Kaydance had sepsis, again. She was on the highest volumes of medication and there is nothing more that could be done. This time she would not pull through. It was time to say goodbye. 

At 3:15am on March 21, Kaydance earned her wings. I held her as she went.

 

With the support of my family, and their arms locked around me, I found the courage to hold my head up, and walk down the hospital hall, one last time. 

I went home the next day, after not being there for six weeks. This was my home, but now it felt like a stranger’s.

Cards and flowers rained through my house, and I cried with every one.

A week after the funeral, the cards stopped and people were getting on with their lives. Here I was feeling as though my entire world was falling to pieces around me. How did I pick up the shattered fragments and continue breathing?

It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my second daughter in October of 2010 that I truly began to have faith in the future again.

It has now been seven and a half years since Kaydance left.

I am happily married with two beautiful and healthy children.

But there isn’t a day I don’t remember Kaydance. I have just learned to accept it and live with the loss. Over the past seven years, I have learned to bury my pain around most people. I see the tension on some faces when I mention her. I see the uneasiness it causes. So I lock it up and pretend it doesn’t hurt.

In February of 2015, I found The Nest.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for this organization.

These amazing individuals have helped me in my journey through motherhood. But most importantly, they allow me to remember Kaydance without the awkwardness.

Last year, when Jenna told me about the first No Small Loss event, I tried to talk myself out of attending. I came up with multiple excuses not to go because I knew it would be so hard. I felt as though no one would accept my pain and honor my daughter as she was meant to be honored.

In the end, I went. I am so thankful I did.

This event was so good for my soul. Not only do they accept your pain, they embrace it. Our children were here. Whether it was for six weeks, a few seconds, or a couple weeks in utero.

They were here.

Some of the women have not experienced a loss like we have, and they don’t act like they know how it feels.

They simply hold our hand and let us grieve. They let us sob and they stand by us.

Society has seemed to forget the lost babies or make us feel uncomfortable to remember them, but

The Nest doesn’t.

No Small Loss is an event to reflect on the loss but embrace the love. While our babies’ lives were so brief, they were also remarkably meaningful.

Life is quite rushed. We often don’t have time to reflect on our loss, and sometimes it’s just too painful.

Nevertheless, it is such a blessing and a spirit cleanser to have people that support us. To have people that say “I don’t know your pain, but I recognize it, and I am here.”

My journey with Kaydance taught me to cherish the experiences, blessings, and people life has bestowed to me.

I appreciate the community at The Nest. I am beyond thankful that they hold this event and they don’t question our loss or experience. They simply let us remember.

If you have experienced a loss, come to No Small Loss. Don’t talk yourself out of it like I almost did. You will be so lifted and refreshed to be able to openly remember and grieve. You will be able to meet parents who have felt your pain. It is a day to remember our babies together.

If you haven’t experienced this loss, come anyway. Parents who have need you. We need you to tell us it’s ok.

We have encountered one of the worst experience life has to offer. Yet, we are expected to continue living without our babies. No Small Loss and The Nest itself, is a safe place for us.

Having a day to be able to remember them,

helps make living without them a little easier.

 

“When a child loses a parent they are called an orphan.

When a spouse loses her partner, they are called a widow or widower.

When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” - Ronald Reagan

 

 

Why Do we Keep Doing it?// REBUILDING THE ANCIENT RUINS

A question we have all (those of us who are on the core team of the Nest), have asked ourselves in the past three years.

Why do we keep doing it?

Can't a church provide this service?

Or a government organization that already exists?

 

At the very beginning of this journey with The Nest, now Three years ago. (thank you Lord)... We felt on our hearts Isaiah 61 as our calling over The Nest. As the years have continued on, we have discovered new parts of this call, new parts of this vision.. I myself have gotten stuck in some of the areas and lost focus of others.... But if you want to know our true, Mission statement, this is it.

 

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners.

To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion__

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes

the oil of joy

instead of mourning, 

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

THEY WILL BE CALLED MIGHTY OAKS, A PLANTING OF THE LORD FOR THE DISPLAY OF HIS SPLENDOR. 

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."

Isaiah 61: 2-4

 

At different seasons in this journey, different parts have been highlighted to me and in my heart.

At the very beginning, the vision was the planting of might oaks.

An oak is a forever standing tree. Strongly rooted, strongly centered in the forest. Beautiful to many.

That tree stands for generations.

And I see us calling this generation of family to be strong, mighty, strong rooted & of depth.

 

The part that sticks out to me now?

Three years in the making.. of pouring out, of restoration, of redemption, of comfort, of community... of strengthening those mighty oaks?

"They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."

Friends,

THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION.

We LIVE in a world right now struck with travesty left and right.

We no longer can remain ignorant.

We are surrounded by racism, by greed, by conflict.

Its in our nature in ways we don't even realize.

 

For generations we have sung to the tune of "blessed America"... and now that blessed America is waking up. We are seeing the brokenness that is caused over generations of chosen ignorance, and oppression of others on behalf of our own comforts.

A brutal awakening it has been, no less.

But an awakening thank Jesus.

That there is NO lasting security in money.

There is NO freedom in ignorance.

No bliss among those who "set themselves up for success"

 

As someone who has lived in many other cultures, American culture has always been, and will always be the hardest for me to live in. The freedom and joy I have experienced and learnt from in other cultures will always be something I carry with me in my heart.

The consumerism.

The greed.

The reality that we will NEVER have enough.

Badged with our degrees, our accomplishments, and trained from the time of birth "what we want to be equated to what we do when we are older"... plagues me.

I constantly fight against my own flesh, my upbringing.

I constantly ask questions, wondering if what I am doing with my family, with my personal life.. is really the "right" thing.

I have said often, each and every time I would cross back into the states and land in LA.. I would immediately start worrying about money, feel the depth of greed overtake me... see the way that fictional stories of others on my TV and in my books, create a veil over my eyes to the depth of brokenness that was being experienced inside of homes across the world.

Well friends

There is NO better time than now to be this person to answer this amazing call.

Start with family.

The place that we are starting.

The root of the problem.

And the planted oak that can change this next generation.

Real, and lasting change. 

One that stands through the generations.

Call out a new, fresh, and counter cultural "mighty oak" in yourself, and in your family.

 

I see it daily scrolling through my newsfeed.

The shattered innocence of those around me.

The reality that the world isn't "getting better".

ITS NOT GOING TO.

IT'S actually not even supposed to.

We are living in the end where these things are coming to light.

The world has always been, and will continue to be broken.

How you contribute to that brokenness, and to healing.. is YOUR choice.

Our brokenness as Americans, used to be our choice to be sheltered to the travesty of the rest of the world.

Our sheer ignorance to the issues at hand.

Our hand in the oppression of others.

 

To be honest, its overwhelming to know where to start.

I know, because I have been there.

Shoot, I am there.

How do you simultaneously protect, love and cherish your children...

while being conscious of the world we live in.

 

Start with saying YES, when you don't feel like it.

Hi. I am a mom. I am a full time working mom. I am an adoptive mom. I am a working wife. I have a home to take care of, family, kiddos, a husband.. I KNOW all of the things that are demanding your attention. I FEEL THE TENSION.

 

But here are the best things to say yes to.

 

Marriage. 

INVEST in your marriage. You will NEVER regret a date you went on, a time you spent with your loved one. Invest in getting to know one another through each and every season.. even when you are on different pages. Have lots of sex (hopefully my teenager isn't reading this). Love each other. Give grace to one another. Covet the time you have with each other. GO ON DATES. GO ON DATES. GO ON DATES.

 

Family.

BE INTENTIONAL with your time together. It doesn't mean you say "there is too much on my plate" and complain. It means.. the time you have together.. whether a TON in this season, or barely enough... make it intentional. Say NO to screens, say YES to time. Yes to laughter. Yes to activities. YES to one more show to cuddle through. Say Yes to family night. Yes to ridiculous conversations in the car rather than listening to your music. Yes to the late night wakes ups. YES to the hundredth game of "pretend pokemon" (anyone? anyone?). YES to the hard conversations. Yes to the chicken nuggets and freezer green beans for the 100th time around the table because the time around the table is more important than the time invested to prepare the food. Just say YES.

 

Community.

God literally created us to live and thrive in community with one another. This is where The Nest comes in when you are feeling alone, you are reminded that you are not. Let your kids grow in community with other children... YES, we want that to be a priority for you.. but also .. YOU GROW IN COMMUNITY with others. Don't wilt alone. Come be with others who are in this life stage with you. Muster up the energy, strength, 343 baby items, 29 tantrums on the way to the car, in the car, and on the way here.. and get here.  Life is better lived with others.. its just true.

 

Service.

I don't know what YOUR specific purpose in serving is.  Or where you feel the need to do it. I am not even sure if you are in a season you feel like you can. BUT if you are in the place where you want to, and feel like it is right for you to give back.. HERE is where I bring up that part about the "might oaks" being the ones to restore the broken generations.

From the beginning of time we have created a culture of "charity" meaning... we give to those in need. WHICH IS GREAT. please continue to give that.

But also, we have to be a people who equip others to give to their own "kind". Meaning the BEST possible job I could do as a missionary to the middle east would be to equip middle eastern pastors to reach their own people.

Hi moms.

Hi dads.

Hi friends.

The best possible thing we can do to reach our communities, to change the very world in which we have been placed, to be an actual voice that changes things in america...

is to reach our own people.

Who are your people?

Other families.

Other people in your geographical areas.

Those who you work with.

 

So you start in your home.

You be a mighty oak.

and then you go and rebuild the ancient ruins

Meaning, if you aren't strong, mighty, able right now...

Lets talk.

Momma, I am here for you.

If your marriage/ relationship is struggling right now (raises hand), lets work on it. lets get into marriage classes (slash, come tonight to marriage talk at moms group!)

If you cant seem to go one more day with your kiddos without screaming.. lets talk family. Lets talk what it looks like to have boundaries, schedules, whatever it is that you need to fully be invested in the sacred space of family.

If you are a might oak, and are ready... to start changing the next generation// restoring culture// restoring OUR LAND...

Then lets real talk.

Lets do this.

Jump in...

I cannot promise I am perfect in this, or even know what I am doing half the time.

But I promise you I wont give up.

We will keep going

We will keep reaching.

We will keep rebuilding.

 

How can you help?

1) Join our Prayer Team. email me at jenna.themothersnest@gmail.com for more info

2) Join us with your dollars. "where your heart is there your treasure is also" Support us as we support and strengthen families. Become a monthly donor of $10 or more.. and keep a program operating. Where some places your money is going to new and shiny things, TVS, etc... here your money is literally going to keep doors open, lights on, an a safe place existing for families to grow and strengthen in a non threatening non judgmental environment.

3) Volunteer.--> for those of you who do have time, strength, energy to give (JK no one has all of those things at once.. or do they?.. but for those of you who feel like its time to jump in physically).. join our volunteer team. Contact me at jenna.themothersnest@gmail.com and we'll get together to talk more!

 

We do what we do--- Because of Who we are. Who are you!?

Identity.

This word has come up quite a lot for me.. and I'm seeing the internal struggle in myself, and those around me, heading into this new season.

A season of business may lie ahead, and you wonder if you will lose parts of yourself, parts that you cherish about your family, parts of your sanity in the midst of the busy.

Or a season of wandering may be ahead, and you wonder if you'll lose your community, your umph, your desires, your passions in the midst of the everyday motions of just getting through.

Regardless the season, regardless the day, regardless the tasks and duties... our identity HAS to remain the same. And when we are desperately seeking it in other things, the things we do, our roles on this earth, we will always feel a tension inside of us.

 

Let me give you an example from my own life...

5 years ago, God honestly shot down my "dreams" of what I thought my life would look like.

It is no secret that I love Jesus, and my whole life is circled around the things that he has called me to here on this earth.

But what is a secret, or I guess something that I don't shout from the rooftops, is those years of struggle before the Nest, the years of no community for us, the years of turmoil in my heart, the years of wondering if my God, that I believed in.. had forgotten me.  The years of wondering who the HECK I was.

7 years ago, I really felt like what I was supposed to do in life was to live overseas, living in a full time missionary organization, called YWAM (Youth with a Mission). I packed my bags, planned on living there and committing for at least 3 years.. and was off....

Except for that minor detail, when (my now husband) Brandon Brown, high school best friend, told me that he was in love with me and wanted to marry me.

Uhm, worst timing in the world. I am moving across the world forever, goodbye.

Fast forward 8 months into being overseas living and stationed in Australia, dating the entire time apart from each other, and feeling the tug to come home.

Here we go, God. Yes I will follow you.

No plan.

No ambition to be there.

No desire to even live in the states.

Other than knowing I was to marry this crazy guy who kept convincing me to love him (it wasn't that hard). 

 

So Home I came.

Ohio.

And then two months later, we received the life calling.. that changed everything.

Adopting our two teenage boys (gaining full custody) who are also Brandon's half brothers.. has by far been the absolute HARDEST most humbling thing I have ever been a part of.

We were seriously like 12 years old.

(okay we were 22 and 23 (wait.. is that right?!))

In regards to Their privacy, and everyone involved, I don't share much of their story, (it's theirs to tell), but I do share my story through that season of life before the Nest came around.


I went from friends and family thinking I was this awesome missionary (or at least what I told myself.. yuck).

To my entire mission being for two people, who I wasn't even sure I liked.. and they definitely did not like me.

My life went from pretty, tons of fruit, experience, joy, deep friendships, deep meaning of life... to the most seemingly meaningless things I had ever done.

It went from talking to homeless in Africa, living on a hammock on the amazon river (I am not kidding), feeding hungry children of the world, living out of a suitcase, seeing the most amazing sights and wonders of the world...

To living in my hometown, raising two boys.. and I have never been disappointed in myself or learnt more about myself in that season.

 

One, my desire for an identity outside of Jesus.

Two, my desires for affirmation and approval from others.

Three, my desire for "Normal" even though I had convinced myself I despised "normal"

Four, how utterly, unloving... I naturally am.

 

For those of you who have biological children... even those of you who have struggled to bond with them, the bond with them/ the love for them.. is literally innate.

For those of you who have adopted/ fostered children you may or may not know what I am talking about.. but the FIGHT to love.. is something that will change you inside and out forever.

You will understand God's adoptive heart for us.

You will understand how ugly your insides truly are.

You will never feel more unmotivated or dry in your life.

And it is a journey.. that is one of the most rewarding things ever.

Not because there is a guarantee of "they grow up, love jesus, love you and are grateful for all you have done for them" uhm.. because if you know our story, you know thats not the case.

But because there is a guarantee & a focus shift that happens when you dedicate everything you do, to the one who has done it FOR YOU. Knowing there may not be anything in return to make you feel #blessed, but doing it anyways.

 

What does this have to do with identity?

 

Because if you are in a season, where you are feeling lost, lonely, confused, out of sorts, dried up.

I am taking you back to that original place in this post.

The place where I realized my identity could no longer be in WHAT I DO.. but WHOSE I AM.

I am God's.

I am adopted into his family.

He calls me his own.

He has gifted me with specific talents.

 

And then...

 

After years of the dry -est ugliest season of my life...

a near death experience, horrific trauma, Post partum depression anxiety, lack of community....

God used those talents, giftings, passions.. to create the nest.

To be honest, I dont think I could have handled this vision, this heart for The Nest & restoring family if it wasn't for these seasons of "the desert" in my life.

 

A phrase I have repeated a gazillion times from Jen Hatmaker's book "Seven" (obsessed: read it now), is

"as a culture we are so much more obsessed with the feast and not the fast. There is so much beauty in the fast"

 

Jesus chose to fast before he started his ministry.

I mean.. not just skip a meal and say some awesome prayers.

But legit go in the desert, fast for 40 days and nights, not eat a single thing, submit himself to temptation, loneliness, isolation, cold, heat, sun... 

 

Uhm. Hello humbling.

I don't like to go 4 hours without food, let alone 40 days.

 

So here I pose the question

While, Jesus is fasting... Satan attacks his identity.

He says "if you are the son of God..."

meaning... did God really say that about you? prove yourself to me? Show me your good works.

 

My oldest, Bryce said this not to long ago praying over one of our friends in our living room...

"The very first thing that Satan always attacks is your identity"

 

He did it in the garden of eden: "truly if you eat this fruit you will be like God (because who God made you isn't good enough?)"

He did it in the desert with Jesus: "if you are truly the son of God..."

He definitely does it to us all the time.

 

and this is why, now more than ever, we have to be firm in who our identity is in.

From the day our kiddos are 3 we are asking them "what do you want to be when you grow up" ... equating that to a profession, a dream. Not "WHO" do you want to be with you grow up.

Kind?

Compassionate?

Giving?

Receiving?

 

Nope. A fireman.

 

It's innate in us to equate our worth to the things we do.

But from the beginning of time, God has been telling us that no matter what we do.. we will never find our identity in any place but him.

He is the only place where we are whole.

He is the only place where "who I am" makes sense.

 

 

So my friend, if you are in that season. That waiting season, that dry dry dry season. If you are in the desert, waiting for the test to be over, the sea to part, the promise land.

Take heart, it took the Israelites 40 years to get to the promised land when they were actually in hours of reaching it. (BLESSINGS WHY AM I JUST LIKE THEM).

And the majority of the stories reflected that God WANTS to tell us about are about their journey, their hardships, their FAST.

Because isn't that where the beauty lies anyways?

Where things in us die.

We die to ourselves & our desires.

And new things are born.

 

As fall comes, you tell me fellow Ohioans. Can new things be born, if old things do not die?

So as you enter into your season of fasting, know that you're not alone. you are not absent from where you are supposed to be.

You are not enough, no ... you are not.

But he is.

And he will show you that during this time.

 

LOVE YOU SO MUCH 

-Jenna Brown

Founder & Executive Director of The Nest

 

"We do what we do because of who we are. Being proceeds Doing" - Saturate

 

Am I Doing This All Wrong?

How many times have we asked ourselves that as moms?

From the time Hylan was 0 days old, until he was one. I did this. I asked myself daily, in my own insecurity in my mothering... Am I doing this wrong? Is he going to be screwed up for life thanks to my parenting? 

I laugh, but seriously.. that was a VERY insecure time in my life.

So Much was going in my brain and mind. So much hurting was evident, and healing was just starting to come.

Not to mention, I've never been a person that "babyhood" came to naturally. <Insert Reyna girl, where everything changed.. and now I am obsessed.. but that is besides the point>

I definitely am more naturally a toddler/ teenager mom.. so that sweet spot from 2-3 was baller.

And then he turned three.

And became a threenager. (it's real people.)

And the insecurity has crept back in.

 

Am I doing this right by sending him to preschool? (chill out Jenna, he will thrive).

Am I ruining him for life by telling him Santa isn't real (I Know.. judge me if you will).

The fact that his diet is mainly sugar & cereal.. makes me feel AWESOME.

Cutting out his nap? that sounds like a great idea the day before you start school.

 

 

... All of the second guessing has crept back in.

Answers I have had rehearsed in my head for years, don't go as smooth as I hoped when the infamous "questions" are being asked.

 

Last night, I was meeting with a momma friend.

She was telling me about her mom guilt. (Yo, we all have it from time to time).

And I just re-assured her.. and am re-assuring YOU...

We all have mom guilt.

It looks different in different seasons.

Each new phase of parenthood presents a series of questions we ask ourselves.

Each new phase has its joys, and its hardships.

ITS MOLDING US.

ITS CREATING A NEW HEART WITHIN US.

Its good.

And for me, its reminding me that my parenting can not be based upon what others around me are doing. Because what is right for them, might not be right for our family... and THAT IS OKAY.

Its always been okay.

And it's still okay.

Even when the questions go from "do I formula or breastfeed" to...

Do I public school or private school?

Do I keep having more biological children or foster to adopt?

....

 

What is right for my family, isn't right for everyone.

....

And, let me tell you.

That mom guilt is just a reminder of where our identity needs to be.

Not wrapped up in our decisions, our choices, our kids even.

Our identity is not MOM.

It is child.

For me, it is child of God.

And I have the ability to parent, because he continues to parent me through these seasons.

Reminding me of when I am placing my identity in the wrong things.

Or allowing my heart to be controlled by fear as it attaches to ideas, concepts, decisions.

 

 

I do not need to be afraid of decisions we are making, if they are "messing up" my kid.

I need to be afraid of a life that is based off of what other people thing is "right" for my family.

 

Because only we can be the judge of that.

And only God is the judge of us.

And at the end of the day, Love and Grace win.

Grace is undeserved Favor.

And for that, I continue on, keep on keeping on, and ask for a lot of it.

 

As My Oldest Prepares for Kindergarten ...

I have waited all year for August. My oldest is finally five and will be starting kindergarten. I have been anticipating gaining some of my freedom back.

Then I went school shopping.

I literally had to stop myself from crying in Target. Once home, I bawled while writing her name on her supplies.

The whole summer, I was only thinking of how I couldn’t wait for a break. While I still have a two-year-old at home, it’s a lot easier to manage one child versus two (especially when my oldest is the most strong-willed, free-spirited child ever). I wished the months away, praying for fall.

I didn’t realize that the gorgeous pink bundle I brought home five years ago was no longer a baby. Gone are her infant and toddler days and a new era is upon is. A huge turning point in her life is here. Today she enters kindergarten; tomorrow she accepts her high school diploma.

I know I may sound somewhat melodramatic, but in the blink of an eye, my baby was five. In just a few more blinks, she’ll be taking on the world. 

As she prepares for kindergarten, I’m reevaluating my parenting. Am I cherishing the cuddles and small moments? Am I relaxing and letting her be a kid before she’s not one anymore? Am I teaching her life’s most important lessons of kindness and integrity?

I used to roll my eyes when people said time goes by faster the older you get. Now I’m crying and regretting taking the time for granted. I never thought it would happen to me. I never thought there would come a time when my children weren’t babies.

So, my dear daughter, cherish your life. Cherish your childhood and innocence. I have loved being your mom and watching you grow.

Motherhood has more chaotic days than not, but I’m done wishing them away. I’m done praying for the rush of things to come. I will now enjoy this crazy life and relish my children while they are little.

And I pray for the sanity of my daughter’s kindergarten teacher.

Why the Name Change?!

Why the Name Change?!

You may be wondering (or if you're anything like me you probably didn't notice) why our name has changed to THE NEST instead of "The Mother's Nest?"

It's for a lot of reasons, but we wanted to lay an explanation out there for the fellow inquisitive folk.