Monday, December 24, 2007

Old Mister Kringle is Soon Gonna' Jingle...

Home for the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good Day

I had the best day I've had in a long time this week.  It started out with a lot of giving, but as is His custom, I got back so much more than I ever anticipated.  (AND it involved baking cookies!  Which, if you remember, always brings me joy...)

Merry Christmas, neighborlies!

This is a recipe I wasn't expecting to thrill me, but boy howdy was I surprised!  These warm, spicy cookies rich with ginger and molasses make the perfect companion to a steaming mug of tea.  They're big and pillowy-- just substantial enough to qualify as the perfect mid-afternoon snack (or have two for dinner like me!).

Giant Molasses Spice Cookies
*Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes "Giant Ginger Cookies"
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Then add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Pour in molasses, honey, and vanilla, and stir to combine.  Slowly add flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until just combined.  Then shape the dough into large balls using a 1/4 cup measure.  (They will be BIG!)  Place dough balls on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When ready to bake, place 6-8 balls of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes.  After removing the cookies from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  When cooled, dust with powdered sugar.  (Makes about 20 cookies)

Friday, December 7, 2007

It's Christmas

Note: The below entry is long. And sad. But so is a lot of my life, so if this type of thing scares you I'd just get out now... :-)

It's December 7th. 17 1/2 days until Christmas morning when I'll wake up in my satin pajamas and pull my big fleece robe tight around me, and pad down the hallway to the living room to open presents. Last year was the first Christmas without my momma. It was so bad. I mean, nothing cataclysmic happened-- no tree fires, no financial despair, Dad, Brother, and I were in perfect health. But with Mom gone, even the lights on the tree seemed dark.

Being the lone woman in this now three-legged dog of a family, I watched my male counterparts assume their usual positions for opening gifts on the sofas around the tree. But this time it was different. It was always a slight conundrum to see who would share a couch while unwrapping seeing as there were three places to sit, and four of us. Usually Brother and I each claimed a sofa, with Dad taking his throne in the big armchair and Mom would sidle up next to one of us kids, eagerly taking pictures in-between telling us the order we should unwrap (so we didn't open a "big" one too early in the game), and puttering to the kitchen to put cinnamon rolls in the oven. But not last year. Last year the three of us sat each on our own place, and the problem was no more. That sofa never seemed so big.

For the past two weeks I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've been vaguely sick every day (now I realize the result of an allergic reaction last week), but something in my soul has been off. Like my insides have got the shakes... I went from having some of the most intimate quiet times I've had in my life, to feeling like my spirit got bagged, beat up, and shoved in the trunk of a getaway car. Disoriented, shaking, not knowing which way is up and who or what I should be fighting against, I worked myself into a bit of an outside frenzy in order to try and quiet the storm inside, but nothing seemed to even come close to calming me down.

Then it hit me suddenly last night: It's Christmas. And I miss her.

"Is that all?" I thought, "I always miss her!"

But it's Christmas, my spirit pressed. Christmas.

Yes it is. It's Christmas. A time that is so precious and sacred in my heart because of the reverence and joy I saw my Momma take in it every year. Christmas. When piles of presents jumbled beneath the tree were more than just "stuff", but things my mom had spent hours agonizing over, often buying, then returning, then buying again, trying to decide just what would delight her family's heart the most. Christmas. When the house would smell like roasting pecans and closets were magic-filled danger zones where presents lurked... "Nobody go in my office closet! JESSICA- Don't open the third drawer of that cabinet!" Christmas. Oh, Christmas! How on earth could I think that this season could go by without my heart feeling yet another set of aftershocks from the quake that broke it over a year ago? How could I mistake these spirit-tremors for anything but the shivering of grief?

They say that knowing is half the battle and relief is what filled me when I realized the source of much of the chaos inside... I know grief. Intimately. I know how to open myself beneath its scalpel that lets poison go rushing out, I know how to subject myself to its searing iron that burns as it cleanses, I know how to lay as still as I can, broken dreams and dashed hope and wounded faith bleeding from every incision, gritting my teeth as the tears pour and my wounds are sewn shut. Yes, I know grief.

And it's Christmas. Another one I'll have to spend without my mommy. The second of many, I'm afraid. But I'm going to lay myself down on this workman's bench, and try not to squirm too much as my wounds are cleansed. Because He called me to this life, and I'm going to live it.

So as I light my Christmas candles this year, and bake batches and batches and batches of cookies as the scent of toasting pecans fills the air, I'll wrap my presents on Christmas Eve like I always do and think of her. I'll try not to compare the cold feeling that seems to have taken over our home since she left with the warm bustle I can still remember filling this house all December-long, and think about what Christmas in this new world can look like. It might not be full of joy for a long time, and that's okay. I hope. Because Christmas isn't about her, it's about Him, and this year, like every year, I'm going to try and remember that.

"I want so much for Christmas to be a beautiful and warm time when we feel God's closeness and worship Him for the hope and salvation He has given us. I want so much for my children to feel that, because it is the only true Christmas memory and 'tradition' that can remain unchanged from year to year. People change, circumstances change, finances change. Only the truth of what God has done for us and how much He loves us-- that never changes. In over 20 years of walking with Him, I have had just about every kind of Christmas. Busy ones, quiet ones, crowded ones, lonely ones, rich ones-- and many, many poor ones! But my favorite time each Christmas--and the setting is never quite the same-- is when I feel His presence, His holiness, His faithfulness-- and just have a quiet moment adoring Him. That is my true Christmas."
(Momma, 12/04)

May your days be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

That's My King

This is a transcript of a sermon by the late Dr. S.M. Lockridge, a pastor from San Diego, in Detroit in 1976. Something more personal will follow soon, but until then... I've got nothing to top this.

My King was born King. The Bible says He's a Seven Way King. He's the King of the Jews - that's an Ethnic King. He's the King of Israel - that's a National King. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of Heaven. He's the King of glory. He's the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that's my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don't try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King. He's God's Son. He's the sinner's saviour. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He's the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That's my King.

He's the miracle of the age. He's the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He's the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That's my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. He's the master of the mighty. He's the captain of the conquerors. He's the head of the heroes. He's the leader of the legislatures. He's the overseer of the overcomers. He's the governor of governors. He's the prince of princes. He's the King of kings and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He's indescribable. That's my King. He's incomprehensible, He's invincible, and He is irresistible.

I'm coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can't contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hands. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him. The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. That's my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I'm talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He'll have no successor. There's nobody before Him and there'll be nobody after Him. You can't impeach Him and He's not going to resign. That's my King! That's my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We're around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God's power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . . And when you get through with all of the ever's, then . . .Amen!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And We're Back...

I don't know about you, but personally I cannot believe Christmas is less than a month away. Somehow it's easier for me to get in the holiday spirit in July when I'm wishing desperately Christmas were just around the corner, than the end of November when it actually is. Hopefully your Thanksgiving was as good as mine (even though I know not everyone can go to a farmhouse in the Nothern California coastal countryside and eat a gourmet spread not only for the feast itself, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner the days before and after), and your waistline is on the road to a full recovery after being stretched in entirely new ways by magnificent food. I planned on staying home for a few days into this week before heading back to LA, but a callback and audition brought me back Monday-- and it's a good thing, too, because I had two more auditions today! When it rains it pours... Or something.

So here I am, back in LA with my cup of tea, burning the final remnants of my pumpkin pie candle and waiting for the advil I took for my sinus headache to kick in (oh and for the record, I really hate zinc lozenges-- if anyone knows a reliable alternative for fending off sickness, I'm all ears). I went for a long walk this morning before audition #1, and it felt so good, yet odd at the same time, to feel productive. I feel sort of like a machine-- a one-woman robot of efficiency, tackling errands and tasks in multitudinous bounds.

I think I'm learning how to maintain and trust my relationship with my Father, while getting a lot done physically... It's been difficult because I feel so numb and I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong, and searching my heart for anything I've missed-- and maybe I have. But it seems to always come back to the fact that a relationship isn't about doing, it's about being. And sometimes it's not about feeling, it's about knowing.

Last week I was nearly drunk in-love. My heart seemed to overflow in peace and joy every time I thought of Him... But now there's so much to do, and hours spent reading and writing and singing and praying aren't happening. And is that okay? I think it is... Because in order for the treasures reaped in those times to be worth anything on earth, they have to be showcased in the marketplace. So today and yesterday have been days at the market.

Anyway, I probably better go eat or tweeze my eyebrows or do something benign to release my brain before audition #2 tonight. That's the one class I think many colleges should really include in the General Education roster-- Dumbing Down Intelligently for the Interview 101. That has a nice ring to it, no? See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I really like baking cookies.

I mean, I really like baking almost anything, but recently I seem to have developed quite an affinity for crafting and creating three-inch discs of dough and sweet morsels. I love knowing exactly how the butter should feel when I squeeze it gently within its wax paper wrapping to see if it's soft enough for creaming. I love the soft whir of sugar crystals scraping against the metal bowl as the intoxicating aroma of butter, sugar, and vanilla wafts up from within my big pink mixer. I love standing with my hips leaning against the counter, dozens of little bags filled with sweet morsels of all kinds jumbled in the cupboard above my head as I judiciously siphon out little amounts of whatever ingredient strikes my fancy. Coconut, toffee, oats, bittersweet chocolate chips, dried cranberries... All fodder for my gastronomic imagination.

I love laying out my baking sheets and slowly, repetitively, methodically dropping equal amounts of the sweet and salty dough into little 3 x 4 charts before placing them within the confines of my baby oven. I love knowing how the cookies are done, not by a loud beep that echoes through my kitchen when the timer sounds, but by the smell that hits my nose just as the outer edges begin to golden. When they emerge after their bath of dry heat, the transformation never ceases to be magical. They've arrived!

I love the steady rhythm of transferring cooling morsels from the sheet still hot from the oven to the cooling racks set on the windowsill. Cookie sheet, window sill, cookie sheet, window sill, cookie sheet, window sill... Back and forth and back again. When finally all the newly formed confections are resting on their wiry bed, I love sitting in my living room and seeing the rows and rows of them out of the corner of my eye as I watch TV or clean or check my e-mail. I have accomplished something good. And sweet.

My best friend says baking encompasses both sides of my personality-- my need for both control and creativity. Baking isn't like cooking where you can just throw a bunch of everything in all flim flam and it'll generally come out all right; there are rules, guidelines, science and chemistry laws that must be obeyed in order for a cookie to be a cookie and not a cake or a cracker or a loaf of bread. But within these laws, a whole palatte of flavors and textures can be chosen and used at will. Sure I have to include butter and sugar and eggs and vanilla and flour and baking soda and baking powder and salt... But what if I feel like throwing in dried cranberries instead of raisins for my oatmeal cookies? And what if I think white chocolate chips would make a lovely addition? And you know, after tasting, I think a little cinnamon might be nice? With just a shake or two of pumpkin pie spice to round it out perfectly... I can do all that and more because these are my cookies, and after covering all the ground rules and checking all the required boxes, it's time to play!

Last night I made cookies at midnight. Because I wanted to. And because I love it!

But now my problem becomes... What to do with three dozen cookies?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Birthday Girl

Today is my birthday.

I woke to chocolates at my door and danced to Frank Sinatra as I curled my hair. Lunch with friends meant belly laughs over the table and footsies underneath it. Tonight remains shrouded in mystery... I hope for joy. (And a cupcake with a candle in it!)

Another year to conquer... Let's go.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fighting Back

I watched Cinderella Man last night. It seems every time I watch that movie I fall more and more in love with it (and Russell Crowe's Jim Braddock-- but that's another story!), and my heart is moved in a deeper, newer way by the truth its myth reveals. As I lay on the sofa last night, I felt my sick, watery eyes (the result of some mystery illness my body has been fighting off for the past few days) fill with hot tears over and over again as Jim Braddock, along with his wife and family, battled for their fairy tale.

Before I started the movie, being the film/acting nerd I am, I watched a portion of the casting featurette in the Special Features section of the DVD. Ron Howard, the director of the movie, talked in the beginning about their short search for an actor to play Jim Braddock, and how it was quickly decided that Crowe would be perfect for the part. Howard then went on to talk about the intricacies of Braddock's story, and how, dubbed the "Cinderella Man" by a reporter, he "was living out a kind of a fairy tale, but it's not that sort of sugar-coated fairy tale, it's more of a Grimm's fairy tale... It's tough to be inside that fairy tale." I was so struck by how true that is. How often do we look at success stories and great victories, and see only the glowing good? When in reality, fairy tales and great successes are often overwhelmingly made up of fierce battles, treacherous journeys, and long, soul-aching times in life's waiting room.

At one point late in the movie, when the hot tears blearing my vision nearly overflowed, Jim is talking to his wife Mae about why he wants and needs to fight. After listening to her pleas against his plans to get back in the ring and box again, Jim looks her in the eye and tries to make her understand his heart. "[In the ring,] at least I know who's hittin' me." Man. How rough it is to feel like you're taking blows with a bag over your head. And how much of life is like that? Spending all this time getting beat up and tossed around without even knowing why or who is hitting you?

I just finished a book called Waking the Dead by John Eldredge, and it has permanently changed my life, spiritually, emotionally, habitually, etc. (Not that that's unusual for any of his books for me...) In it, Eldredge talks about the desperate need in our world for spiritual warfare, and how we as a culture, race, and people have allowed ourselves to be lulled into complacency and surrender, thinking the very war that is beating us down day in and day out isn't happening. My eyes were opened to the millions of fights and battles and sieges that take place every day, and span weeks, months, and years of my life and eternity. It was like my heart woke up and I started realizing that all those terrible things I believed about myself and the world aren't true... They're lies that I've bought into, and I don't have to agree with any more. I realized that terrible things happen in my life because there is an enemy creating and crafting ways to hurt, sabotage, kill, steal, and destroy me every moment. Jesus told us that the enemy "prowls" like "a roaring lion" whose sole purpose is to bring us down-- so why have I been so shocked and surprised when he's actually tried and been successful at doing that? And why haven't I put up more of a fight?

I've never really known what it's like to war for something in my soul before. In the Old Testament in the Bible, God allowed war to come to the Israelites because the new generation had never had to fight for the promise-- and they needed to if they were going to be strong enough to keep the promised land once they made it there. War is here whether we like it or not, and there is a choice: ignore and deny and lay huddled on the ground, taking the blows that will come regardless with a bag over our head, or we can train ourselves for war, look at the enemy who's been hitting us all along, and start to fight back for the good that's ours to claim.

I, for one, choose the latter.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I'm sorry it's been so long-- here we are in a new month already! I spent the last week and a half of October in Hawaii, and let me tell you... There are few places I would have rather been. I found myself in the paradise my mother loved, and it felt good. Below are some pictures of my respite on the garden isle to give you just a taste of my time there (click on the pictures to see them full-size). So lean back, fix yourself a mai-tai, and enjoy!

Beach baby.

Kombucha by the sea. (Catherine, this one's for you!)


This boat reminds me of a Ralph Lauren ad. Don't ask me why.


Like cool bath water.

Tree tunnel.

Daddy and daughter.

Kauai chocolates. Praise God.

Driving by a palm tree field.

Daddy waits for lunch.

I do the same.

Vegetarians, look away. God bless chili burgers.

For those of you whose respect for me has been hanging by a thread... I'm sorry. (And for the record, yes, that is chili on my face.)


Daddy does dessert.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Walk

When I was little I remember there were few things that irked me more deeply than being told to "walk it off" after I had hurt myself. It wasn't something I heard a lot, as it was never something my parents said, but rather well-meaning neighborhood parents and friends from down the street.

Once I was lying in the middle of the walkway leading up to a playmate's house, the wind knocked out of me after I had crashed down when the skateboard I was tediously riding had slipped from beneath me and gone ricocheting down the driveway. I lay there, knees bloody, breathless, embarassed and hurt, when one of my friends' older brothers came and stood over me and said, "Come on Jess, just walk it off." My heart swelled with indignation and hurt... And then I burst into tears. How DARE he tell me to walk it off? I didn't want to walk it off! What good would walking do me? I just wanted to sit here and have a good cry-- THAT would help! But my hot tears were met with no sympathy, so I picked myself up and hobbled home, where I knew my mom would be ready with a kiss and a soft hand to rest on my back.

Even now, in adulthood, I find adult-isms akin to "walk it off" continue to irk me. I'm fairly new to this grown-up thing, but it seems like so much of the attitude I see here in the upper hemisphere of age and responsibility is set on stuffing it. Don't show your cards, you'll just get taken out. Your heart is meant to be kept in a shoebox on the uppermost shelf in your most unused closet-- heaven forbid it get worn on your sleeve. Emotions are meant for stuffing-- in your soul and your spouse. Life is duty. Hurt is not for the public eye. Messes should be kept under wraps and a close guard should be kept at all times over your heart. Walk it off.

All I see is pretty grim.

Now, I'm not saying I think life should be this big free-for-all where we pour ourselves out in front of everyone we meet in the grocery store, but God gave us each other for a reason. And he gave us our hearts for a reason. "Above all else, guard your heart..." Not like a prisoner that needs close watching, but as a treasure to be kept safe. And not "buried in the ground" safe, but "living hard and fast, running on all cylinders" safe. I've been living in a near-constant state of hurt for the past year and a half. Actually it sort of swings between feeling numb and kind of okay to soul-wrenching, devastating, spirit-aching hurt. And I'm not afraid to say I haven't felt any better than that in a really long time. But I trust that if I run to my Daddy today, like I try to do every day, he'll be ready with a kiss, and a steadying hand on my broken, festering heart. I trust that if I let it all hang out to him, he'll put it all back in even better than before. Until then I'm going to sit here, healing in his lap. And then I'll start to walk.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Deep Breath

Low is low. But then you wait for the break in the fighting and take a deep breath.

Last night was dim lights, bright smiles, big plates of pasta, and lots of friends. I slept to the sound of click-clack, pitter-pat rain on my window box. And today was a day for warm kitchens and big candles... And pumpkin bread.

Tonight, Disneyland.

And I miss Momma.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


After a brief respite at home this weekend, I am back in LA. I never thought I could enjoy being on my own so much, but I do. Having my own little home, keeping it up and maintaining it according to standards I've set myself, walking around my neighborhood... It's so nice. But I have to admit for all the perks and freedoms that independence allows, recently I've started to feel the fuzzy ache of loneliness. I know that will quell once my life here becomes even more established-- working, etc-- but sometimes empty days stretch on like a long desert road in front of me with no real ANYTHING in sight.

Last Friday was the one year anniversary of the day my momma left the world. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Not easy certainly, and full of challenges completely unforseen, but not quite as terrible as I imagined. I could sigh just thinking about it-- what a relief. In these days that have followed, I feel a sense of challenge in my spirit. For the past year and a half I've been trapped in this formatted cycle of pain and grief-- every day was the one-year anniversary of something painful, something tragic, something heart-breaking... And even if it wasn't that day specifically, something terrible was coming up soon that would most likely hit my heart and gut like a ton of bricks. But as I move out of The First Year, it feels like I'm moving into new territory. Grief and pain will always be a part of my life, but now I'm no longer chained to comparing my immediate experiences with what they could have been... It feels like a whole new world, like for the first time in a long time I am moving on to uncharted territory that is good. I can't remember the last time I felt that.

Who knows, tomorrow could be wretched-- I could spend the weekend holed up in my apartment eating peanut butter and crying-- but for now my insides feel a lot stronger than they have in the longest time... And I'm so blessed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I remember this day last year.

The day before I had been sitting in my haphazardly-filled dining room surrounded by shopping bags full of pretty new things for my pretty new apartment as my daddy told me I should come home. I gripped the placemat set alone on my makeshift table, my fingers running over the garish hot pink and red stripes as my mind seemingly imploded. "Mom's not doing well. When can you come home?" I had only spent one night in my new bed, and the brief reprieve I felt when I let my mind turn to school and friends and pink measuring cups from a summer of hospital visits and stroking swollen arms had come to a screeching halt.

That night I took the suitcase I had just emptied, and packed for an indefinite stay at home. My heart seemed almost cold with grief and shock when I realized I should pack a dress... Do I pack the black one? Or the white one? What about that blue silk one? Is it too big now? ...How do I decide what to pack for my momma's funeral? I threw them all in.

This day last year I drove the new route to school. I remember the morning was gray, and I ate half a peanut butter Clif bar as I made my way down Sunset Boulevard. Orientation. So many faces, all wonderfully, ruefully the same... Half the boys had beards from summers spent at Shakespeare companies along the coast, and all the girls had tans from hours basking in the sun-warmed sand. I was startled when I realized how long it had been since I was surrounded by people my own age, and how good it felt to be in their presence and talk about classes and clambakes and so-and-so's summer in Tuscany. I avoided talking about myself if at all possible. I mean, nobody wants to hear, "Well I was at the hospital a lot," after an enthusiastic, "So how was your summer?!" Never had shallow chit-chat been so refreshing or foreign. I had forgotten what it was like to be twenty, and it felt so good to be reminded.

But it couldn't last. I signed in with my counselor, and I had to ask about my new teachers-- where were they, and how could I talk to them? Because I had to explain one by one that, "Hi my name is Jessica. I'll be in your class this year, and I'm so excited, but unfortunately I think I'm going to miss the first week of class. Um. I'm flying home today because we have to take my mom off of life support." I tried so hard to be professional and calm and keep my voice on an even keel... There wasn't one I got through with a straight face.

I don't remember the drive to the airport or the flight home, but I can recall what it felt like to walk through the halls with my bright red suitcase praying that someone wouldn't ask me why I was going home. I remember the warm hug from a sweet friend before I boarded the plane. And I remember being giddily excited to be home again. For some reason, all I wanted in the whole world that night was a cheeseburger, so Daddy, James, and I drove to my now-favorite place and I ate the biggest, sloppiest burger I've ever laid lips on.

As I sat in that plastic booth, wiping dressing and bacon grease from my chin, the next day was a mystery to me; I didn't know what would happen when machines stopped breathing for my momma, I didn't know what to wear, what to read, what to say, what to think, what to pray... But I knew I was happy to be home. And I knew no matter what happened, that Jesus loved me. All I had was hope.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moving Forward

Let all blessed old things stay, but let the clutter of our heads and hearts be removed, that new inspirations and new affections may come in to gladden our lives.
-Chester Burge Emerson

The princess is leaving the castle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I think sometimes I forget how much of a rule-breaker God is... I go along living my life, trying desperately to keep everything within very neat parameters and stay in order when all he wants to do is set me loose.

I don't think I've ever known how playful God is-- how sweet and tender he is... How rich his laugh is... How hilarious he can be... Until lately. His affection is like sweet rain on this heart of mine. I find myself sparkling and relaxing beneath the shelter of his care. He's so sweet to me... We were laughing together (!) the other night, and very suddenly I heard myself say, "You're my best friend!" How many times have I said and written and sang those words, and really wanted to mean them? But when they bubbled out of my soul that night, there was no denying their very real truth. He's my favorite. And I am his!

I just love being with him...! So if you'll excuse me, I have some loving to do!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's a Boy!

All right, this isn't exactly my news to share, but I'm about to bust... I'm going to be an auntie and he's going to be a big strong BOY!!! Yahoooo!

Okay, let me back up. Remember when I said my best friend is pregnant? Well...

Here we are as wee ones! I'm the tan one with my panties in full
view. Of course.

This morning I woke up rather late and was having a lovely time sitting on the sofa eating my oatmeal while watching Mr. Rogers (what?). As the closing strains of "Won't you be my neighbor?" fade from the screen, I hear her ring coming from my cell phone. Suddenly I realize TODAY is THE day-- this morning she had a lovely visit with her doctor, and my sweet friend found out that it's a strapping young lad that has been laying across her belly all this time. Yahooooooo!!! I'm so excited to meet the little bugger and buy blue until I'm blue in the face and chase him around the house when those (I'm sure they'll be) long legs get strong enough to run away from Aunt Jessica. Woohoo!

Anyway. Just thought I'd share. :-)

Ooh, ooh! And I can introduce him to all the intricacies and
in's and out's of "The Neighborhood"! This is going to be sweet.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Pit

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing...
Psalm 40:1-3

The pit of despair. It sounds so looming, so ominous. And it is. But it sounds so theatrical that it couldn't be real... The Pit of Despair. Like the title of a chapter in an adventure story or a punishing place into which deceptive criminals are thrown; it has a fantastical ring to it. So often whenever I've heard of The Pit, I've envisioned a deep well like the one Joseph was thrown in-- a place of reproach and purposeful isolation with the outside world continuing on happily as normal, while beneath the surface some poor soul is despairing their guts out (and for good reason!).

I think I can safely say I know The Pit. At least I know the shadow of it, I've felt its cold, still air sting my fingertips and carried the weight of its deep shadows in my heart. All the while feeling forgotten, neglected, and lonely. Abandoned. Like a little girl who was sent to the closet for a time-out, but didn't understand why... "What did I do wrong?"

But as I read David's heart cry last night, something stirred in me... What if the pit wasn't a punishment, but a place of safekeeping? What if despair wasn't describing the condition within the pit, but the condition surrounding it? Instead of life continuing on happily and normally on the outside as always assumed, what if it suddenly became truly treacherous and full of danger? I mean, if the whole world is crashing down, a deep underground shelter is a very safe place to be...

Suddenly I'm seeing the pit in a whole new light. What if this isn't a punishment, but a place of preservation and safekeeping? And all God asks us to do is wait patiently here... Wow. My fingernails are bleeding from scraping at these in-scalable walls for so long, and suddenly I'm so humbled.

I will wait. Because his promises are good, and he has a solid, open place for me. Because there's a song he's preparing me to sing into a despairing land. Because I trust him.

I will wait.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Aching for Normal

Sometimes I wonder if I should just do something easier.

It would be so nice just to move back home to be near everyone I love. It would be so nice to find some good, upright, nice guy and get married. It would be so nice to be his wife and go to all the parties my friends go to and have family dinner every week and maybe get a job at the city office if I was feeling adventurous. It would be so nice...

Sometimes my heart longs for normalcy-- for things to be steady and reliable and... safe. And every time I'm tempted to set down the load I'm carrying on this weird, craggy, lonely road I have to walk, and start to eye the wide, smooth, evenly-landscaped path that travels so near to mine, I run up against a fence. Something comes up and firmly blocks my feet from straying. When Mommy left, everything I knew about being safe left with her. As I've continued on I'm learning new definitions for the sensation of home, but the security I've had my whole life vanished with her last breath. For the rest of my life I am destined to be broken, destined for all my happiest moments to be marred by loss. How am I supposed to live with that? But even further, as I've walked on since last September, trying to open myself up enough to let this venomous pain come seeping out so new promises can fill my heart, more things have fallen.

My best friend is having a baby. I am incontrollably, shockingly, core-shakingly excited and amazed that the woman who has walked beside me all my life is going to be a mother. As we've gotten older, we've grown out of old friendships several times, and have worked hard to build new ones. I've seen her blossom with new love when she met her husband so many years ago, and the joy on her face when they became man and wife. I've seen strength build in her in the early years of their marriage, and I'm so excited to see the new woman she becomes as a mother. But with all this comes a small part of my heart that mourns... She's moving on, yet again, without me. Our paths are different, and I'm not saying I wish I were pregnant (Lord knows that's not true!), but we will never again share the bond of two young women without children. And that is something that has fallen.

The church I always knew is no more. It seems like all my life I've had two constants: family and church. Always the same family, always the same church. No more. My family, while still holding three of its original four members, is completely new. No matter what happens, it will never be the same again. And so with my church (also my family) – never the same again.

So I can't go home. Because there is no home. The easy road no longer exists, and in its place is the defeated, surrendered trail of tears. Sure I could go back and surround myself with all the "normal" I can salvage from my life before, the life I've always known. I could jump the fence and cross over to whatever's left of the path of safety... Unlike these rocks I'm picking my way through, struggling to hold my balance and wondering what on earth I’m doing, at least I know what it used to be. But I can't. I'm here in the land of the unknown, and for better or for worse I am stuck on this trail. The small light within me that believes I'm heading somewhere great is dimmer than it's been, but it has yet to be snuffed out. I've been promised good things, and all I have is staked on it.

He promised me once that my life would never be normal. My heart lept at the time. How ironic that it now aches for normalcy. But it’s not for me. This road I’m on continues, and all I can do is walk.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Heating Up

Wowee! A whole week has flown by! For all two of you that read this, I am so sorry! And what a week it has been…

The past seven days have been some of the hottest I’ve experienced in LA. I’ve wakened most mornings (okay, late mornings) with beads of sweat already covering my forehead while the fan I’ve strategically positioned by the open window in the kitchen blows hot (late) morning air through my apartment. As the day progresses it only gets worse, with the soft refuge of my couch turning into an overheated mass of insulation unfit for resting on, and the only comfortable place I can sit without sweating is in my bathtub filled with cool water.

I’ve managed to accomplish several tasks from the bath this week including, but not limited to: reading, text message correspondence, and surfing the internet (ahem). I’ve also become exceedingly creative at finding new ways to accomplish everyday tasks outside my hothouse apartment. Starbucks has become my new office, Target/ Safeway/ every shopping mall in LA my latest afternoon time-killer (I just walk, never buy… Okay, sometimes buy), and I’ve seen more movies in the past week than the past nine months. (For the record, Stardust and Hairspray are incredible.) Normally I deal with heat very well, but yours truly has met her match—it’s HOT out here!

It's been hot enough to-- well, you know...

However, despite the astronomical temperatures and the fact that I’ve probably sweated out half my body weight this week (which I can talk more about if you’re interested), I had a very exciting piece of progress occur. Last Thursday I was signed with an agency here in LA! My appointment was at 2:30 in the afternoon, and by 3pm I was officially represented! (I’m trying to use the phrases, “Talk to my agent,” and “I’ll have to mention it when I have lunch with my agent,” as much as possible in daily conversation.) The agency is a commercial one, so from what I understand (which is not much) I’ll be auditioning mainly for TV commercials through them. I’m so excited! I have my very first audition tomorrow for a pretty big commercial and I’m interested to see how it all goes… The chances of me booking my very first spot from my very first audition are extremely slim so I’m not expecting much, but I’m so ready to get this ball moving!

Okay, the skinny gay boy behind the counter at Starbucks is giving me the eye (What, you mean I can't just sit here and absorb your air conditioning and not buy anything?), so I better sign off. Thursday I’ll be an audience member on Deal or No Deal, so if I have any dramatic encounters with Howie Mandel, I’ll be sure and let you know. But for now it’s back out into the heat I plunge, on to sweat another day. I hear cooler weather’s on its way, but hopefully my professional life will continue to heat up! I’ll keep you posted!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Big Bang

Today started with a bang. Or rather, kind of a high pitched, piercing "HWAAAAAAAAIIIIIIII" sound.

It seems every Sunday night I tuck myself into bed, nestle myself beneath the soft down of my plush comforter and turn onto my left side in the semi fetal position... Only to be woken within hours (always too few) with a shrill and guttural noise coming from the window right beside my head. The building directly adjacent to mine has their gardening service come on Monday mornings, which involves a lone man in a full-body gardening suit (or so I think-- I've never actually seen him) hosing the daylights out of some giant leaf pile (What leaves?! It's August!) or razoring back some mammoth wall of brush that seems to have grown in the past six days (what could have grown in six days?!). Whatever large, manly tool he is using, it is always loud, always jarring, and I always seem to forget this fact on Sunday night.

I think my neighbors should hire this guy. He seem so quiet! Not
a big, mean, sleep-banishing tool in sight.

I mean, if somehow I could anticipate his arrival (how do I even know "he" is a he? This garden ninja on a weekly rampage could be the little Vietnamese lady who owns the nail shop across the street, picking up a few extra bucks before the shop opens) I could have earplugs positioned so I don't wake up at the dawn of every new week going, "OH for the LOVE OF..."

Anyway. What I'm saying is, this morning started out like every other Monday morning I've had in LA: loud and sort of angry. But it didn't last for long. As much as I would have preferred to be woken by a soft glow of sunlight reflecting off the building next to mine or wildflowers tickling my cheeks, I realized that I had gotten an adequate night's sleep and threw off the covers before shuffling into the girl's room. That's where the second bang happened.

I won't go into details, but let's just say it quickly became clear that something was awry in my bathroom. A loud shuddering started coming from the wall holding all the plumbing, (imagine trying to process that while you're... well... doing the first thing you do in the morning) followed by a loud THUMP. Oh geez. This was not going to be good. As I proceeded with my morning regime, I turned the faucet-- nothing. Dry as a bone. Reached to flush the toilet. Silent. Rushed to the other side of my apartment and turned the kitchen faucet, only to be met by the same deafening silence. (Of all the times I wanted noise...)

My water was out. As I found out later by creeping out into the hallway, eye boogers still firmly in place, cowlick standing proud, to ask the guys next door what the fuss was about, two toilets in the building were getting ripped out and the water was off. How sweet of them to tell me. ("When will it be back on?" "Um. If you hear your toilet running, tell us.") Perfect.

After spending several hours in my apartment, a prisoner to my own morning breath, I realized it might be possible to wash my face and brush my teeth with the half-full bottle of SmartWater I had in the kitchen...

I could SO survive in the wilderness. (Or at least a fully furnished apartment with no water.)

But then I had a startling realization. Bathroom facilities were soon going to be urgently required-- it seems the tall glass of water I had with breakfast was making itself known... And the thought of using my commode with no running water sent chills down my spine. But hey, I need to go get some fruit, fish, and flax seed oil! (I swear that was my grocery list) And WholeFoods has a bathroom! (What's that I hear? Illusions of my class and gentility shattering?) It's economical-- WholeFoods has always been able to meet the majority of my shopping needs, and now they would be able to meet one more. (They're always so sweet like that...) So after the requisite grooming with the cleanest water to ever touch my face, I went to WholeFoods for groceries... And the bathroom.

So now I sit, reclining on my chenille love seat, belly full with peaches I bought this afternoon, water coursing through the pipes in my walls, and knowing that I won't be rudely awakened again until Friday. (Trash pickup. Even worse.) And that was my day today. Big bangs, hydration hangups, and multi-purpose market trips. If only WholeFoods had a shower...

"Hey, do you guys have a locker room back there?"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Living Wounded

I was on my way over to the soy milk when I saw her. Inconspicuously I selected my carton of choice and turned slightly to see her standing just down the aisle from me. Thick, wooden platforms clonked against the tiled floor, her diminutive figure swathed in a breezy, brightly-colored floor-length dress. Stacks of golden bangles jingled against her bony wrists as she reached for a bottle of iced tea while talking pointedly into the Blackberry pressed to her overly-tan, unnaturally deeply lined face. I tried not to stare. I knew immediately who she was, but couldn't quite remember her name... "Who's that super skinny stylist?"

Lindsay Lohan, Nikki Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Rachel Zoe

Rachel Zoe is the stylist. THE stylist. With a client list that reads like a who's-who of hot young Hollywood, she's an incredibly connected, incredibly talented, incredibly powerful woman. She's the first celebrity dresser to ever truly become a celebrity in her own right, turning what was once a grunt job into a highly-influential wheel in the mighty machine of celebrity. Every young starlet who is worth anything in this town has either worked with her, or is dying to work with her, and fashionistas across the country would scratch each others eyes out at the chance at a piece of her closet. With all her power in the celebrity community, rumors have swirled that her influence extends beyond the wardrobe-- accusations that she's advised her clients to slim down drastically, offering them horse steroids and encouraging eating disorders. Clients like Nicole Richie, Mischa Barton, and Lindsay Lohan have shrunk before the public eye in recent years, and it's hard not to point a finger at the very woman they all seem to be emulating-- Zoe herself. An ultra-thin, over-bleached, over-tan Hollywood barbie doll, whose eyes bear a constant smudging of dark eyeshadow concealing the after effects of late-night overindulgences, here she was right in front of me.

Sure she's powerful. Sure she has incredible influence. Sure she has seemingly captured lightning in a bottle and is churning out perfectly-imperfectly dressed, underfed starlets that the world can't seem to get enough of. And sure, the giant gold watch on her scrawny arm probably cost more than my car (when it was new!). But I felt sorry for her. Granted, I've never met her so I can't knowledgeably cast judgement on her character, but when a former client who is infamous for her near-skeletal appearance (Nicole Richie) goes on the record as saying it was Zoe who influenced her dramatic slim-down, and that she's never seen the stylist order anything more than three pieces of asparagus for dinner, that says something. Here's a woman who has the ear of Hollywood, and she's living a life of hurt and being rewarded for it. More than anything I wanted to throw a few granola bars in her cart as I squeezed past her in the aisle. But that wouldn't have done anything. Zoe broke my heart because she's not alone-- there are so many women and men in this industry that are living wounded. I mean, aren't we all? But the self-inflicted nature of some wounds is sometimes overwhelming, and too often in this town, extreme pain and dysfunction is rewarded with influence and monetary gain. I can't help but hope that someday true virtue will be held up as the goal, and uprightness as the standard.

What an industry this is... What a place God has called me to, where the world's living wounded come to play and rule each other in a game of beauty, fame, and power. Hollywood holds the heart of the world, and someday truth will reign.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Going the Distance

I really hate exercising.

There. I said it. I also really like Jif peanut butter (even though I know it's full of trans fats and sugar, and I eat way more of it than is redeemable by the wispy thin guise of virtuosity provided by its merits of protein and good fats) and (extra) bacon on my (double decker) cheeseburger. Ahem. But that's another blog entry.

What I'm saying is, most days I'd rather scrub the toilet, kill the spider myself, eat a giant bowl of sweet potatoes (blechk!), or wear a pair of too-tight underwear all day (well... maybe...) than work out. But this week I have resolved to walk around the neighborhood for an extended period of time every day. And so far it's going well!

Now I understand many of you fitness-ites out there are scoffing at me, sitting cozy in front of your glowing monitors, the hair near the nape of your neck still slightly curled from sweat after your jog this afternoon... "Walking around the neighborhood? *snort* Sounds rough." But may I remind you that yours truly was raised with the notion that Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes was exercise (ah, the glories of homeschool P.E.), and in order to motivate me to do chin-ups in fifth grade for the President's Physical Fitness test (ie: the President's Embarrass the Nerds/ Chubby Kids Test), my dear, sweet mother said, "Just pretend there's a brownie on top of the bar!" I think it's fair to say fitness is not my forte.

Even in the past four years as I've gone through an incredible weight loss journey (I've lost 115 pounds since high school), I think I've maybe worked out a combined 30 days. Total. "But why?" you ask, "Pick something you like! Have fun! Try a sport-- hiking's great!" I honestly don't know why nearly everything within me loathes the idea of strenuous physical activity. Maybe it's the fact that I despite my best intentions, I just have little to no athletic ability (my movements during capoeira class could only be described as "sort of flailing windmill-like").

I mean, exercise seems fun, I see other people do it and enjoy it; I've heard of runner's high (a completely fallacious rumor started by some lonely marathoner, I suspect), even people becoming addicted to exercise! I'm happy for you all. Really I am. And so, despite the fact that my nose starts to run two blocks away from my house, and I sweat more than I'm comfortable with (my threshold is, admittedly, quite low), and, let's be honest, sneakers just don't look good on me, I'm going to be walking every day this week.

Why? Well, it's an experiment. I just want to see what happens to my body and emotions when my mind and spirit are in control. There are so many times in life where we give in to what we want, what we like, and what seems to bring us happiness (peanut butter and cheeseburgers, perhaps?). And sometimes that's okay. But other times something clicks and you realize it's time for an override-- time to show everybody who's boss. This week I'm going to be showing my body who's boss. Because it hurts. And hopefully those slightly soft muscles on my calves are going to listen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Today is my momma's birthday.

Happy birthday, Momma.

Your girl

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Own Private...

In just a few hours I'll be boarding a plane to meet my dad in Boise, Idaho and spend a week with his parents, my beautiful aunt and uncle, and the sassiest little cousins a girl could ask for. I'm so excited to see everybody and get my arms around my people! I've noticed that in recent months I've developed an insatiable appetite for family time (I've developed a habit of crashing other people's family dinners on a repeat and regular basis!), and can't wait to drink my fill of togetherness. With maybe a few quiet afternoons spent on the dock with an old Nancy Drew novel...

I hope you have a great week!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Stories to Tell

I can still feel her smooth skin, stretched taut under the weight of my hand on her arm. How her gleaming eyes lay shuttered, still and closed beneath the fluorescent glare. My beautiful, cuddly, graceful mother had been reduced to something I could hardly bear to look at. But His love beat feverishly in my chest. His love for her through me, His love for me through her. I sat in the darkness surrounding her bed, song pouring forth from my open mouth, lips wet with salty tears.

"All that is within me, Lord, will bless your holy name... I live my life to worship you alone."

I didn't know what to do but that. I didn't know if she could hear me, and there were long stretches of time I didn't know if He could either, but my heart knew its song and my tongue obeyed.

Sometimes I'm scared I don't know when to keep my mouth shut. Not necessarily with regards to other people's business (although I know the spindly vines of gossip wrap themselves around me more often than I'd like to admit), but sometimes I wonder if there aren't more things I should keep to myself. Stories seem to pour out with a regularity and fervor that frequently surprise and exhaust me. Things that I thought, Oh how special... I find consuming my next conversation with a dear friend. Often I look back with a twinge of regret, wondering if I should've kept that dream/ story/ thought to myself. Was it something precious that God had whispered in my ear, entrusted me with, that my loose lips had cheapened with their overzealous flapping?

I think of Joseph and his brothers-- was he wrong to share his grandest, God-given dreams to his nearest and dearest of kin? I can only imagine that had I been in his place my siblings would only have been the first to know, and I would have proceeded to inform the entire household, all my friends, made a t-shirt and written a blog (with pictures!) about my mystic dream! And would that have been wrong? Obviously Joseph faced some pretty ferocious repercussions from his exuberance because of his brothers' shortcomings and jealousies, but does that make him a poor steward of the treasures God filled his heart with? God's purposes worked themselves perfectly through Joseph BECAUSE of who he was. Not in spite of it.

I am a storyteller. As an actor, it is my responsibility to represent the story of a person within a larger story as being told by the author to the audience. As a woman I've often been surprised when, at the end of one of my (many, mile-long) fables, a friend with a listening ear will stand back and say, "You're a really good storyteller!" What?! I just can't stop talking...

(Even now I think, Oh geez, here we go again... Can't you keep anything to yourself? )

And maybe I can't. I don't know. Perhaps this rudder of mine, this small flame (James 3) needs to be reigned in a little more. But all I know is I'm wired this way: I've got stories to tell, songs to sing, words to be woven... They seem too big for my spirit and imagination to hold and come spilling out of me. And until I hear a "That's enough, sweetheart," from the voice that sings these songs over me, my stories will continue, and my tongue will obey. I can't promise this will always be inspirational or logical or spiritual or deep or uplifting, but I give you my word that I will always be honest.

So stay with me... There's more to come.