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!