The Truth About Jess Connell
So you want to know the truth?
Not just the lovely bits, hmmm? Well, I don’t blame you.
Here at JessConnell.com, I try to share from both my weaknesses and strengths… however, there’s always that niggling sense that other people are better than us, isn’t there?
It shows up often in our online interactions, because these things are so curated– unlike the hurried half-conversation in the foyer at church on Sunday, or the going-on-two-days-unshowered-and-still-in-my-pajamas look when someone comes to the door on Thursday afternoon.
In THOSE moments, it’s quite evident to the real life people around me that I am FAR from perfect.
Consider this my offering to those of you who DON’T know me in person, just to get you on the same page as those who DO– so we can all walk forward together in awareness of my flaws and sin and need for Christ.
This post is all true– full of (mainly) the most unlovely things you may not already know about me. Please know, though, that these things are not easy for me to share.
Multiple times, I have felt like deleting this. Since elementary school I’ve felt like I’m the biggest loser in the room and that I should hide the unsightly and unsavory parts of myself in order to be accepted by people. That people wouldn’t like me if they knew me. High school rebellious years only made that feeling worse, especially around those who I perceived as “good” church people.
In recent years, I’ve realized that I come to every interaction of life assuming that I am the one “outside,” fearful that I am going to be excluded and unwanted. Yes, even now as a Pastor’s wife, I still don’t feel like I really belong amongst a crowd of “good” church people.
As I share these things, please do remember that I’m a child of God– forgiven, redeemed, made clean… and also, a normal human– still weak, frail, stupid, prone to wander.
The reason I’m sharing this is not to brag about, wallow in, glory in, or glorify my past or my sin. It is to tell the truth about who I was, so that none of us may be under the impression that there is perfection here in this skin of mine except for what’s found in the good Lord Jesus in me.
Friend, can I ask you to be gentle in the way you handle these things I’m about to share?
Well, here’s the truth about Jess Connell:
- Before Doug, I flirted indiscriminately, sexually used others, and was sexually used by others. While I confessed these things and fought against them throughout my late teen years, this continued to be an off-and-on struggle for me even up through the beginnings of my relationship with Doug. Sadly, we used one another, even while trying to do things “right.” We each brought our own baggage to the relationship, and then together, we added to the list of things we would need to work through once we were married… including our own sins against each other.
- As a young teen (14/15), I did drugs, dabbled in the 90’s rave scene in Dallas, and — in my pride — convinced myself that I was being “smart” because I had personal limits, like I didn’t shoot up or snort.
- I always felt like the girl that didn’t fit in anywhere. Not cool and disinterested enough for the hippies, not smart enough for the geeks, not talented enough for the artsy crowd, too sexualized and bruised for the churchy, not sexualized and calloused enough for the wayward.
- The way I talked to and interacted with my parents was, simply, wicked. Disrespectful, yelling, cussing, dismissive, demeaning… I was just horrible.
- Our house is regularly messy. You can call it “lived in” but that’s really too generous.
- We are both “messies” (that’s the noun the decluttering lady I get e-mails from uses to describe people who are Professionally Messy) and so our bedroom generally stays in a horrifying state and pretty much always has. And we’re both really OK with that unless there’s a threat of someone seeing it– then I feel humiliation and we both tidy to a state of mild presentability. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our bedroom completely tidy and decorated, and if I have, it has certainly never stayed that way for any significant period of time.
- I have seasons of dependability with chores, meals, and household routines, but we are very, very much on the spontaneous side of things.
- 4:30pm fairly regularly arrives with NO set plan for dinner and with me having no desire to make it. Yet, we always eat, and sometimes we eat very well. I’m just not (at this present time) very organized or enthusiastic about it.
- Sometimes I yell and throw what is best termed an adult-sized tantrum when I walk into a room and it looks like a tornado has blown through. And that is not right. But it is the truth. (Isn’t it a horrible piece of irony, too, given my confession about being a messy??!) This is probably the biggest active fight going on in my heart right now– to not let circumstances dictate how I will respond to my family.
- This is the second home of our lives where God is teaching us “contentment with much,” and I continually fight the urge to apologize for it, or explain away the “much” God has given us.
- I wish I could say that after these years of prayer and fighting it, that I’ve 100% stopped yelling, but I have not. Sadly, despite genuine effort and a real decrease in this area of sin, I still (sometimes) yell at my kids. I have far more victories in this war than I used to, but this is still a regular battle for me.
- My kids are precious, insightful, and funny. They are also (sometimes) obstinate, throw fits, scream answers back at me, stomp their feet, fight with each other, talk back, try to fight nap times, hit, lie, delay obeying, roll their eyes, sneak, draw on walls with markers, disregard what I say, and all the normal stuff that kids do. Though I am purposeful in my mothering, and though I write about parenting often, my children are not and will never be perfect.
- Sometimes I’m a zone-out mom, and I suddenly wake up, mid-“uh-huh” when I realize they’ve said something to me and I’ve given a mindless response and have no idea what they’ve said. I hate this about myself, and hate it that I let social media drown out my sweet children’s voices. I’m working on this, too, but it happens.
- We really have a very fun marriage; I think marrying your best friend is… well… just the best. But we fight sometimes, and when we do, I can feel like he is the biggest jerk. (Which is ridiculous because he’s super-sweet, incredibly generous toward me, and utterly a servant. But I’m telling you the truth about how I feel in those moments.)
- I am stubborn and selfish. Working on it, for sure, and he says I’ve made noticeable progress over the course of our marriage, but I really really really like things my way and really really really don’t like it when it’s not my way.
- Neither of us felt like we “fit” in the traditional “gender roles”… and we’ve had to work so hard to live according to biblical precepts (leadership/submission). That began changing in earnest about 3 years into our marriage when I asked, “do you think I lead too much?” and he answered honestly, “sometimes.” Eeeeeeek, that answer STUNG, y’all. 😀 But it was the beginning of GOOD work in our hearts and marriage.
- I still mow the lawn, though. And pay the bills. He likes it that way. And he irons his own shirts. And I like it that way. We don’t think gender roles necessarily have to affect who does those sorts of tasks.
- Part of why I am able to write so much is because he values my gifts and continually encourages me to use them to bless the Body of Christ… so while it might look like it’s all *me,* I’ve actually offered multiple times to quit writing so we could do other things with this same portion of time, and he continually encourages me to keep going. This man blesses and nurtures me in a singular and spectacular way.
- We’ve both had a lot of sin and shame to work through, but we both really do like sex. I’m super-super thankful that we’ve worked through sin and shame (individually and together), and pursued mutual joy in this area. And since I’m being honest, and since I write about sex, I might as well say it. Having a healthy, fun sex life is worth working for, even if you have to trudge through a heap of sin and shame and confession and forgiveness to get there.
PERSONAL FAITH & CHURCH
- Like most everything in my life, my Bible reading and study goes in fits and starts and is more passion-driven than discipline-driven, and that is both a blessing and a weakness. Discipline in this area (whether I feel like it or not) is another thing God’s been bringing back into my life recently.
- Sundays are hard days for me, in terms of having meaningful conversations with real people. Now that Doug’s a pastor, I feel so many different pulls on Sundays. Conversations are constantly interrupted and I’m not able to be a very good friend because I’m so “on” as a mom, and trying to help Doug in any ways he needs me to, but then… that’s the day I see most people… so I’m afraid I come off like a not-terribly-interested, easily-distracted, undependable, forgetful, really-really-random person to people who only interact with me on Sundays.
- Like a lot of American Christians, my knowledge of biblical teaching and doctrine far exceeds my regular, disciplined practice of Christian living. If I just obeyed what I know… *sigh*
- I know that I need fellow believers to call me out when they see sin in my life, and yet, on my own, I want to run from that. A couple good friends here in Washington have helped me continually dive into this discomfort of asking to hear hard truths, and it has borne good fruit. I want it, and yet, I don’t. It would be dishonest for me to act like I wake up in the morning eager to hear hard things about myself, but I do know it’s for my good, and I’m learning to welcome it.
- My spiritual gifts are wisdom, teaching/prophecy, and discernment. But I also have weaknesses– I am NOT very merciful or long-suffering. I’m apt to be impatient with long-term struggles in life/belief. The problem with that, of course, is that we all get shaped and reshaped by the Lord, and it typically takes years, not moments, for real lasting changes to show. This impatience on my part is a lack of grace and charity toward people around me… it’s a lack of offering the grace that I have received.
- One of the areas where God has been changing my heart in the last 6 months or so, is in my relationship with my mom. When I was a teen, I habitually talked down to my mother, and that festered and has reared its ugly head again… (perhaps because we’ve only rarely lived near each other?) so I am actively fighting it now. We have weekly phone calls and I’m trying to retune my heart toward the respect and love I should have for this amazing, fun, super-loving woman, rather than the incomprehensible way my sinful heart naturally wants to go. It has been good to reconnect and train my heart to walk in fresh, healthier cycles of interaction with this woman I love so much.
- If given a free day/morning/afternoon to spend however I wish, I often spend it in my bed, in the quiet, with papers, notebooks, books, and devices around me, and will hole myself up for as long as possible in the quiet. Part of this is selfish, wanting to get away from people, and part of this is (I think I’m not being too easy on myself here) restorative. I think large family life has turned me (at least temporarily) into an introvert in practice, so I often recharge by being alone.
- We don’t live by a budget… I just generally save money and cut corners anywhere I can, and if things start getting tight we batten down the hatches and call a spending freeze on anything but the absolutely-necessary. This works for us, personality-wise, but it does mean that sometimes we get to a place where we realize we need to tighten our belts and be ultra-strict after times of financial leniency.
- We’ve lived all over the world and that can seem glamorous, but the flip-side of it is that we have people we genuinely, deeply love all over the world. Only in Heaven will we get to see them all again… except that some of the people we love around the world may not be there because they don’t (yet) know and love Jesus.
- People ask us if we’re planning on staying here, and the answer is an enthusiastic, “YES, Lord willing.” The ironic thing about that question is… we’ve planned on “staying” nearly everywhere we’ve lived. We liked Little Rock, AR…. loved Washington, DC… planned on raising our family back in TX after we had our first son… planned on spending our lives in middle-of-nowhere China, pursuing business to help a minority group there. The longest place we’ve ever lived– in Istanbul, for four years– is one place we actually *didn’t* see ourselves staying for our whole lives. But when we moved back to TX in 2011, we thought we’d live out our lives there. We could never have guessed that we’d end up living in the Pacific Northwest, but here we are, and we love it… we have planted our feet, and hope to (Lord willing) spend our lives and raise our kids here in beautiful, friendly southwest Washington.
- I’m the QUEEN of good intentions and unfinished projects. Partially crocheted items, half-done canvases, old cabinet doors waiting for their paint jobs, thrift-store-finds that I’ve not made the alteration on, etc. I’m getting better about this after KonMari came in and lectured me real good (I should listen to her more!), but it’s a tendency I have to actively fight.
I don’t ever want to portray an image of perfection, and I hope this list helps humanize me, our family, and our home for you. Our lives are not perfect and never have been.
I’m a flesh-and-blood gal, just like you. Not perfect. Not a perfect wife, perfect friend, perfect housekeeper, or a perfect mom.
If you have a question you’d like to know about, send it to me, and I may add to this list.
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