Forgiving Mom…

I recently had the honor of speaking at a Women’s Day event at a church in my area. There, in front of a few hundred amazing ladies, I was able to share my testimony and some of the amazing ways God has been so faithful in my life. It was a great time of fellowship, celebration, food, fun and most of all, love. At the conclusion of the event, I was able to exchange with some of the ladies one on one. They opened up and shared some of their testimonies with me. They noted many of the commonalities we had in our stories. One topic that kept coming up in my discussions was the many women affected by “mom hurt.” What is mom hurt, you say? It is the hurt many encounter during a painful childhood, mostly due to a difficult experience with their mom.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I’d like to address this issue head on. I realize it is a REAL pain. Though many women have had a wonderful relationship with their mother; she was supportive, caring, loving etc. SO many women/men have experienced the opposite. Perhaps their mom wasn’t around. She abandoned them during their childhood. She put them second to a career, addiction, boyfriends etc. Whatever the case, she did not perform her duties/responsibilities to THEIR standards. And of course, THOSE standards are the “normal,” reasonable expectations that should come very naturally to ANY mother. I GET IT!

But what if those typical/normal/reasonable standards DIDN’T come naturally to her? What if she TRULY did the BEST she knew during that time? What if, she was completely consumed with immaturity, selfishness, greed, etc.??? What if she was only doing what was done to her? What if the pain she inflicted on her children was not intentional? And even still, what if she DID know how badly she was behaving, but did it anyway? That HORRIBLE mom is not worthy of love, honor, respect, or ESPECIALLY forgiveness. I mean, LOOK AT ALL THE PAIN SHE CAUSED!!!!

I can TOTALLY relate to these feelings. My mother-daughter childhood experience was interrupted by some of the very things I mentioned earlier; like addiction, neglect, abuse and abandonment, and it had some MAJORLY devastating impacts on my life. However, a wise person once told me, you can’t expect someone to give you what they don’t have. It is like walking up to a friend and asking them for $1,000, but all they have is $400. Because it seems NORMAL for us all to have $1000 on hand, does it give us a pass to lay in perpetual bitterness? Gloom? Doom? If they only have $400? “I mean, if they had $1000 to give me, I would be SOOOO much better off.” “What in the world can I POSSIBLY do with only $400????” “I NEED ALL $1000!!!!!!”

Many people today have suffered YEARS of pain, frustration, bitterness and unforgiveness because a mom did not live up to the expectation she was charged to fulfill. Though this can have a major impact on the life and welfare of children, it does not give ANYONE a license for a lifetime of unforgiveness.  As we grow older, we can find healing and ways to repair the brokenness caused by a negligent mother. When we accept a relationship with Christ, He can fill the holes and suffering left from our painful encounters. He can and will send replacements for the loneliness and sense of abandonment, to where the absence of a loving mother will seem insignificant. However, we block His hand when we choose to hold on to feelings of resentment, revenge, anger and bitterness.

If we simply consider the scripture, we have no choice but to forgive our mom. “You have NO idea what my mom did to me!!!” You say. Though I have not been in your situation, I DO understand how you feel. As children, our moms take up the greatest real estate in our heart. They are the givers of life. They are supposed to love us like no other. They are supposed to cherish us and sacrifice their very life so that we become all God has called us to be. I DO UNDERSTAND THAT. However, we are called to honor our parents. We are called to walk in love, even when that person has hurt us deeply.

After YEARS of a strained relationship, my mother and I are restoring a beautiful bond. It has not been easy, but true love and forgiveness has guided our hearts to mend and repair what was once broken. I am so grateful my kids get to see my mother at her BEST. That I get to enjoy a renewed exchange while we are both mature, healthy, and whole. That we get to share this beautiful time together free of residue or expectation.

The relationship between a mother and child is paramount. There is nothing like it. When it is damaged, it can hurt like no other. And though it can cause some major scars, God is the ultimate plastic surgeon. It is nothing that can’t be repaired.  Surely, you may never be best friends, go over each other’s house every day, or even do the things you once did. Nevertheless, I pray you get your heart to a place of forgiveness. Where your current day or future success and happiness are not hindered by hate or anger. Where you are not plagued by the expectations that weren’t met in your life. That you no longer hold her accountable for unpleasant outcomes you endured. And that you release her from the bondage of your grief. Instead, may you seek love freely given by the greatest healer. May you let HIM heal your wounds and fill your heart with the greatest love of all. And may you go on to Mother from a place of grace and peace, because no person, encounter or thing has the power to stop you from enjoying every drip drop of your amazing journey!!! BLESSINGS TO YOU!!! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

A Healthy Balance of Work and Family…

My grandparents raised me for some of my childhood. I remember my grandmother picking us up from school each day. I remember my grandfather coming home from work by 5pm and my grandmother having a hot meal on the table by 6pm. There we discussed all that happened throughout our day. Most nights we even had dessert. After cleaning the kitchen, we all gathered together for some sort of evening activity such as playing cards, fishing, putting a puzzle together, etc. followed by watching Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and the 8:00pm show for the night before going to bed.

Those were the good old days so to speak. What the heck happened? Somewhere along the past few decades that modest yet loving lifestyle has gotten lost in translation. It has been overridden by the desire for more. The fulfillment of family time has been traded for the demands of the workplace and the need to stay busy. The respect and admiration once given to a homemaker/stay-at-home-mom, has gone to the one who can seemingly juggle the most. The excitement of the child standing at the door waiting to greet their parent after work, is replaced with a kiss on the cheek during their night’s sleep. While the love, time, energy and devotion once given to a marriage is exchanged for idle time on social media, shopping and glasses of wine to fulfill a missing void only a spouse can satisfy.

The problem with this is we have sacrificed the sanctity of our family. We tell our children and our spouse each day where they rank in our lives based on where they fall on our priority list.  We convince ourselves that our family comes first, yet they understand full well that they are among the last. Most of our world revolves around the demands of our jobs and our household gets what is left over. Perhaps we only work 8-10 hours a day, but we drive an hour each way. Once we arrive home, we have our phones and laptops attached to our hip like a doctor on call. And we devote an entire room for our at-home office in order to accommodate the after hour requests.

Now that everyone in the house has a place of obligation, each morning is filled with the family’s individual race to their day’s destination. Peace is maintained as long as neither party oversteps their lane into the other’s. There is time for work, school, and perhaps an athletic activity to occupy each day’s agenda, off to bed and then repeat…

I believe most parents and spouses have good intentions. You will hear the frequent reflection, “I just want to give my family the life I never had.” I appreciate that effort. However, what was so bad about living in a 3-bedroom 1-bathroom house? What was so bad about homecooked meals? What was so bad about hand-me-downs and DIY projects for the family? If it means more time with YOU? I know the comforts of life cost money. I understand raising kids is a huge expense, and the price of living requires us to work for sure. But judging by the value of our cars, size of our houses, brands of our clothing, updates on our gadgets, I’d say it’s looking a bit more like selfish ambition vs. the desire to provide.

I hope everyone fulfills their desires. I hope we advance in our careers, pursue higher level degrees, start businesses, all that. But I pray it is not at the expense of our families. It was not easy on my ego to step away from a teaching career I loved dearly. I worked so hard to earn that master’s degree and was doing very well in my journey. But when the demands of the career interfered with the increasing requirements of my family, I had to shut it down. Sure, it has been a MAJOR sacrifice. Especially financially. But I realized I had to prioritize my assignment as a wife and mother. It had to come first. Here I am 5 years later, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

After almost 20 years of marriage and raising 2 children, I would say there were two main decisions we made early on that helped preserve the balance of home and work life:

  1. We built our budget and livelihood on one salary. Though every force in our world told us to borrow and spend the max, we only used my husband’s salary as a base for our purchases.  This decision gave us the wiggle room to make financial adjustments for our family when necessary. It protected us during times of recession when companies decided to make major cuts in salaries, raises and health care. It made it much easier to step away from my teaching job when the demands of our family increased. Though it meant a smaller house than what we could have gotten, we didn’t miss a beat and it proved to be a MAJOR benefit for us all.
  2. Protect “peak time.” Most kids are in school for about 7 hours each day. From the time they get home from school until they go to bed is peak time. Weekends are included in this. As for us, we make sure we are present during their peak time. I put away my phone and give them my undivided love and attention. I show them they are my priority. Similarly to the time I found so sacred with my grandparents, we eat together each night, we discuss the events of our day, and we spend quality time engaging in activities we all can enjoy. It has proven to help maintain the sanctity of our union and helps us all keep things in perspective.

Whether we choose to work full-time or part-time; whether we are a stay-at-home parent, or even a single parent, we have to maintain the preeminence of our family.  They have to know they come FIRST in our lives. We communicate this each day by the decisions we make to secure their seat in our agenda. I love all the women’s empowerment movements. I celebrate the advancements in career and education. I even understand the idea of providing the best life we can for our children. However, we have to acknowledge that the “best life” for our children and spouse is a balanced life. One where they are safe and secure. One where they can learn and grow and feel loved and celebrated. One where honor and respect abound, and priorities are intact. When our families are healthy and whole, the need for gadgets, high-ticket items, approval from others diminish. They are secure in the love that is cultivated in the home and will go out and do amazing things in their journey. I pray you cultivate a healthy balance between work and home and that you are intentional about making the necessary adjustments to not only saying your family comes first but showing them that they do. Blessings to you. 😊

A Different Take on Giving This Christmas…

Ok. Before I get started, let me tell you what this is NOT. This is not some amazing philanthropic endeavor, or way to feed 10,000 families in a starving land. Honestly, I wish I was sharing that kind of news, but this is a much simpler idea I’d like to share to help spread the art of giving right in the four walls of your own home.

If your family is like mine, Christmas goes a little something like this: Mom pays careful attention to amazing details of her children. She has listened and taken stock of the desires of her family’s heart for the last 2-6 months. By the time the holidays roll around, she has an amazing list of all the great things she plans to buy. She then tells the hubby, who nods in appreciation and acceptance of these great ideas and after her thoughtful hunt and purchase, she then finds great wrapping paper, stockings and gift bags to present these lovely trinkets on Christmas day. Meanwhile, the kids are ESTATIC with anticipation for yet another joyful season of GETTING!!!! Christmas Day rolls around and Mom sits back and watches her successful gathering session pay off with excitement and happiness for a day where each member of the family feels like someone took the time to consider EXACTLY what THEY wanted, and made those wishes come true. Some amazing moms even yield the credit to a big man in a red suit as the benefactor of this great extravaganza… 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

WELL… after watching that scene for the last 17 years, our family has agreed to switch things up a bit. First of all, I have really been into the idea of enjoying experiences vs. THINGS. As I get older, I have come to realize how short-lived the happiness of obtaining items can really be. It is a plight that sends many into debt and even depression after realizing once you get “IT”, there is always a desire for MORE… “IT” is never enough…  and “IT” never gives the lasting high created by memories or experiences that leave a lasting impression, a lifelong memory or moments for reflection and growth. Over the years, I have come to replace high ticket items, technology, and great trinkets, with opportunities of adventure and togetherness.

While our family will take another trip this holiday season, we will still attempt to give them the “gift under the tree” experience, but this year it will be with a bit of a twist. This year we have set a spending budget of $400. Each member of our family will pull a name from our family of four. They will keep that name a secret. For the next several days THEY will conduct research on their person. They will study them. Listen to them. Consider the desires of their heart. On December 15th, we will wake up early and venture out to the mall. Each family member will get $100 in cash. They will then be responsible for searching for great gifts for their selected family member. As the mom, I will be on hand for advice or guidance if necessary, but it is up to them to make this a memorable experience for their person to enjoy on Christmas day.

I love this idea because it does several things:

  1. It allows EVERY member of the family to appreciate the art of GIVING as well as receiving. I SOOOO love to give. Though our family is a family of givers, I hope our children will see how great the entire giving experience is and make it a part of everyday life.
  2. It helps everyone appreciate and understand the importance of a budget. Though we would LOVE to give a lot more, we must spend according to what we have. Apple can’t determine that amount, we must. There is no joy in giving when you have to pay for it for the next several months. I love that we can share this experience together. Look for deals! Find the sales… Make that money stretch!
  3. It requires everyone to consider another’s desires over their own. They will have to conduct the necessary research in order to be successful in their experience. Too many times we are so wrapped up in our own wishes, we fail to consider anyone else’s.
  4. It takes the weight off one person producing for everyone. Though I thoroughly enjoy the Christmas hunt, purchase, wrap and presentation session, it is a joy I would like my family to practice as well. Especially as my kids are getting older, it will be imperative for them to learn the art of giving for their current and future relationships.
  5. It is a reminder that we all get things throughout the year… All the time!!! We can’t possibly buy EVERYthing for EVERYbody in one month… (Whoever came up with such an idea??? 🤔🤔🤔 lol!)
  6. It helps highlight the idea that the family trip is our true Christmas present. Our undivided time together and the adventures we will share will supersede any thing we could wrap and place under a tree.

As a country, the secularization of Christmas has created a “get” mentality in many of us. A lot of our giving is out of obligation vs. the genuine desire to share. Many of us go into debt to meet unrealistic expectations and fail to see the true beauty in what this amazing time of year is all about. While we will still decorate the tree and enjoy the lights and holiday music, I am hopeful to help create experiences that spread love, joy, peace and the true beauty of cheerful giving, (within a budget of course) that will help produce memories that last a lifetime. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Here’s to all the wonderful ways you choose to celebrate God’s love this holiday season! 😊😊😊😊😘😘😘

Photo: Bplans

DIY: How to Decorate a Teen Girl’s Room: A Space of Inspiration

Every child wants a place where they have ownership. A place of belonging. A place that has their distinct signature that says “ME.” It should be a place of freedom, where they can let go of their inhibitions. It should stimulate creativity and inspiration. A place where they can always feel welcomed and celebrated.

As parents, we may not be able to provide this kind of space in their classrooms, on the bus, in the locker room or even at church, but we CAN give them that space in a little corner of their world… their bedroom.

I have 2 teenagers. I recently redecorated their rooms to fit a more age appropriate palate. As they develop and evolve into the awesome young man and woman they will become, I want their décor to reflect some of the attributes I mentioned earlier; to create a place to help make their journey memorable and special for them. I was able to accomplish all of this by applying one simple rule:

CELEBRATE THEM!!! Use colors, materials, signage, posters, fabrics, bedding, rugs, pictures, initials, lights, art, trophies, medals, furniture, and ANYTHING else you can find to honor and inspire THEM!!!! THAT’S IT!!!!! I will share with you just how I did that for my daughter and also my son.

It challenged every level of my creativity to capture the complexities of my teenage daughter’s personality in one setting. (She’s an athlete, yet slightly girly, she’s an old soul, yet slightly trendy, she loves the bible, yet finds inspiration through literature and other figures she admires, etc.) However, it was fun to see it all come together.

For the first time, I didn’t paint the walls. Instead, I went with a Denim and Rustic Meets Pink and Classic theme… WHICH IS SO HER!!!!

I made a garland window treatment out of various pairs of blue jeans, lace, burlap and ribbon as a cool focal point. I did this by simply cutting the fabric and tying it to a hanging twine.

I hung my staple signage over the window to reveal a message specific to her. “BE YOU” seemed applicable so I chose metal and wood letters to drill into an old slab of barn wood.

When I couldn’t find the perfect center piece for the window, I decided to simply hang an old pair of her favorite Converse. Strange perhaps, but SO HER!!!! Under the window, I added a bench from Overstock.com for additional storage and seating and found a couple fun pillows at Ross/TJ Maxx to compliment the space.

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Though there are great teenage chairs out there, I replaced her old polka-dotted bean bag with a classic denim chair I found on sale at the Pottery Barn Outlet, and then I handmade a chunky yarn blanket as an accent to add texture.  I imagined this space being a special spot she could read or enjoy quiet time, so I hung a full-length inspirational canvas tapestry of a quote from Maya Angelou.

To compliment the proportion of her full-size bunk bed, she and I found large letters from Michaels, to spell her name. We bought sample size paint pots of various denim colors and painted and distressed each letter a different shade and added flowers around it for a nice touch.  For her bedding, I chose a simple pink cotton coverlet with lace to allow the pillows and other elements of the room to pop more.

Of course, every teenage gal needs a full-length mirror to create amazing outfits. But of course, I couldn’t let it be just any old space. In a world that constantly tells them they are not good enough, I wanted this space to be special. To add sparkle and shine, I simply used Christmas garland and décor to give this space the pizazz it needed.

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Finally, over her dresser, instead of a TV, I added a large corkboard where she could add pictures, ribbons, awards, reminders or anything of importance to her. Next to the corkboard are shelves to serve a similar purpose. This is HER space. Over time, she can add artifacts that are meaningful to her to showcase her heart. Above the corkboard are paintings from one of our favorite artists, Kelly Rae Roberts. Each piece is a portrait of a beautiful girl with beautiful colors and expressions that coincide with colors and themes I used throughout her room.

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Overall, I was thrilled to see this room come together. Teenagers are very complex. It can be challenging to capture all the beauty of their heart and mind. However, I took my time, and worked hand in hand with her to create depth and breadth that represented the essence of her spirit. When I see her in her special space, it makes my heart happy that we could create a place for her to feel free and comfortable and celebrated and respected and loved. Ideally all this energy will transfer to her heart. It will follow her into the corners of her world and every place she dwells. And she will have a bit more confidence to share that beautiful heart, mind, and spirit with the rest of her world…

Whatever the age, or gender of your child, may you capitalize on their strengths and interests and showcase all the elements that celebrate them. You don’t need a huge budget, just a way to fill their room with everything that makes them sparkle and shine!!! 🙂

“I DON’T NEED TO BE FAMOUS…”

I was boutique shopping with a beautiful friend of mine the other day. She just so happens to be an awesome singer and a super favorite around our small town. The gal working the register, an obvious fan, noted “When are you gonna go on TV???!!! You are SOOOO good!!!!”

My friend responded with great modesty, true to her character, “I don’t need to be famous, I’m happy just playing my music here at home, with my people.”

I was so blessed by her response. I could TOTALLY relate. However, I could also understand how foreign her response was to the clerk. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be famous, right? Who wouldn’t want to be seen and adored by thousands, if not millions, right? Why not share your talent with as many people as you can, right?????

As a society, we’ve gotten to the place where more is better. Where all we do is measured by the number of likes, customers, product sold, people in the audience, etc. We crave acknowledgement, a certificate, pin, title, award, or some sort of notoriety for everything we do. We secretly want our content, our YouTube, blog post, picture, or even rant to go viral. We want to be discovered. We crave validation. Acceptance. And ultimately, love.

The problem with this is, in our plight to be noticed by the masses, we forfeit the journey of growing, learning and allowing God the chance to promote us in His timing. We spin our wheels and max out our resources to produce results, often times based on standards of another person’s success. We are so busy climbing ladders, grinding, and chasing a name, we miss out on the little opportunities to cultivate relationships that produce the lasting love that matters.

Within the last couple years, my singing friend retired from an awesome career in education to be at home full time with her family. Nope, she didn’t pack her bags and move to Hollywood, instead, she volunteers at the school, she helps her husband with his business, coaches her son’s basketball league and tends to her parents and elderly grandparents. When she gets a chance, she sings and plays guitar at local venues, festivals and weddings around town. But SHE is super ok with that. Currently, she doesn’t have a triple platinum album, she doesn’t have a Grammy on her wall, she won’t get Administrator of the Year this year, but in the meantime, her daughter has a friend she knows is always there when she needs her. She has a solid marriage of 17 years. She hasn’t missed a ballgame and is able to take her mom to her weekly check-ups at the doctor.

Perhaps if we get back to some of these things that really matter in this life, we will grow our character. We will develop the characteristics necessary to sustaining greater levels of success. We will have a true support system of people who love us and look out for our best interest along the way. We will have made major impact on individuals and created memories throughout.

I’m not saying give up the pursuit of greater or abort taking your talent and visions to their highest level possible. Go get your Grammy!!!! Just don’t let it be at the expense of the things that truly matter. Don’t let it be an attempted replica of someone else’s journey. Many of the people we all admire, follow on Instagram, and see adorned by millions, go to bed lonely with no one they can truly trust. When their career ends, they have no one by their side. No trusted companions or skills to help them sustain or recover their achievement.

As you pursue your purpose, trust in God’s ability to customize the experience for YOU. Put your best foot forward in everything you do because it will ALWAYS lead to greater. Be sure to enjoy the growth that happens during the journey and develop and cherish relationships with the people in your life right now. You will find, their love is better than the superficial love that comes from the masses. The mountaintop is so much better when you get their whole, with great people on your team, with true love in your heart, and with God leading the way. Until then, sing your heart out and enjoy each time you perform in your hometown, post your best blogs if only for an audience of 100, and rock out that business from the ground up … You’ll get your Grammy soon enough… While you’re at it… enjoy the journey!!!

Proverbs 16:9

TIME DOES NOT HAVE TO FLY… A Back to School Reflection.

Ok, so both my kids are in high school!!!!! 😲😲😔 WHAATTT???!!! This blew me away!!! I mean, it seems like YESTERDAY I was nursing them and teaching them how to use the bathroom!!!! I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed them, or getting them bundled in alllll their layers of clothing in order to weather the cold, and carrying them in their car seat and wondering “how in the world was I going to get through this????” I mean, it seemed SOOOOO hard and because they were only 19 months apart, it seemed there was no relief. Something as simple as getting ready for bed meant individual baths, and getting them dressed and keeping one entertained while the other was being attended to… it was literally EXHAUSTING!!!!

I remember some of the elders, (ie. WISE, BRILLIANT people we tend to ignore because they just don’t understand our specific situation) used to tell me, “enjoy these moments because they fly right by…” I remember WISHING they would… 😂😂lolol!!! Now that those beautiful babies have grown into amazing 14/16-year old’s right before my eyes, I’ve learned that time does indeed FLY by and I have come to appreciate allllll those tough times as fond moments in this AMAZING journey. Because I have come to value each phase of parenthood, I have also learned how to seize the moments and literally slow down the time.

How in the world can you slow down time, you say? It is actually quite simple: Make each moment count. BE PRESENT. Adjust your perspective and see the joy in that perfect place of the journey. Especially you new moms, or moms of toddlers, or moms of those goofy pre-teens, and OMG… MOMS OF TEENAGERS!!!! YIKES!!! Know that each phase brings about a new terrain. It can be tough, especially when you haven’t tread that path before. It completely sucks when they learn the word “no”, or when they THINK about talking back, driving, dating, or wanting to go on field trips, or getting a new cell phone, or starting HIGH SCHOOL!!!! OMG!!!! IT’S A LOT I KNOW!!!! Each phase brings new challenges indeed, but they are times you will never get back. Ask any empty-nester what they wouldn’t give to put that perfect part in their daughter’s hair with pigtails for the first day of school. How they wish they could sit through just ONE more basketball game. How they wish they could watch one more Disney movie together…

I remember my daughter being rushed to the hospital because her appendix ruptured. We had no idea, but it actually ruptured days before she was admitted, which put her in a critical position. Infection had spread through her body and we were in the hospital for several days. I was still working during that time. I remember actually wrestling with the idea that I had 150 final exams to grade and report cards to post while my daughter had a tube sticking out the middle of her stomach!!! 😦😦😦 It dawned on me then, that my job was taking WAAAAY too much of my attention. That it hindered me from fully focusing on the monumental moments of my children’s lives. I considered how much of my attention COULDN’T be on them, because I was trying to be excellent at my career. That was my last year of teaching. We downsized our lives, I retired from my job and am at home to fully serve my family. Now, I am by NO means suggesting anyone quit their job. For me, I HAD to, and it has made all the difference. But there is surely a way you can slow down the time in your life right now. Whatever way God leads you specifically to enjoy your journey, be sure to adhere. Realize that though we have our entire lives to indulge, chase after dreams, seek promotion, gain advanced education, get overtime hours, one thing we can’t get back is the time that passes and the events that happen throughout. Figure out how YOU can be present for your kids and get to it ASAP.

It doesn’t even have to be super deep. Being present in the moment looks like this: Attuning fully when they show you their 7,456th completed page from their coloring book, listening like you are at a concert when they ask you to hear that song they learned on the flute in band class today, sitting with them while they struggle through that English project, putting your phone down and talking to them in the car on the way to EVERY WHERE, turning off the TV and listening to them during dinner, helping them make that sign for their student council election and the like.

Parents have a tough job. We seem to constantly need relief from the weight it bears. However, if we adjust our perspective a bit and see each phase as a once in a lifetime moment on an amazing journey, we are sure to savor the time. When we purpose to enjoy each day of their childhood, we will never have to answer that horrible question, “Where did the time go?” Because we were right there in the middle of each one of those precious moments with them. Today is tomorrow’s “good old days…” so get out there and Carpe Diem!!!!

18 WAYS WE MADE IT 18 YEARS… AN ANNIVERSARY REFLECTION.

Today I celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary!!!! WOWZERS!!!! It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but what an INCREDIBLE adventure indeed. Especially jumping into marriage at 22, my husband and I grew up together. We have raised 2 children, traveled the world, bought and sold property, developed businesses, paid off debt, overcome challenges and setbacks, and learned SOOOOO much along the way. The best part about it, is that we did it all TOGETHER!!!!! And more importantly, with God at the forefront the entire time. We are by no means perfect, sooooo far from it. We have DEFINITLY had our challenges, but we are committed to growing and getting better and better as we go. Over the years many people ask, how do we stay together? How do we keep the love alive? Well, I truly believe that the secret sauce to a successful marriage is doing it according to the bible. Marriage is created by God. It is a sacred covenant between you and Him and when done in line with His Word, it can be the greatest journey of our lives. In honor of 18 years, I reflected on 18 specific things that I believe has kept our marriage blissful.

  1. Seek Godly/professional counsel during the tough times. Sometimes you just need a 3rd party who can shed light/Godly wisdom on an issue that neither of you can seem to agree on. We have sought counsel on several occasions during our marriage and it helped us regain our focus.
  2. Travel/ride through beautiful neighborhoods/test drive nice cars/connect with people you admire/try new foods… DREAM BIG!!!! It sets the tone for “the possible.” We are not called to settle and be stagnant. Step outside your comfort zone and dream/vision cast together. We do this ALLLLL the time. It is so much fun to explore the AMAZING possibilities that await.
  3. Do as many things as you can TOGETHER. Pretty much, if you see me, you see my husband and/or the kids. We are always together. We LOVE being TOGETHER. We grocery shop, walk, ride, go to basketball games, read, eat, worship, do yard work, etc. TOGETHER. We are a team. It makes EVERYTHING enjoyable.
  4. Divide chores and tasks evenly among each other. Because we are all stakeholders in this estate, we work together to help it run smoothly. He has strengths and so do I. We use them daily to help take care of the needs of our home/family in a balanced way so that no one is overloaded.
  5. Build your budget on one salary. Even though for a while we had 2 incomes coming in, it made it that much easier to transition into me stepping away from my job (both times) because we ALWAYS set our budget and spending on his salary. This takes the pressure off when babies come into the equation or any other demands that will require one of you to reduce work or step away from the job.
  6. Get out of debt and stay out. We eliminate the main area of contention when we don’t have enormous amounts of debt lingering over our heads. It takes such a load off and allows for great freedom to not have to use every dollar we make paying a bill. SOOO worth the sacrifice.
  7. Take vacation time. We go on at least 1 major trip and several weekend getaways each year. We enjoy the time SO much and it helps us recalibrate for all the great adventures ahead.
  8. Go on a date regularly. We go out at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but just getting dressed and out keeps the party pumpin’!!!
  9. Put the kids to bed!!! Many people allow the kids to stay up late, sleep in their bed etc. We never did that. The kids have a bed time. We spend a TON of time with them every day. But when it is bedtime, they go to bed. That leaves time for us to have some time each day as well.
  10. You build your family, let God build your enterprises. Though we have goals and dreams, we are careful not to rush them at the expense of our marriage and/or family. Enterprise and businesses will come. However, these precious moments to raise our kids and build a strong foundation takes time, effort and dedication. It is our #1 priority.  We leave the work at the office…
  11. Pray together daily. Though we pray and have our time with God each day independently, we also pray together as a family each day. It sets the standard in our home that God is the head. It helps us keep our hearts on him FIRST.
  12. See and celebrate each other’s differences as additions/bonuses to what you lack individually. Though I am super outgoing and passionate, Mike is laid back and calm. This helps complete the package vs. creating a source of division. Differences are assets.
  13. Keep a thankful journal. I write in a thankful journal every night. Often times when I get frustrated or FORGET how great my husband is, or how great things are in our life, I can look back on years of great things that have happened to me EVERY SINGLE DAY and it INSTANTLY gets my mind right back into perspective.
  14. Take a MILLION pictures, keep records, make playlists of moments during the journey that you can regularly reflect upon. It goes SO fast and there are SO many monumental adventures to cherish. They will help keep a smile in your heart.
  15. Build your foundation on the Word. Avoid TV shows, movies, songs, examples of marriages that don’t line up with the Bible. This thing IS NOT miserable. Instead, it is SOOOOO much fun, when done God’s way. (ie. Love is patient, kind… does not dishonor others… is not easily angered… keeps no record of wrongs… etc) Look in the right places for wisdom and examples of marriage.
  16. Look good for each other, KEEP IT TIGHT!!! Lol!!! Put on your make-up, workout, dress nicely, be sexy for him/her as much as possible. Reinvent your game and stay SPICY!!!
  17. Spend time growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. as an individual to offer your best to the union. Read books, attend conferences, invest in yourself regularly in you can be a strong and healthy teammate.
  18. Last but CERTAINLY not least: Acknowledge that DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION. I KNOW times get tough. I mean TOUGH. But (with the exception of infidelity/abuse), it can be worked out. If you fight for your marriage, and don’t give any outside force a foothold, together you and your husband can put 10,000 to flight. Love never fails. I am thoroughly convinced!!!

Whew!!!! Aren’t you glad we haven’t been married 40 years!!! Lol!!! You would be reading forever!!! Lol!!!! I am thrilled to share this awesome ride with my best friend. We are having a BLAST!!! We have built something SO special and I am committed to seeing it through to forever. I hope some of the items on this list are a blessing to you. It was a fun reflection for me. Thanks for reading it!!! May you experience all the joys of an awesome union!!! Here’s to Happily Ever After…

THE SLUMBER PARTY POOPER: A Quick MUST- READ for EVERY Parent…

It’s the end of summer… the kids are getting older, they want to kick it with a few friends on the weekend, or perhaps you just need some well-deserved RELIEF… Tis the season for a good old fashioned, harmless sleepover. I mean, you’ve known this family for years, or better yet, they ARE family, and your daughter has a cell phone in case of emergencies… AND you have equipped her well with “the talk!” Surely, all things will be fine right????… Not so fast.

For this blog post, I will address a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It may be difficult to receive, or even believe. But if it slows you down, or helps you consider your decisions more thoughtfully, well… mission accomplished.

As a friend, teacher, and parent I have counseled many young women who have been the victim of rape, molestation or sexual assault some time in their life. Studies show that 1 in 5 will have some experience in their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a stranger off the street, will kidnap and violate his victims. But more so, it is the distant cousin, uncle, family friend, neighbor etc. at which the innocence is compromised. Too many times, it happens during the sleepovers/camps/weekend trips/family reunions, when our children are most vulnerable. When our guard is down because of the trust we have given to the people in our camp.

Here’s a typical example: You let your daughter go to her cousin’s house for the weekend. I mean, this is your sister!!! She would NEVER let anything happen to your daughter. Besides, her daughter is your daughter’s best friend. They are the same age and have grown up together. This situation seems completely harmless. However, you didn’t consider the fact that your nephew is now 16. It’s Friday, and he has a couple friends over. Maybe they aren’t perfect angels, but they are boys… they are teenagers… and… well… You get my point. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has a few guys over to play pool. They are drinking a bit, but nothing crazy. I mean, your sister is right there. TRUST ME… I get it.

But as a victim myself, I can tell you, it only takes 10 minutes to steal the innocence of a child. As a matter of fact, one touch, one look, exposure to sexual sin, can completely obliterate your child’s image of God’s holy, beautiful, sacred act forever. Furthermore, many former victims of a sexual violation/deviation, have changed their entire perception of themselves, others and their sexuality; leaving them with bouts of depression, low self-esteem, promiscuity, and a disgust for heterosexual relationships and intercourse all together.

With the level of pornographic images on TV, magazines, the Internet at an easy grab, it seems to only exploit the sexual appetite, which promotes a stronger drive for sexual deviance now more than ever. We must be super proactive in our awareness of this potential threat and let it govern our decisions regarding overnight/home-alone/babysitting experiences. I am certainly not trying to scare you. But perhaps increase your awareness to avoid potential unwanted behavior.

As a parent, here are some simple ideas to help:

  1. Of course, give your child “the talk.” No matter their age or gender, they should know that there are areas of their body that are OFF LIMITS!!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!! That if anyone were to EVER touch them there, they should get away and get help IMMEDIATELY.
  2. You should maintain an open line of safe communication where your child knows they can come to you and freely ask questions and seek advice at any time. Create this exchange by giving them your undivided attention, time and concern at will. A safe place where they can share their most sacred thoughts without judgement or penalty.
  3. Be mindful of your child’s whereabouts at all times. Not just where they are. But who else is there? Make regular check-ups to evaluate the security of this place. This includes after school practices, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
  4. Let your presence be made known. Your child and all parties involved should know and feel your presence. Be active in calling-in, asking questions, and showing up. Even if the kids are playing in the basement, there should be a natural understanding that you are on the scene and will make an appearance in some way shape or form. Of course, you shouldn’t be “Stalker-Mom” or anything, but you must be “there” if only through a FaceTime, phone call, drop-in exchange.

There are so many great benefits to giving our children some time away from home. There are so many great social experiences to be had and memories to create. Nevertheless, we as parents must be aware of the potential threats that can bring harm to our children and act accordingly. If we are mindful of these simple steps, we can help prevent a lifetime of heartache.

You’re Going to Poop the Rest of Your Life… What’s the Rush????

Ok, so I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging experiences of my life… I am teaching my 15-year-old son how to drive!!!!!! OOOMMMGGGG!!!! For the most part, I am a pretty calm kinda gal. However, this adventure has required a level of patience like I’ve never experienced before.

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Forget the fact that I am still in awe that I have a child who is old enough to drive anyway! I mean, it feels like we were watching episodes of Little Bill, playing Beyblades and building Lego figures just yesterday!!!! Nevertheless, of course when he told me he was enrolled in Driver’s Ed, had to get his learner’s permit, and actually start operating a real motor vehicle, I had to rise to the challenge and help teach him the simple art of driving, right????? UUUUUUMMMM…. NO!!! This thing is INTENSE!!!! Like most people, I’m sure, we started off in the parking lot, moved to dirt roads, and have now advanced to two lane streets; however, it has taken several weeks (and a few missed stop signs) to get here!!!

Though we have been practicing about 3-5 times weekly, it occurred to me, that unfortunately my son is nowhere near the place where he can have his driver’s license and operate a vehicle on his own any time soon. Now that doesn’t mean I will stop working with him. I plan to work with him almost every day until he reaches his goals, however, rather than risk his, ours, or others’ lives, I have come to accept the fact that he needs A LOT more practice and it will probably be much longer than the 2 months he has left until he completes his driver’s training and turns 16.

For some, automatically this would spell failure. I have to admit, my determination for him being successful was what drove my anxiety and frustration. How could we (ultimately, I) fail to meet such a huge milestone? Then it occurred to me, so many of us are governed by the “milestone timeline.” The idea that things must be done according to the majority of the population. That timeline looks like this: You should graduate college by 21, get married by 24-26, pregnant by 30. Baby should be walking by 1, potty-trained by 2, reading by 4. They should be in the gifted and talented group, they should be in 3-5 different athletic or fine arts activities to prepare for scholarships (in 10 years!!!) and the list goes on and on. And OH MY GOSH!!!! YOU ARE 33 AND NOT MARRIED????? What is wrong with you???? We measure ourselves and our successes by our ability to meet these timelines. But I have an important question: WHO set the timelines? What substance or weight do they really hold in the big grand scheme?

I mean, think about it: does it really matter if your baby walks at 14 months instead of 12? Or for heaven sakes, they are SUPER SUPER special if they start walking at 9 months!!! I mean they would qualify for the “Baby Who Walked First Award” right???? Is that any indication of their intellect? Their ability or lack thereof? Or is it merely a source of pride for parents to brag and post that their AMAZING child has passed the test and is READING A BOOK AT AGE 1!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!! Really????? WHO CARES????

Trust me. I am not making light of us achieving goals for our lives or our children’s lives. However, we must make sure they don’t govern our happiness or reflection of our success. We can’t be filled with feelings of failure if our lives don’t line up with the world’s timeline. You, me, our children were fearfully and wonderfully made. One of a kind. God broke the mold when he made you! Don’t look to the left or the right to determine where you should fit on the marker. RUN YOUR RACE! In all things, we have to seek God for His direction and His timing for the purpose and plan for our life. His ways are so much higher than ours. While we are rushing to marry this man because “I’m getting old and pretty soon I won’t be able to have kids” we settle for less than what He has for us because we are on some crazy time schedule! Because everyone else has a house by “this age,” we go into ridiculous amounts of debt to stay on top of it. We become overly anxious because our kid may not be ready to drive until he is 17…or even 18 and we lose sight of such a great learning experience.

Whatever the case, don’t allow this undo pressure to force a speed race in any area of your life. Slow down and enjoy the journey that is necessary for full completion. Lean not unto your own understanding… let God direct and order your steps and you will always end up on top, finishing at a time suitable for YOU based on HIS timeline.  Ultimately, you/your child will drive, walk, read, talk, poop, for the rest of their life… No need to rush this awesome process!!!

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A Family that Prays Together…

We have used our commute to school every day since the kids were little (2&4) for family prayer. We call my husband on speaker phone and he, my son, daughter and I thank God for His many blessings, and pray for many people and things. Over the course of 11+ years we have witnessed God answering those prayers time and time again! It is most touching on days like today when my daughter led prayer and asked for healing for a classmate of hers who has been absent because of a surgery. That girl may never know it, but 4 prayer warriors are praying for her, like we have prayed and believed for so many.

As we go about our day, let us not forget the power of prayer. Let your petitions be made known to God. He hears and answers prayers. Teach your kids this at an early age. Let them witness its’ power, that they may live a lifestyle and lifetime of prayer. Happy Friday y’all!! BE BLESSED!!!

On Turning 40… A Few Truths… And an Awesome Birthday Vacation!!!!

SO… Um…. When I was a teenager, I think I thought 40 was like “OLD.” And though my husband crossed the burning sands of 40 about 4 years ago, I have prided myself on still being in my 30’s… at least until about a month ago… 😨😨😨

So now I am 40. I’m 40. And things are indeed a bit different. Surely, I have the stubborn strands of grey that tend to crown (the most obvious) parts of my face… And the occasional chin hair… (Yikes!!) I have somehow, also become a natural fan of the skirt/shorts bathing suits, reading books opposed to TV, long walks, theatre, tea vs. coffee; occasional wearing of Spanx, kale smoothies for breakfast, old school music, flats over heels (and other logical beauty regimes vs. the more time consuming/expensive alternatives). It is amazing the insight and wisdom that comes over time. But I think there are a few ways my perspective has changed as well. And these are the changes I am super excited about:

  1. I have a desire to be more and more like Christ. Who cares what the rest of the world thinks about the decisions I make, or the marks of achievement I attain. At the end of the day, I want God to be pleased. And I am committed to that goal daily.
  2. My husband is my best friend. Though times are not always perfect, he has been by my side for 20+ years. We have built something so great together and our relationship is top priority to me.
  3. I have the great privilege and responsibility of raising my children. This time is so short yet so monumental. I am committed to not only teaching and telling them of the ways of God, but modeling and surrounding them with other examples of His goodness. It has never been the popular route, but I am SO ok with that.
  4. I do not govern my decisions or perspective by the status quo, what everyone else is doing, or what appears to be the majority vote. In most cases, the route the rest of the world is taking, I end up heading the 180 degree opposite direction and I love the fruit it is producing.
  5. Our bodies were built to last. If we take care of them, they will perform. Healthy food choices, full rest, regular physical activity and non-stressful days trump hospital visits, medication and surgeries ANY DAY. I am committed to a healthy lifestyle and I feel good.
  6. Beauty is not defined by a size, number on a scale, great outfit or hair length. We are made in the image of God. The love that fills my heart has permeated to the outside of my physical being. I am more beautiful now than ever and I feel radiant.
  7. And finally, FUN. Life is to be enjoyed!!! I do and will continue to incorporate fun and enjoyment in every single day of my life. No matter how great or small, I will enjoy the moments of this journey on purpose.

My husband knows all these things about me. In order to kick off my 40th birthday with a BANG, he took me on a surprise trip that included all of my favorite people, places and things. See pics below of the amazing time we had together!!! In the meantime, whether 20, 35, 55, or 100. I pray you regularly take stock of your awesome journey and enjoy every drip drop of it!!!!!

Here are a few pics from the 40th surprise birthday vacation:

(Las Vegas: Lionel Richie Concert at Planet Hollywood, Dinner at Caesars Palace, shopping at Fashion Show Mall, movies to see Fences)

(San Francisco: Rented a Mustang, drove the coast, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping at Westfield Mall, Golden State Warriors Game… Steph Curry live!!!! Food, food and food…AWESOME!!!)

(Dallas: We went to the Cotton Bowl to watch my Alma Mater -Western Michigan University play!!! SO AWESOME!!! Stopped by Magnolia Market in Waco -AWESOME!!!! Met up with family and friends for dinner. Took the kids to see Hidden Figures – AWESOME!!!)

Had the time of my life!!!! I am super blessed!!!

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WAIT!!!! Did You Just Say, “I’m Bored????” A Super Summer Schedule For Your Kids.

A Super Simple Summer Schedule For Your Kids:

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Ok. Well by now, most of your children have received their awards, cleaned out their lockers, collected signatures in their yearbooks and hugged their favorite teachers goodbye. IT IS SUMMERTIME!!!! For most kids, the greatest time of the year!!!! For most parents, you are stuck wondering what you will do with them during the next 3 months of time. Some will go to camp, others will go to daycare, summer school or some sort of “holding ground” until they move on to the next grade in the fall. That is a TON of time. And for the parents whose kids will be at home, this can be difficult to manage. As a former teacher, I can attest to how long it takes to crank up the idle minds that have laid dormant for the past 2 months. How long it takes to review important material covered just a few weeks prior in order to prepare for the new material to come. If you struggle with how to keep your super awesome kids at their awesome-ist during the 8 weeks of summer, FEAR NOT. I bring you tidings of comfort and relief!!!!

I have created a summer schedule for my own kids that they have been following for the past several years. Now that I have my chalkboards in the main area of the house, I decided to put the vision up on the wall for all to see, so we all know what is expected. Now, I will humbly share this super simple schedule with you, with hopes that it will foster ideas for you and your family.

Though, most kids are allowed to stay up late and wake up late, I find that ALLLLLL kids thrive when they have structure. They generally spend 16 of their hours awake, so, I have found this a healthy way to help them balance their time. Each day, both of my kids must complete the following:

  • 1 hour of physical activity: You must keep that body moving. Unlike the days of old, kids can be found regularly sitting down, watching TV, playing video games, laying around on their phone and the like. They need to get up!!! They need to move their bodies. When I was a kid, we would play outside until the street lights came on!!! We were playing basketball, riding bikes, climbing trees, skating, swimming ALL DAY!!! It is important that kids stay active, get up, and get their heart rate moving. Have them go on a family walk, go to the gym, ride their bikes etc… whatever the case… KEEP IT MOVING!!!!

 

  • 1 hour of academic-ish stuff: Just as important as keeping their physical muscles in shape, their brains need a daily workout as well. I like to take my kids to either the book store or library once a month. You would be surprised how much they get into reading when they are able to have their choice of what they can read. It gives them ownership over an area otherwise governed by teachers (who in their eyes pick boring books!!! Lol) They can read each day. Do a puzzle, play chess, build a robot, write a letter to Grandma, or even play on the various academic websites to help their minds stay active.

 

 

  • 1 hour of chores/help: No matter how young or old your child is; they are stake holders in your home. They live there, use resources, make messes and add wear on their space. Not because YOU need help to manage or maintain, but because as a parent you are training them for their adult life, they need to participate in the general management/care of the home. In other words, THEY NEED TO HELP!!!! Give them a general task or tasks to complete each day. Show them how you want it done and make sure you are loving and forgiving if it is not done EXACTLY how you would do it. Redirect them. Help them feel like they are an important part of the overall care of their home. Even if your child is 4, he/she can learn how to sort clothes, put toys away, etc… Do their future spouses, roommates, colleagues a favor…train them early to care for their space!

 

  • 2 hours of media/electronics/TV/video games etc…: Though electronic devices reign supreme in most kids’ lives, they need to learn how to temper their time, attention and desire for them. Just like a great tub of ice cream, without obvious health consequences, most kids would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if allowed. They are even more attracted and attached to their devices. Unfortunately, whether on social media, TV, YouTube or the like, if given limitless access, those sources will become the vessel that shapes and governs our kids’ ideals and beliefs. We must be actively involved in balancing their time. I know it is tough. For many parents, technology is a way to keep children out of your hair for large amounts of time. In essence, though it serves as temporary relief for you, it will produce greater challenges in the future. Put the limits on them. Your kids may not show their appreciation for limits on their media time, but they will thank you for it later.

 

  • 8-10 hours of family fun: Though it sounds that with all this structure, the kids will seem to be back in school, I promise, there will be plenty of time for meaningful activity both individually and as a family. As a mom, I use summertime as an opportunity to love on the kids, come up with creative ways to keep them involved all while building their character. This doesn’t require a ton of money, or for you to be at home fulltime, but each day, you can look for ways to include them. Examples are family walks with the dog, a trip to the mall or the movies (they have a ton of spots that offer dollar or even free summer movies.) vacation bible school, baking cookies and cupcakes, making crafts, journal writing, building, gardening etc… Whatever the case, kids know and love when their day is filled with a creative, intentional, thoughtful agenda. It trumps TV, video games ANY DAY!!!

 

  • Daily devotional/prayer: I believe prayer, meditation and time with God is an essential part of every person’s life. What better time to instill these practices into their lives than when they are children?  There are super daily devotionals for kids of all ages. The content is suitable for each age level and gives super biblical reflection and annotations for each day. There are great praise and worship collections, videos, TV shows, radio stations and even movies that can help give kids a way to connect with and help develop a relationship with God. Though I don’t like to govern that space for my kids, I certainly encourage it and make the resources available to them, while modeling time with God in my own life. Praying and studying together as a family is even more meaningful for everyone.

 

  • Dressed, washed, groomed by 10:00am: Though I can TOTALLY appreciate sleeping in, as an adult, you can attest to how much more productive you are with your day when you are up and at em’, rising and shining earlier than later. It gives kids a false sense of reality that they are able to just lay around in their bed until 2:00pm after staying up all hours of the night. It makes it very challenging to make the transition when school starts back up when they have formed these sleep patterns. Besides they can’t engage in all there is to offer in a day by sleeping it away. Up and at em’, the world awaits you!!!

So there you have it. Nothing overly complicated, but super effective. Know that your kids are looking for structure. They need to keep their creative minds and bodies moving. As parents, utilize these next couple months, not to keep them entertained, but to help develop them physically, spiritually and mentally. In turn, we will be cultivating little people that will make an impact in their world while making meaningful memories throughout. In the meantime, HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!!!!! 🙂

Every Now and Then you Have to Stop and PLANT the Roses!!!!

SPRING IS HERE!!! The weather is BEAUTIFUL!!! We decided to capitalize on it. No phones, TV, video games, music, etc… (well a camera of course!!! 🙂 ) and not even a ton of money. After a family trip to Home Depot and Walmart, we set a small budget and chose some flowers and trees to plant in our new back yard. We eventually want to work up to a garden, but plan to take it slow while learning a few of the ins and outs of this venture. :-)Everyone was able to select a plant; then dig the holes, fertilize, set and water them. We had a BLAST. Each family member’s talents shined throughout different parts of the process, but ultimately, we set a goal and worked together to accomplish it. We successfully planted a couple rose bushes and an apple tree, while making memories along the way. Mission accomplished! Super fun for kids of all ages!!! Happy Spring and blessings to you! 🙂

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SUPER UN-SIZE ME!!!! Retired by 37… Catalogue of the Downsize…

The American order of operations: graduate high school, go to college, meet your potential mate, start an awesome career, work, work, work, get a new car, a super apartment, an awesome wardrobe, get married, buy a new house, start a family, get a master’s degree, get a promotion, upgrade to a bigger house, have more children, get a bigger car… (out of breath) WHEW!!!!! Work, work, work. Get more and bigger and better and higher and more and more and… (PANTING…)

Maybe not in that exact order, but it seems the pot of gold at the end of the of the rainbow is the biggest house, with the nicest car in the driveway, the highest level of employment, with a wardrobe filled to overflow. Often times it comes at any expense.

The Rat Race

I admit, and for no selfish or keeping up with the standard type of reasons… I genuinely couldn’t wait to graduate high school and complete the necessary requirements for becoming a high school English teacher. The year was 1999. I graduated college, got married, started my first teaching job, bought my first house all by the age of 22!!! I was ready to GOOOO!!! I started having kids; an awesome boy and two years later, our sweet girl!!! (CHECK!!!) I got my Master’s Degree AND earned a 4.0 GPA.  (CHECK!!!!) I became lead teacher and soon after named Teacher of the Year. (DOUBLE CHECK!!!!) We built and bought houses, had 3 cars to fill our 3 car garage, sunny vacations etc… By all typical standards, after 15 years, I was fairing pretty well in the race to “the great.”

However, I found out pretty quickly that as I was conquering my checklist, I was missing out on the elements of this life that really brought me joy. At least at it’s true depth.

Contrary to popular standards, after careful prayer and consideration, my family and I made the decision to downsize. I completed my final year of teaching. We put our beloved 5 bedroom 5 bathroom home in the suburbs up for sale. Sold all of our furniture, donated most of our clothing and accessories. And prepared for a totally new life.

The Great Downsize

Less than a year ago, we had a home built in the Northern mountains of Georgia. It was a place we vacationed regularly. It was a place where we found peace. A place we could be free of the rat race and enjoy the most important things in life. I must say, it has been a major change, but the greatest promotion of our lives.

First of all, though I miss teaching a TON, I now have time to put my family FIRST. My days are filled with peace. Instead of working hard to build another man’s industry/visions and dreams, I am helping to build my own legacy right in my own home.

We start our days off pretty calmly. My husband makes breakfast for the whole crew. Thereafter, I take the kids to school while calling him on speaker phone for our family morning prayer. After dropping the kids off, I am able to read my bible, pray and get before the Lord uninterruptedly. I get to exercise, enjoy lunch or short shopping dates out. A couple weeks ago, I spent my entire afternoon planting new flowers and grass for the backyard. I am able to volunteer at church, school or wherever is necessary. I have time to plan and prepare healthy meals for our family. Thankfully, we never have to eat fast food, school lunch, microwave or prepared meals. We grocery shop each Sunday based on the food we will cook for the week. I am available to help with projects and homework, practices, performances, fieldtrips and games. I am so much calmer than when I was attempting to juggle it all before. Not to mention the time, love, energy I am able to devote to my marriage.

As for the kids, they attend the public high and middle schools in our county. Both schools have less than 700 students, which allows for smaller class sizes and a more personalized education. Our town is small and yes, it takes 15 minutes to get to the grocery store, but the pressure to wear name brand clothes and perform, compete, or exist in a crowded school or town where you are a merely a number, has been eliminated. We all are forming meaningful relationships and exchanges. People value each other and family is a priority.

Financially, though we decreased our income by eliminating my salary, our needs and desires have been recalibrated and our plight for “MORE” decreased right along with it. Of the 6500sq ft of house we sold, I think we truly only occupied 1,500 of it. It was unnecessary and wasted space that cost more to heat, furnish, clean etc… So, our new home is indeed smaller, but it is a little slice of heaven for us and we use and enjoy every inch of it daily. We have 2 cars that we own outright and refuse to acquire debt of any kind.

True Abundance

I could go on and on. But overall, the clichéd idea of quality over quantity reigns supreme in our home. I plan to stay happily married to the same man that I made a promise to God on my wedding day. I only have one chance to raise and enjoy the time I have with my children. I can’t think of anything more meaningful or worthy of my devotion than that.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows, I may go back to teaching someday, however, I am open to the ways God will allow me to use my teaching gifts in greater capacities. Recently, my husband and I had breakfast one morning in the middle of the week. I couldn’t help but notice the restaurant filled with senior couples and friends there enjoying themselves.  I noted then, that no matter what, I refuse to wait until I am 65 years old to take time to enjoy this life… and at age 39… and one year in, that is precisely what I am doing… enjoying every moment of this incredible, once in a lifetime journey…

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John 10:10 “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Attention: All Husbands of a Stay at Home Mom…

Hello Husbands,

First of all, hats off to YOU for making the selfless decision to put your family first. In an age when everyone wants to pursue an extra income, opportunity and status, you have chosen to work together with your wife making sacrifices to ensure the BEST care for your family. Hats off further for earning a wage and/or choosing a lifestyle where you can afford to do so. Simply put… YOU THE MAN!!!!! 🙂

That being said, unfortunately, what tends to happen during this process, is though you are satisfied with the outcome of your wife being at home, (your kids are well behaved, healthy, happy, safe and brilliant) you can sometimes overlook the effort it takes to get there. To help your AWESOME self, avoid making this AWFUL mistake, I have two simple ideas for you to consider when dealing with your stay at home mom.

Number one: Give her regular and intentional acts, thoughts, gifts, and words of appreciation.  The average employee earns a salary. It may not be lavish, but whatever it is, it is enough to keep them coming back each day. They are rewarded doubly for overtime hours and acts of excellence. Most earn paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation time. There are bonuses to strive for and promotions to look toward. Shoot, some places give certificates for not being late more than 3 times!!!! Lol!

Interestingly, your wife doesn’t NEED any of that. The services she provides and the care she gives is given freely; without expectation and most times without reward. For example, the child she wakes up to nurse five times each night, can’t roll over and thank her for her sacrifice of sleep. He/she can’t understand the benefit of learning how to use the potty. The hours of reading aloud, planning play dates, reciting numbers, watching repeated episodes on PBS, downloading educational websites, won’t pay off until they are of school age (at least we hope). The gratification of the work invested in our little ones are most times delayed by sometimes 18 years, yet she does it all faithfully for the retroactive bonus of great success, for the continued tinkle in the toilet, the health offered only from breastfeeding and the educational advancements that are to follow.

However, YOU can celebrate her during this journey. You have no idea how much your recognition means to her. The sticky note you leave on her mirror in the morning reminding her how you noticed her patiently helping your little one with his homework each night. The certificate you create and print off at work to present to her for being “Mom of the Year”. The public post on Facebook, letting the world know how awesome your wife’s dinner was last night. Or the weekend getaway you planned yourself, would trump every achievement she’s ever earned. Whatever method you choose to show your appreciation, do it regularly. Be intentional about noticing the time, effort and love she pours into your family. You will find it will not only strengthen her devotion to you, but also spark a second wind to continue her plight toward excellence in your home.

Number two: Be sure she gets (regular) temporary relief from her responsibilities.  EVERYONE needs and deserves a break every now and then… no REGULARLY. Again most employees are given at least 2 days a week, 2 weeks a year, holidays and even breaks throughout the day. Too many times, a stay at home mom’s “breaks” are filled with additional tasks. I remember when my kids were little, during their naps, it would seem a perfect time for me to catch up on sleep, reading, exercise etc… NOPE. I used that time to prepare dinner for the evening, mop, clean, wash clothes etc.. Weekends became opportunities to catch up on bigger responsibilities, birthday parties, sporting events and other commitments. Vacation generally meant handling the same duties only in a different location. WHEW!!!! Your wife needs relief.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to hire a nanny or maid, but perhaps you can implement a “No Work on Saturdays” campaign. Every Friday you can plan to eat out or order in. From 4pm-6pm each day, she can go to the gym, take a class, go to the mall etc… Sundays could be HER day. She has no duties or requirements at all on that day and she is free to spend her time wherever she wants to go, doing whatever she wants to do. HELLO DADDY DAYCARE!!! 🙂 🙂 Whatever method of reprieve works for your family is up to you guys, but know that it is imperative for your wife to maintain balance in her life.

As a former teacher of high school students, I have seen the long term benefits of kids who have had an active parent at home. The fact that you have created a lifestyle of support within your family is such a great idea. Ultimately, your wife and children are and will be grateful for the time you put in at the office in order to provide for your family and the sacrifices made to put your children first. Just remember, you and your wife are a team. You both need each other to make this well oiled machine function properly. Be sure your wife gets the necessary regular maintenance she needs in order for her to perform at her maximum capacity. After all, happy, appreciated, balanced, rested wife… HAPPY…EVERYTHING!!!! 🙂

Sincerely,

Enjoying the Journey with Harper