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. 😊

SEASONS CHANGE…

By now, we are all ready for Spring to hurry up and grace us with her presence. We’ve enjoyed our dose of snow and cool boots and sweet scarves. It is time for some sun shining, birds chirping and buds blooming. Interestingly, we all forget how we embraced the idea of November and December and Christmas and snow and holidays and family gatherings and all the great things that make winter a beautiful wonderland of sorts. We are now filled with the hopes of what a new season will bring. Nevertheless, by the time summer rolls around, temperatures rise to 90+ degrees, we will once again find ourselves crying the blues and looking ahead to what’s next.

How often do we have these same reflections in our daily lives? While single, we can’t WAIT for God to bless us with the perfect partner to share our lives with. We are thrilled about the new promotion we just got. We celebrate the monumental experience of buying our first home. And can’t even contain the joy of our first child. However, as the days go on, the tasks pile up, or even boredom sets in, we find ourselves looking forward to what’s next.

I certainly understand and subscribe to the idea of moving forward.  The future forecast always seems to bring about hope and growth and newness. However, where do these hopes of promise leave us in our current season? How do we not grow stale? Bored? Frustrated with the “right now”? How can we maintain our contentment and appreciation while we wait on the next season?

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child. I was SOOOO happy at the thought of carrying a life inside me. How miraculous!!! As time went on, I got bigger, well let’s say, HUGER and HUGER and tired and grumpy and when I tell you I couldn’t WAIT to deliver the baby… I COULDN’T WAIT!!! Speed along to his arrival, I was ELATED!!!! OMG!!! Happiest days of my life, right? OF COURSE. Then the real work began. The real commitment. I soon looked forward to toddler time… at least then he could walk and talk and do things on his own, right? UUUUGGGGHHH. That season brought about a whole new slew of challenges. Speed this along 17 years… As I sit here and consider that this same child is now a senior in high school, that he will be graduating in a few short months, and moving onto college to start a life of independence… What I wouldn’t give to see him walking around with drool running from his mouth, hobbling in his overalls with a saggy diaper…

Moral of the story is that as we look to brighter days and new seasons, whatever season of life we are in, good or bad, we have to know that the season WILL change, that things get better, that tough times don’t last always, that people grow, that increase will come, and spring is indeed on the way! We must know that every single day and every moment of our journey, good or bad is one to embrace, learn, and grow from, but most importantly, to enjoy.

This may be tough because some of us reading this right now are in the hardest of winters. Perhaps you are enduring a season of illness, a tough marriage, a financial hardship, a job you don’t like. I get it. However, you have to dig deep, and for some of us REAL DEEP, to see the lesson, the beauty, the growth and opportunities that lie in the moments of this part of our journey. How can we get better here? What tools will I gather for my next season? What can I do to enjoy this season right where I am?

As we look on with great expectation to the next chapter, it is so important that we not just endure this undesirable time in our life. We can’t fill our mind with thoughts of stress, depression, doubt, boredom, and gloom. Life is about seasons. While every day won’t be one on the mountain top, we can do our best to maintain a mountaintop outlook. We can see the beauty in the moment and focus on the good times we have. We can learn and grow during these seasons, so we can carry our new insight into our next season and share with others. If we are too busy focusing on the spring, we can miss out on the beauty of winter we were so excited about in the beginning. If you are single and desperately waiting to get married, ENJOY your freedom and not having to cater to or be responsible for another human. If you are a stay at home mom looking forward to getting back to work, though it is a challenging right now, ENJOY not having to get up every day and report to an office. If you are living in a tiny apartment and can’t wait to get your first home, ENJOY not cutting grass or having to heat such a large area. Or a new graduate, eager to start your first job, ENJOY not having to pay student loans and living with your parents during this last stretch of time…

As I look forward to my son graduating from high school, I realize these days won’t be here for long. I can only imagine how much I would miss if I wasn’t intentional about making every moment of this season count. While I am driving him to yet another senior obligation, early morning SAT exam, academic banquet, athletic event, I am careful to embrace the beauty of our time together. As you go about your season, I pray you can squeeze out moments that make you smile. Times to help you grow. Lessons you can take into your next season. That while you look forward to the what’s to come, you enjoy every drip drop of the portion of the journey you are on right now. This season will not last forever. Enjoy it while it’s here! Spring is on the way… 😊 🙂 🙂

NO RECEPTION…


If you are anywhere near my age, you remember, or at least have heard of a day when after a certain time of night, the TV screen turned dark and was covered with various colored lines… when all the streets were still, the stores were closed… When dinner was served sometime around 6pm and after about 10pm, there was nothing left to do but sleep…
I’m not quite sure when exactly it began, but somewhere along the timeline in the last few years, stores and restaurants began staying open until 10/11pm, TV and all other forms of media stayed on all night and cellphones allowed people a 24-hour all access pass to anything and anyone… WOW!!!! Times have surely changed. Seems like a total maximization of 24 hours!!!! Sounds AMAZING right????
Last month, I celebrated my 42nd birthday (HEEEEEEEEEY!!!! 😊). Because it falls on the Christmas holiday, my family and I were on our Christmas family vacation in Phoenix. What a BEAUTIFUL place, during an AMAZING time of year, with my FAVORITE people on the planet!!! We had a wonderful time together. However, my birthday was EXTRA SPECIAL. My husband took me to the Grand Canyon. And though we had lived in Arizona a few years back, I had never been. I guess I just never had the desire to see a giant hole in the earth?????? Nevertheless, we grabbed our coats, put on our sweats and hiking shoes and made the 3 ½ hour drive to Flagstaff.
The ride itself was BEAUTIFUL!!! But I must say, when I arrived at the Canyon, I WAS SPEECHLESS. The sight of it literally took my breath away. I was overcome by awe and cried instantly. What an unbelievable wonder to behold!!! Every step I took allowed for a different view of this monument of gloriousness!!! But what was equally as amazing as the sight, was the nothingness that happened during our time there…
It was EVERYTHING!!!! My husband and I did what we do often in our moments like these. We vision casted. We reflected. We reminisced. We laughed. We held hands. We talked. And talked. We were present in every moment together and we weren’t distracted by calls or text messages or agendas or requests or social media or ANYTHING!!!! It was MAGICAL!!!
I find that though I am present and active as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, volunteer, mentor etc. I have to be intentional about making time to go “offline.” This time that my husband and I spent was SO necessary. It was a perfect time to reflect on all that happened in 2018 and our goals and dreams for 2019. It was great to laugh at our mistakes yet reflect on God’s goodness. There were even moments of silence, when we just inhaled and rested in bliss.
I could go on and on about my short time at the Canyon a few days ago. It was truly one of the best days of my life. However, I have to be honest, after 42 years of life, I have come to understand how necessary these experiences are. I, on purpose, make plans to regularly dwell in places where I have no reception. If only for a couple hours a week or even for an hour a day, I retreat. I unplug. I “out of office.” Of course, it is not always at the amazing Grand Canyon, but perhaps on other hikes, or baths, or quiet drives, or star gazes, or the library or lake or whatever. I find it so therapeutic to take time to turn off the noise. To cancel the “all access pass” for a little while.
This year, I will be even more intentional about insuring a bit of quiet time. Though our days have been filled with what seems to be maximum productivity, we need to unwind. To unplug. To turn it off. I am SO much more productive when I get that period of peace. I hear God’s voice SO clearly. I am less agitated and so much more creative. I pray that while you are out conquering all the amazing adventures put before you, that you take time to exhale. That you embrace moments of beauty, rest and solitude. That you take time to dwell in places with no reception. During these moments, may your peace, joy and love be renewed and restored… HAPPY 2019 TO YOU!!!!


19 Year Anniversary: Fight or Flight???

My husband and I celebrated 19 years of marriage last weekend!!! It was truly a major milestone!! Both of us come from single parent homes and are really figuring this all out as we go. Nevertheless, over the years, I’ve had many people say they look to us (and other couples) and see their #marriagegoals, an awesome union, the perfect little family… I mean, I work from home, my husband has a great job, we live in a cute little house in the mountains, we have two awesome kids, we’re all healthy, we live debt-free, and we love God… I mean, we kayak on the weekends and eat at the dinner table together every night for goodness sake!!!! WHAT AN AWESOME LIFE, RIGHT????

I have to admit, though all those things are true, this year was probably one of our toughest. It shook our marriage to its very foundation and had us considering some hard-core questions. It wasn’t because any THING happened. Nobody cheated, nobody lost their job, we didn’t file for bankruptcy or suffer from some major illness. It wasn’t that at all. Honestly, I can’t attribute this wall we hit to anything specific. Perhaps a build up of a ton of tiny little things, or even small transitions over time. Perhaps the fact that we have two teenagers in our home, or that we live two hours away from most of our affiliations, maybe that we were both growing at two different speeds and… I DON’T EVEN KNOW!!!! But whatever the case, the tension was mounting, we couldn’t see eye to eye on anything and the opportunities for disagreement seemed to abound.

This was heartbreaking, because, my husband and I have been best friends since I was 18 years old!!! Our connection has been so genuine and so rare. We do EVERYTHING together. We have SO much fun. We have an amazing history, and more importantly, what we have built and accomplished together is incredible.

Nonetheless, the devastation of our divergence took a toll on everything. It seemed like a dark cloud followed us everywhere we went. The fact that we knew the Word, that we had super friends, ministers and pastors we could turn to, we couldn’t even identify a problem to fix! I imagine this being the part in a person’s life where hopelessness sets in. Where you just say, “We grew apart,” “We just fell out of love,” “We decided to go our separate ways.” And though I admit, I was SOOOOOOOO frustrated and overwhelmed by the tension and stress, if you know me, you KNOW, I was NOT about to give up!!!!

19 YEARS!!!! 19 years of building life together. Making memories. Working through all other MAJOR obstacles. Building and growing. And most importantly, the kids. They were watching us. They were counting on us to step our game up and work this Word. To help them believe in the love we teach and preach about every day. NO SIR!!!! We could not let them down!

For the last several months I committed to doing my part in getting myself together. I read books and devotionals, talked to AMAZING friends, listened to teachings, filled my social media feed with encouragement and even created some alone time to focus on my own personal growth. I took the magnifying glass off my husband and put it on God. During this time, we still had disagreements. We still had rough days, but by now, my faith was so strong, I was confident that relief was on the way.

About that time, I saw an ad for a marriage conference come across my screen. It was called SPARK and it was being hosted by Joel Osteen in Houston, Texas. It just so happened to fall on our anniversary weekend. Though we had bought books to read together, committed to a marriage challenge and were both doing our own individual growth plans, we knew we needed something BIG to get us the proper tune-up. We both knew this conference was IT!!!!

My husband took care of all the accommodations and last week we flew to Houston for a life changing experience. We were in an auditorium with thousands of other couples. Newlyweds on up to people married for 50+ years. The atmosphere alone was inspiring, not to mention the amazing speakers and the wisdom they shared with all of us. My husband and I gleaned so much.  It was EVERYTHING we needed to get us back on track. We spent a couple extra days there just talking and refocusing. We got our first couple’s massage and did some of our old favorite things like walking on the beach, going out to eat, shopping, and just spending uninterrupted time alone to recharge and restore.

I considered how many couples experience hardships that cut deep, that shake the core of their marriage. Some of them have had affairs, suffered job loss, illness or even just hit a wall on their journey. It seems SOOOOOO much easier to quit. Like starting over would wipe away the deep pain they experience on a regular basis. “It’s not fair!”  “I don’t deserve this!”  “I can do better all by myself!” I get it!!! But quitting is NOT an option!!!! You have to FIGHT for your marriage! You made a promise before God and all the other witnesses that you would love each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Now I know today contracts/covenants don’t hold the weight they once did, but that doesn’t make them any less weighty. What is the boundary on your “worse?” Does your “sickness” have a limit? Does “poorer” not include being unemployed for 6 months? We have to go the distance. We have to be committed to doing whatever is necessary to make this partnership work. No matter what.

Interestingly, when our brakes go out on our car, we don’t throw the entire car away. Most of us take it to the shop upon the first squeak. Some of us wait until the light grind, but we never just let the brakes go all the way out; and we don’t leave the car abandoned and go out and buy a new car, with new brakes. Yet too many times at the first sign of discomfort we are ready to trade in the old for “better.” Instead, we must be willing to do the regular maintenance necessary to keeping the car in tip-top shape. When it needs a tune up, tune it up. When it needs a small repair, do it. New cars are great, but their brakes wear down as well. They will need tune-ups as well.

People ask all the time how we made it 19 years. They see us and think we don’t have any real problems. We got it made. I have a GREAT husband, he has a GREAT wife. We don’t know struggle. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have our tough times. We have persevered through some MAJOR adversities. The difference is we have made a commitment to NEVER quit. We will take this baby to the shop over and over again. We will perform repairs and continual tune-ups over and over again. We will get up and fight every day to have the happy marriage we always dreamed about.

When times get tough, remember to give each other grace. Read a book, seek counsel, go to a conference, whatever is necessary to keep your marriage healthy and happy. Give your spouse the insurance policy that if he/she gains a few pounds, goes through menopause/post-partum depression, loses their job, gets sick, grows at a different pace, YOU will be right there fighting for them. Believing the best. Helping them win…TOGETHER, through the good and the bad.

No matter how tough it gets, there is grace for us to conquer our storms. And no matter what, quitting is NEVER an option!!!! As for me and my husband, we are going ALL THE WAY!!!! I am so grateful for 19 years and I am SO looking forward to the next 19!!! Here’s to you and your Happily Ever After…with your no- quittin’ self!!!

The Most “Unloveable” People Need Love the Most…

I was watering my bushes a few days ago. I noticed that after a year and a half of planting and watering just about every day, some of the bushes were beginning to grow and the buds were actually blossoming! I was THRILLED at the SIGHT of life, because up until now, though I was diligent with their care, my flowers seemed pretty unresponsive. The new blooms motivated me to water more. I even watered the couple with the biggest blossoms a bit longer because they had become my prize. I then looked over to the four that were not blooming and I grew frustrated. I didn’t even want to waste my time watering them. Something must be wrong with them if they couldn’t produce the same results after the same care! THE NERVE!!!! I mean, they have given no evidence of even THINKING of blooming!!! I even considered uprooting them and planting something more “suitable” for success.

At that moment, the Lord showed me the correlation between my frustration about the non-budding bushes with how often times we as a society can become toward others that behave in a similar manner. Think about it. How easy is it to write a person off, to become offended, to hold a grudge or withhold mercy on a person who acts in an unbecoming manner that may be different from otherwise attractive behaviors. How often are we repelled by a co-worker, a neighbor, a child, even a spouse who seems to have missed the mark on seemingly obvious objectives. ESPECIALLY when you have gone out of your way to extend an extra amount of mercy toward them… THE NERVE!!!!!

I remember my last year teaching, I had a student in 1st period named “John.” Since I actually loved teaching and even more so, LOVED the students, I never had many discipline problems. My students could see my sincere care and determination for their success, it created a mutual relationship of love and respect. However, “John” was one of the toughest in all my career. He showed up late just about every day, he sat in the front row and attempted to sleep regularly; when he WAS awake, he sat there, unprepared and unmotivated to do ANYTHING, and often times became a MAJOR distraction. Though I had to continually redirect him, something in me could not give up on “John.” This kid challenged me to my CORE, but I knew he was capable of fulfilling the tasks put before him. It was his senior year, he had made it this far, and I was NOT about to let him FAIL. He required EVERY drip drop of my patience, but I wouldn’t accept less than his best and I encouraged him to get through.

I realize extending this kind of grace takes an enormous amount of tolerance, perseverance, and strength. People can be super- extra difficult at times! It is SO easy to just throw our hands up and quit. I mean, even if “John” MAKES it out of high school, even if those plants do get a little stronger, it is so much easier to devote the energy to a person/plant that appreciates the love, or at least shows PROMISE of success.

I remember my students asking me that same question… “Mrs. Harper, why do you keep working with “John,” you know he’s not even going to graduate! He doesn’t even care!” What they didn’t know, and what I didn’t even know until later, was that John’s dad walked out on their family the year prior. It had a devastating impact on them emotionally and financially. His mother had a to carry a weight that was too much for her. They lost their home, and were forced into some very unbearable living conditions. This certainly took its toll on “John” and he began to act out, lose interest in school and everything else.

From somewhere deep inside, without knowing this prior, I was devoted to seeing “John” win. I remember explaining to the class that if we all treated John the way he deserved to be treated based on his behavior, he would see frustration and annoyance from his teachers, his mother, his classmates, his family and everyone in his life. How would that make him feel? How could he POSSIBLY blossom in that case? But what if we treated him like we hoped he would be. What we wanted him to become? What if we loved on him. What if when he acted out, we didn’t retaliate with anger, but redirected him with compassion? Considering how challenging his behavior was, this seemed a near impossible task. But I was up for the mission and was sure to model it in front of my students.

I know this is not easy. I know. But what I have come to appreciate is the one who is the most challenging, the one who is the most unloveable, the one with the threat of failure, is the very one that needs love the most. We simply cannot give up on people who don’t have it all together, who present a challenge, even those who act out. That is the expected response. That is what they are used to. That won’t help promote a change or motivate them to rise higher. We must reach deep into our hearts… DEEP (lol) and find that compassion. Extend that mercy. Overlook that offense. I am convinced that love never fails. I am settled that if we rise to a higher place, we can win over the hardest of hearts.  We can inspire that tough individual to overcome.

I will never forget graduation 2014. I sat on the field during the commencement as a proud teacher of the graduates. We were to sit with them, help supervise, and escort them off the field after the ceremony. One of the proudest moments of my teaching career happened at the end as the graduates engaged in a procession off the field. “John” came up to me with tears streaming down his face, beaming with pride and gratitude. He looked me in my eyes, and with all sincerity told me, there was no way he would have made it to this moment without me. He apologized for being so difficult to handle and concluded his message with, “thanks for never giving up on me!!!” It was the last class of my career, but that lesson was one of the greatest of them all.

Though you may put forth great effort, though you may not always understand, though that difficult spirit may push you to your limit, somehow go to that place deep down in your heart and activate that compassion, extend that mercy, muster up that hope, water those plants and love the seemingly unloveable. It may just be the very ingredient necessary for them not to fail…

 

 

Photo: picturequotes

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…

WALK THIS WAY…

After almost 18 years of marriage, many people ask, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” Of course, there is not one specific answer to that question. However, I believe simple choices made each day contribute to a long road to happiness… AND, for you, I will indeed release at least ONE of my juicy, hot, steamy secrets, free of charge… ready? Here it goes… TAKE A WALK!!!!!!

No really. Check this out. My husband and I have been walking together 3-5 days of every week for almost 20 years and I truly think it is one of the things that has helped keep our bond strong. I mean think about it; you can’t talk on the phone, clean a house, fulfill any requirements, finish tasks, or any of the other things that demand your attention, time, and energy. Instead, you are forced to talk, vision cast, share stories from the day, plan vacations, DREAM, take in the scenery, talk about unresolved issues and expectations etc. All the while, you are getting some great exercise and inhaling some of that good old fashion fresh air.

You can delve into a plethora of landscapes, including blocks surrounding your own home, to the high school track in your community; or even find a great parking space in a beautiful neighborhood nearby and explore future homes you dream of living in someday; a local park, beach, lake, mountain or the like. Whatever the case, the uninterrupted time together will help create opportunities for great communication to take place. You will find that when you are intentional about this special time with each other, the visions, the vacations, the dreams, the unresolved issues, the unfulfilled desires all become areas of focus and ultimately points of pleasure and fulfillment because the necessary time was invested.

My husband and I are so committed to our walks, we look forward to them even while on vacation. Sometimes we bring the kids and/or the dog along, but most times it is just us.

Now I won’t even begin to discuss the potentially hot, smokin’ bod you may develop while on these great expeditions, but in the meantime, give this idea a try. When your marriage goes to the next level, when you have come up with new streams of income, great destinations to explore, super ways to resolve that issue with your child, or the fastest method to paying off your last credit card, shoot me a line and let me know!!! I’ll charge you for this great advice then!!! 😊😊😊 Here’s to enjoying the journey…

(scenes from some of our great treks…)

 

 

 

Love the One You’re With…

Last weekend, my family and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in our small town. After being seated and placing our order, I immediately took out my phone to show my husband and kids an item I was interested in purchasing on EBay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get reception. I became pretty frustrated, as I was eager to get their opinion and ultimately make the purchase. At that point, my eyeballs searched to inquire of some sort of Wi-Fi code or alternative, when I saw the sign that read “NO WIFI. Pretend it’s 1995 and talk to each other!”

WOW!!! REALLY???? At first, I admit, I was slightly annoyed by their attempt to “be the boss of me!!!” (Arms crossed, foot tapping… lol) BUUUUUTTTTT, I became immediately convicted at just how quickly I wanted to engage in online activity. It was easy to pridefully excuse my behavior, I mean, after all, I WAS communicating and sharing my search with all of them, RIGHT??? NOPE! Not right!

We are all guilty of this. We just need to finish this one little thing, look up a quick “this” or respond to a fast “that”. “I am working all day long, a little scroll on Facebook, or Instagram shouldn’t be a big deal…” We start off saying that, but that little “this” turns into searching while at the red light, while waiting in line at the grocery store, while in traffic, while lying in bed with our spouse, while sitting at our kids’ practices, and then ultimately, while at home during family time. I’ve even seen people “scrolling” during church!!!! YIKES!!!! 😨😨😨

Perhaps we need to implement the message from the restaurant sign more often. Our need to grab the phones, tablets and other devices is getting out of control. It is spilling onto our kids and even they can’t seem to temper their desire to be online.

At the end of the day, our desire to “be connected” can’t be to some WIFI system, but to the ones we love, the ones we are with during that time. This is a fairly new problem, so it calls for new rules. I’ve come up with a couple easy ways to combat the need to be online excessively:

  • Love the one you’re with: Whoever you are with during that time, give them your undivided attention. If you are lying in bed with your spouse, picking up your kid from school, riding in the car, watching a movie, cooking dinner, out at a restaurant… PUT THE PHONE AWAY!!!! Look at your people. Converse with them. Let them know you are truly interested in their conversation and the happenings of their life.
  • Have a device container: A good way to put this into practice at home is to have a device container. A friend of mine mentioned this idea and I thought it was FABULOUS! Perhaps everyone can put their device in a container/bowl upon entering the house and no one can get on their device until designated “device time.” During that time, you can all sit together and delve into the world-wide mess, I mean, web 😘 for 30 minutes (or whatever time works best for you).
  • TURN IT OFF: At bedtime, all devices are turned off or silenced. I wonder how many hours of sleep people miss out on during that late-night shopping venture, or that Facebook scroll, etc.… How many intimate encounters are spouses missing out on because one or both parties are more engaged online?

There is an infinite amount of data to search, a ton of seemingly important activity happening, news, shopping and sooooo much more that seem to call our name each day, all day. What a blessing it is to be able to access these things at the touch of a button. However, it cannot be at the expense of the precious moments we sacrifice with our loved ones. Though it is important to stay connected to all the people and affairs of the day, it’s most important to let the ones we are with know they are our top priority. At the end of the day, they are what matter most! Pretend it’s 1995… 😘😘😘

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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DIY: #3 CUSTOM BOOKSHELF/LIBRARY

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We had a chunk of wasted space on the side of our fireplace just BEGGING for purpose. That coupled with boxes of awesome books piled in our basement storage, led me and my husband to our latest creation: A homemade bookshelf/library of course!!!! Here’s how we did it:

We went to Home Depot and bought the wood. We wanted the shelves to be 12” wide and 2”thick, however, those boards were WAY too heavy. So we bought 2”x6” boards with the plan to attach them together. We had them cut to our desired length and got started by sanding down the rough edges.

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I combined two different colors of stain: dark walnut and kona, to get the look I was going for.

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Here is the space that was looking for love. Now that we have completed the bookshelf, I can’t believe I left it empty for so long!!! 🙂 However, it used to be the PERFECT spot for our Christmas tree!!!

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We used a simple metal attachment to join the wood together. Same look and affect as a 12″ board, though much lighter.

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Next, my husband and I had to decide the details that worked for us. How high up should we start the first shelf? How many shelves do we need?

 

How tall are most books? How far apart should we put each shelf? I love that there are no rules. Whatever works for you and your space is what you do. 🙂

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I ordered 10 corbels to fit my 12 inch shelves and my industrial/rustic style from TiredTruckDesigns on Etsy. I LOVE these corbels!!! They are beautiful, sturdy and work PERFECTLY for our design.  Thankfully, my husband is a master mathematician 🙂 so he measured 17” between each shelf and drilled them in accordingly.

 

We wanted to add a cool touch to the top shelf, so we went to Ace Hardware to come up with a creative way to attach it to the wall. After we chose our hardware, I spray painted it a flat black.

 

My husband carefully connected the hardware to the wall.

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I found some really cool ottomans from Overstock.com to fit under the shelf. They are SUPER comfy, chic and light enough to move freely. They were also very reasonably priced.

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And here it is. After great team work, a little time, and less than $200, we created a customized space in our home for all to share!!! HAPPY READING!!!! 🙂

DIY: #2 Chalkboard Panels: Operation Decorate the New House on a Budget in Full Affect!!!!

If you haven’t read my prior posts (boy, you are missing out!!! :-)), I will remind you that we recently downsized and built a new home and are tasked with decorating it on a very tight budget. Ok, so I admit that this was among the first projects I completed. I finished it in October, however, it is probably one of my favorite pieces and I must say we use it daily. It is a panel of chalkboards. They are HUGE and take up most of the wall in our dining room. I know there are a ton of chalkboard models out there, but this was an original piece to accommodate an interesting space, so my husband and I kinda winged most of the project in order to figure out our unique design and all for the less than $75.

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We went to Home Depot and purchased 4 chalkboard panels. They were $10 each. On the same trip, we measured the perimeter of the chalkboard and had them cut several pieces of thin wood to attach to each panel. We also cut a large piece of wood to act as the base for the piping. Later we came back with new measurements to purchase the piping and flanges to attach the panels to the board. Our dilemma was, how to hang the chalkboard panels to the piping. We scoured Ace Hardware and found some clamps with screws that allowed the panels to hang.

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Once I stained the wood for the perimeter and painted the wood to use as a base, I charged my husband with the difficult task of drilling it all to the wall. That may have been the most challenging part as once all panels, perimeters, clamps and screws were attached, they were hung by one piece of plumbing pipe…and they were extremely heavy!!! YIKES!!!  My husband used his bulging biceps to miraculously drill the loaded pipe into the wall… and VOILA!!!!! Our newest replacement to sticky notes and refrigerator magnets!!!

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I use the panels daily to write reminders, words of encouragement, scriptures, weekly menus…you name it!!! I think the kids feel really special when they wake up to a sweet note left especially for them. Not to mention a welcome note to guests when they visit. One of my FAVORITE projects to date!!!! 🙂

“I Want to be a Baller’s Wife!!!!!”

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“I want to be a baller’s wife!!!” I remember this being a common response from my female students when discussing future endeavors post high school. With so many opportunities, talents and gifts the girls had before them, I was disappointed that they were reduced to this option.

Oh, what is a baller’s wife you say? Well, I’m no Webster or anything, so don’t quote me on this, but my definition would be: an opportunist, a woman who latches on to a man at the height of his career with hopes of optimal gain.  This idea really bothered me, especially with the continual images on cable TV of seemingly wealthy women living a life of excessive glamour, fame, prestige and drama. I guess I can’t direct all my frustration on the Housewives of Atlanta (or the like), when Disney and other big name production companies have been pumping our heads with these images for decades. The Cinderella story, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… the idea that somehow a man is going to sweep an otherwise distressed damsel out of her misery. Save her. Take her on his white horse and whisk her off to a life of wealth, ease, and happiness.

Well, what’s so bad about this? I mean a man is supposed to be the provider, the protector. He is supposed to take care of his wife and children right? Of course he is, however the baller’s wife leaves women burdening the man with excessive provision. Burdening the man with rescuing her from all her problems. Burdening the man with relief from debt and other financial stressors. If we consider God’s plan for man and woman, it would change the entire trajectory of the mate selection process.

First of all, a man should have his stuff together. He should know his purpose in this life. After careful examination of his gifts and talents (over several years) and close relationship with God, he should know what he is called to do. Every step he makes after high school should line up with him getting closer to that calling. Unfortunately, men too, are inundated with the overwhelming requirements to gain status, wealth and a name. They settle for a goal with monetary reward vs the goal of fulfilling the call on their life. Ultimately this leaves him to a life of complacency, regret, envy and lack of true accomplishment.

God knew that men would struggle with accomplishing their true purpose alone, so he created a woman. A woman is called to be a help mate. One who will work hand in hand with her husband to help him achieve the call on his life. They then, would enjoy success, fulfillment, wealth, and wisdom from the journey together. There is grace on this plan. Though it is contrary to popular belief, it works. If a woman was working on herself spiritually, emotionally, educationally, financially, getting her stuff together, she would not need a man to rescue her. She would be willing, and able to provide her husband with the help that he needed. Unfortunately, if a husband is distracted from his calling to perform the tasks of paying off his wife’s debt, working around her insecurities and making sure she is whole, he can’t possibly be all he is called to be. He is forced to use his entire check/salary to feed her whims. Her desires for $400 purses and drawers of makeup and racks of shoes used to fulfill her deeply rooted insecurities that are camouflaged as desires/needs. Unfortunately, this never works so it is wasted effort.

After 17 years of marriage, I guess some could say I appear to a baller’s wife. My husband is a robotics engineer, and a minister of music. He works from home, earns a nice salary and has provided a comfortable life for my children and me.  The difference is… He didn’t wake up like this!!! Lol. I met him in college. We were married soon thereafter and all the while, I have been by his side, hand and hand, helping him to make decisions that help lead him to his goals. Helping him with the behind the scenes tasks that allow him to shine. As he pursues the Word, he has all the components that allow him to fulfill his dreams with ease, which ultimately benefits us all. They say behind every great man, is an amazing woman. I believe that to be true. And any married woman can attest to the idea that her husband probably couldn’t put a good looking outfit together without her help.

My main point is for women to understand that they are designed to help their mate. It is not the other way around. The provision that a man will provide is a benefit of him reaching his true potential. But he needs you to help him do it. Often times, we are so willing to put the attention, time, care, effort into the visions of our bosses at work, in order to help him/her fulfil their vision for the company, yet we are reluctant to help our own husbands. Help him. Your efforts are not in vain. They will not go unnoticed. Whether you are a stay at home mom holding down the fort, or you help pack your husband’s lunch each day, help fill out resumes, or make necessary sacrifices for him to go back to college, there is grace on your ability to help him become all he is called to be.

While the Cinderella story, the woman standing on the sidelines at the basketball game, or the ladies on the hot reality TV shows seem glamorous, if you study them carefully they are merely a facade. A complete counterfeit of God’s real plan. We should strive to become all God has called us to be, so we can help our mates become all they are called to be. Together, with God at the head, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. There is no enemy or weapon formed against us that can prosper. And THEN, the happily ever after can commence… 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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.”

MOMS… SLOW DOWN!!!! A Superwoman’s Surrender…

Moms: Are you slowly getting to that place where you:

  • Sleep less than 5 hours?
  • Eat fast/microwave meals more than you cook?
  • Spend more energy being AMAZING for your boss and his/her visions and dreams than you do your own husband’s?
  • Can’t seem to find the time to exercise, read a good book, take a peaceful walk, have an unrushed meal with an old friend, bake cookies from scratch, or have a day at home in your pajamas?
  • Stress through your child’s homework? Causing them additional stress because of the seemingly ludicrous requirements that don’t fit into your plan?
  • Sit through dance practices with half the attention?
  • Too tired to truly love on your husband?
  • Work tirelessly on your job each day only to enjoy those 2 free weeks of vacation out of the year?
  • Regularly drive past the speed limit in order to make all the items on your crowded agenda?
  • Are you perpetually late?
  • Skip breakfast; race, fuss and rush everyone to their destinations each stressful morning, finding yourself exhausted before you even get started?

 

WHY??????

SLOW DOWN!!!! SIMPLIFY!!!

Don’t allow the norms of our culture to force you to believe you have to wear alllllll these hats at the sacrifice/expense of the people/things in this life that truly matter. You are the keeper of your home. I know you have a TON on your shoulders, but often times, YOU/WE put it there. Often times, our lives don’t require the complexities we are investing. We set standards for our own selves that are completely unreasonable and we never stop to come up for air… which ultimately is a complete disservice to everyone involved. So let’s break this down.

First of all, you need to take care of YOU. We need to recognize that our spouses and our children need a peaceable woman in the home. We can’t be peaceful if we are not taking care of ourselves. I know, you’ve heard this all before. But I am reducing this down to the lowest common denominator. I am not talking about a spa day on your birthday, or a girl’s weekend twice a year. I am simply talking about a good night’s rest. A hot bath. A hot cup of coffee in the morning before everything gets started. A few minutes to read the bible and pray. A 30-minute walk in the evening. You owe yourself that. And before you take on all your responsibilities, you need to find time EACH DAY for YOU. THEEEENN, you can start working on EVERY THING ELSE.

Next, you must prioritize and or simplify. What has to be done? What can you live without? I remember when my kids were one/two years old, I ironed their clothes every day. Made sure their outfits matched their shoes, socks, bib and hair bows (for Kennedy). REALLLLLLLY????? WHO DOES THAT???? Or a better question…WHY?????? Unfortunately, often times, we are the complexity culprit. WE are the ones with ridiculous requirements that make EVERYTHING difficult. What can we eliminate from the schedule, the task list, the check off list? Perhaps dinners can be less complex. Perhaps you can cook wings in the crock pot with a simple salad for dinner. Tuna sandwiches and steamed broccoli etc. Perhaps the kids should only do one/two activities per year and become excellent at that one instead of running somewhere every night and weekend while burning out the entire family in the process.  Whatever the case, you can’t cram a size 10 foot in a size 8 shoe. Prioritize. Reduce your schedule down to what is necessary and beneficial and be careful not to complicate the family’s peace with many of your idiosyncratic methods.

The last step is to organize/structure your life. Your time needs a budget. Your day requires structure. I have my family on a regimented time schedule. The vision has been made plain, (you can even create it together) and everyone works together to execute the plan.

Mornings: Accurately evaluate how much time you need to COMFORTABLY get ready each morning? Comfortably means, everyone has breakfast, no one is racing, the expectations are reasonable, easy to follow and reduced down to what NEEDS to be done. There is a clear wake-up time. Enough time is allotted for a CALM breakfast. Everyone knows their specific responsibilities and there is an established leave time. Kids especially need a peaceful morning. They, like you, are preparing for a very rigorous and demanding agenda. They can’t successfully fulfil their day’s tasks starting their morning off with a deficit of balance.

Evenings: Once you and they finish school and work, evening time should be peaceful. Whatever you need to do to decompress…do it. After teaching each day, I would treat myself to a Starbucks coffee and Joel Osteen on the radio as a way to calm down and prepare for part 2 of my busy day. We have to be excited and even more attentive to our children and husband’s needs than anyone else in our day/life. We say our family is our number one priority. Be sure they FEEL that. Purposefully and intentionally greet each of them with peace and love. Share the evening experiences as a family if possible. At my house, we all help out with dinner. I often cook, my daughter helps get all the ingredients and my husband and son help with the cleanup. Everyone is involved and we are sharing time together. Make dinner a set and purposeful time. Sit down together and share your day’s highlights; no phones, no TV, no distractions.

Recreation time: There should be time slotted for homework, showers and chores, but there should also be time for recreation; to watch a movie/show together, take a walk, play Uno (our favorite J) etc… This time is SACRED. Everyone feels important. Loved. Relaxed and included.

Bed time: Finally, the kids need a set time for bed (ours’ is 9pm) EVERY NIGHT. After that,  it is a great time for you and your husband to spend time together; our time is 9-11.  We are intentional about this. We watch our favorite shows, talk, make homemade popcorn etc… It is the vacation for each day and it helps keep our marriage happy.

Finally after everyone is fulfilled and is fast asleep, you may need a few additional minutes to prepare for the next day, reflect, read, decompress or the like. However, you HAVE to put a cap on that time as well. YOU NEED REST. You HAVE to finally take the cape off and retire for the day. Your body and mind need to rejuvenate. You will find that you perform SO much better, you are less grouchy, you look and feel AMAZING with at least 7 hours of sleep. Though we think it is strong and noble to carry such heavy loads, meet our capacity, stay up to finish just ONE MORE THING, it is actually slightly selfish to complete our responsibilities on a half tank of gas… GO TO BED!!!!! 🙂

I pray you consider surrendering some of these undo pressures you carry and put the microscope on the beautiful elements in your life that matter most. At the end of the day, THEY are your greatest source of fulfilment and happiness and deserve your best YOU!!!!