The Power of a Village… THANK YOU!!!

Let me start this blog off by saying this: by no means is my son an Olympic athlete. He started running cross-country a couple years ago as a means to stay active and be a part of a team. Last week he had his first meet of the season. Up until then, he had regular practice each day and even ran some in the summer. He also grew quite a bit over the last few months and was excited about his new “man” strength! 😊 But somehow for the first time, before the race, I saw fear in his eyes. He was so nervous and spoke of pain in his ankle and shin, and just lacked confidence. Nonetheless, as always, we were on the sidelines cheering him on expecting a successful run.

After his race, he was near tears. He was so disappointed in his performance. He was passed by some of his underclassman teammates, finished with a lower time than his previous year and placed 56th overall. He was devastated. We of course, cheered him up, encouraged him and helped him refocus his attention toward the upcoming races as best as we could.

That next week went on like a typical week. The kids went to school, practice, church, and we had our normal family time each day. Oh yeah, we also had a little Labor Day get-together at our house, but other than that, the week was normal. Hindsight, I’ve come to reflect, that our week was anything but normal.

That Sunday, our pastor preached a message about the power of the Spirit. He talked about telling your body and your mind to line up with what God says about you. That Monday during our get-together, one of his great mentors went on a run with him, while some of the other fellas sat on the porch with him and watched a couple of his favorite shows. They spoke life to him and just treated him like the awesome young man he is. On Wednesday, he went to youth Bible study, where the pastor talked about “believing”/ having faith over fear and doubt.

By Thursday of this week, it was time for another race. On the way to school we gave him the typical pep talk, prayed and encouraged him to do his best. Later that day, as he stood at the starting line with 100+ young men, we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were hoping for the best. As always, I made the 1-hour drive to be on the sidelines, while his dad got permission to leave an hour early from work to be there as well. When the gun went off to start the race, I saw a difference in him. I saw a confidence. A determination. As he fought his way to get toward the front of the pack, I was excited about how this race could go.

For the next several minutes, I watched him run through the woods, up and down the hills, and on the track with boldness. It was nearly 90 degrees outside, the terrain was steep, rugged and rough. He reflected later that on his toughest hill, we wanted to take a break and just speed walk a bit. But he remembered what he learned that week. He simply “believed.” He commanded his body and mind to line up. He listened to the cheers of his teammates and his parents. He realized that for the first time in his cross-country career, he was the lead runner of his team. It propelled him further. He gained momentum. At the last few meters of his race, I saw the fierceness in his eyes. He flew across that finish line with the fastest time he’d ever run, the highest ranking he’d ever had and the proudest he’d ever been.

He later recounted all the small things that pushed him to be great. And though I’d like to think he has an awesome team at home, I fully understand that, as parents we couldn’t possibly do this journey alone. That it is not just the training, love, wisdom, discipline he gets inside the four walls of our house, but it is the weekly Word he gets on a continual basis from our awesome pastor. It is the pep talk he gets from his loving Aunt when he sees her in the summertime, or the love he gets from his Grandmother that cares for him in our absence, or the visit from his Grandfather and Uncle, the beautiful people he sees at church that impart love and affirmation, the teammates that cheer him on from the sidelines, the ladies that served in the nursery and youth department, the teachers that encouraged him to be great, my colleague who drives 3 hours to cheer from the stands, the babysitters that cared for him with love, the positive TV shows that line up with the things we teach him at home… are all forces working hand and hand toward his success.

As parents, we are called to the beautiful yet sometimes challenging task of loving and training our children to become all God has called them to be. It is indeed a journey that lasts a lifetime, however, we also need to remember that it is a collection of the amazing people who surround them, who impart knowledge, wisdom and love that will aide in that journey as well. As graduation draws near, I am beyond grateful for the AMAZING people who have loved on our children past, present and future. I see the fruit of their seed come to life daily. I am also intentional about putting these type of people in their path from birth throughout.

If you are privileged enough to be a teacher, coach, aunt, uncle, mentor, pastor, or any position of influence over children, never doubt the power of your influence. My son still has the trophy given to him by his 2nd grade teacher. He remembers the $100 his uncle sent for his fundraiser, or the encouraging card his Godmother sends each birthday. He remembers when his mentor came to his chess meets, or when his Uncle took the time to read his comic book. You have more power than you know. Your words and acts of love STICK.

Parents, I pray you SUMERGE your children with love and encouragement inside and outside the home. Recognize that this is not a task you can do alone. That every single fabric of their life will leave some sort of imprint. May their journey be filled with people, places and things that bring hope, inspiration and love. In the meantime, thank you so much to all the amazing people all over the country, past and present who have left a beautiful imprint on my son and daughter’s life. You mean more to us than you know. You truly have made a difference in their life and ultimately are the hands and feet of God.

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Cover photo: Quotesnew.com
Text photo: Jenni Dixon

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!!!

HOW TO TEMPER YOUR TURKEY TIME… Tips to Reduce Holiday Indulgence :-)

Ok. We are just a couple days away from the incredible holiday season!!!!! Awesome days filled with joy, peace, laughter, rest, and fun. Great memories are made with all our FAVORITE things to enjoy; football, family, friends; time off work, and the best of all… SHOPPING AND EATING of course!!!! I tell you, I am an AVID Black Friday shopper!!! I will be out there with the BEST of them searching for a super steal (yeah right… do they really exist???? But I WILL be out there nonetheless!!!) and of course will enjoy a wonderful FEAST on Thanksgiving and Christmas day!!! However, I have learned over the years the good old adage “a moment on the lips, equals a lifetime on the hips” to be SOOOO appropriate during this season. We can actually apply it to not only food, but spending as well. Here are a couple ideas to consider when making choices about eating and shopping during the holidays.

For the sake of establishing my point, let’s look up the definition of 2 words. 1st indulge. Indulge simply means “to take unrestrained pleasure in.” 2nd temper. Temper means to “restrain. To serve as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force to something.” Ok. So, the teacher in me is coming out. Lol.

Here’s the deal. Holidays are a time for great indulgence. We will all be tempted and most likely give in to eating without restraint and sometimes spending without restraint. We will be welcomed REGULARLY with treats, candy, cupcakes, muffins, lattes and other goodies each day. I mean, sugar is lurking on EVERY corner! At work, church, friends’ houses, school celebrations, holiday parties, etc… The Thanksgiving Day dinner alone will be loaded with DELICIOUS appetizers, meats, sides, desserts and drinks!!! HALLELUJAH!!! And we will commence to filling our bellies until we look like the stuffed turkey lying on the platter!!! We are quick to tell ourselves… “Oh, it’s the holidays… go ahead and indulge!!” FOR SURE!!! I get it!!! IT IS THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!

We do the same thing with spending. We have Secret Santa gifts to buy, Amazon is having super sales, phones have no more memory, everyone in the family needs a SUPER-DUPER gift, and shoot, while you were out looking for your mom’s present, they had a buy one get one 20% off sale, so you had to get one for yourself as well!!!! I KNOOOOWWWWW!!!! AND… It’s the break and the kids need something to do, so why not Disney, or at least the movies, dinner, a theatre production, and ALLLLLLLLL those great goodies. Everyone is coming over to your house, so you must UPGRADE your otherwise ANCIENT Christmas décor… I KNOOOOOOOWWW!!!

This has all become the beauty of the celebration. At this point, it wouldn’t be the same without it. However, we have to get real with ourselves. We run wild during this time only to spend the next few months cleaning up the mess we made, or even worse, ignoring it. Our credit cards are smashed full and our waist takes an unrepairable hit! I can admit, I have come back from many a holiday break weighing more than 5-8lbs more than when I started!!! We drudge through to New Year’s with yet another promise to get it all back in order… uuuggghhh.

Perhaps there is a better way. Simple temperance during this time can save us a ton of headache in the months to come. How can we do this? Here are some simple ideas to help temper your spending and eating during the holidays.

Temper your eating:

  1. Treat yourself, but limit yourself to one plate only. (No 2nd’s/No doggy bags!!!)
  2. Load your plate with double the amount of veggies, salad, soups over everything else.
  3. Commit to an extra workout regime during the month of December.
  4. Don’t arrive starved. Have a healthy snack or drink 2 big glasses of water before going to any holiday party (it’s tough to overeat when you are already full!!!)
  5. Bring your own favorite healthy option to the party… EAT THAT!!! 😊

Temper your spending:

  1. Make a holiday budget based on cash vs. credit.
  2. Get creative with your gifts, décor, and recreation (cook/bake/DIY-type gifts/board games/light viewing etc.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to commitments beyond your budget.
  4. Condense gift buying (Everyone pull a name. This is the person you will buy for this year.)
  5. BUY USED (You can always give gently used video games, books, toys etc. instead of the brand-new version)

I KNOW. I KNOW. This all seems to take the fun out of the experience, BUT ultimately, you have to get your mind, will and emotions in check. Let them know who’s in charge!!! If you make it a practice to operate in discipline during the most DIFFICULT of situations, there is no temptation you can’t completely obliterate!!! You can DO THIS!!! Trust me, your waistline and bank account will be much better off because you used wisdom and restraint. In the meantime, remember what this season is all about. Though you have a heart to give the most and best, though you want to enjoy great memories and times with loved ones, it will be much more enjoyable today and tomorrow when it is done with love and self-control.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOUR CREW!!! 🙂

 

Photo cred: Pinterest

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!!!!

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.

CONFIDENCE LIKE A BEAUTY QUEEN

I remember watching the Miss USA, Miss America and even Miss Universe pageants as a young girl. It was one of my fondest childhood memories. I have even incorporated watching the various pageants as a staple event for my own daughter and I to enjoy together each year.  Similarly to the way most men enjoy the Super Bowl, NBA Finals etc. the game itself is nothing new. One great player replaces another, the underdog makes a winning comeback, the game never gets old. With the pageants, obviously, there is a new lineup of beautiful faces, wearing beautiful gowns and performing or answering a challenging question, but for me, what I enjoy most is watching these ladies exude the highest form of confidence. I mean, think about what it must take to walk in a swimsuit, perform a talent, and answer an impromptu question in front of an audience of thousands of live fans, and millions of TV viewers, all while maintaining the highest level of elegance, grace and poise. WOW!!!

Last week, my dear friend and former Miss USA (1990), Carole Gist, invited me to to attend the live taping of the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas. It was an experience I will never forget. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, wearing the most elegant attire, with the most stunning hair, makeup, and accessories. But once again, I couldn’t help but notice the confidence required to be successful at this level of competition. Where does this confidence come from? How can you possibly answer on the spot, “What is your idea of feminism and what does it mean to you?” with 6 inch heels, a gown worth thousands of dollars, a face full of makeup, 10 cameras in your face all in 30 seconds????? I mean, their voice didn’t crack, their knees didn’t buckle, they didn’t stumble, fumble, or waver.

It made me consider the idea that though most of us will never be competitors in the next Miss Universe Pageant, we can, and should still operate in the highest level of confidence and excellence every single day of our lives. But how? Many people today are plagued by the tragedies of their past, by deep feelings of inferiority, by the comparison game and by thoughts of not being good enough. They wear these feelings like badges on their sleeve or camouflage them with high price items, makeup, degrees, name brand clothes, cars, or other things to fill the void of their deep insecurities.  The insanity of that venture is that it never seems to pan out. “I will feel pretty enough if I could just get down to a size 4… If I could just have bigger breast…If I could sing as good as her… The endless plight of getting to a size 4 is only met with yet another point of displeasure and the target is shifted elsewhere.

We all have our points of improvement, parts of our past we wish we could reverse, elements of our appearance we would like to re-sculpt, but this cannot be the measurement that determines our self-worth. Our value is not defined by images on TV, a number on a scale, the tempo at which others are moving, the number of months we breast fed our kids, the length of our hair, or the income we earn.

I’m here to tell you: YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!!!! No matter what your Mama told you, how your last husband treated you, how many “wrong things” you think you did, how heavy you are, how many scars you have, how many times you failed… YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. God loves you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. RIGHT NOW. And His love covers your past, covers the molestation, the bad break-ups, the abuse, the lies, the negative comments, the thoughts of inferiority. His love is BIGGER.

When you walk into a room, better than a super hero, you are backed by the acceptance of a God who thought you were important enough to die for. Knowing this should make you hold your head up. Should make you wear a perpetual smile, radiate the beauty of acceptance. Should make you stand tall. Should make you look each obstacle in the eye and tackle it with ease.

Sure, we can all stand to grow. It is imperative that we spend time in the Word daily to constantly improve and become more and more like Christ, but know, that right now, you are already good enough. You are worthy.

I pray that today and every day, you understand your value and how much you are SO loved. I pray that you wear your crown of royalty, that you glide down your runways with grace and poise, that you EXUDE the confidence of a beauty queen and radiate like the royalty you are!!! If the maker of the universe accepts and loves you… who cares what ANY one else has to say about it…

photo: Washington Examiner

DIY: #4 Custom Wall Hanging Made by the Whole Family (DIWF) :-)

So, EVERY Friday is family night in our house. We go to basketball games, movies, dinner, bowling, skating etc… No matter what, whatever we do, we do it TOGETHER and we have done this since the kids were babies. However, THIS Friday was special because my daughter just found out she made the basketball team, she was named student of the month AND she got a 96% on the honors science test she had been studying for all week. PLUS, my son did very well on his test and some other goals he set for the week. So needless to say, I had to really BRING MY A GAME for the Friday night agenda!!!

Well, it just so happens that around the same time the kids had been experiencing alllll their success, I had my eye on this beautiful wall hanging I saw at one of the premier home furnishing stores. I had been eyeballing it for weeks and was all set to spend the $499 PLUS $50 shipping and taxes I had attempted to save for a while now. However, the amount was just not practical. While it would certainly be an easy swipe with a credit card, my husband and I committed to never using debt or credit for anything, so I had to consider another way to get this piece of beauty on my wall. A-HA!!! THAT’S WHEN IT HIT ME!!!!! THIS FRIDAY, MY FAMILY AND I COULD MAKE THE WALL HANGING!!!!  I could employ all our skills and talents and ATTEMPT to create this masterpiece right in our home for a FRACTION of the cost. And by golly, that is just what we did! :):):)

This is a picture of the piece I wanted for the wall.

 

I knew that somehow, together, we could work this out. So, after discussing the measurements and materials needed, we went to Home Depot to get 14 8’ 1”x 3” of untreated wood. We had them (unevenly) cut and looked for brackets to attach in the back. We finally got the stain needed to make our masterpiece complete. We cashed out at a total of $21!!! AWESOME!!! I was SO excited; I could hardly wait to get started!

We first laid the wood pieces down to create our perfect variant arrangement of the wood planks. Once assorted, my husband screwed the wood together with metal brackets.

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Later that evening, I glued and stained the pallets and left them out to dry.

The next morning, my son and daughter drew the map onto the stained wood with chalk. This way they were able to erase and correct any errors. They actually did it freehand, which was so impressive to me!

Once the kids were finished with their part, I added water to some chalk paint and carefully painted inside the lines.

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After the paint was dry, my husband added brackets to the back of all 4 pieces in preparation for hanging. He measured our space and carefully hung all four sections of our map…and VOILA!!!!!

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For a FRACTION of the cost and some great time together, we have made not only a super piece for our wall, but fond memories along the way. Surely there are imperfections, but we had a BLAST working as a team!  In the meantime, I’m still trying to get a portion of the savings from my husband!!!!! Lolol!!!! ☺☺☺ CHA-CHING!!!!! $$$$$ Next time you are looking for a great way to spend time, save money and let your creative juices soar…DIWF (DO IT WITH FAMILY) ☺☺☺

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!!!!! 🙂

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

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!!!!