Forgiving Mom…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time, Girl, For GIRL TIME!!!

Hey you… Super Girl! Yeah, YOU!!! I know you are busy out there getting er’ done, rockin’ out like the BOSS that you are. On top of ALL the things you do every day, you are also going to church, working out, reading and serving, and doing all the things to help keep your awesome self, awesome. However, I have yet ANOTHER way to help extend the life of your awesomeness…You already know what it is, GOOD OLD GIRL TIME!!!!! YEEEESSSSSSS MA’AM!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am fortunate enough to have been surrounded by amazing gals my entire life. Whether in high school, college, during my career, at church and even as a stay at home mom, I have been blessed with some GREAT girlfriends! Though life can get super busy and seasons change, friends move away, the benefit of time with friends never changes.

I’m not talking about any old gals. I’m not talking about getting together to gossip. To compare titles and status.  I’m talking about those equally-yoked friends. Those ones that challenge you to be great. Ones that celebrate with you. Ones that can pray for you in times of need and talk you off the cliff. Ones that will come to your baby shower and share their parenting experiences for extra support. And YES, ones you can, eat, shop and enjoy life with.

As we get older, our schedules and calendars are bombarded with so many tasks. We wear so many hats and are responsible for so much. Of course, the grace of God is sufficient to get it all done in excellence. But sometimes, we don’t allow time in our schedule to breathe. Our lives are out of balance. We don’t make time for ourselves and we don’t make time for our friends. Sometimes we even go into an isolation phase, where girlfriends or anything else becomes yet another item to check off. I GET IT!!!!! However, we were created for fellowship. Sometimes a couple hours with some amazing gals, is just what we need for some rejuvenation, redirection, recharging and some REAL laughs out loud!

For the last few months I have been intentional about making time for the beautiful women God has blessed me to know. I know they are not in my life by accident and we don’t even talk every day. But whether enjoying a girls’ night out, brunch, shopping, dinner and movie, massages, vision parties, morning walks, or even road trips, my life would not be as rich without them and our amazing time together. They inspire me. They push me past my comfort zones. They celebrate me and love me right where I am and I am better because of it.

I also realize my friends are not here to just benefit me. I am careful to bring my supply to my crew as well. Whether an encouraging text, a kind gift or gesture, a thoughtful act, a love exchange or time together, my girls know I got their back and am here for them too. Sometimes we can underestimate our role in a friend’s life. We think they seem to have it all together and don’t need us. Quite the contrary, there are gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, experience and other goodies we have that add so much value to the lives of people in our circle.

Anyone that knows me, knows I LOOOOVE my kids. I make time for my husband, take care of our home and maintain a busy schedule. However, over the years, I am FULLY aware of how rich my life is with the women God has strategically placed in my path. They add SO much color to my life. Our time together is so valuable to me. I look forward to it and am so replenished after each encounter. I pray that you cultivate relationships with gals that brighten your life. That you know how much your light brightens theirs and that you allow those relationships to add amazing experiences to your awesome journey.

I meet with these AWESOME gals every month (ish) 🙂 for dinner and great times. We all “Mom So Hard” yet make time to get together for some much needed girl time… I am so grateful they all live close by. They are SUCH a blessing to me!!!!

This awesome gal and I have been friends for 10+ years. We used to teach together, but since I have retired, we are sure to meet monthly for girl time, brunch, shopping, movies, family celebrations and even road trips. She makes EVERYTHING a BLAST!!!

I don’t get to see these awesome ladies often, so when we are all in town together, we are sure to connect for great fellowship. We love and laugh and share our dreams and hold each other accountable. They are such an inspiration to me…

I was recently able to enjoy another great day with this awesome gal!!! Though she is younger than me, we are able to share our experiences and celebrate the various milestones on our journey. She is a major talent on the rise. I love sharing adventures with her…

At the beginning of the year, I enjoyed a vision board slumber party with these amazing gals from my church. It was a great time of food, fellowship, shopping, movies, girl talk, and creating and sharing vision boards. Though we see each other in church, we also celebrate on holidays and other major dates. I love doing life with these gals…

An AMAZING friend, whom I’ve loved and admired for 20+ years came down for a weekend. We enjoyed great conversation, eating, shopping, massages and just unfiltered time together. We don’t get to see each other often, but when we do, it is so refreshing. We had a BLAST and I look forward to another getaway soon!!!!

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!!!

“I DON’T NEED TO BE FAMOUS…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:9

Christmas Family Road Trip : 1400 Miles to the Mile-High City… Experience is the Greatest Gift…

I just had another birthday a few weeks back. Traditionally, I use this time to capitalize on a super travel experience with my husband, at which he and I whisk away to a fun destination and enjoy a few kid-less days of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection in preparation for another awesome year. We set a budget and GO!!!! Though I generally enjoy this time IMMENSELY, this year, I kinda didn’t want to be away from the kids!!! WHAAAATTTTT????!!!! Turn down a once a year getaway??!!!!!… I KNOW… I KNOW!!! They are getting older so fast… and I kinda just wanted to be with them. SO, I forfeited my 2 person trip, and turned it into a 4 person trip. HOWEVER, I STILL had to stick with the same budget. YIKES!! This made things kind of tricky. I had to stretch this budget, yet still come up with an AWESOME vacation plan.

After careful consideration and research, I decided DENVER would be the PERFECT spot. Neither of us had ever been there, and we’ve seen and heard amazing things about it. The only problem was, the flight from Atlanta to Denver x 4 consumed 90% of the budget. So, I had to again get creative… And that’s when the family road trip idea was born.

The trip would be 1400 miles which would take about approximately 21 hours by car one way!!! WHAAATTT!!!???!! That’s a total of 40+ hours on the road (not even including the driving once we got there)!!!! YIKES!!! We’ve done a 4-6 hour trip before and even broken up a 10 hour trip over 2 days… but 21 HOURS!!! OMG!!! I talked it over with my husband and then carefully presented it to the kids. They were BEYOND thrilled to not only be considered for the trip, but SO up for the ride!!!!! YAAAY!!! It was settled.

Over the next several days, we calculated gas, time, places to stop (on the way there and on the way back), and of course our anchor spot in Denver. We decided to drive our own car vs. renting one, which created so much wiggle room in the budget and gave us tons of financial flexibility. We stayed in great hotels, ate super food, shopped at great malls and boutiques, explored new terrain and enjoyed awesome adventures. We bonded. Talked. Read. Thought. Slept. And sometimes just sat in silence. Overall, we had the time of our lives. Here are some pics and details of our 10-day cross country family road trip from Georgia to Denver and all the great stops in between.

Day 1: Friday December 22, 2017: Today was the kids’ last day of school and my daughter had a basketball game that evening, so we planned to leave at night and make the most of the trip while everyone was sleeping. After the game, we shut down and secured the house, loaded up the truck, said our family prayer, and FINALLY, at nearly 11:00pm, we took off for the first 12 hours of driving.

Day 2: Saturday December 23, 2017: After 10 hours of driving, we made it to our first stop: St. Louis, Missouri. The kids woke up, we all stretched our legs and ate a nice breakfast before our 4 hour drive to Kansas City, where we stayed for the night.

Day 3: Sunday December 24, 2017: We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel, and a quick family walk. We then picked up some snacks, filled up the tank, and grabbed a souvenir Starbucks mug to add to my collection before starting our next 9 hours on the road. The drive was beautiful. We talked, laughed, listened to music, and reflected on the birth of Christ on our Christmas Eve drive. The kids read their books and even watched a couple Redbox movies to help the time fly by. We stopped at a Chinese Buffet to stretch our legs and fill our bellies before all the restaurants shut down for the holiday. We FINALLY made it to Denver that evening. WE WERE THRILLED the room and the area was as beautiful as it was online when we booked it. ANOTHER SCORE!!!

Day 4: Monday December 25, 2017… CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!! What a great day it was. Of course we began the day with reflection on the birth of Christ. We then enjoyed another great free breakfast and relaxing time around the hotel.

Day 5: Tuesday December 26, 2017: Today was our first real day out in Colorado. After recommendations from some of the locals, we decided to make the 30 minute trip to Boulder. We had an AWESOME time.

Day 6: Wednesday December 27, 2017… MY 41st BIRTHDAY!!!! Today, we decided to paint the town RED!!! We didn’t have a set agenda (which sometimes is the best) but we knew we were going to take the 1 1/2 ride to Breckenridge. What a super day!

Day 7: Thursday December 28, 2017: This was our last full day in Colorado and probably my FAVORITE day of the entire trip. We ventured back to Boulder to hike the Flatirons, which is are huge rock formations just east of the Rocky Mountains. The trails have the most BEAUTIFUL views of the city and are surrounded by mountains.

Day 8: Friday December 29, 2017: We packed up the truck and began the 12 hour drive to Branson, Missouri. Though it may have been a little tough to leave this awesome place, I was full from the rich experiences we had while here and happy that though we were departing, we still had a few goodies left on our journey.

Day 9: Saturday December 30, 2017: Today is officially our last day of fun off the road. We ate a super breakfast, let the kids swim a bit, and even went on a small hike while checking out the sites in Branson. It was a lite day, in preparation for an amazing night…

Day 10: Sunday December 31, 2017: It was the last day of the year and the last day on the road. We woke up early the next morning and headed back for Atlanta. I know this was a super long post, but I can’t reflect enough on the amazing time we had together. Over the years we have done the theme parks, visited beaches, lakes and mountains, voyaged on cruises, and other super destinations, however, I have to say this may just be my absolute favorite trip of them all. We bonded. We loved. We adventured. Many people that knew of our trip asked if we had family in Denver? Was there a reason for such extensive travel? The answer is no. We had a desire to see new terrain, a plan and a budget. We were fueled by the excitement of the unknown and we have memories to last a lifetime. My kids are getting older. I want to take every opportunity possible to make these moments count. While I love the idea of giving gifts and buying presents, I will cherish this amazing experience, it was my greatest gift of all…

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…)

 

 

 

WordPress is SO Much Better Than Facebook Right Now…

Ok. Many of you can agree that social media has gotten RIDICULOUS with all the political rants, conspiracy theories, social injustices and just divisive, opinionated vent sessions that actually resemble elements of virtual bullying. It is sad to see some of your “friends” (who are understandably frustrated) behave in ways that are foreign to their regular demeanor.  While I wait for the temporary adult temper tantrums to settle, I have recently taken a bit of a break from what was otherwise a great spot to reflect and share experiences, celebrations, pictures and great ideas. In the meantime, I have greatly enjoyed scrolling through my WordPress feed to read various blog posts. I have to admit, I find myself enthralled with the thoughtful, insight I am finding through various blogs. There are beautiful reflections of life experiences, helpful tips, recipes, DIY’s, poems, short stories and points of wisdom and motivation; actual depth. As a former English teacher, I am already accustomed to reading various forms of literature, so I feel right at home. If you find yourself needing a bit of a breather from your typical scroll through FB, Instagram or the like, scroll through your WordPress feed and check out all the goodies that lie in wait of great reflection. Don’t just “like” it. Give some feedback. Just as you love for others to stop by your page and reflect, they love for you to do the same. In the meantime, if you are looking for someone to read your awesome post, attach a link in the comment section. I will be sure to take some time to read and reflect!!! Blessings to you! #sharingthelove

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: #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) ☺☺☺

My AWESOME Visit to the Magnolia Market!!!

Like most of the planet, I have completely fallen in love with Joanna and Chip Gaines and their awesome show Fixer Upper on HGTV. It’s not just the fact that they build and design amazing homes, but their downhome spirit, charisma and faith seem to exude in everything they do. For my birthday a few months back, my amazing husband planned a surprise trip to take me to the Magnolia Market in Waco. As a person who LOVES interior design, decorating, restoring and the like, it was the PERFECT trip for me. Of course, we took a million pictures, so I decided to share the experience with you!

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First, Waco itself, comes off as a basic city. It is small, has basic homes and basic business. The difference is, you can sense the spirit of the people and believe it or not, the spirit of Magnolia, in every facet of the town. Waco is a short and beautiful 1 ½ hour drive from Dallas. We stayed at a nearby hotel, SpringHill Suites  (Which by the way, I highly recommend!!! Free breakfast, new facility, hot tub in the room, super staff, affordable, and close to everything.)

The first day, we went right over to Magnolia. I must say, you are immediately greeted by the idea that you are not alone in your love for the Gaines!!! WOW. This place was PACKED!!! There was a line outside the door to get in!!! And we were EARLY!!!  Thankfully, there were friendly staff members at the door welcoming visitors, even passing out snacks while we waited.

Once we entered the building, we were surrounded by beautiful flowers, dishes, wall hangings, apparel, soaps, containers… DÉCOR GALORE!!!! Everything was better than I could imagine. As a home goods shopper and design enthusiast, I admit that if you shop at other interior, vintage, antique or restoration shops in your area, you will find similar products, however the collection that Magnolia offers, the ambiance of the building, the staff and the overall experience is one of a kind. Though the odds of you running into Joanna herself are ZERO, you can easily see why people come from all over the world to experience Magnolia. As a matter of fact, there is a guest book where you can sign and put from whence you came. While I signed it, I did a quick browse to see the various destinations from where people traveled. It was amazing.

We visited the garden area outside and sat in the antique truck that sits on the property. There are food trucks and an open area for kids to run and let loose. Upon looking, I actually saw many husbands sitting out there waiting on their wives to come out of the shop! Lol! The bakery and furniture store were in the making, which by now I believe are up and running.

I did make a couple purchases, but because we traveled by plane, I was limited in what I could buy. I was hopeful that I could just purchase some of the items from my wish list online once I got home. However, I was saddened to find that some of the really nice items, you can only purchase at the store.

Though the shop was pretty large and was packed with people, there seemed to be enough room to make the experience enjoyable and staff members were constantly replenishing items to the shelves. I can imagine the following will only grow over time. Thankfully they have added on other shops now which may help with overcrowding.

It was pretty neat to see the impact Magnolia has made on Waco, and how much Magnolia reflects the spirit of Waco. I think the residents are just blown away with the tourism it has drawn to their small town. After spending a couple hours at the Silos we ventured out into the city. We enjoyed an awesome lunch right around the corner at The Backyard. We had a great cup of coffee at Common Grounds (owners were filmed during Season 2 of Fixer Upper). There, we met the owners as well as several students from Baylor University (which was right across the street)… BEAUTIFUL by the way. We even caught a movie at an awesome theater near our hotel and enjoyed date night Tuesday (1/2 off) frozen yogurt shop, U-Swirl.

Overall, I had a BLAST!!! Visiting Waco was the perfect gift for me. I was inspired on so many levels and will continue with my own design adventures. Every place we visited was first class. We enjoyed sharing conversation with both the tourists and the locals. As God continues to elevate the Gaines Family in their endeavors, I can only imagine how it will bring attention to this awesome hidden gem. If you are looking for a super charming trip, visit Magnolia Market and Waco, Texas. You will NOT be disappointed!!!

 

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

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

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“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… 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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!!!!