Welcome from the Straightforward Mom.....

Are you looking for encouragement? Are you looking for answers? Are you looking for hilarious stories? Are you just trying to make sure you haven't gone crazy? This is the blog to read! There's a little bit of everything for everyone!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's the little things that make life big

This July will mark 15 years since the day that changed my life forever. I had no idea at the time it was happening, but it was one of those moments where I look back and realize it was another time where God was moving and I was just not paying attention. 

You see, I have been experiencing little mile markers from God that include little directions signs that I often miss at the time or completely ignored--on purpose. I often tell people it all started at a wedding, when in reality, it started way before that. Looking back now, it's easy to see it started the moment I chose to play basketball in third grade. Had I chose to play another sport or the school offered another option, I wouldn't be where I am today (just another reason to be thankful for a small Christian school education...I didn't have an option).  Well, maybe it's not that easy.  I can even back up far enough and say it all started when my parents decided to move to Georgia. While living in Florida, I liked sports, but played more kicking a soccer ball around than basketball. This story begins even earlier than I originally thought! So I guess you can say it all started with my parents' decision to make this huge move. 

Skipping ahead, a lot of things could have kicked me off that basketball path. I didn't really get into basketball for myself until about 5th grade. I enjoyed other activities but nothing made me happier than spending hours in a gym that had a really crappy concrete floor, no air in the summer, and little heat in the winter.  I remember my 6th grade year just diving in and playing on as many teams as I could. I was addicted. 

This addiction led me to drop a lot of the other activities I thought I enjoyed--music being the one I loved the most and stuck with most of my elementary years. It was ok because hitting a shot in a game got my blood flowing more than hitting a high note anywhere else. The addiction grew into a fiery passion that caused me to do other things just to keep playing or to make me better.  I picked up volleyball in the fall to get in shape for it. I worked hard in school to stay eligible. I went to summer camps for exposure and teaching. I wanted to play for as long as I could. 

In 11th grade, I was at our school's basketball summer camp joking around with my BFF at the time (you know who you are and you still tootie my whistle), when a strange girl walked in. I have to admit, at first I was pumped to have a new girl on the team. We were going to be pretty good this year and I was thrilled to add more! She pretty much ignored all of us and went straight to the coach. In my head I thought, "Great! She's as cocky as I am. We are going to hate playing on the same team." I probably said that to my old BFF out loud too as my filter in those days was not as good as it has become now (that was a sarcastic point for those of you who know me well).  Little did we know she was the new assistant coach and I had no idea how much I would grow to respect and love her.  

She ended up mentoring me at time when I needed it most. I had come off a very hard sophomore year where I had been put through the ringer in so many ways. I had even lost someone as a mentor that I felt would be there till
I graduated. I had no idea that was God working. I felt more like I was being punished, but it was another of those signs that I chose to ignore. This new assistant coach pushed me hard. She also became someone I could confide in and who helped me focus on basketball beyond where I was.  

The summer before my senior year she was poached. This jerk (and I can lovingly say this now since he is my brother-in-law) convinced her that life in Florida was awesome and that she had this opportunity to do something else. I was pretty devastated. But she promised to keep tabs on me and thankfully she kept her word. She could have easily forgotten about some random student whom she had only known for a year. I mean, in all honesty, she had a new life ahead of her!!  She kept her word. It was during one of these times that she caught up with me that she mentioned him for the first time. I now distinctly remember her telling me, "I have the perfect guy for you to date, but he's too far away. You would really like him though."  At the time, I didn't care. I was busy focusing on college and getting prepared to continue my dream. I didn't even remember this conversation until she and I discussed it years later. 

I chose to go to PC, turning down one of my favorite colleges because It was going to be absolutely free. Money spoke to me I guess (or at least God knew it would). Today I think, what if I had made a different decision? What if I had gone to this other school instead? I didn't think twice about my decision at that time and forged through my freshman year of college.  I experienced a few set backs--getting mono from drinking after a cheerleader near the end of the season being one (and yes I still love you Area despite that). I was super disappointed with a lot that had gone on and realized that in order to really focus on basketball again, I needed to refocus. In May of 1999, I told God I was done with distractions--especially of the male variety--and I was ready to give my focus to basketball. 

This was after I had already agreed to be in my old assistant coach's wedding in Florida. I wasn't thrilled to be getting a dress, but the promise of the beach while I was there helped motivate me. Looking back, so many things could have kept me from going. Why did she even choose me to participate? We had known each other just a few years and I was younger! I had no obligations to fulfill that summer. It was probably one of the slowest summers I have ever had, so I was free. My job was pretty flexible. They were willing to let me go a whole week even though I was only working a few months. So I said yes to the bridesmaid dress. 

I was told before I arrived that there was a guy there that would be attending PC in the fall and that his mom would really like me to talk to him about what it was like, how I liked it, etc. I think I even talked to her on the phone before we arrived to confirm all this. She was nice but still nothing out of the ordinary stuck out. 

I remember looking through the crowd when we arrived to figure out who this guy was and what I would be faced with when I finally had to have this conversation.  I have to admit, there were several great looking young men at this wedding and my decision from two months before started to waiver just a bit. Miss Assistant Coach would not give me a hint and the wedding went off as planned. At the reception, I was finally introduced to the new guy and we stood against a wall and talked for awhile....ok I talked for awhile and he mainly just stood there. 

Of all the guys at this reception, I got to have a conversation with the mute one-yay. Needless to say, I was ready for the beach and my resolve from May (I thought) was still in tact. Looking back, I see how kind he was to let me blabber on and just listen to me instead of dominating the conversation like most guys would do.  But of course, at the time, I didn't see it that way. Just another little road sign I ignored. 

It wasn't love at first site. I didn't feel chills or tingles or hear angels singing above. I didn't see a bright light and hear God say "This is it Jennifer....this is the one."  I never realized (nor did I slow down to consider) that all the signs were pointing right at him. So many things could have changed the outcome of our situation--me choosing another school, my assistant coach choosing to stay, choosing music over sports.  His choices could have done the same. Through all this chaos, God created paths to that moment. Just a loud girl talking to a quiet guy in a corner of a church fellowship hall.  

That moment now means more to me than anything because it was the springboard for me to be friendly to him later on when he arrived at PC. It prompted me to be his friend and introduce him to my friends so that he didn't feel so alone while he was so far from home. 

Here on our 11th wedding anniversary, I look back and am thankful for those small road signs. I see how God moved in my life to bring me to this day where I am married to a wonderful (not as quiet), handsome, hard working man, who has given me two beautiful, amazing sons. And now, he is sleeping peacefully beside me as I am completely overdue with our third wonderful, stubborn little boy. It makes me thankful for the hard times, those times of pruning and growth that I felt were so hard and unbearable. I am utterly in awe that God kept directing my path even when I was so focused on other things and not asking for His guidance.   

This road has not been easy. We have had a lot of ups and downs. Yet every moment has been created by God. I still have moments where I feel pruning or when hard times hit, but I know I am being directed--that there is a plan. 

Thank you Anthony for being open to His paths and plans. Thank you for putting up with that boring conversation. Thank you for taking me back to that exact spot last year to remind me how powerful the God we serve is. Seeing that place after so many years filled me with a sense of wonder, peace and joy that you could never imagine. 

Thank you for helping me raise these fantastic boys who make us laugh and are exactly like us. Thank you for telling me I am pretty when I feel nothing but pretty huge and tired. Thank you for not giving in to all this world has to offer and being the man our children can look up to and emulate. Thank you for simply loving me for the loud, obnoxious, moody woman that I am.  I know thank you can't cover how grateful I am but I hope that this short blog to the world makes you feel appreciated, loved, and respected. I love you! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fear and Making Mistakes--A Look Back

The passing of another year and the coming of a new one.  I always seem eager to blog again when I get to December and realize I haven't written anything in months.  It's probably typical of most and even more so of mothers, now that I sit down and really think about my response. 

It's so easy to sit down at the end of anything and weigh your positives and negatives.  I don't know about you, but I often find myself focused on the negatives--even if there are more positives represented.  I see all my screw-ups, faults, failures and sin.  Hidden in the background are all the triumphs, joy, excitement, and moments of pure grace.  Today it hit my while ready a blog of dear friend Nancy, that there is one thing that causes the negatives to rise to the top--FEAR.  It is a tool that is so often used against us in many situations, but why would it show up when we are trying to see both sides? It's the perfect time for fear to step in.  I can just see it saying, "Look at what you screwed up last year! You are going to make the same mistakes and you will never learn.  You are just not good enough.  You never will be good enough."  In my mind I see my husband, my kids, my parents, my pastor, my friends, my customers, my past students looking at me with sad eyes and shaking their heads.  Thank you fear, but I have had enough of being afraid of seeing the good.  And guess what, you are right!  I'll never be good enough--I don't have to be.  I have someone who is good enough for me.  I want to be able to overlook all the bad and see beyond it to all the good the year held.  We had some pretty big moments and victories including the salvation and baptism of TJ, Reilly starting school and loving it, the announcement of the birth of our baby, and so much more. 

Every day we have choices.  We can allow fear to continue to blind us from what really matters or we can allow God to squash it before it starts.  We can keep striving to be "good enough" or we can opt for allowing Jesus to be "good enough."  We can see the joy, love, and truth of every day or we can focus on the fear, pain, and trials. 

This year, I am focusing on a quote I found recently.  It states,
          "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.  Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

           So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

           Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

           Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

This reminds me that it is okay to make mistakes.  It means that I am going out, pushing the envelope, learning. It reminds me not to be afraid--of mistakes, of trying, of change, etc.  I hope you will hold onto this quote and post it somewhere.  Don't let fear rule 2014 or any year for you.  Each day wake up and let God squash it and go to sleep thinking about all the wonderful things the day held (even on a bad day there are good things to take away). I want to leave you with a song to go with it!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time Flies When You are Having Fun!

Oh my goodness!  I looked back to see what I had written over the past year...it was a big fat nothing.  Seriously, the year started off with dreams and goals, I know it did.  I then grabbed the year by the horns and apparently I just let go...on December 31st.  I haven't blogged about anything--not even the fact that TJ lost his first tooth or our trip to Disney World. 

Well, I have genuinely missed writing down all my random thoughts.  I missed making people angry with my opinions and causing people to stop and think.  So, on that note, I am officially back.  I think it's good for the soul to sit and blog.

And to kick it all off, I wanted you to know--I made NO resolutions this year.  Not a one.  I have done that the last few years and I just find that I get frustrated, overwhelmed, and went on without them any how.  Now I am just trying to be better than I was yesterday.  It's definitely more of a challenge to me.  I have good days and bad days. 

So please, take this as my welcome back into my world.  I won't  be blogging every day...but I hope to be doing it at least once a week.  Maybe I can make you laugh again....or at least make you feel normal! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wanted: Mission Field Near Me

I get so frustrated sometimes. I'll be listening to some great, "Go out and tell others" message or watch a story about some amazing missionaries and I will just get completely down and out. My mind goes to the thought--"Lord, I don't have a mission field! I spend the majority of time in my home raising children and working. When I do get out, it is for church events or with friends and family. Where's my mission field?"

Recently, I was feeling very sorry for myself. I kept thinking it wasn't fair. In my mind there was no way for me to fulfill the "go" commission of the Bible. It took a minute and I finally just gave it up to God. Without thinking, in my mind, I gave over this desire to the Lord and just moved on with my day.

The following day, I checked my Instagram (For those of you who don't know, this is my newest obsession. It's a photography app for the iPhone that allows you to create a social profile and share your photos with people from all over the world. It's one of the most popular apps today and people share all kinds of things--good and bad. However, it has given me an outlet to share my everyday life, have adult interactions, and look at beautiful photographs from all over the world. If you have the app, please come find me--jt1114_ih.) as I do every day. I was checking through my notifications and came across something very interesting. I had posted a picture with a comment that questioned what were we reflecting? As Christians, we should reflect our Creator. Often times though, the best we are is a muddy reflection. The picture was of a red Georgia clay puddle that was reflecting two beautiful bare winter trees. As I read lower, I noticed that an individual had posted something to me and had gone into a personal story and had mentioned that she was an unbeliever. I responded and offered some words of encouragement and a hope that one day she would find the peace and joy that I had found. She responded in a positive way and I feel like I was able to help in some small way. Even more, I feel like I might have been able to plant a seed.

At that moment, I felt like Sarah. Remember when Sarah laughed at God when He told her she would have a baby at an old age? She didn't believe that it was possible for her to be used. She even scoffed at the idea of it ever happening. In some small way, I know some of what she was feeling holding her newborn son and being awfully ashamed for not trusting. I didn't laugh at God, but I was pretty skeptical that I would ever have the opportunity to talk to someone like I did in the instance above. And boy, talk about quick work. The Lord made me look foolish quick!

The truth is we all have mission fields right where we are. I know many of you work with unbelievers. Some of you go to school with unbelievers every day. The question is. . . are we willing to make the effort? I had never thought of Instagram as a way to reach others. I had used it for my own devices--promoting my photography, socializing, etc. God has other reasons for my participation in the IG world. I didn't see that until my silent prayer and this random user's comment opened my eyes.

I bet some of you are thinking, that event is a total coincidence. There are some of you who are probably thinking that I am making a big deal out of something so small and insignificant. Well you are wrong on both accounts. First, it wasn't a total coincidence. The Lord had tried to show me this before when someone asked me a question about my profile description that says God fearing. I answered the question, but never followed up on that person and never thought beyond what the user had asked me. This time, I believe that God knew I needed a bold, in-your-face moment where the person was so open that I couldn't miss it. Second, the world of IG is no small matter. I literally have over 1,000 followers just on my profile alone. This doesn't account for the thousands and thousands more that are out there in IG world with the same hurts, thoughts, and ideas as the IG user who spoke to me not long ago. I have the opportunity to reach thousands of people through my pictures and my stories. I feel like it is a huge responsibility and blessing. Also, isn't every soul significant? People often make fun of how "into" Instagram I am lately. Well, now I have good reason to be!

I hope that this encourages you to go out and find a mission field of your own. You don't have to go to Africa or Asia to reach people with the Good News. There are people who live on your street who are hurting and looking for someone to lend an ear. There are children who would love to go to church, but don't have a ride. If you watch the news you can see millions of hurting people within the United States who are looking for someone to care. Many are not the easiest people to reach. Some people have to be loved on in order for their hearts to be softened. It's worth the time and effort. If this post encourages you in some way, I hope you will let me know! If you find a new mission field, I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ready to take on the world again....

What is it about the start of a new year that always gets you pumped to start things off fresh? I woke up today with a different perspective without even really thinking about it. There's something about this year that feels different. I don't know what it is or what that means, but today, I feel ready to take on the world--that's a good feeling!

Every year on this day I do look back and try to reflect on what I said I was going to do the year before. Did it work out? How did my year go? What were the big mistakes and the big victories? It's just who I am.

Well, I am going to revisit last year's NOT TO DO list I made and see how I did! You can check it out to by going clicking HERE. Did I continue running and increase over 3 miles? Yes to the increase, but not to the continuing. Photography threw me for a loop when I got incredibly busy in the fall. It was a blessing, but I will tell you, not running has made a huge impact on my health. I start back tomorrow-NO MATTER WHAT. This year's first Not To Do is--Don't give up on running. I got up to close to 4 miles and I am happy as I am not a long distance runner.

Number two was to be a better mom. I think I did the best I could. I still have so much room for improvement. I think that each year, the child/parent relationship changes. Each age brings a different challenge and joy. I have learned to accept that and am trying to roll with the punches. The challenge this year--Don't let mothering mistakes get me down. Everyone makes them and the key is to learn from them.

Number three was a total loss. In fact, there was one moment where I was completely overwhelmed in the fall. I didn't keep things in perspective and was just going nuts. This year I have changed it--Don't let anything overlap my God time and my family time. It should always come first.

Number four wasn't a total loss. I think I did a few more things that this year that I wouldn't have done last year, but I still have so far to go in this department. This year it goes a little something like this--Don't worry about being the perfect Christian. Be the best you can be and let God do the rest.

I think I did much better with number five. I cherished every mountain top that came my way. The issue I found was that I cherished it so much that I had an almost even worse drop when they were over. The lows got LOW. (I said that in a deep voice in my mind while I was typing.) This year it's a different angle--Don't take lows for granted. There is always something to be learned and my lows are not as bad as I usually believe them to be.

Number six is the one I struggled with the most. I live with anxiety every day. It's a fact of life that I have lived with for years. When I decided I was going to really try to change that it seemed that the battles got worse. (Who would have thought?) Amazingly enough, the last week of 2011 was the worst fight with it. It was this period that brought me to this one for the list--Don't let fear win the fight. Keep fighting. I always like to think I am a fighter, but fear makes me a wimp. I am sick of being a wimp.

I worked as hard as anyone in 2011 on number seven. I have tried to make time for everyone in the family. I have tried to pray for them and just enjoy everything about them. Even though this sounds great, I learned something. Even your family can hurt you. Please don't misunderstand. My family has never beaten me, verbally abused me (for the most part haha), etc. Yet, words are a powerful tool. The closer you get to people the more open you become to hurts. So I came away with this--Don't think your family is perfect. They are flawed just like you. Love them no matter what and realize that they love you--even when things get bumpy.

Number eight is almost a joke for a person like me. I live a chaotic existence so expecting me to become a neat freak in a year was unrealistic. But, I am happy to say that I started 2012 with a somewhat clean house. Small victory that lead to this--Don't have unrealistic expectations. Do your best with it, but don't let it drown or trap you. ASK FOR HELP!

Number nine I have actually done somewhat better on in the last few months. I have seen friends that I haven't been able to see in some time. I am also hoping to get involved with the young couples at our church more. We made a step in that direction as a couple this month and it really meant a lot to me. So for this one--Don't stop reaching out. I want to show myself a good friend to gain more friends (and to lead others to Christ).

I wish that I could say that number ten was the greatest success. I feel like I such a failure in this area because I never feel like I can keep it up. I have spurts where I do great and then I fall on my face. So here it is--Don't give up. No matter what keep striving--I am not perfect, but I'll keep running the race to win the prize.

Please come and keep me accountable! Whether it be by Facebook or by leaving a message here. Each comment you leave encourages me or makes me think. Pray for me! This is a journey and I want to do my best. . .but I am pretty clumsy and fall quite a bit. I hope that you will stick with me this year and thanks to those who encouraged me to jump back into blogging. I let myself get caught up in activities and I missed this intellectual outlet I created!

God bless you and yours in 2012!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy......Taking time to breathe....

I know you devoted followers out there have been wondering why in the world I have not been posting lately! Well, that's a good question. I have a good answer--I have been busy! As if being a mother of two fiesty little boys wasn't enough, I have added teacher, photographer, part-time worker, maid, and much more back on to the list recently. Don't get me wrong! I am not complaining in the least. I am just explaining my absence.

I decided in the quiet moments of this late evening to take the time to encourage all you people out in the virtual world to take some time to breathe. I have not done that in the last few weeks. I have rushed, rushed, rushed through every activity, phone call, work activity, Bible study, etc. To make it worse, I feel like I even rushed through our annual camping trip last weekend! I am going to do my best to chill out the next few days and focus on the must do's (feeding my kids, our animals, and dealing with the necessities of life) and do a few of the I want to do's. I am going to blog some, read some, run some and more. I don't care what it takes....I am not going to rush the next few days. I encourage you to do the same!

Before you know it...you'll be rushing to your grave....and Lord knows I don't want to do that!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great Expectations

I have been reading the book of Mark before I go to bed each night. Last night, I read the following:

"And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.

4And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

5When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

6But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,

7Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

8And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?

9Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?

10But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)

11I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

12And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion."

As I read the passage, the order of events struck me as odd. Here is a man who desperately needs to be physically HEALED. His friends go through all this effort to drop him through the roof to be HEALED by Jesus. The most obvious thing that needs to be done is the HEALING of this man's body. (Did I drive home my point enough?) What happens when he finally is set before Jesus? Jesus sees faith and forgives the man's sin.

Maybe you are on a holier plain than I, but my first thought was, "Forgiving his sins? What about the poor guy's body?" Forgiveness was not what I expected. I have heard the story hundreds of times, but I never realized the order of the events--or the significance. I had to put myself in the place of this man. Here I am, finally getting my chance after years of suffering to be healed. There is all this build up as my friends rip up the roof to lower me through. I am laying at the feet of Jesus and He says, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." I don't know if that is what the man expected, but it wouldn't be what I expected. I would have expected Him to tell me to get up and run a few laps around the synagogue. I wish I knew what was going through that guy's mind when Jesus forgave him of his sins first. Was that what he expected??

As I read on into the chapter, I realized that in a way, I was having an attitude like that of the scribes. I wasn't questioning Jesus' ability to forgive sins, but I was questioning his judgment. Who was I to decide what needed to happen first? Who were these scribes to question Him? Who was I to say the order of how the Son of God does things?

As I thought more about it, the order of events made more sense. What was more important--the forgiveness of this man's sins or the healing of his body? Obviously, the forgiveness of his sins should have been the first thing on his mind when coming before the Son of God. Hopefully, this man was nothing like me--I would have expected to be healed. Yet, God did something much greater for this man than healing his physical body.

I wrote all this to say this--how often do we expect God to work in a certain way and it doesn't turn out how we think it should? I know I am so guilty of thinking I know how things should work out. Admit it! We all have these grand ideas and then we realize that our Heavenly Father has something even greater for us, beyond what we have expected. For instance, the man in the book of Mark probably never expected to be healed. He probably never expected to have the Son of God ever come near enough to him to be healed. When he saw the crowd he probably never expected to get close enough to have a chance encounter. The list could go on and on.

Recently, my expectations have not been great by any means. In fact, I would say I have been expecting the worst. The truth is, we should expect great things. We have a mighty God who thought enough of us to die for us. Does this mean that everything will be great and perfect? No. Does that mean that God's plan always include only hilltops and no valleys? No way. Should we always expect our will to be the best way? You have got to be kidding! What we do have is hope. We should also expect our God to do great things. You will find that He exceeds even our greatest hopes.