In less than 2 weeks, my firstborn will be getting married. Final preparations are underway. Rehearsal dinner menu has been set. The boys have been fitted for their tuxes. Madison has her bridesmaid dress. All of the details are coming together.
Things have been really tight financially so I've picked up extra hours and had generous people help with some of the expenses. I've been to several local thrift stores over the past couple of weeks searching for a dress for myself. I found lots of beautiful dresses, but unfortunately I had no luck finding a dress that I liked in my size. So today I decided to head out to the mall to see what I could find.
I walked into JC Penney and found a beautiful black evening gown in my size. It wasn't the color that I really wanted but I figured that it would be a great option if I couldn't find one that I could afford in the color that I wanted. And since it was a $150 dress on clearance for $10, I couldn't pass it up. So I bought the black dress and continued shopping. I went to store after store. I found lots of beautiful dresses but nothing that fit in my budget.
I was beginning to accept the fact that the beautiful black dress would be the one I would wear on my son's special day. As I made my way through the mall, I visited one last store.....Elder Beerman. I almost didn't even go in because I was doubtful that I would find anything within my budget.
As I looked through the dresses, I found a few that I liked but the price tags were scary. And then on the sale rack, a beautiful navy blue floor length dress caught my eye. It had a lace top and a beautiful satin belt. I held my breath as I looked at the tag. It was my size and the price wasn't too scary. After the discounts, it would be just a little more than I had planned to spend but I knew I had to try it on.
As I stood in the dressing room looking at my reflection in the mirror, I knew that this was the dress. This was what I was supposed to wear as I celebrated my son's special day.
So God and I had a little conversation. I told him that I loved the dress and that I was grateful to have found it but I was a little uneasy about going over my budget. I asked him if he could please make the dress have a deeper discount than what the price tag said. But if not that was OK too.
I took the dress to the counter to pay for it. The associate told me that it was past time for her lunch break so I would need to go the counter in a different department to pay for the dress. Not great customer service but that's a story for another day.
I went to the next department, and approached the counter. A young associate named Haley was happy to help me. As she rang up the dress, she asked me if I had any coupons today. When I told her that I did not, she pulled out her phone and said I think I can get one on the app that will work for this purchase. She scanned it and saved me $30!!! That may not sound like a lot to others, but to a single mom on an extremely tight budget it's a big deal. I thanked her and told her how much I appreciated her going above and beyond. She smiled and acted like she was just doing her job. She thanked me for shopping and told me to have a great day.
As I left the counter, I was smiling through the tears. I was in awe but not totally surprised. God used Haley to let me know that he sees and he cares about every detail in my life. Even down to the color of dress that I was looking for. He made sure that the "past my lunch break" associate sent me to Haley's counter. I can't say for certain but something tells me that she wouldn't have cared about going above and beyond like Haley did. On the way to the car, God and I had another conversation.
Today was a beautiful reminder that no matter what happens in my life, God is just a whisper away. With each answered prayer, He shows me how deeply he loves me. And even though I am now a Solo Mom, I can say with confidence that I never walk alone. Never once had God left me to figure things out on my own. He is faithful to meet me where I am and provide my every need. Sometimes that's giving me peace amidst the chaos and other times it's a navy blue dress.
I'm going to start this blog with a disclaimer.....I am stepping up on my soapbox!!! Don't say I didn't warn you!!
Lately, I have crossed paths with women of all ages who don't understand that they are mighty. They second guess themselves. They wrestle with low self-esteem. They allow others to speak to them disrespectfully. They ignore abuse in many forms. They overwork themselves for overbearing bosses. They give others the control over their happiness.
Many women see these situations in their lives as just the way it is. They don't see their value and worth. They let the thoughts and opinions of others dictate how they see themselves. They fret and worry about making sure everyone else is happy and cared for while they neglect their own mental, emotional and physical well being. It's time for a change!!
"Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide." ~ C. S. Lewis
Women, you are strong, mighty, powerful, beautiful, intelligent, unique masterpieces created by God. There is no one else on the planet like you. Stop wanting to be someone else. You are the only person who can live out your story. Your gifts and abilities are needed in your part of the world. Your life experiences bring amazing value to those around you. God gave you to your children because you were the only person for the job. No one else could love them and nurture them like you do.
"Don't take mirrors too seriously. Your true reflections is in your heart."
Please stop letting the media tell you what beauty looks like. Magazines and billboards are full of photo-shopped images of real people. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Real beauty is not flawless skin or long flowing hair. Real beauty is shown in your actions, attitudes and the love you share with others. When you can walk confidently in your flaws and still love yourself, that is true beauty. When you let the struggles and trials of life make you stronger and more grateful, that is true beauty. When you embrace your laugh lines and stretch marks, that is true beauty. When your eyes sparkle as you talk about something that you love, that is true beauty. When you try to make someone smile even when your sad, that is true beauty.
Ladies, your presence makes the world beautiful. You care deeply and give generously. You are dependable and work tirelessly. You do a million little things a day that make you irreplaceable, even if you think no one notices. Believe me, they do!!
"There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds." ~ Laurell K Hamilton
Please stop allowing the men in your life to degrade, disrespect and demean you. I know there are some great men out there. Many of you are blessed to be in a relationship with men who love, honor and cherish you. Men who support your gifts and passions. Men who know what it means to be servant leaders in the home.
However, there are many of you who are limping along waiting for the man in your life to see your worth, appreciate your value and to truly love you. You allow them to treat you poorly because you love them and you think that they love you. That's not love. You don't destroy someone that you love. You don't control someone that you love. You don't devalue someone that you love. Your worth does not have to be proven. It is a gift to you from God. Your value is not dependent on the opinions of others. You are valuable because you are alive.
"Setting boundaries is not about giving up on people. Boundaries show others how we desire to be treated. It's their choice to listen or not." ~ Shannon Thomas
Stand up for your dignity and say "No More" to invalidation, verbal abuse and psychological manipulation. Stop holding back who God created you to be because someone else doesn't approve. Never make yourself small for anyone. Set boundaries and stop allowing your self-worth to be stripped away layer by layer.
Walk in quiet confidence. Don't strive, chase or clamor for attention. Accept that not everyone will like you or understand you. When you embrace your attributes and your weaknesses it gets easier to live in your own skin. And that's when you rise up as a strong and mighty woman.
A woman who feels deeply and loves fiercely. A woman whose tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter. A woman who is both soft and powerful. A woman who is humble and bold. A woman who has high standards and expectations and does not apologize for them. A woman who is clothed in strength and dignity.
"A strong woman has waited patiently while her roots grew down deep into God's word. Over time she becomes unshakable in her faith. She starts bearing fruit naturally and is full of life. People are attracted to her strength and growth, and many find rest and peace as they lean on her. And when storms and trials come as they always do, they won't be able to take her down. A few branched may be lost or pruned away, but in their place comes new growth and new life." ~ Lisa Chan
I absolutely love family dinner. I love the conversation and laughter. I love just being at the table surrounded by the people that I love the most. It has been a while since I've had a full table.
Our schedules are busy. One is in college and lives in the dorm. One has moved out and is preparing to become a husband. The other two have very full calendars with school, athletics, friends and church activities. We eat at different times and different places. We are always rushing to get to the next thing on the agenda. But not tonight.
Tonight we slowed down and enjoyed time together. Tonight we had to put both leaves in the table. We had to grab the extra chairs from the garage. We crammed as many as we could around that Ikea table. It was loud. It was messy and chaotic. It kinda reminded me of the movie "Cheaper By the Dozen". But it was just what this momma's heart needed.
We celebrated having family visiting from out of state. We celebrated my firstborn's 22nd birthday. We celebrated the love of family around the table. We celebrated the simple joys of just being together.
As I sat there looking around the table, it hit me. This is what life is really about. It didn't matter that the house wasn't spotless. It didn't matter that we were using paper plates instead of "real" dishes.
What truly mattered was the joy, laughter and connectedness. What mattered was the love that was felt around the table.
When stress is high, we can say hurtful things that we don't mean. We can lash out due to fear or anger. We can really blow it in our relationships with those closest to us. That happened to me on Tuesday..
Over the past few weeks I have been working a lot of extra hours so that I could pay bills and pay all of the sports and back to school expenses for the kids. Those hours have taken me away from home a lot more than I wanted and have made me really tired. My teenagers have been enjoying the last weeks of summer hanging out with friends and a little extra freedom. They have been really good about letting me know where they were going and getting home in time for curfew.
However, my teenage daughter chose to lie to me and her brothers about who she was hanging out with. When I was unable to reach her, I got worried. And then when I found out that she wasn't where she said she would be, I got even more worried. Especially since I was stuck at work waiting on a delayed plane to land.
I spent the whole drive home beating myself up for working so much. My emotions were off the charts. I was so upset with her for lying but also worried sick that something had happened. It wasn't like her to not answer her phone or respond to text messages.
Once I got home, I went to her room to get her Ipad, hoping that since it was connected to her phone, that it would give us a clue as to her whereabouts. As I hurried down the stairs, I slipped and fell. I hit my face on a door frame, jammed my wrist and banged up my big toe. As I hit the ground, my sons came rushing into the room to help me. That's when I realized that my face was bleeding from a cut.
I got myself up off the floor and began assessing the damage. The cut was deep and would require stitches. My wrist began to hurt more and more. I knew I would need to go to the ER, but first I needed to locate my daughter.
Thankfully, about that time my daughter called her brother. When she got home, I was angry, worried and in pain. I said some things that needed said but I also said some hurtful things that I didn't mean. She had made a wrong choice and she had lied. But that mistake does not change how much I love her. She is a teenager who needs a mom to be there for her. She needs to know that trust is vital to a relationship.....especially a parent - teenager relationship.
She saw the cut on my face and knew that she was partly to blame. She felt horrible. She didn't need me make her feel worse. Unfortunately, in that moment the fear, worry, stress, exhaustion and pain manifested itself in an angry outburst from me. I made the situation worse by making her feel unwanted and unloved. And that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Tonight we had the opportunity to talk. I wanted her to know how much I loved her and needed her in my life. Yes, she is a crazy teenager who pushes me to my limits but I am so blessed to be her mom. I can't imagine my life without her. Which I explained to her was why I was freaking out. I told her that Moms have a way of going straight to worst case scenario when they can't reach their kids.
I think this is a night that none of us will ever forget for the rest of our lives. My hope is that we remember the lessons from it....not just the parts when we blew it.
As I look back over the past week, I realize that it was full of many joy moments. But I also know that there was a daily battle for that joy. An internal battle of not letting the sadness take over and cloud out the joy.
This was a big week for Madison. She had her first job interview. She was really nervous but she got her first job. She'll be working at Chick-fil-a and she starts next week. She also had a great week at cheer camp where she was selected as an All American and got an award for being All Around Awesome.
Madison ended her week by passing her driving test and getting her license. She was so happy to be able to go pick up a friend and go out.
Noah finished up his summer working with the Dragons. On Saturday, we helped him move into his dorm and get ready for football camp.
Then the week ended with my baby boy coming home from a week in Tennessee with friends.
I love my kids and I love watching them grow and begin new chapters.
It's my day off. Should I have signed up for overtime? I really need to clean the house. It's been ignored a lot lately. Back to school shopping is right around the corner so the extra money would be good. No, I can't work today. My daughter wants me to be there to watch her cheer performance. She made All American. So glad I was there.
There is so much laundry to do. I can't remember the last time that the clothes were folded and put away. How are there so many dirty dishes? There's only been three of us at the house for the past couple of weeks. The grass needs mowed again. Didn't we just mowed the grass? I got the bushes trimmed by the back door. We don't live in a jungle anymore.
My son moves back into the dorm tomorrow. Did we get everything on his list? I hope financial aid will be enough to cover the costs. Maybe I should have tried to pick up the early shift. I could have done that before heading down to Cincinnati.
I was so behind on the laundry. I'm glad I stayed home today to get stuff done. I actually folded all the clean clothes today. Why is the washer leaking? Hopefully it won't quit on me. How long have we had this washer? Maybe I just need to check the drain.
The house smells so fresh and clean. I washed the dogs blankets and vacuumed the hair off the couch. The dog really needs to have her eyes fixed. I just don't know when I'll be able to afford the surgery. I guess it will have to wait until after the wedding. The wedding is just a few months away. I really need to order Madison's dress. I definitely need to pick up some overtime. Maybe next week I can work a little extra. I wonder if I should work on my day off? I would really love to have a day to just sleep and be lazy. Maybe I can do that once school starts.
I'm done cleaning for today. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to. But the house looks a little less cluttered. I'm glad I swapped shifts for Sunday. I hated giving up a couple of extra hours but now I can go to church and have lunch with the kids.
Ok I really need to figure out what's going on with the washer. I think it is the drain. Next week's schedule is really busy. Maybe I can work one of my off days and get the overtime. There are so many bills to pay. There are so many activities for the kids coming up. My brain is tired. My body is tired. My heart is tired.
But I must keep going. I just have to keep finding balance.
tWhen my kids were younger, I realized that they were starting a bad habit of just saying "sorry" anytime they hit their sibling or snatched something from them without asking for it. They figured that all the had to so was say "Sorry" and that made what they were doing ok.
I wasn't ok with that. So I started teaching them a real apology. Anytime they would do something to hurt their sibling, I would make them look their brother or sister in the eye and say,
"I'm sorry for.......
It was wrong.
Would you please forgive me?"
And then the sibling only had to say, "Thank You for the apology." I told them that if they wanted to they could add, "I forgive you." But to only say if they really meant it. We can't force the other person to forgive us in that moment. Forgiveness is something that is given to us......it can't be forced or just taken from someone else. When we are in the wrong we are never owed forgiveness. We should be grateful when we receive it.
These "apologies" were great lessons on how our actions and words can hurt others. And that even when we are truly sorry for what we have done, saying sorry can't change what we have done and make the hurt go away. It just lets the other person know that we understand we were wrong and we will plan to act differently in the future.
I think one of the most important things to remember about a true apology is that you do NOT add an excuse to it. Saying "I'm sorry I did something that hurt you, but you also did something to hurt me" is not an apology. When you add an excuse to your apology you feel that you were justified for the way you acted and expect to be excused.
I came across an easy way to remember this concept......
When you say, "I'm sorry, but......" you're really just a sorry butt.
And who wants to be a sorry butt?? I don't.
And while we're on the topic of apologies, here are a couple of other great tips:
~ Don't apologize for someone else's feelings. Saying, "I'm sorry you're mad" is not an apology. It's condescending.
~Do apologize for your own actions and attitudes. "I'm sorry I was rude" takes ownership. Be specific for what you've done wrong.
~Don't expect a reciprocal apology. Do no apologize expecting the other person to apologize equally. Just own your part of it. The end.
~Do attempt to make a repair. It's wise to take the next step and ask, "Is there anything I can do to make this right?"
I love this list by Dave Willis:
A real apology requires:
~freely admitting fault
~ fully accepting responsibility
~humbly asking forgiveness
~immediately changing behavior
~actively rebuilding trust
Think about the last time you apologized for something that you had done wrong. Did you give a real apology or were you a Sorry Butt??
Another week has come to an end and it's time to reflect on the things that brought me joy. Those ordinary things in my daily life that I sometimes overlook in the midst of busyness.
My week started with an unexpected gift that was an answer to prayer. It was God saying to me, "I've heard your prayers, I see what you're facing and I'm taking action on your behalf." He is always faithful and has never left me to walk this life alone.
I got to spend some time visiting with my oldest son. His schedule is crazy, so I love it when he gets time to come over. We made some great progress on wedding stuff. Got most of the groomsmen fitted for their tuxes and worked out some good ideas for the rehearsal dinner. The wedding is coming together nicely. And it will be here before we know it.
We recently merged our phone plans so I finally was able to upgrade my cracked phone. It's nice to have a phone without tape on the screen. I also got my glasses back. They had broken a couple weeks ago.
My youngest had a great week at the church retreat. He mad a decision to renew his commitment to God. I'm so proud of the growth he has had in his faith walk.
I ended my week watching my boys play baseball. It's always great to see them and get great big hugs from them!!
A new week has already started and I'm looking for the joy moments in big and little ways.
I am in no way claiming to be a parenting expert. As of right now, I'm parenting two young adults aged 21 and 19 as well as two teenagers age 16 and 14. I've tried many, many different parenting techniques over the years. Some good.....and some that caused craziness for our family. At times I've had rules for EVERYTHING and other times I've thrown all the rules out the window and just flown by the seat of my pants. I wouldn't recommend the latter for an extended period of time!!
As the kids have gotten older, there is one thing that I have done consistently that has proven to be the most effective in my parenting........open communication!! I've tried to be a good listener and give good feedback and guidance. With the young adults, I try not to lecture when they share their plans with me....even if I think that their plans are insane or unrealistic. When my oldest hit the teenage years, I really failed at the open communication. I asked him questions and when he would share things, I would overreact and freak out. It took a few years of practice to get comfortable with being willing to listen more than I talk.
With my teenage daughter, I listen to all the stories about friends and boys. Her world is very dramatic and very important to her. Sometimes she asks me to get involved to help with a friend or speak up about an injustice. Other times she's just inviting me into her world and allowing me to see the world through her eyes.
Now there are days when I come home from work too exhausted to listen and my daughter understands that. I simply just tell her that my brain can't handle anymore talking tonight but tomorrow I'll be happy to hear the whole story. And because I don't do that very often, she will save the story for the next day....and it usually has an extra chapter or two by then!!
My relationship with my oldest survived a very rough time because I did everything in my power to keep the communication open. Even though he wasn't living at home, we met for breakfast regularly and kept connected. I wanted him to know that no matter what I was there for him and he could tell me anything.....even if I didn't like it or agree with it.
I must warn you that in order for this to be effective you have to be prepared to hear some crazy things and not react in a way that shuts down the conversation. They may share that they were offered drugs or that some boy asked them for sex. They may share that they have been feeling really depressed and have been dealing with suicidal thoughts. Teenagers and young adults have a lot of things going on in their brains and talking it out helps them sort through the junk.
They need parents that are willing to be open to hear anything that they have to say without fear of judgement or invalidating their feelings. You don't have to speak their lingo or be their best friend. You can keep your role as parent and still be able to communicate with them. It's all about your attitude as they're talking. If you sigh a lot and tell them to just get to the point, the conversation is over and you might not get another chance. They will remember that reaction the next time they want to share something with you. And how do you think they will respond when you want to share some insight or advice with them? They most likely will not be receptive to it.
Open communication says, "I love you...and there is nothing that you can do or say that is going to change that." When they know that you truly care about what they have to say, then they just might listen to your input into their lives. There are no guarantees but open communication definitely increases your odds.
"Being joyful isn't what makes you grateful, being grateful is what makes you joyful." ~ Ann Voskamp
There is a lot of heavy stuff going on in my life right now. I have been open and real about my battle with hurt and anger. As I was reading through some of my recent blogs, I realized that I hadn't posted much about joy lately. So I've decided to start sharing my weekly joy moments.
This week started with a Sunday off....which meant church and lunch with the kids. One of my favorite things has always been dinners with my family. I love sitting around the table enjoying good food and conversation. It doesn't happen every week like I wish, but I am so grateful when our schedules make it possible.
On my days off this week, I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and encouraging conversation. As a busy working solo mom, it can be difficult to make time to meet with other women. But when I do, I always walk away refreshed and joyful.
I love my kids and I love being a football and cheer mom. Today I was able to watch my youngest play in his first 7-on-7 game as a freshman. Seeing him play a sport he loves makes me a very happy mom.
"Joy is always possible because there is always, always something to be thankful for." ~ Ann Voskamp
As I start a new week, I will be purposely looking for the joy moments....the little and big things that bring joy to my life. Things that I can choose to be thankful for in the midst of the everyday.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.