Maybe You Don’t Know Just How Much You Need a Break Till You Get One (and reviews of the places we ate in PCB)

My two adult kids had given me birthday money for a beautiful condo at Panama City Beach for 2 nights. When I opened the card with the money in it, my son said, “Mom, you can’t use this for anything but the beach. Not for groceries.  Not for a bill.  Not for anything else, just for the beach.”

It was too cool for us, but we watched kids enjoying the pools.

Jessie, our youngest who has Down syndrome, really doesn’t like the beach so we rarely ever go.  Before kids, that was our happy place for sure.  When we couldn’t stay overnight we made lots of spontaneous day trips.  When our oldest two were little, it was a lot more work, but we still managed to go some and they enjoyed it too.  Once Jessie came along, because of her intolerance of heat and how hard it is for her to walk in the sand, we’ve pretty much given it up.

Both my big kids know how much I love the beach. Of all the places I can think of, the beach is the most peaceful and relaxing to me. Hearing the waves seems to almost instantly bring a feeling of peace and calmness.

I always feel close to God when I’m outdoors, and especially at the beach. It is such a magnificent display of His creativity and power.

My husband reminded me that it had been NINE YEARS since we went away without kids. Even though it has been 9 years, I still remember how much we enjoyed that last time we got away. I still remember that we came home feeling so much more connected as a couple.  For a long time after that it served as a sweet reminder of , “Yeah, that’s kind of the people we were before kids.”  It’s good to remember that and yet sometimes hard when you’re in the trenches every day.

I found it hard to leave any of my kids when they were young, and that feeling has lasted longer with Jessie than the other two.   In the 23 years since we’ve been parents, other than when we were at the hospital having a kid, I think this may be only the 3rd time we’ve been away from all of them at the same time.  When I had a c-section with Jessie, the last night we spent in the hospital, Jordan (7) and Evan (5)  spent the night there with us.  Their last living grandparent died when Jessie was 7.  We didn’t have grandparents to keep them, and when there are 3 of them, well, there aren’t a lot of takers for that kind of babysitting.

This trip to the beach, Jessie was really excited to spend the weekend with her sister and brother in law, both of whom she completely adores.  Jordan took Jessie to a Valentine Dance on Friday, and to church then out to lunch at O’Charley’s on Sunday.  This was the first time she had spent the night at Jordan’s since they bought their house, so I know next time (and there will be a next time!)  she will feel even more comfortable spending the night.

Jessie really enjoys time with Jordan without me, because without meaning to, Jordan and I tend to monopolize the conversation a lot of the time. When Jordan was giving me the weekend highlights, she said Jessie had expressed to her and Josh how much she appreciated them “being so kind to her”. Where does she get these grown up things?!

Jessie texted and we facetimed (brief each time) throughout the weekend because Jessie just likes to stay in touch and know what we’re doing.  We didn’t mind.  I could hear in her voice each time that she was enjoying her time too.

We had no explicit plans for what we would do once we arrived at the beach. When we talked about it in advance, since rain was on the forecast for the whole weekend, we thought we might want to find some shopping or something else to do.  Maybe even go to a movie. We didn’t do any of that.

The first moment that we stepped out onto the balcony looking at the ocean and listening to the waves, it was like Jay and I let out this huge exhale.  We had known we needed a break and some time together, but I don’t think we had realized just how much.

After we got our stuff unloaded we went in search of a late supper.  See later in post for details on all the neat places we found over the weekend.  When we got back, it was getting late but we had never stayed at this condo before so we just wanted to take a look around.  We met the nicest couple while we were out.

As we passed by the hot tub, an older gentleman asked if we would turn the timer on for them another 15 minutes. I don’t know if we ever introduced ourselves or learned their names, but we enjoyed chatting with him and his wife for a good few minutes. We learned that they had raised 4 kids and had 10 grandkids. For the last 4 years since they had retired, they came to this condo at Panama City Beach right after Christmas and stayed for 2 months. Wow. #lifegoals. He made sure we understood that they had only been married to each other. They have friends with a blended family that have 15 grandchildren between them. He was proud to let us know all 10 of those grand babies come from just the 2 of them and their 4 kids. They were here all the way from Manitoba Canada.

All day Saturday and all day Sunday, with the exception of when we went out to eat and get a few groceries, I sat on the balcony, listening to the loud and peaceful roar of the waves. The sound of the waves is medicinal, truly.  It was a little cool and windy so I stayed cozy wrapped up in a soft blanket. We were on the 6th floor, just high enough to have a good view without being so high as to feel too far from the beach. When I wasn’t reading or watching the waves I enjoyed people watching.

Some of the time I was reading The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. (This is an affiliate link)  It was the perfect location for reading this book.  I didn’t finish it yet, but it’s good!

For supper Saturday night, I  marinated and pan fried a steak (it was raining so we couldn’t grill) and baked sweet potatoes to go with salad I had brought from home.  We ate and went right back to the waves.

Only when it stormed did I come inside and then we watched tv together.  While it stormed, Jay and I watched Golden Girls and then a show about building log cabins that was really quite hilarious.  How is a show about building log cabins hilarious, you ask?  The owner of the company and several of the workers kept talking about how lazy one of the workers was until he quit. His laziness, they speculated, had something to do with his recreational activities that had also cost him his driver’s license. Then, they decided that although he was lazy they still needed him so they apologized and took him back. And, oh yeah, the bosses ex-wife was now married to one of his best employees.

Think, As the World Turns meets Log Cabin Builders.  They were acting like a bunch of catty high school girls talking behind each others back and then making up.  They did amazing work as log cabin builders and the combination of that with the soap opera work environment made for good entertainment.  It really was quite entertaining on multiple levels.

See how foggy? It was the same looking out toward the ocean. Didn’t impair my enjoyment one bit!

Sunday morning it was so foggy you couldn’t see very far out into the ocean.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the beach quite so foggy as that. A little while later it was back to normal.  I enjoy an ocean view though no matter what the weather is.

We got in a short walk Sunday morning before it rained and then it rained the rest of the all day. Even though it rained most of the time we were at the beach, I don’t think there was one thing that could have made our beach trip a bit better.  It made us rest and rest was what we needed most.

When our oldest kids were young, at some point each summer we would go to the beach with my mother in law. She would sit on the balcony and we would always encourage her to come down with us to the beach or pool, feeling like she was missing out on the beach by being on the balcony. But this trip I got it; I really enjoyed sitting, just resting, a lot of that time alone.

Some of the time Jay was inside watching tv. That’s more restful to him than it is for me. We enjoyed our time together tremendously, but  we also felt comfortable to do  what we each wanted to separately some of the time.

Mid afternoon we headed out to find something to eat.  We ended up practically across the street from the condo at Hammerhead Fred’s. If it hadn’t been raining, it was so close we could have walked.  We might not enjoy this place during peak season, but on this off season day it was quiet and not very busy and the food was delicious.

When I’m at home, I always feel the call of undone things.  Even if I don’t answer the call, I feel the weight of them.  While we were at the beach there were no undone things.  Nothing else I needed to be doing, rest was the plan. I can only rest this completely when I’m away from home.

I love being at home, and I mostly don’t mind that we can’t afford to travel often.  But this trip reminded me just how good it is to get away.  Away from our responsibilities of home and together just as a couple.

I knew it would be good to get a break but it wasn’t really until we were there and I relaxed so completely that I realized just how much we both had needed it. We operated solely on our own agenda.  We ate when we wanted to.  Slept when we wanted to.  Drank extra coffee.  Read, prayed, sat completely still for hours at a time.  Nobody called my name,  interrupting my reading or prayer.  I wiped no-one’s butt but my own.  Sorry if that’s TMI, but that was one of the highlights of my weekend.

Jay said when we got home that it was good to be home.  He read my face and could see I hadn’t been as ready to come back yet.  I hope we won’t wait nearly so long to do this again.  It was good for us in every way.

When I think back on it, I can picture in my mind the exact view and the way the waves sounded.  I’m going to hold onto those sweet memories we made, both as a reminder of a good time and incentive to not let so much time go by before we go away together again.

It was pretty windy and my and collar was blowing up into my face each time we tried to take a picture so Jay is holding my collar down here 🙂

I came back feeling the most rested I can remember being in a very long time.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We’ve had a good week since we’ve been back and it was so good to start the week feeling so rested.  I’ve prepared Jay though, that since we’re nicely rested,  this upcoming long weekend I have plans for us to accomplish a lot of things around the house.  Real life 🙂

Till next week,

Josette

For Those of You That Visit Panama City Beach:  The Places We Ate and the Stories that Go With Them

Surfside Shrimp Co. (on Thomas Drive)

Friday night as we tossed around options for eating a late supper, I really wanted some raw oysters. When I think of the beach, I think fresh seafood.  Not too far from our condo on Thomas Drive, we came across Surfside Shrimp Co., a market where they sell seafood, serve steamed seafood, and have an oyster bar.

There was only 1 table to sit at other than the bar. We were surprised by that initially, and pondered going somewhere else, but decided to stay. Then when we realized they only had oysters and steamed seafood and no burgers, etc, Jay and I had to negotiate. He doesn’t love oysters the way I do; he can take ’em or leave ’em most of the time.  Not much negotiating really, he was super sweet to do anything I wanted to do all weekend.   It ended up being such an enjoyable time and the oysters were SO delicious I’m glad we decided to stay.

Since Jay doesn’t love oysters, we thought he could have a beer while I ate oysters  then we would go to Waffle House for him and I would drink coffee while he ate.  He actually ended up enjoying a few oysters too and then we drove through Wendy’s to get him a burger on the way back to the condo.  We were telling our waitress how the oysters were so much better than some we had a few weeks ago in our hometown. We couldn’t believe how much difference there was, how good they were.

The owner came over and and explained that the oysters from Apalachicola (the place we usually hear most oysters come from) didn’t have good oysters right now because of storms. These were from Cedar Key FL. They were THE best oysters we’d had in a very long time. “Clean” and “fresh” tasting were 2 words Jay used to describe them. They were also huge and good and salty. Perfection.

When we’re out of town and not feeling in any hurry we enjoy talking to people we meet along the way.  Y’all know I like to know everyone’s story.

We enjoyed a conversation with Frank, that owns Surfside.   As we talked we learned he was from New York. I asked him how he ended up so far south from New York. He told us a little of the history getting from NY to FL and said the main reason was…he hated New Yorker’s!  We busted out laughing. I don’t know why, but that just struck our funny bone. A New Yorker that hates New Yorkers.   He told us that he had worked in a lot of hotels before he ended up in Panama City.  Evidently, a lot of New Yorkers worked in this one hotel, because he said the hotel put up a sign that said, “We don’t care how you did it in New York.”

We very much enjoyed our meal and visit at Surfside Shrimp. Co.  From the sweet high school aged girl who took our order, the great oysters and our enjoyable chat with Frank, this is a place we will want to visit again.

FYI, they have beer and soft drinks but no tea or diet drinks.  We were ok with that on this visit but good to know.

Shane’s Rib Shack

On Saturday, we ventured out to eat and then a trip to Walmart.  We were in search of some place locally owned again, preferring not to eat at a chain restaurant.  Well, we ended up at a chain, but we didn’t know it at the time.  Even so, Shane’s was a great choice, we were glad we ended up there.

The pictures we saw of their hamburgers on the windows  looked pretty amazing.  The pictures always get us, don’t they? We asked the sweet young lady at the counter if she had any recommendations and asked about the burgers.  She said the burgers were made fresh when you order so they take about 20 minutes.  We each ordered their Cowboy burger which comes with little fried onion rings on it.  I had mine all the way.  Ya’ll, when you order a burger, they rarely ever look the picture.  These actually did!  Right down to the pretty and curly edged leaf lettuce.  The burgers were amazing.  Best burger we’ve had in a good while.

While we were in Shane’s there was a young family across from us with 3 little ones.  An infant, a toddler and the oldest was a little boy no older than 5, my guess would be 4.  I enjoyed watching him; he was so cute.  He was holding a fork straight upright in front of his face eating what appeared to be a chicken nugget.  I heard him ask, “Why Mommy?” a few times.  For some reason, ever since Evan has made it through those young years I have enjoyed watching little boys.  Little boys are a mess and I find them so fascinating….as long as they go home with their mamas 🙂

A few days later when I ate at Shane’s Rib Shack in Enterprise, AL, the ribs were equally delicious, flavorful and very tender, the meat pulled easily off the bone with a fork.  I might have a little crush on Shane’s Rib Shack.  We will definitely be going back.

Hammerhead Fred’s (Thomas Drive)

We went to Hammerhead Fred’s for a late lunch on Sunday.  If it were peak season I don’t know that this would have been a place we would choose.  With the outdoor bar, the environment might have been louder and a different vibe during the summer, but on this day it was very enjoyable. We shared a wings appetizer first that came with celery and carrots. Then we shared a fried shrimp platter that came with a salad and we had a side of sweet potato tots with it.  For this type of place we were surprised at how fresh and good the salad was with a variety of lettuces in it.  The meal was delicious.  The graffiti everywhere (purposeful) made me feel a little bit like if I stayed too long I would want to clean.

We really enjoyed our weekend so much and all of the places we ate while in PCB were very good.  I wanted to give you a description in case you’re visiting Panama City Beach soon you might give one of them a try.

I Was Running From God Last Week

Even as I wrote the post Trusting God Even More in 2018, I was struggling, wrestling with God. Shortly thereafter, without realizing it, I was running from God.  Y’all, this wasn’t years or months ago, this was as recently as this week.  Maybe you can identify with my struggle.  It might be for different reasons, it might look different in your life when you run from God, but many of us do it and don’t even realize it.

Since my brother died recently, I have had many conversations with several family members about others in our family that are no longer with us.  It has brought fresh grief that I thought was mostly healed.  We’ve also talked about some events that have stirred up a lot of emotion from the past.   In addition to grief over missing them, there are some family members that I don’t have perfect peace about if they’re in heaven.

It’s just all felt so heavy some days.  Even when I wasn’t purposely thinking about any of those things.  It all just weighed on me with a feeling of heaviness.

Even praying about the sadness or anxiety has been painful and I’ve just wanted to escape feeling so much.

I didn’t mean to, but in an effort to escape thinking about these things, I subconsciously kept myself from having any idle time in my mind to think about anything.

Not too long before this, I had been chugging along, working toward my goal of reading the whole Bible through.  I was using the Bible in a year plan, but had already seen it was going to take me a little longer and I was ok with that.  Some days my Bible and prayer time began to feel heavy and some of the Old Testament reading was hard to think about.  I didn’t mean to, but I began to slack off and not make time for it.  Before I knew it, I was hardly reading my Bible at all.

One day I’m walking closely with God and the next thing I know I’m running the other direction.

I shared earlier that in my own life, God has allowed some pretty tragic events.  Even though I can look back and see how He brings good from every little thing, sometimes I still feel anxious or fearful about the future in a way that I wish I didn’t.

How I’ve dealt with this fear has been different at every stage of life.  When my kids were younger, and raising them took all I could think about or accomplish in a day, I didn’t live in a state of anxiety.  Although I have struggled with fear for a long time, overall, my position was a feeling of confidence that no matter what God would bring me through.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes God scares the daylights out of me.

I never hear other Christians say that.  I can’t be the only one that feels that way?  I mean, have you ever read the Old Testament? Sometimes the way God works and the things he allows are outside of my human ability to understand.   When I think on Old Testament events or ponder sickness and death and tragedies that we currently hear about on a daily basis, it’s just overwhelming some days.

My house is quieter now and that allows for a more idle mind.  Although I really do think that’s part of it, I also feel sure there are hormones affecting my state of mind in this menopausal phase of life.  Whatever the cause, I’m ready to be out from under this feeling!  As a means of avoiding negative thoughts, fears, any feeling of heaviness, I’ve recently gotten out of balance with activities that are usually a good thing for me.

What it looks like when you run from God might be different, but I have learned to recognize what it looks like for me.  When I’m running from intimacy with God I tend to never let my mind be idle.  I will listen to books, watch tv, phone friends…..keep my MIND BUSY AT ALL TIMES.  None of these things are bad things, in fact, often they’re good things, I just sometimes get them out of proportion.

I love listening to audio books or podcasts while I do housework.  And I’m so glad I have those things to help keep me motivated when I’m working.  I lack the energy of my youth and it helps keep me going longer to have something to listen to.

When I was younger in my faith and would pull away from God it would look different.  I’ve shared before that I had some serious doubts about God at one time.

I no longer ever doubt God’s real-ness.  I don’t doubt his goodness.  I don’t doubt his ability to do any and all things.  I never doubt his love for me.  I’m certain He is all-knowing, wise, and on my side. When I pull away, I never lose my admiration, my awe of Him, my love for Him.  And yet, I find there are times that I pull back a bit from the intimacy I sometimes share with Him.

WHY, if He is all those good things (and He is!), would I pull away from Him even for a moment?

I’m human.  And sometimes so weak.  I know I  need to lean on His strength, but sometimes even that seems hard.   It feels good to give thinking and feeling a rest. But we can’t stay there.

I shared with one of my closest friends that I realized  I had been running from God and subconsciously, but purposefully,  not allowing myself any time to think painful (or even any heavy) thoughts.   The next day when we had lunch, she gave me some index cards that she had written some scriptures on for me.  She shared with me the things that God had impressed on her heart (for me) in a fresh way when she read these verses.

My eyes overflowed with thankfulness.  Thankfulness for a friend who knows that what we always need is to be pointed back toward the savior and healer of our souls.  And thankfulness to God who is faithful even when I’m faithless.

Although I was familiar with each of these verses, God gave me fresh emphasis and fresh hope from them this week.

My entire life I have CRAVED stability. Even though I know He is my sure foundation, reading this reminder was so sweet. HE will be the SURE FOUNDATION for YOUR TIMES. Yes! I needed to be reminded of this.

This is a story we all know.   And sometimes when we’re so well acquainted with a passage we miss something good.  And, sometimes it just stands out to us right when it’s meant to.  He rebuked the wind and waves and there was a GREAT CALM.  I’m praying now that He do that for me.  Rebuke whatever is necessary and give me a great calmness in my soul.  

I surely know these things.  I’ve broken it down for the youth in church before.  But it freshly calmed my soul to read these words.  Yes, my soul, find rest in God.  I’m praying that part of the verse.  Because of all the things HE is, I will not be shaken.

For the next bit of time these verses are in a prominent place on my kitchen cabinet.  The plates in the cabinet and the vitamins and medicine below mean I will see them many times a day.  If I leave them too long, I will start to overlook them, but for at least a couple of weeks this will be helpful.

Y’all know how I love my audio-books.  But, this week I didn’t allow myself to download a new book.  I just need to hit the reset button. During this “reset” I will re-establish time for Bible and prayer.  I will allow myself to think (some) and pray for God to give my soul the rest it really needs.

I’m also looking forward to starting a Bible study soon. I feel sure it came about at just the right time, that’s always how it seems to work. I was listening to a video by Edie Wadsworth,  who blogs at Lifeingraceblog.com, and she mentioned an upcoming Bible study of Lent.   I have never studied Lent, I barely know what it means.  As she talked about her study of the Prodigal Son and how it had influenced the Bible study she wrote for Lent, I was eager to sign up for it.   If you too would like to check out her study on Lent, you can go here.

Next week I promise a lighter topic 😊.

Josette

Trusting God Even More in 2018

A few days ago my older brother died while fishing with a friend.  We think he had a heart attack or stroke.  He loved fishing, loved everything about being on the water.  He had been looking forward to going fishing with his friend.  I am thankful that his passing from this life to the next was while he was doing something he loved.   For him, it was probably a blessing that there were no agonizing months of sickness, he just went fishing and never returned to his earthly home.

While I think that a sudden death is sometimes kind to the one that leaves us, what about for those left behind? I have experienced much loss in my 52 years and for each of them there was no warning for me.  Just suddenly that person was no longer there.  No opportunity to say goodbye, no last hug, sometimes no closure.

If you’ve been reading my blog a while you know this post is different from most of what I write.  It’s more like what I wrote in my first post, but more raw.  I am raw at the moment.

When I first started this blog I really wasn’t entirely sure what my blog would focus on, and honestly, I’m still not.  I always felt that God was going to use the brokenness I’ve experienced and the healing that He has done, but didn’t know how or when.  God has done such a healing work in my life that I don’t talk about the brokenness all that much.  There are less than a handful of people outside of my family that even know what the brokenness is all about.

I would never want to harm anyone else with the words I share.   Most of my life story isn’t just mine and sharing it could affect others.  I don’t have any desire to talk about these personal events in a public way.  It isn’t for myself that I share, but for you.  In the days following my brother’s death, I have come to feel that God would be glorified by my sharing what He has done in my life.

Only God can truly enable you to forgive the unforgivable, and only God can truly heal the gaping, what feels like life-threatening emotional wounds as what I have experienced.

I’ve spent a large portion of my adult years always hoping others didn’t know what I’m willingly sharing here.  I have shared one on one at times if I thought I could help someone else, but even then, it was usually only portions of my story.

I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t still brokenness in my life or that there isn’t still healing to be done, because that isn’t true.  Unless and until we get to heaven, we are all broken in one way or another.

Some of the hurts I’ve dealt with, I imagine those painful things in a box.  I mentally put that box away, up on a shelf, where it stays most of the time.  When something brings these painful things to mind, I might look at and think about and grieve over what’s in the box for a little while.  Then, for my sanity and emotional health, I pack it back up. I think this is a healthy way of handling it.  I don’t pretend the box isn’t there.  I know it’s there, I know what’s in the box, I just don’t look in that box of hurt every day.

One of the first events that altered the course of my life was when my mother was murdered, just after I turned 6.   Suddenly she was gone from my life.  While I don’t really remember much about her, I remember missing her and for the rest of my young years longing for and grieving the loss of my mother.  At each different stage of life, I missed having a mother that would be to me all the things a mother is.  I longed for the motherly love and influence that I saw in the lives of my friends.

Although my dad proclaimed his innocence, he was convicted of my mother’s murder.  He was sentenced to 15 years.  He was later pardoned. Because I was a young child, the time line is very blurry for me. The time he was away from us was somewhere around 3 years.  Most of the time I can’t bring myself to say out loud the word for where he was when he was “away from us.”   Purposely or not, there’s much I don’t remember about these young years.

Mine was a blended family and my younger brother, nicknamed Jody, and I were the youngest.  I had just turned 6 and he was 4.  The two of us lived first with my mother’s sister and then with my dad’s sister for the time he was away.  I missed my dad so much too.  I missed feeling like I had a family.  I cried myself to sleep at night a lot.  Much of the time I felt lonely even when I was with other people. I couldn’t understand how God could allow any of this.  Where was He?  Did He care?

After my dad came back to us, we were so happy to be with him.  We loved him and he loved us so much.  I remember when we first got an apartment, even though Jody and I had our own beds, we couldn’t bear to be separated.  In those first days we would sleep on either side of Daddy.  When he wouldn’t sleep in the middle any more, we took turns sleeping next to him.  We felt safe there and less alone.  I remember from that point on always being afraid that our daddy would die and we would be without him.  I worried about it constantly.

My dad had been a successful businessman before my mother’s death and became a successful businessman again.  We bought a home, and life was somewhat normal for a while.  Like many alcoholics though, my dad fell into thinking that he could drink without drinking to excess.  This was a pattern throughout my life, things would get bad, he would stop drinking for a while, he would decide that since he had been able to quit successfully he didn’t really have a problem.  Then he would begin to have one drink after dinner and soon we were right back where we started.

It serves no good purpose at this time to share more than to say that if you’ve lived with an alcoholic, you know there is much more that could be said.  Always wanting them to quit in hopes that your life could be “normal”.  If you haven’t been hurt by a loved one’s addiction, then I’m thankful you’ve been spared that.

When I was just a couple of months past 18, my Dad died suddenly.  Months later and then more years later, I learned things that make me believe my dad was murdered.   When daddy died, I had been living with my older sister at the time.  I was thankful that I had gotten used to not seeing my dad everyday at that point, because losing him was almost unbearable.  If I had been living with him and seeing him every day, I don’t know what would have become of me.  This was a terrible time for me.  I felt so lost.  There was so much sadness and so many questions that didn’t have answers.

When I was 19 I very foolishly married someone I was pretty sure had a drinking problem.  Later, when my husband was in rehab I got some counseling and was given some reading assignments.  Those books helped explain that many of my decisions as a teen and adult fit the pattern for children of alcoholic parents.  For example, the crazy fact that I married an alcoholic after hating what alcohol had done to my family.  Abbreviated version…when my husband starting  drinking after rehab, things progressed to a scary and unhealthy situation and we divorced.  I really was committed to marriage for life, so arriving at this decision was very hard in every way for me.

Around this same time, when my younger brother Jody was 21 years old and I was 23, he took his own life.   Of all the sad events of my life, I think this one is the one that has nearly done me in.

Every loss in my life has been sudden.  Every loss has brought great sadness, but only this loss has caused me such regret and guilt.  Could I have done something that would have made a difference?  I experience guilt over decisions that if my brother was here, would be remembered only as a childhood experience.  But my brother isn’t here.  There are things I know with my rational mind, but my heart only feels regret, and loss, and never- ending sadness about the loss of my brother.  We were less than 2 years apart in age, nearly the same age difference as my two oldest kids.  My Evan, (Joseph Evan) is named after my brother Jody.  We went through everything good and bad together.   We might duke it out between us, but would protect the other unto death.  I still cry 30 years later over the loss of my brother and the questions that won’t have answers in this life.

A few years ago, my older brother Donny took his own life.  I hadn’t lived near him in many years.  I don’t know what lead to his feeling that this was his answer.

In my young years I had a simple belief in God.  I believed what I was taught in church (we attended sporadically) and what I was taught at my Christian School. As I got older though, I really wasn’t sure what to believe.  There came a time in my young adult years that I wasn’t sure of anything about God.  Although I believed He probably existed (I found it required more faith to believe otherwise) I didn’t feel God was personally interested in or involved in my life.

There was some healing that was done before I fully surrendered my life and will to God, but finally, I have a  wholeness and peace that can be found nowhere else.   I am filled with an overwhelming thankfulness for the sweetness of knowing that He does love me and is intimately acquainted with and cares about the details of my life.

When I think about my current life, and the circumstances of my young life, really, what is the likelihood that I would grow up to be healthy and whole?  There have been gaping emotional wounds and painful absences in my life, but He has made me whole.

I have now been married to my wonderful husband for 29 years.  He too, has certainly been part of the healing process.  His love for me is unwavering.  In any situation, he is on my side and always my fierce protector.

Both of my adult children love God and seek to live in a way that honors Him. After I came to know and love God, that is the one thing I have wanted and prayed for the most.  I have such a sweet relationship with the both of them and my precious son in law.  I have the close family relationships that I have always wanted more than anything else.  Although far from perfect, I am emotionally and spiritually healthy.  I realize that it is only by the sweet grace of God that it’s so.

The healing in my heart began when in desperation I begged God to show himself to me.  I had felt for a long time that there was something missing that was related to God, but I didn’t know how to find Him.  In the midst of doubts and wanting to believe, I begged God that if He was real, to please, PLEASE show Himself to me.

He didn’t appear in visible form.  He didn’t speak aloud to me.  But as I began to study the Bible seriously for the first time, I KNEW He was real.  I began little by little to know that He does care and that He is always with me.

Before this time, I believed what I was taught.  I was still receiving good teaching, but I was studying the Bible now for myself.  There is no substitute for that, no shortcut to God.  I learned through studying the Bible what God is like, piecing together a more complete picture of who God is.  Reading and studying from both the Old Testament and New and reconciling in my heart what seemed to be conflicting.

If you study the Bible for yourself for just a little while, you will realize how many things are constantly said (by Christians) that simply aren’t biblical.  Some are well meaning or meant to comfort, but it is of no real comfort if it isn’t true.

The God I have come to love deeply is so much better than I could have imagined.   And, while the plan of salvation is so simple, the God of the Bible is infinitely complex, infinitely beautiful and completely trustworthy.    While on this side of heaven, even though there are so many things I will never understand, I have learned to trust God more with each passing year.

A month or so ago, before my brother died, and before events that lead me to share, I had decided that my “word for the year” was trust.  I told my closest friend, who knew I had been experiencing some fear and anxiety, that in 2018 my hope was to trust God even more than I ever had before.

I will share more of my faith journey in upcoming posts because it is the only reason I have shared any of this.

In sharing this testimony of God’s faithfulness and healing, I’m trusting Him to use this for His glory.  I’m trusting Him to help me be okay with sharing it.

I’ve spent my entire life worrying about who knew the things I’ve just shared.  You see? I still can’t say some of the words again.  I spent my young adult life hoping that others wouldn’t pre-judge me or my family by what they may have read in a newspaper or what they think they know.

When my brother Wayne died last week, conversations with my sisters brought so many packed away emotions to the surface.  I don’t have any personal desire to share these events of my life.  It isn’t cathartic for me.  It is freeing in a sense though to speak truth rather than hope no-one knows it.

It is my hope that in sharing the tragic events of my life and the emotional and spiritual health that I live now, it will be an encouragement to your faith.  When I hear of miraculous things God has done, it increases my faith in Him and encourages me.  If you don’t yet know my God in a deep and personal way, I would love to pray for you that He will do that for you too.

Even though I can’t see Him, he’s the realest thing I know that I know that I know.  I hope the same for you.

Josette

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It is for God’s glory that I have shared.  It is fine to share this post or contact me if you would like for me to pray for you.  I am open to having any conversation of a spiritual nature.  I really hope for God to use my life story to help others. What He has done for me, He can do for you.   I, nor my siblings, however, are open to any questions about the death of our parents or anything relating to that.  It may be unnecessary to say, but you might be surprised at the callous and insensitive questions we’ve been asked over the years.

Teaching our Children with Down Syndrome About God

I don’t get any super mom awards for remembering to do it everyday, but as she’s gotten older, I’ve really been praying for a while about how to help Jessie understand salvation.  I have prayed for each of my children to come to  know and love God.  The hard thing with talking to Jessie about God compared to my other children is how abstract concepts, things she can’t see, are just jibberish to her. 

Jessie is maturing in so many ways.  She continues to learn and grow in all areas of her life.  In other areas of life she has shown that she is very capable of building on already learned concepts, but in this spiritual arena,  I have not been able to explain things in a way she understands.  

During VBS one year,  Jessie went forward when kids were asked if they wanted to talk with our pastor about salvation.  It was clear to Brother Dan and to me that although she wants to understand, she didn’t yet.

Jessie’s understanding of God is very simple.  Although I haven’t felt she was ready to understand deep or more complicated concepts about God, she has for a long time now expressed in her own words that she wants to please God.  Jessie has told me she likes to learn about God.  She has also often mentioned people that we know and will say, “so and so needs God.”  Sometimes she has expressed it so fervently that I’ve wondered if she knows something I don’t.

I had been brushing Jessie’s teeth one night when I asked if she had called a certain friend. When she said yes (I already knew she had) then I asked how many times she had called.  She said once.  I told her I was going to check her phone.  She instantly looked guilty and said, “Don’t check my phone.”  We’ve really been working on her not calling back multiple times when someone doesn’t answer.  Jessie knows she’s only supposed to call once and then wait for her friend to call back if they want to.  And it’s really, really hard for her to be obedient in this area.

If she’s going to grasp what salvation is, she first has to understand what sin is.

I’ve talked with Jessie before about sin, and it was clear at that time that she didn’t really understand.

While I continued brushing her teeth we talked about how it was important to obey and to always tell the truth.  I explained that when she disobeyed mama and when she didn’t tell the truth, it wasn’t just mama to whom she had done something wrong, but she had done something wrong to God too.  

We moved to her bedroom and  continued  her nightly routine.  I put lavender essential oil on some cysts/bumps she gets on her legs, I put some cream on calluses on her feet.  I looked through her phone and asked her a couple of questions.  She blew her nose and then while I was getting her CPAP ready she suddenly said, “It’s hard for me” and she burst into tears.

 I thought she meant it was hard not to keep calling back when her friend didn’t answer, but I asked her to be sure what she meant.  She said, “It’s hard for me to tell the truth.”  I saw that internal struggle all over her sweet face.

Bless that baby.  We all know that sometimes it really is hard to do the right thing.  I knew her statement represented so much.  

There was so much wrapped up in that one statement that encouraged me.  

Clearly she was thinking about what she had done wrong, and she knew it was wrong.  She was also expressing her feelings, that it was a struggle for her to do the right thing, to tell the truth.  It is sometimes hard for Jessie to express her feelings with the right words.  There was so much developmental and spiritual good stuff wrapped up in that one statement.

Before Jessie laid down to go to sleep I took her hand her in mine.  Her hand that has such sweet chubby fingers with little bits of polish left on the nails.  I held her hand and prayed for her.  I let her hear me thank God for her and thank God that he chose me to be her mother.  I told God in her presence how I can’t imagine life without my Jessie.  I prayed that God would help her to be able to obey.  I prayed He would help her to tell the truth even though it was hard.  And silently I prayed He would help Jessie to understand more than what was just said out loud.   

It was in these everyday kind of moments that my two older children came to learn and understand salvation and their need of a savior.  With them it was a gradual understanding too.  It just didn’t seem so hard to explain it in terms that they could understand.  

While she doesn’t yet really comprehend what sin is, I do feel we are making progress for her to begin to understand.   While praying with Jessie I felt this sweet confirmation that God was answering my prayer.  I don’t know the time-table, but I see God at work.  

How sweet it is to know that the mighty God of all things listens to my concerns and cares about them and me.  And you.  

 

 

Why You Should Read “Daring to Hope”

I don’t know about you, but events in our news from shootings and hurricanes, constantly hearing about strife and conflict in the world, all these things cause anxiety in me.  I purposely don’t watch the news; my heart just can’t bear it.  Even so, much of it comes across my Facebook feed.   It is so easy for my soul to be in a place of unrest.

I had never considered myself to be an anxious person, but in recent years I have struggled some with anxiety.  I think it’s a combination of hormonal issues that started with the perimenopause phase (just before true menopause) and as I age, a more full understanding, sadly, of the state of our world today.

When I had younger kids my thoughts were so busy with them and with homeschooling I was doing good to know what day it was, much less pay much attention to world events.  I’ve always had a tender heart though and tended to keep such things at a distance.  I know in some ways that it isn’t good, but my husband watches enough news for both of us and keeps me informed enough, as much as I can take that is.

This new book of Katie’s, Daring to Hope came to me at just the right time.  Isn’t it interesting how that seems to be?

I don’t believe in coincidence.   When I “happened” to look at her blog in order to link to it in a post I was writing, I saw that she had written a 2nd book and that I could apply to be a part of the launch team, which I promptly did.  I stated in my application that my blog only had a small number of readers and that I would completely understand if they needed bloggers with a larger audience to promote Katie’s book.

***this post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links.  My promise to you is I only recommend things I love.  See disclosure policy here***

Although I tend to dread checking my email, I daily and eagerly kept looking for that reply, even though I felt being chosen was unlikely.  I was surprised and beyond thrilled when I was chosen and received an early launch team edition of the book.

I knew without reading it, that her book would touch my heart in an eternal way, and it has.

When I read “Kisses From Katie” (her first book) and Katie’s blog, I’ve never stopped thinking about her story.  Never stopped thinking about how God is using her.  Never stopped thinking about how young she is and yet how radical her obedience to God seems.

To give you a little background, Katie Davis Majors is from Tennessee but currently lives in Uganda.  By the time she was 23, she was mom through fostering and adoption to 13 girls in Uganda before she married her husband, Benji, and they had a baby boy.  She is founder of Amazima Ministries, an organization that cares for young and vulnerable children and families in Uganda.

 All this, and she’s not even 30 years old yet.

I read all but the first 2 chapters in one day.   Every time I felt like I should be doing something productive, I reminded myself that on that day I had given myself permission to read and rest for several hours.  It was just what both my body and my anxious soul needed.

I find myself wrestling with anxiety about a variety of things, struggling with fears that I can’t do anything about.  Do you ever find yourself feeling this way?

I worry about Jessie if something happens to me.  I worry about the world my kids and future grand-kids will be living in if Jesus doesn’t come back soon.  Your fears and anxieties might be different from mine, but if like mine, they are outside of your control, they are stealing our joy and possibly causing physical pain.

I can’t do one thing about any of those fears except talk to God about them and ask Him to help with the fears that threaten to overwhelm at times.  I was in need of a fresh dose of hope from God.

Katie, living in Uganda has witnessed more poverty, sickness, and death up close than most of us ever will.  As I read Daring to Hope, I saw how in the midst of witnessing great suffering and being unable to change those circumstances, God refreshed Katie’s hope in Him.

You see, God has brought into Katie’s life and home many people who were suffering and she was called to be with them and  to love them.  Sometimes she loved and served them until they were physically healed and sometimes she held their hand as her friends,  “beheld the face of Jesus for the first time.”

In her time of sorrow and needing a word from God, He reminded Katie that His love is better than life.

 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

In your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63: 3-4

 

As Katie tells of the ways that God has continually refreshed her hope, I find Him doing the same for me.

These verses from Psalms have been meaningful to me for a long time.  They came through as a fresh dose of hope as I pondered the truth of them in my current anxious state.  God’s love and his faithful, steadfast presence for this life and eternity, really is better than anything, even life.

This book is many things.  It is an up close view of the ways that God is using Katie and how he is working in Uganda.  It is a messy and beautiful story of how God has built her family through adoption. It is a sweet love story of how when she had given up hope of a husband God brought her Benji, who not only loves her, but is a loving father to all of her girls.   It is a telling of stories of how God brings people together for their good and His glory.

Does your soul feel anxious?  Does your heart need encouraging?  Daring to Hope encouraged my heart and lifted my spirit.

Surprisingly, because I think of Katie as doing such BIG and meaningful things for God, one other thing God reminded me of through this book was the importance of “small” things.

“God was glorified, is glorified, when we give him our hearts, give Him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or seemingly trivial.”

“He has shown me the beauty of being attentive to one person, in the mundane, again and again.”

“He showed me that He is glorified in the small too.  He is glorified in each pot of pasta faithfully put on the table for our people…..when no one saw all the noses wiped and laundry folded and toilets scrubbed, God was being glorified.”

“Small acts of love become whispers of His glory in the midst of  our everydayness.”

That was a sweet reminder too.  So often as moms, our daily work is the same day after day.  It is good to remember that done with the right heart, even such mundane work honors God.

I know Daring to Hope will bless you too.

Josette

Hope for When Your Marriage is in a Hard Season

I almost didn’t write this post.

When I was asked to be a part of this blog series, Reclaiming Hope and Joy In Your Marriage, I waited until the last possible moment to join.

I was so honored to be asked to join this great group of Christian bloggers.  And while I loved the idea of being part of a group of Christian women encouraging other women, I knew that writing about marriage would be especially personal and vulnerable.  

We tend to imagine while we struggle at times in our marriage, that it is so much easier for other Christians, but we can see from the divorce rate among Christians that likely isn’t true.

I will soon celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary.   I have a good marriage, but like all folks that have been married a good minute we have weathered hard seasons in our relationship. When you’re in the midst of a difficult season, it can be hard to see that you’ll ever get to the other side of it. Now,  I’m so glad and thankful that when we were going through a hard season, we didn’t give up.  

Here are four things that can help you find hope when your marriage is in a hard season:

Continue reading at Hope Joy in Christ 

 

Is Bible Journaling Your Jam? 4 Ways to Use Bible Journaling

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Bible Journaling has been all the craze for a while now.  Is Bible Journaling something that you love?  

To be honest, it’s not something I’ve tried, but I know many people love Bible Journaling. When I looked at this Bible Journaling Kit I instantly thought of several  people for whom it would be the perfect gift.  People use Bible journaling in a variety of ways and here are 4 ways I think are pretty neat.

For Homeschooling Families, Bible Journaling During Read Aloud Times.

When I was homeschooling my older two that are now grown, the time that we spent together while I read aloud to them was the favorite part of our day for all of us.  We continued to read aloud even when they were teenagers.  Those are still some of my fondest memories.

Sometimes they would color while I read aloud to them.  We had a lot of educational coloring books and they used Prismacolor coloring pencils.  These would be good pencils for journaling in your Bible or notebook as well.  They’re a better quality than Crayola, etc, but come in a range of price.   We chose these Prismacolor Scholar colored pencils for Jessie.  They color well, weren’t super expensive and weren’t so super soft that they break easily.

This would be a great way for homeschooling families to use Bible journaling.  A quiet activity that gives them something to do with their hands during read aloud time.  Or any time you want them to be still and quiet 🙂

Using the Bible Journaling Stencils to Make Cards or for Framing

Jessie loves to make cards.  I keep card stock on hand and she loves to make birthday cards.   She also loves to send cards or letters in the mail.  Outlining and coloring in the Bible verse on the outside of the card would be a great “thinking of you” card for anytime.  It would also help her to memorize scripture without it seeming it being difficult or seeming like “work.”

I could see myself using Bible verse journaling in this way.  I’m not a journaler but I do like to make personalized cards.  It’s been a while since I’ve done it, but I used to enjoy making cards with rubber stamps.  I would also enjoy making a frameable print to use in my home.

 

Using Bible Journaling to Help Commit Scripture to Memory and Work on Fine Motor Skills

For older children, teens, and adults Bible Journaling would be a fun way to to help cement scripture in our memory.

For my Jessie, who has Down Syndrome, if I can convince her that tracing isn’t too difficult (I will let you know how this goes) it would be a great fine motor activity for her. She has a tendency to want to give up if she can’t do it in a way she thinks is perfect but I would love for to enjoy this and reap the double benefits of learning scripture and fine motor practice.

Stenciling Verses Into a Notebook, Journal, or Planner

If you’re interested in learning more about Bible Journaling or connecting with others with the same interest, you should check out The Holy Mess Bible Journaling Facebook Group.  Sara, the author of Trust In the Lord Bible Journaling kit started this group for everyone to share tips and learn from each other.

This week she is having a sale on her Trust In the Lord Bible Journaling Kit. The regular price  $21 now $18 for a limited time.   On the facebook group she will be giving away one journaling Bible and lots of other goodies.  So, check it out!

Sara also has some free printables and a 5 day email series with even more great info about Bible Journaling to help get you started.

Till next week friends,

Josette

 

Trouble sticking with a Bible Reading Plan? This little trick is helping me.

I have always had a hard time sticking with a Bible reading plan that isn’t tied to a group Bible study that gives me built in accountability.  I’ve already confided I have difficulty sticking with a meal plan.  I kind of have difficulty sticking with a lot of systems.  I try something for a while and then end up switching to something else.  Sigh.  I’m telling on myself a lot here.

For people who don’t homeschool, when they know you do, they make all kinds of complimentary assumptions about you (in my experience) that may or may not be true. Now, that might not be true for the average stranger, but for the person you meet and get to know a little bit, often it is.  My kids that have graduated were intelligent and kind and they had good manners most of the time.  Folks could see that we were probably doing okay with this homeschooling thing.

People have tended to assume I must be pretty organized.  I am in some areas and in others I’m a complete mess.  When I try to tell others you don’t have to be perfect in all these areas to homeschool, they think I’m being modest.  I’m not.  It’s true.

They assume too that you must be super patient.  Sometimes I am.  Sometimes I have acted out in ways that my children (Evan mainly) like to tell on me.

There are areas in my life where I lack follow through.

If I commit to a PERSON I keep my word and if I’ve committed I do what I say.

I was telling Jordan (my oldest, daughter) I wish I had been better at passing down certain skills that I simply don’t possess.  When we were talking about that (and I had shared with her my upbringing in the early years) she once said, ” Well, mama, it’s just a good thing you weren’t raising us on beer and twinkies!”  Laughingly.  Forgivingly.  She knows her mama isn’t perfect, but that I perfectly love her and she’s content with that.

Now, I wasn’t raised on beer and twinkies either, so don’t get to thinking that.  You can read about my early life here.  But, I wasn’t raised with a lot of consistency, certainly not home organization and meal planning.  My dad did teach me how to cook some things and how to clean.  And I look back very fondly on some of those memories.  But, like me, it was all sporadic.  Maybe it’s genetic 🙂

In talking with one of my best friends recently, I wondered out loud if I would be better organized and able to stick with a plan better if I had learned that from a mother.  She said no, she didn’t think so.  So there goes that theory.

Of all the things I’ve done and haven’t done, stuck with and haven’t stuck with, I’ve never read my Bible straight through.  I feel confident that I’ve read every book.  Some many times.  I’ve done this Bible study and that one.  For a number of years I did most all the Beth Moore in depth studies.  If you haven’t, those are SO good!  But I haven’t ever stuck with reading the Bible through.  I really want to this time.

I’ve tried the Bible reading plans on paper.  I would have them stuck in my Bible and manage to lose them.  I’ve done one other online thing.  That app stopped working.

What I’m using right now is the She Reads Truth app.  I know, it has been around several years now and a lot of people use it.  There are different plans, Bible studies and even lock screens to help with memorization.  Many are free, some have a cost.  I’m using the Bible In a Year Plan and it’s free.  You just download the app, go to plans and choose Bible in a Year.

How it works is it shows you the current month’s readings.  You can read ahead and if you get behind you can work to catch up.  You “tap” at the bottom to mark it read.

The crazy little thing that is helping me is that it shows what % you have completed.  Yep.  That’s it.  That’s the trick.

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See, it always feels like I will never get there, like I will never finish.  When I saw that 1% pop up, it’s crazy how good that felt to know that I had made progress that I could measure.  Ya’ll, I’ve been in the book of Numbers, and seeing the percentage of completion rise has been helpful.  I’m only at 3% but I’m hopeful that tracking my progress might help me stick with it.  If I don’t I’ll just start again, but I hope I can.

When I had a smaller phone screen I didn’t prefer to read my Bible on the small screen.  I now have the Iphone 7 plus.  When I pulled it out the other day my nephew said, ” Is that a laptop?”  Haha.  I need reading glasses and the big screen makes it so much more pleasant to read from.

So, if you need a new plan to try, you might check out She Reads Truth app.  Lots of choices.  If you need to be able to track your progress and see when you’re getting close to your goal, maybe it will help you.  If not, you probably grew closer to the Lord while you were reading.  That’s the real goal.  To learn more of Him.  If we belong to Him, that always results in praise and closer relationship.

I thank God for the beautiful, peaceful time I was able to sit outside and read my Bible with coffee this morning.  “For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  Psalm 103:14.  This verse came to me as I was thinking that even if I fail at this goal, this isn’t the measurement of my worth to Him.  The same is true for you.  He loves me (you!)  in all my failings.  I’m thankful.

Have a beautiful day!

 

The day my husband brought home FIVE NEWBORN kittens.

Jay called me at 5:30 from work.  I was standing at the stove.  It was Wednesday and in 30 minutes I needed to be at church to teach a group of teens.  I had two eyes going on the stove, still finishing supper and needing to get dressed.  I was on another call and had to click over to answer his.  Are you getting the picture of the level of frantic activity that always seems to be the case when you’re trying to get out the door to church?

I could hear the anxiety in his voice.  He was at work and heading home.  He told me he had climbed under a loading dock to get to these 5 newborn, only days old kittens that he could hear incessantly meowing.  His co-workers helped him raise the hydraulic portion of the loading dock and brace it for him to crawl under.  He said he had prayed, “Lord if its my day to go, please make it fast.”

It was going to freeze that night and they were laying directly on the concrete.  He didn’t see a mama anywhere around and couldn’t leave them there.  I told him I needed to head out to church.  He said, “I need you.  You can’t go to church.  Someone else will have to teach the class.  I need your help.  You need to help me figure out how to get these kittens fed.”  We are members of a small church.  My friend, who is the backup teacher,  was sick with a migraine.  Everyone already has their own responsibilities, so it can be hard to find a last minute backup.  I would only miss if I had to.  I had to.

Jay put some paper in a box he found in the office and brought the kittens home.  They had quieted for the ride home but one of them, the one we nicknamed The Big Mouth, started yeowing as soon as the box got still. I had called Kitty Kottage and done some online research while he was driving home.  Following their instructions, he ran to Fred’s for some kitten replacement milk and we fed them a little with a medicine syringe.  They seemed healthy but they were making a lot of noise and we couldn’t know how long it had been since they had eaten.

In our panic we forgot to heat the milk that first time.  Oops.  That could be one of the factors as to why it was such a challenge to get some down them.  As soon as we finished feeding the babies, he raced off to Pet Smart for bottles and a bigger can of milk.


That night I fed those babies every 2-3 hours and was so hoping they wouldn’t die.  I had been told the chances of all of them surviving at  this young age weren’t great.

Like in my baby nursing days, at each feeding I would get my supplies all ready and set up within easy reach.  A drink, the warmed bottle, tissue to use to stimulate them to potty after they eat.  I learned some new facts about how all that works that I hadn’t considered before.  And, the tv remote if they stopped yeowing enough for me to hear the tv.

Let’s back up a bit.  We have one female cat that recently started having seizures and takes medicine for that 2 x a day.  When she has a seizure sometimes she has a potty accident.  We have two dogs.  One is incredibly anxious and annoying (Boo) and a Doberman that I love dearly (Stella) who has a sensitive stomach and randomly throws up.  I AM ALLERGIC TO CATS AND DOGS 🙂  I’m constantly washing the blankets the dogs lay on and trying to keep all of them off of things that will bother me the most.  I take allergy nose spray and Claritin to survive.  A cat that Jay loved dearly (a solid black sweet lap cat named Charlie) died a year ago and we had agreed that between allergies and the vet bills we wouldn’t take on anymore animals.

Just that week Jay had cancelled an appointment that would cost $50 thinking it just wasn’t the best time to spend the money.  Guess how much it cost to get all the supplies for the babies?  $50.   And he didn’t begrudge them that.

In situations like these, you see who people are.  And who my husband is, is a person who couldn’t leave those babies to die.  He puts on a tough exterior, but he’s pretty much mush.   He kept apologizing about the extra work they were causing me because I had said I would get up with them through the night since he had to work the next day.   At my age I don’t bounce back as quick when I miss sleep, but there was something good for my soul in that experience during the time that I took care of those babies.

The babies had a hard time learning to take the milk from the bottle.  2 of them began to fight a little less and learned to suck the bottle.  Three of the babies, strangely it was the three that had orange on them, which made it easy to remember who had eaten well, fought me the whole time at each feeding as I struggled to get the milk in them.

All the yeowing made Jessie and Stella extremely anxious. Jessie put her headphones on.  Stella, until I finally let her sniff one of the babies in my hand, sat on the couch her whole body shaking and her teeth chattering.  That added to my stress level too.  When I put Jessie to bed, she sleeps with her door open and a loud box fan, I didn’t think she could hear them.  She recently got a cell phone.  She texted me from bed, “Please make it stop.”  That would have been funny if it wasn’t so late.   Sigh.

Kitty Kottage was on the lookout for us a mama that could nurse the kittens.  I posted on facebook about Jay rescuing the kittens and what was going on and my friend, Kristina,  responded that she had a mama kitty that had birthed her babies outside and that something had gotten her kittens.  The mama kitty had been looking for them and crying for 3 days.  She still had milk.

Kristina brought “Precious” over right away.  We were hopeful but knew it might or might not work.  As soon as she saw and heard the babies she jumped in the basket with them and began to lick them.  Cleaning them and stimulating them to do what they needed to do (pee).  I was thankful she was taking over that job!  They needed a little help latching on.  The one that had the most trouble with the bottle had trouble latching onto her too.  Precious immediately acted as though these were her missing babies.  It was the sweetest thing to watch.


I can’t help but think, what a magnificent creator that makes creation to work the way that it does.  And how perfect this mama and these babies were for each other.  My first thought was it was a match made in heaven.

It was a sweet experience to feed those babies when they had no mama.  It felt good to be able to give them life-sustaining milk, even when they didn’t think I was doing them any favors.  How 2 took to it and 3 struggled made me think of my own breastfeeding trials.  Out of three only one was successful and I had tried everything I was coached to do.  Two of my three were lazy nursers.  Jessie, maybe because of the Down syndrome causing low muscle tone, but certainly, mainly because of her heart defect that caused her to need open heart surgery at 3 months old.  My boy, who was serious about his groceries from the beginning, was the only one I was able to nurse.  What a sweet time that was.

I am grateful for the mama kitty who is taking such good care of these babies that are now hers.  I am grateful for a husband who can’t turn his back when he knows the choice is life and death for some needy, yeowing kitty babies.  I am grateful for a God who is creator and sustainer of all things.  I am thankful 3 of these babies are already claimed for future homes 🙂  Who else needs one?

Count your blessings today and everyday.  Even when we are going through serious and difficult things, there are blessings to be found. Thank God for them.

I hope you have a beautiful day!

*I am NOT referring to the kitten adventure when I speak of serious and difficult things, just that even in the most difficult of all possible situations, there are blessings to be found.  I will never forget reading that Corrie ten Boom was thankful for fleas when she was in a concentration camp.  It kept the guards from coming in the building and she was able to read and share the Bible (that she had snuck in)  with other women in the room.  I praise God for those fleas and for Corrie ten Boom sharing her amazing faith.

As a Mother Trust Your Gut {part2} When Mothering a Teenage Boy

Mothering a boy was so different than mothering a girl.

We called him our “Little Man” when we would talk to or about him in my tummy.  Evan was the only one of my babies I was successfully able to breastfeed.  I loved how he looked pure drunk after I nursed him.  As a baby and toddler he was so deliciously squeezable.  He had the sweetest, softest baby cheeks.  And then one day when he was four those baby cheeks were gone and his skin felt like a big boy’s.  I had known that was coming, and yet I hated that sign of his growing up.  At four, with such devotion in his eyes he stated that he wanted to marry me when he grew up.  And, when told he couldn’t, he said we could just sneak and do it.  A mother never forgets those precious moments.

It’s such a good thing that all these sweet and precious times come before we parent teenagers.  When we are looking at that tall as me boy-man, and are perplexed by him, its good that we can recall the sweetness of days past.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed the teen years with both of my now adult children so much.  There were, of course, specific areas  and times of difficulty with each one.  That’s just a part of growing up and figuring out who you really want to be.  I loved that they were old enough for us to enjoy many of the same things.  Each stage of parenting has its own unique challenges, but I look back on so many good memories from those teen years.

When Evan was 12-15, there was a definite boy-becoming-a-man struggle going on within.  I’m always studying faces, noticing every change in expression, and I would see so much cross his boy-man face within seconds.  At this age boys are no longer little boys.  But they aren’t men either.   Feeling on the inside more and more like a man (and looking like one too!), expected to obey and be respectful, when you really want to be a man, the boss of yourself.  I could literally see all that play across Evan’s face.

If you have a son and  haven’t read James Dobson’s Bringing up Boys I highly recommend it.  As a female, it helped me to understand my boy better. So much of the way men think is foreign to me.  Can I get an Amen? This was definitely a helpful resource.

I homeschooled Jordan and Evan from the beginning through high school.   It didn’t seem uncommon to me at first for Evan to progress academically a little slower than Jordan, because that’s fairly common for boys.  And, I was pretty sure that she was a little ahead for her age. By middle elementary though, it was clear to me that Evan was having some areas of struggle. Math was especially hard for him.  It reminded me of the way I’d seen my younger brother struggle in school and I hated it for him.

I feel confident to say now, even though Evan has never been tested, that he has ADD.  And maybe some other particular learning difficulty, of that I’m not sure.  When Evan was 15 and had for as long as we could remember struggled with waking up in the mornings, and seemed excessively sleepy at times, we scheduled him for a sleep study.  I wasn’t sure if he was anything but lazy honestly, which I now feel a little guilty about.

Evan was diagnosed with some long word that basically means he is excessively sleepy.  He didn’t have sleep apnea, but when they did a nap study (Multiple Sleep Latency Test), after they had watched him get a good night’s sleep, he was able to go to sleep every 2 hours and entered REM sleep at least 2-3 of the short naps, which is extremely unusual.  They prescribed him Adderall to help him be able to be alert and function well.  We had considered for a long time whether to have Evan tested for ADD and had he not gotten this diagnosis and prescription, we had planned to follow through with ADD testing.  For several years we had been weighing the risks and rewards of ADD medication and this diagnosis let us know he probably really did need the medication.  We managed till high school without it, which I have often thought if he were in school rather than homeschooled we might not have.

There were SO many times in Evan’s homeschooling high school years when I felt so unsure how hard to push him.  I found it hard to tell when he was genuinely having a difficult time and when he was procrastinating because he dreaded how hard it might be.    I’m sure that sometimes he got off light when he shouldn’t and sometimes I pushed hard when he was really struggling.

I remember feeling pretty desperate to be able to tell the difference and to know the right thing to do.  Although I’m sure the decision really wasn’t as black and white as this, it sometimes felt like choosing between him being college ready, or choosing to preserve the relationship between us.  What if I was too easy on him and he wouldn’t be prepared for college?  What if in my fear I pushed him too hard, wanting his best, but he really was already giving it?  How would it make him feel about himself if he was doing his best and I was always pushing for more? With each choice, what would the cost be if I was wrong?

I most of all wanted Evan to be a person that loved God and obeyed him.  I wanted him to be a godly and good man, but I also wanted him to be able to make a living and provide for a family. The weight of what was at stake felt so heavy.  There was a war going on inside of me many times as I stood in his room, talking and fussing and trying to decide just how hard to push or what standard (academically) to hold him to.

And then sometimes my sweet strong boy-man would start to cry and I would know that the struggle was real.  That he was frustrated with himself.  He doesn’t cry so easily.

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Supporting his sister at her Special Olympic Gymnastics meet.

I couldn’t know how it was all going to work out.  But, I chose to preserve the relationship. I pointed out to Evan the qualities that I enjoyed and admired in him, and there are many.  Evan was and is one of the funniest people I know.  Even as a teen he was very analytical in his thinking, good at reading people (I like to think he gets that from his mama), good at understanding how things work and is a great real life problem solver. He is a person who is always thinking about things and evaluating them.  He is the best big brother ever.   I let Evan know that if he never went to college, that I knew he was smart and gifted by God in so many important ways.  I let him know that I wanted him to do HIS very best and that if he did that, no matter the outcome, it would be good enough for me.

All those years of struggle I was praying.  Sometimes those prayers were just, “Help me to know the right thing to do!” in the moment.   When I would experience a moment of clarity I would think, “Is that God? Is that just me?”  I can look back now and say the mothering instincts God gave me didn’t lead me wrong.  So often, amidst the feelings of desperation, there was just this slight tugging of my heart in the right direction.

Are you a scared mama right now who is afraid of making a mistake?  I think one reason it’s so hard is because we realize we only get one shot at this parenting thing.  The stakes are high. No do-overs.   Pray.  And then listen. The right choice may be one that only feels ever so slightly better to you than your other options.  I realized back then that I was tempted  sometimes to respond in certain ways because of how my choices might be perceived by others.  Even when you’re afraid that your choice could make you look foolish before others, listen to your gut.

Evan did go to college.  He had to work really hard, but work hard he did.  He took a remedial math class and then completed College Algebra with an A!  He completed the requirements for his Associates degree with a 3.71 GPA!  He isn’t sure yet what he wants to major in so he’s taking off a couple of semesters and working.  He has worked the whole time he has gone to college.  He got a couple of scholarships and has paid the rest of his own tuition.  He saved $5,000 down payment for a car and is working full time (industrial construction currently), with the plan to pay off his car in less than a year and save money for tuition.  I couldn’t be more proud of him.

I am 150% certain that I didn’t make every right decision, but I have no big regrets.  I cherish the sweet relationship I have with this young man that is my son.  I can’t imagine having not been his mother.  I would have missed out on so much .  And, even if academically things had gone another direction, I know I would still be so thankful to have chosen the relationship over academic goals.  I love and enjoy this boy so much.  I thank God for him and the joy and laughter he brings to my life.

Pray mama, and just keep on keepin’ on until you can look back and see how God has guided you through.

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He’s 20, but I remember when he wanted to marry me.

PS.  This post was written with Evan’s permission and blessing.

If you missed part one of As a Mother, Trust Your Gut you can read it here