Best Laid Plans

In honor of the National Adoption Awareness Month, I wanted to post a Blog I wrote in April 2014 about our adoption experience:

BEST LAID PLANS

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my parents asked me when I was about 5 years old.  They recorded my answer (on a cassette tape ~ hey, it was 1972!).  My little voice answers “A mommy!!”  They asked me several more times “What else do you want to be?”  Every time I answered, “A mommy!!”  For as long as I can remember, the deepest desire of my heart was to be a mommy.

In July 1986, I married my high school sweetheart at the tender, insanely young age of 18.  I distinctly remember sitting at our tiny kitchen table in our very first apartment excitedly planning the future.  We were going to have 5 children.  We’d have a few naturally and adopt a couple.  Within the first 6 months of marriage we tossed the birth control pills and decided we were ready to start our big family.

Fast-forward 13 years.  We don’t have 5 children.  We don’t have 1 child.  We’ve prayed, we’ve wept, and we’ve been prayed over by friends and family many, many times.  We’ve been poked and prodded and tested by several doctors.  We’re confused.  “God,” I would cry out “This isn’t what I planned.  Please give us the children we deeply desire.  Please!”  This is not the life I’d envisioned as a little girl or young adult.  My heart is crushed.  I can hardly bear to hear about friends and family members getting pregnant.  The joy I’d always felt in holding babies is now like a knife to the heart.  I feel like less of a woman somehow.  I feel a certain shame that I can’t explain.

However, in the midst of the pain and confusion, there was a knowing that our God had a plan.  For years I was convinced that His plan was for me to get pregnant, just on His time not mine.  As the years went by, we briefly discussed in vitro fertilization.  The cost was extremely high and not covered by insurance.  There was a high probability it may not even work for us.  We spoke again of adoption.  The more we talked about it, the more excited I became.  Once we started down this path, there was no turning back.  It was a long, somewhat tedious process.  Adoptive parents have to fill out mounds of paperwork, have background checks and home visits.  We put together a Profile, which is basically a story of our life for prospective birth parents to look at so they can decide if this is the couple/family that will raise our baby.  The entire process took about 2 years.  In March 2001, we had one “failed” placing where we actually went to the hospital and held the baby boy.  The following day, we were told the birth mother had changed her mind.  She wanted to parent her baby.  The peace God gave us at the moment was indescribable.  Sure, there were tears, but only for a few minutes.  I almost felt guilty for not being devastated.  God surrounded us with His love to the point that I simply couldn’t do anything but be happy for this young woman and her child.  We headed home and prepared a nursery that very week as a statement of faith that God was going to do what He said He’d do.

A few short months later in May 2001 we received the phone call that would change our lives forever.  A couple in Pennsylvania wanted us to adopt their baby girl. We spoke to both birth parents on the phone several times.  We flew to PA the first week in July to bring our daughter home.  As we were at the adoption agency signing papers and finalizing all the legal matters, the birth mom asked to speak privately to a counselor.  Our hearts fell.  We just knew something wasn’t right.  We went outside, sat at a picnic table and my husband and I sobbed.  We held each other.  We cried and we prayed.  We prayed for strength and for His will for everyone involved.  We went back inside and received the news that she just couldn’t do it.  She needed more time to decide.  I wish I could say I had the peace I experienced the first time.  I didn’t.  I wasn’t angry, only sad.  Our hearts were torn in two.  Within a week of flying back home, we received a call directly from the birth mom.  She was ready if we still wanted to adopt her baby.  On July 14, 2001 Elisa Nicole Thomas was placed in our arms.  On that day my dream of becoming a mommy came true.  The instant love and bond I experienced is out of this world.

I had a plan when I was 18 years old.  God had one too.  His plan was perfect and complete.

Psalm 147:3 tells us, “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”

I have complete healing in my heart.  I was a foolish young girl thinking I wanted 5 kiddos.  Again, God knows best.  Those that know me well will agree that one child is plenty!

What’s so awesome about God is that His plan is good for all involved.  Not only did I become the mother that I so desperately longed to be.  My husband became the amazing dad he was meant to be.  A child was given a life she wouldn’t have otherwise had.  We are still in contact with Elisa’s birth family.  She has 2 brothers that I believe she’ll have relationships with one day.  She has her birth parents that love her deeply and want only the very best for her.

Me and my girl, March 2014

Father-daughter purity ball, February 2014.

I’ve lived the truth of this often quoted verse (Jeremiah 29:11), “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  So, next time your life doesn’t go according to your plan take heart.  It’s quite possible that God has something far more grand in store for you!

Question: How has God changed your plans in a way that you are truly grateful?

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Keeping it Real

joy-comes-in-the-morningWow!  It’s been far too long since I’ve posted a blog.  Frankly, around the first of August I got stuck.  I got stuck in somewhat of a depression.  Okay, not somewhat – it was the real deal.  I felt I couldn’t write in my blog because The Joy Column is supposed to be about happy, inspiring, funky and fun experiences.  So I was stuck.  I’d think of topics I wanted to share, but they weren’t so joyful so I let them go.  It’s right around this time that Robin Williams took his life.  That shook me.  For about a week after I wept (sometimes sobbed) whenever I thought of him.  Not long after this, a neighbor’s daughter died after many months of unexplainable illness.  She was only in 5th grade.  My sadness deepened.  In August our only child started 8th grade.  It hit me in the face that I have 5 years left before she goes to college.  She’s talked about college since she was in pre-k (I’m not kidding).  I’ve known it was coming, but it seemed far off.  It’s looming large right now.  My funk deepened.

I quit working full-time when we adopted Elisa 13 years ago.  My “job” has been mommy.  I know I’ll always be her mom.  She will always need me.  However, I realize she’s growing into a young adult.  That’s been part of my job ~ to send her out into the world as a functioning adult that doesn’t need her momma so much.  A bit of a panic set in.  What is my purpose?  What is the next phase of my life going to look like?  Who am I?  My husband encouraged me to step out and follow my passion.  Follow my dreams.  Problem was I had no idea what my passion or dreams were anymore.  I felt depressed and anxious and fearful.  These are not feelings that propel me forward.

These are feelings that make me sit and watch 4-6 hours of TV.

These are feelings that make me drink one more glass of wine than I probably should.

These are feelings that make me stop exercising, which cause me to gain a few pounds, which causes more depression.

Finally, one morning in September when I was feeling lower than low, I read a devotion that my dear husband emailed to me.  There was something in it about the power of having a “life verse”.  A verse from the Bible that is yours.  That when you’re going through something difficult, you can hang onto that verse and it will help you through the rough spots.  I was sitting at the kitchen table and whispered, “What’s my verse, God?  Please give me a life verse.”  Immediately I felt the need to go to my room and get a journal to jot down some thoughts.  I’d not written in a journal for a few months and was searching my book shelf for one.  I saw a spiral bound book on the bottom shelf.  It had a beautiful butterfly on the front cover.  I didn’t remember this one, but thought that a butterfly symbolizes new life and that’s what I was needing right then so I grabbed it.  I opened it to find a treasure.

Inside, written in my mother-in-law’s handwriting, were page after page of verses on fear.  I began to read and soon tears of gratitude were streaming down my face.  Over and over I was being encouraged to not fear, to be strong, to take heart.  Again and again, God was saying “I’ve got this.  There’s no reason for you to be afraid.”

I decided to count the verses.  There are 51.  I was blown away!  I asked my Lord for one verse.  Just one.  I felt Him say, “Okay, and here’s 50 more just because I love you!”.  I read those verses several times a day for the next couple of weeks.  The depression lifted.  My joy returned.  I realize that when you have nothing to fear, you will live in faith.  I didn’t immediately know what to do with this next phase in my journey, but I wasn’t anxious about it.  One of my favorite verses is:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,

plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

I’m excited for this time in my life.  I’m looking forward to the next several years.  Instead of fearfully thinking “What in the world will I do when Elisa leaves?” I’m thinking “I can’t wait to see what is in store!”.  I’ve realized I do still have dreams.  I have passions.  I’ve always loved children so about a month ago I started tutoring a kindergarten boy in an underprivileged school.  At age 5 he doesn’t know his numbers, shapes, colors or ABC’s.  I’m going to help teach him these things.  That excites me.  I also love to read.  Words are beautiful to me.  Just last week I was asked to assist in editing some manuscripts and presentation materials for a world-renowned author.  I haven’t used PowerPoint in 13 years.  A tendril of fear appeared when I was asked to do this project.  Immediately a few of the scriptures on fear came to mind.  Especially this one:  For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7.  So, I took a deep breath and accepted the offer.  I’m having fun using the “business side” of my brain again!

My hope in sharing my story is that if you are reading this and going through a rough patch, you will be encouraged.  I’ve dealt with varying degrees of depression and anxiety practically my entire life.  Only a handful of people know the depths that I’ve been to over the years.  There’s no shame in that.  I also know without a doubt when I truly trust in and rely on God and His word, my joyful times far outweigh the shades of gray.  If one person reading this is lifted up and encouraged I’ll put these past several months into my Joy Column!

Choose Joy_n

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28 Years and Counting!

 

OBA June 2014

OBA June 2014

28 years ago today, I became Mrs. David Thomas.  On that summer day in Del Norte, CO I had no way of knowing what the coming days, years, decades would bring our way.  We’ve had incredible highs and heartbreaking lows.  We’ve loved deeply and passionately.  We’ve also loved just because that’s all we knew to do (meaning we sure didn’t “feel” like it).  I’d love to say the “D” word has never been uttered in our home, but that’s not true.  I’m so grateful that we’ve never taken that discussion to the next devastating level.

In all honesty, when we married at the tender ages of 18 and 19, communication skills were not a strong point.  Okay, with painful honesty I’ll admit that it took me until my mid 30’s to really communicate with maturity.  I have to say, I tested David’s patience for many years with this one point.  Thanks for hanging in there, honey, through all the tears and frustrations.  David has had his own issues to overcome as well.  I won’t tell on him – he has his own blog for that 🙂

Marriage is not easy.  It’s not all wine and roses.  It’s a tapestry of all the things that make up the two people involved.  It’s dark threads and light and every color in between.  All together it’s beautiful and breathtaking.

To celebrate our 28th Anniversary, here is 28 Things I Love About My Husband

1.  Your eyes.  It’s the first thing I noticed when we met at that youth retreat in Houston, TX when I was 14 years old.  I love the “crinkles” around them when you smile now 🙂

2.  Your love for the Father.  I’ve always admired your faith.  You have a real relationship with God not just a religious obligation to follow the faith you were raised with at home.  He’s your rock and I love that about you.

3.  Your an AMAZING dad.  From the moment Elisa was put in your arms you’ve loved her with a tender, protective love.  You take your job as dad seriously.  You’ve taken her on daddy-daughter dates since she was little bitty.  You’ve written in a journal for her that I know she’ll treasure her whole life.  You’re that dad who will talk about ANYTHING with our girl ~ you’re awesome!

4.  You are so freaking smart.  You may have started our marriage as a landscape foreman, but within several years you began a college path that would lead to a Masters in Physics.  Your mind blows my mind!

5.  You’re extremely loyal.  Not just to me (thank you for that!), but to so many others.  You are loyal almost to a fault ~ but don’t change.

6.  Your broad shoulders.  Even when you were a skinny teen you had strong, broad shoulders.  I just love ’em.

7.  You can cook!  You don’t cook as much as you used to, but you can.  You are creative in the kitchen.  Also, I know when I go out of town, you won’t starve 🙂

8.  You make me feel safe.  One look, one touch from you when I’m feeling off balance and insecure is all it takes.

9.  Your smell.  I love to breath deeply of you.  Enough said 😉

10.  Your laugh.  You don’t laugh a lot, but when you do it’s one of the greatest sounds I can imagine 🙂

11.  You can fix ANYTHING.  You hate to read instructions/manuals (which drives me nuts), but truth be told, you almost always figure out things all on your own.  You are Mr. Fix It.

12.  Your relationship with your Mom.  I adore how you love and respect your mom.  You two have such a special relationship and it really warms my heart.

13.  Your love of nature.  Nature speaks to you.  It heals and comforts you.  You’ve taught me to appreciate hikes, learning about flowers, getting over (sort of!) my fear of bugs/crawly things.  Some of our best times are spent in the outdoors.

14.  Your voice.  You have a deep, soothing voice.  Hearing your voice when we talk on the phone still makes my heart skip a beat 😉

15.  Your worldview.  You truly care about those less fortunate.  You walk the talk.  You mentor, you volunteer, you give time and money to do your part to make the world a better place.

16.  Your dry sense of humor.  You can crack me up and sometimes you don’t even try – you’re just being you.

17.  Your generosity.  You’ve taught me to be a bigger giver (time, money, resources, etc.).  Waiters, bartenders, all service-oriented people Love you!  If I tell you I need $20 you’re more than likely to give me $40.  I believe one reason we’ve been blessed monetarily is because of your giving heart.

18.  You like art.  You might be an engineer and physicist, but you’re not a boring math/science guy.  You love a good art gallery ~ you have a very healthy right brain 🙂

19.  You tell me I’m beautiful.  It sounds simple, but it means so much to know you’re still attracted to me.  You have good timing too.  It’s those times I feel less than beautiful that you tell me I’m hot.  Thanks!

20.  You dress well.  You went from a 19 year old who lived in Levi’s and flannel shirts to a guy that I can’t even shop for.  You have your favorite dress shirts, pants, shoes, casual clothes, etc.  You have style babe!

21.  You’re a great listener.  I know you hear me when we talk.  You actually like to talk things out (sometimes more than I do – ha!).

22.  You encourage me to be all I can.  You’ve never held me back.  You encourage me to stretch myself.

23.  You have great lips.  Elisa’s reading this ~ enough said 😉

24.  You bring me (& Elisa) flowers for no reason at all.  Sweet!

25.  You take care of all critters.  You’re no girly man ~ spiders, mice, snakes, bees you handle them like a man.

26.  You love our dogs.  You are the only one in our house that they go nutso for when you walk through the door.  They love Elisa and me, but there’s something else going on with you.

27.  Your hair.  It’s not fair.  The more grey you get, the sexier you are.

28.  You make me feel secure.  Security is not complacency.  Security is knowing you will be there through all the ups and downs.

NYC July 2013

NYC July 2013

 

 

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Perfect Imperfection

IMG_6671My daughter planted sunflowers last summer.  This spring I noticed they were growing again.  It didn’t take long before we had 4+ foot high sunflowers smiling in a flower bed near our back patio.  If looking at the huge sunny bloom of a sunflower doesn’t make you happy, I’m sorry, you’ve got some issues!  This flower always makes me smile.  They are whimsical & joyful.

While we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago, several big storms rolled through.  When we returned home I was sad to see that the sunflowers were now bent and broken, their thick stalks laying on the soil.  Instead of just leaving them there to rot, I cut a few flowers to put in a vase for us to enjoy in the house.  I was surprised to find that the stems leading to the blooms were way more twisty and curvy than I thought they’d be.  Not at all like the ramrod straight stems holding up the silk version in Hobby Lobby.  As you can see in my photo, they look a little funky.

As I changed the water in the vase this morning, it struck me that my life has grown much like the stems of these flowers.  Twisting, turning and never in a straight path for very long.

When I was young, I had a rough outline in my head and heart of how my life would look.  I was extremely fortunate and blessed to find my true love as a teenager (we’ll celebrate 28 years of marriage in July!).  My life was going to go something like this:  Marry David soon after high school; start a family within the first year; write the great American novel while expanding our family to include 5 kids (some biological, some adopted);  live on a ranch where I could ride my horse daily.  That’s about as far as I got.  A simple but fulfilling life.   Now, at age 46, how much of this has happened?  David and I did get married a mere 2 months after I graduated high school.  The children?  We finally adopted our one and only joy of our life shortly after our 15th wedding anniversary.  The novel?  I tried my hand at writing children’s books for several years with no success.  This blog is my first foray back into writing in about 15 years.  The ranch with the horse?  Not so much.  We’ve lived in suburbia in Memphis, TN and Huntsville, AL for the past 28 years.  I’ve ridden a horse a few times over the years, but never my own.

I’m grateful that when I was a preteen dreaming up my life I couldn’t see what my future would actually hold.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been blessed beyond measure.  I’ve had incredible joys and been lavishly loved.  However, I’ve also experienced intense pain (some of which I’ve been the cause of), crushing heartache and a few trials that I’m amazed I made it through intact.  I’m wise enough to know that in the coming years I’ll experience more sharp curves in the road.  Life was never meant to follow a straight, smooth path.  However, with all the twists and turns, I have something else in common with the sunflower.  The vast majority of the blooms I put in the vase are still facing upward.  Their sunny “faces” continually searching for the sun to give them life and purpose.  I’m still looking up too.  I’ve found that when I’m faithful to seek out The Son my life is joyful in spite of what my “stem” looks like.  I pray that when others look at me, they can’t help but smile at the funky imperfect of my life.

IMG_6680

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Out with the Old

One morning last week I reached into our freezer to grab some chicken breasts to thaw for dinner that night.  To my surprise they felt like they were already well on their way.  I started poking and prodding the other proteins.  Ground beef that’s been in the freezer for 2 days shouldn’t be squishy, right?  I didn’t think so either.  I grabbed the bag of shrimp I’d bought the day before (the really good, tail still on, extra large ones) and they felt like they’d been thawing for several hours too. Dang it!  I was going to make a yummy lemon butter caper sauce for those suckers the following evening.  I opened the drawer that houses the frozen veggies.  Now it housed the “you better eat me right now” veggies.  My surprise quickly turned to dismay and if I’m honest, a bit of anger.

You see, a couple of days prior I was so proud of myself for really thinking through a week’s worth of dinners.  I’m more prone to “winging it” and making last minute dinner decisions.  Not last week.  No, I scoured my 3-ring binder of recipes that I tear out of magazines and print from some favorite websites/blogs.  I made a detailed grocery list.  This shopping trip I decided to be a bit more frugal than usual, and I bought ground beef and chicken breasts in bulk.  I could envision my week going more smoothly than usual due to my superior planning abilities.  Money saved.  Time saved.  I rocked!  No so fast, miss smarty pants.

I was able to salvage one package of chicken breasts.  It was still partially frozen since it had been in the freezer for a couple weeks.  The other stuff was sadly tossed in the trash.  I felt some hope in the fact that the refrigerated section still felt cold.  My thought?  Just call a repairman and get the freezer section fixed.  The fridge is only seven years old.  I figured we’d spend a couple hundred bucks and be back on track.

Mr. Repair Dude (he had shaggy blonde hair and looked like a dude to me) spent almost 3 hours running diagnostics, making calls, shaking his head, avoiding my questioning gaze and finally came up with “it’s going to cost almost as much to repair this thing as it would to buy a new one”.  What?!  He and my husband, David, had a lengthy techy talk and David came to agree with him.  I was stunned.  Wait.  This isn’t part of my plan.  My plan was to be inconvenienced for a day or two.  To replace about $50 worth of food and move on.  Oh, I forgot the part about the refrigerated section conking out several hours after I discovered the death of the freezer.  Apparently fridge/freezer compressors and whatnot like to live or die together.  So instead of replacing $50 worth of freezer food, I now had to replace all of our refrigerated items because they’d been in a warm, cozy, bacteria loving home for 12+ hours.  Not to mention, we were about to go fridge shopping.  Mama wasn’t happy.

As I began to toss the myriad of condiments (when did I buy this horseradish? how long has this tartar sauce been way back there?  didn’t I buy this jam 2 summers ago at that flea market?) I surprised myself by feeling a little lighter.  After getting over the initial shock of the waste and anxiety about the upcoming cost of restocking, I realized I could start fresh.  I noticed that I had tons of jars, containers, tubes of stuff that I didn’t ever use.  Things I had forgotten were even in there.

It made me think of the junk, the stuff, in my own life that is just taking up space. 

There are old, painful memories.  There are habits that I cling to even though they don’t do me or anyone around me any good.  There are hurts and fears that I took to the Cross long ago, but for some reason I haven’t tossed them in the trash.  I just moved them to the back of my heart and soul.  There’s freedom in deep cleaning.  It’s painful at first.  You might be sad or angry or anxious.  However, once it’s done there is a lightness and joy.  There’s a feeling of a new beginning.

Speaking of new beginnings, I think I’m going to really love the new fridge we purchased last Thursday night.  It has some super cool features.  I put a lot of thought into it’s functionality for our family.  I was so excited to have it delivered on Saturday (even though the delivery time was smack-dab in the middle of a party with 16 teenage girls at my house!).  I’m still excited to get it because the delivery time was messed up.  It’s Monday morning and I just learned we won’t get it until tomorrow morning.  Really?  Another day/night of trying to figure out dinner without a fridge, as well as putting together school lunches.  But guess what?  This is just a bump in the road of this thing we call life.  I can gripe and complain or I can laugh it off.  I was proud of myself for doing that when my husband told me of the new delivery schedule.  Ok, I may have said a not-so-nice word first.  I’m human.  Then I laughed and said “that’s just life!”.

Whenever the new fridge does get here I have a new plan.  I’m only restocking what I know we truly need. Milk, eggs, butter, cheese, produce.  You know, the regular condiments we actually use like mustard, ketchup, mayo (that last one is referred to as Satan’s condiment by a dear friend of mine).  I’m not going to fill it to the brim with stuff just because there is room to do so.  Streamlining is freeing.  Not just in our fridge or pantry, but even more so in our life, especially our inner life.

What have you been holding onto that you truly don’t need?

Maybe it’s expiration date is long past due.  Grab it, toss it and rejoice.

Deep cleaning ~ I’m putting that in my Joy Column!

 

 

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Reflecting & Rejoicing

I just got home from attending the induction ceremony at my daughter’s middle school for the National Jr. Honor Society.  Such a great accomplishment for her and so many of her friends, although when I told her what an honor this is she nonchalantly said, “Oh mom, it’s no big deal.”  Learning has always come fairly easy for our young lady.  She knew her alphabet before she was 2 years old.  I remember her standing in her crib singing the ABC’s.  She’d quickly memorize the books we read and “read” along with me.  We surrounded her with all genres of music, and music is still a huge part of her life.  She loved classical when she was an infant & toddler.  Today?  Unfortunately it runs along the lines of One Direction, Lorde, Lady Gaga.  Let’s just say, I have to censure much of what she enjoys these days (sounds like me when I was a teen, right mom?).  She talked clearly and with lots of words very early.  She’s has always had a better sense of direction than her mama.  I remember her being in her car seat saying “This the right way?” if I would take a route that she wasn’t used to.  Always watching.  Always listening.  Beyond curious. We used to call her the little negotiator and wondered if she’d be an attorney one day.  She’s got mad arguing, um negotiating, skills.  Our girl is also hilarious.  She makes me laugh every single day.  Laughter is a big deal to her.  She recently listed her favorite things in life and laughter topped her list.  She liked to pretend to be Emeril Lagasse when she was a preschooler.  She’d toss a dish towel over her shoulder and shout “BAM!” while assisting me or her daddy in the kitchen.  She still loves to experiment with the culinary arts.

I’m feeling nostalgic today.  Not just because of today’s scholastic milestone, but more so because her 13th birthday is less than 2 weeks away.  I’ve kept a journal for Elisa since before we even adopted her.  The first entry is a year and a half before she was born, but I was already thinking about her.  Praying for her.  Dreaming of her.  I wrote in this journal a lot when she was little.  Every little milestone was recorded.  Cute things she would say or do.  Looking through the journal today, I realize as she got older I wrote less often.  Sometimes a year or more would go by.  I was surprised today that my last entry was the week before she started 6th grade.  She’s at the end of 7th grade now and about to turn 13.  Most definitely time for another entry.  My hope is that this journal will be a treasure for her someday.  She can flip through the pages and watch parts of her life unfold.  She’ll read over and over and over how precious she is.  How loved and wanted she’s always been ~ even before I knew her.

Our relationship isn’t all laughter and sunshine.  We butt heads and argue, sometimes it seems daily.  We misunderstand each other and our personalities clash quite often.  I feel that I screw up as a mom way too often.  I cry and vent to a couple of close friends that have older daughters and they console me.  They tell me our relationship is normal.  That I’m a good mom and stop being so hard on myself.  I think I’m hard on myself and sometimes on Elisa because I realize I have one shot at this thing.  She’s my only child.  The years are flying by way too fast.  I want to do it all perfectly and that’s just not possible.  And that’s okay.

So, today I’m reflecting on the past and rejoicing in the present.  I’m not going to dwell too much on the future.  I know by now that the future will be here in the blink of an eye.  My wide-eyed infant will soon be a teenager who is charging toward her future.  Today, I pray that God will help me embrace every moment.  To truly enjoy the ups and downs with my special treasure.  Now, I’m going to write in her journal and tell her one more time how awesome I think she is.  Elisa Nicole is at the top of my joy column for sure!

The 3 of us in AZ Mar 2014

The 3 of us in AZ Mar 2014

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No Boundaries!

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In February, I posted a blog entitled “Run Julie Run!”.   I had recently signed up for a beginners running group with the goal of running my very first 5k.  Well, folks, this past Saturday I ran that 5k!  {insert clapping and woohoo’g sounds here!}

At the beginning of that 10 week training period I really had no idea what was in store for me.  Here’s what I thought I’d go through and get out of this experience:  pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, smaller thighs, less belly flab and a few new acquaintances.  Here’s what I actually got out of this experience:  pain, shortness of breath, endurance, confidence, new friendships, laughter, determination, pain (oh yea, enough that I should mention it twice!) and a new found love (yes, I said love) of running.  Unfortunately the outer body transformation part has yet to happen.  Surprisingly I’m not that concerned about it.  I know that if I keep doing what I’ve learned that too will happen.

The crazy thing is this ~ I dreaded almost every training session.  My stomach would be in knots as I drove to Fleet Feet on Tuesday mornings.  I knew I’d be in the slower mostly walk, sometimes run group and that embarrassed me a bit.  My ankle that has hurt for the past year and a half gave me fits.  I had migraines on group run days several times during the 10 weeks so I felt I was falling behind the others.  The week before the 5k I developed extremely painful shin splints.  I was determined to run/walk the race, but had pretty much decided that would be the end of my running experiment.  I did what I’d set out to do, but I figured running just wasn’t for me.  Even on the morning of the race, I told several participants “I’ll probably walk the majority of the way.  I’ll be lucky to finish in an hour.”  I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic or positive.  The first 1.5 miles were brutal.  Soon after the start, I told my running partner and new friend, Beth, to go on ahead.  I had to start walking.

A funny thing happened around that 1.5 mile mark.  I realized that walking hurt more than running.  My ankles would seize up when I slowed down so I started running for longer periods of time.  I started listening to the shouts and claps of encouragement coming from those lined up along the race way.  “Way to go!”  “You’re doing great!!” “Keep going, you’re almost there!”  I realized my lungs didn’t hurt as much.  I found points along the way to focus on as goals.  I’d say to myself, “just get to that bronze mailbox and you can walk a bit”.  I’d get to the mailbox and realize I could probably make it down the street to that real estate sign.  And on I went until I was within sight of the Finish Line.  Running toward me was one of the group’s mentors.  She introduced herself, asked my name and said “Come on Julie, let’s take this to the finish!”  Her enthusiasm and belief in me energized me.  Faster and faster my legs went as I drew near the Finish Line.  I saw my husband, camera at the ready to catch this moment.  I could see his pride in me and that made my heart soar.   I did it!  I actually completed those 3.1 miles and I didn’t throw up!  I’d heard of a runner’s high and I felt it.  Okay, maybe it was dizziness and exhaustion, but I’m going with “runner’s high”.

Guess what?  From the moment I crossed that line I literally couldn’t wait to get out and run again.  It was strange.  All the nervousness and anxiety was gone.  I still hurt (I could barely walk the rest of the day), but that was overshadowed by a new found confidence.  I felt powerful.

The following day, our family along with the 2 dogs, went for a good, long hike and never once was I winded.  Monday morning I couldn’t wait to drop the kids off at school so I could get my run in.  I ran longer and felt stronger than ever.  Today is my rest day, and tomorrow I’ll lace up my running shoes and continue this journey.  I’ve learned a valuable lesson.  The name of my running group is No Boundaries.  This not only applies to preparing for a 5k, but to life in general.  No Boundaries doesn’t mean it’s all going to be easy sailing.  There will be hardship and pain, but push through.  Don’t give up.  Just when the pain makes you feel like throwing in the towel, look ahead and focus on the goal.  Listen to those around you that shout out encouragement (and likewise, shut your ears to those that only bring you down).  No Boundaries ~ definitely part of my joy column!

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My First Guest Blog Post!

I was honored recently to be asked to write a blog on a friend’s site bobiann.com.  It’s entitled “The Best Laid Plans”, and it’s a story of how one of my greatest plans was lovingly tweeked by the Planner of my life.  If you’ve ever had a plan, a dream, a vision that didn’t happen the way you thought it should, I hope my story encourages you to trust that God only has perfect plans for each of our lives.  His plans usually take more time, more pain, more lessons than we’d prefer.  But in the end, at least in my experience, His plans are the most excellent.

~ Thanks for taking time to read this very personal story.  The Best Laid Plans

 

 

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Pen In Your Zen

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To Do Lists.  Do you make them?  Do you feel a certain satisfaction when you cross off a completed task?  Do you get to the end of a day and realize you’ve done very little or perhaps zero items on this all important list?  How does that make you feel?  As for me (or is it myself?  oh who cares, I digress), I keep Post-Its in business with my daily To Do Lists.  They are very important and very necessary to the forward motion I want and need in my life.  Here’s a sample of what a weekday List looks like:

  • Clean kitchen (how in the heck do 3 people use THIS many dishes?!)
  • Swiffer, sweep, vacuum all floors – mop if you have time (I probably won’t have time)
  • Pick up and/or drop off D’s clothes at the dry cleaners (I’d ask him to do it, but then he’d never have any clean work clothes)
  • Go to Publix (somehow I manage to give that store money almost daily)
  • Start cleaning out/organizing Craft Room (it’s been a disaster for going on 12 months now)
  • Laundry (again, how do 3 people dirty up THIS many clothes?!)
  • Shower (it’s something that needs to be done every other day or so)
  • Walk at least 30 minutes (remind myself that Publix “runs” don’t count)
  • Create a menu for the week (instead of having a panic attack at 3 pm every day trying to decide what to feed my family for dinner)

Wow, sounds like fun, right?  Just makes me want to jump out of bed as soon as my alarm sounds at 6:20 a.m. and get the party started!  Not!!

Don’t get me wrong.  I feel honored and blessed to be a stay-at-home mom who provides a clean (somewhat) home, laundered clothes and home-cooked (most nights) meals for my husband and daughter.  I cherish the car rides to and from school.  My girl is in 7th grade.  These car rides aren’t going to last too much longer (sob).  I do take a certain pride in and get a sense of accomplishment from a checked-off To Do List.  However, I was reminded last week that there is more to life, and to my day-to-day routine than household tasks.

Where do I find excitement, enjoyment, intrigue, peace, adventure?  I was talking with a very wise and caring man (ok, my husband and I were chatting on the phone one morning), who mentioned that perhaps I should do something each day that just brings joy.  Something that doesn’t “have” to be done.  *Gasp*  Let the laundry go for the day?  Don’t anxiously look through a cookbook at 3pm?  Overlook the piles of dog hair in the corners?  That’s just crazy talk!

But I can’t stop thinking about what he proposed.  What I heard in my soul as we hung up that morning was “Prioritize the Zen”.  I’ve had it all backwards.  My priorities for many years now have been the “have to’s” and guess what?  More often than not I feel bitter.  I feel a tad resentful.  Sometimes even anger and I can’t pinpoint why.  I think I need to rediscover what makes Julie laugh.  What brings out my creative, spontaneous and energized self (laundry does not do IT for me, I’m telling you!)?  Starting this blog was a piece of rediscovering what makes me tick.  Now, I need to find out what else I’ve lost to the daily To Do List world I’ve succumbed to.  I realize I need to allow myself to get to the end of a day without completing The List.  If I’m smiling and at peace, my family will care less what condition our floors are.  If mama’s happy, I need to believe they will be happy.

I’m curious:  what do you do each day (no matter how small) for the pure sake of joy?  Now, mama needs to find a post-it and Pen (not pencil) in my Zen.

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Baby Steps

Today is Day 19 of my get-moving, run/walk, get off the flippin’ couch challenge to myself.  I have walked, run and/or hiked 10 out of the last 19 days.  Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much to jump up and down about (oh, I could do that too – it counts as moving!).  However, prior to Feb. 8 I was lacing up my running shoes about once a month.  Sometimes, I’d lace them up and then go do some laundry or remember that I REALLY needed to watch something I’d DVR’d a week ago, and those shoes would never hit the pavement.  Reality check:  doing laundry & watching TV does not cause thighs to shrink, just saying.

Joining a new beginners running group (shout out to the No Boundaries! group at Fleet Feet Sports!!) has been encouraging, motivating and even fun.  I didn’t expect the fun part.  I’m making new friends.  I’m making progress.  We’ve even hiked as a family the last 3 Sundays, which has been one of the biggest bonuses.

Could there actually be a runner hidden deep inside of me?  19 days in and I think I hear the pitter patter of a baby runner in my heart & soul.  That whisper of a new, healthy life-style goes right into my Joy Column!

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