See You Later- What A Wonderful Thought

This past weekend, we traveled back to Canton, TX and celebrated Jonathan as he embarks on his new life.

He has chosen to serve and departs for boot camp in less than a week. It was time to say, “See You Later.” Watching him interact with his friends and family was such a gift. Knowing that there wouldn’t be another moment like this was sobering. All of his friends will be very different when Jonathan sees them again. As it stands, we won’t see him again before August. One set of newly married friends will have welcomed their first child, his sister will be in law school and who knows what that much time will bring to the rest of their lives.

So, we soaked it all up. Laughter was in abundance as were smiles. He won’t look the same when he gets back. He will not be the same when he gets back. But, that is a thing to be celebrated, not grieved. Nothing stays the same, he is choosing to become more.

See you later, Big Boy! We could not possibly be more proud of you!

Hope and Encouragement for Today

But blessed is the man who

trust in the Lord

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted

by the water

that sends out its roots by the steam.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17-7-8

I can’t recommend Jesus enough.

When the news reels play or the social media feeds fill up with doom, despair, disrespect and every other negative thing- I wield this scripture like a sword to slay the anxiety and fear that threatens to over take me. This promise and every other promise in the Bible are without condition. It does not say in Jerimiah that if the Republicans are in power that I will be like a tree planted by the water. It doesn’t even specify which country I should live in to experience the promises of God. The only requirement is that I trust in the Lord.

Trust in the Lord= I do not need to fear difficult times.

I will take that deal. Notice that this scriptures does not say that drought never came to this tree. It says the tree has no worries in a drought. Not only does it not worry, but it never misses a year of production. Friend, this is a no brainer.

The world can keep their fear and fighting, hating and destruction- I will go with God. Regardless of what comes in this world, I will be like a tree planted by the water. God is my hope, my trust is in HIM. He has proven himself to me time and again.

Make no mistake, we are in a world at war. This war is between good and evil. It rages everyday. Battles can be bloody and I may take a hit, but my hope is in the Lord, I trust in the Lord to bring his promises to bear. So, turn off the television and internet feed and turn to the One who is able to save your soul and drench you with so much love that it drives out all fear.

Jesus Christ came and died for you and for me. He restored us to a perfect relationship with God. He didn’t come to steal all your fun and wrap you in chains of shame and guild. Jesus came to give you life. The only thing that Jesus want to take from you is fear and death. Give your life to Christ, you will be glad you did!

My Mile Marker Zero

Many of you may recognize this as Mile Marker Zero in Key West, Florida. Which might make you think that this is a travel blog post and it could be. We traveled there this summer, yes in 2020. It was my son’s senior trip, the handsome fellow you see in this picture. All he wanted was to go somewhere where he could snorkel. The Keys it was. What I did not anticipate was this picture.

God like to surprise us with little things that make our hearts happy. When we planned the trip, I know He was like, “This is gonna be so cool. You are gonna love this picture I have planned.” The reason it is so cool is that Jonathan is my fourth and final kid. I am officially done- he is my mile marker zero. It didn’t even occur to me when I took it. It was just a cool picture on a family vacation. But later, when we got home and I was looking at pictures, it hit me. Wow, what a way to wrap it up.

You would think that hitting such a milestone would feel so great. And it does feel great but at the exact same moment, it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. When the older two left home, I comforted myself with the fact that I had two more kids at home. Then the baby girl left home and that hurt like a mother. But, I still had J. Now, it’s mile marker zero.

So, here I sit. I can’t say I don’t have any regrets. I firmly believe that if you get to the end of your parenting run and don’t have any regrets, you didn’t take the job seriously enough. I may have some regrets, things I would do differently but I have no guilt or remorse. I know that I did the absolute best that I could with the tools that I had. Yes, 48 year-old me could do a few things better than 28 year-old me- I should hope so! But, I gave it my all and I am very proud of the humans I turned lose on the world.

Jonathan has joined the Marines and ships out January 19th. Talk about an abrupt ending. I am going from having full control (that is different from being controlling) to having NO control over anything in his life. I am not going to lie, this is a difficult curve to navigate. I mean, if anyone else talked to him they will talk to him, I would have gone OFF on them. You do NOT mess with my kids.

I realized that I had this narrative in my head that the Core was intentionally going to destroy all that I had built. While talking to my family at Christmas, this came out of my mouth. Thankfully, my dad is a former Marine. He said, “No Honey, its not like that.” On the long drive back to my island, I processed through all of this. I decided to change the narrative. I chose to look at it from a different perspective. I raised a young man who knows his mind, knows himself, above all knows Jesus, and is so strong that no matter was the Marines throw at him, they won’t break him.

It is amazing how a human heart can feel so many big emotions fully at the same time.

I am incredibly PROUD of him.

I am so SAD I won’t get to hear his voice everyday.

I am so HAPPY he is moving into adulthood and following his passion.

I am AFRAID of where that path will take him.

I am so EXCITED to see where that path will take him.

The list goes on. I am so grateful to have been given the gift of raising this boy. So, I will focus on the positive and celebrate my Mile Marker Zero.

Strong Women

This last Saturday, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday. I am 48 and I still have my grandmother. Not only is she still alive, but she is LIVING. She works in her garden, goes to church, mows her yard- she is still living. We share a lot of interests- gardening, reading, and cooking. I am her oldest grandchild.

She has a sister who also lives around the corner from her. We call her Auntie (said Ain-tee). She makes the best cakes and pies of anyone I know. She also loves to read and for several decades was the librarian at the Junior High School in our small town.

I am her oldest great-niece. I have learned a lot from these two ladies. Mostly, I learned what it looks like to be strong. Both have suffered loss and faced difficulties in their lives. They both raised a large family and loved hard. My Auntie had four boys and my grandmother had 3 girls, 1 boy, and 1 more girl. I had 3 girls and 1 boy- had I had one more I am certain it would have been a girl. My mother and all my aunts showed me what strong looked like, as well. We are all Texan born and raised.

Not only did they live examples of strength but they told stories of the women in our family that handled their stuff. One great-aunt got tired of a drunk and abusive husband. She waited till he passed out, sewed him in a sheet, and took a broom handle to him. Things greatly improved in their marriage. As a kid I thought, “Oh, this is how you handle that situation.” Another great-aunt got tired of her husband running around on her. He woke up with this petite lady sitting on his chest and a .45 aimed at his face. He straightened up. Again, I was taking notes.

Now, I have never had to use any of these particular lessons. I married a great guy who is a faithful man. However, I have tools in my toolbox and this is empowering. As a matter of fact, Tony worked with a guy who didn’t see anything wrong with a little “extra” on the side. He had a very sweet wife who just kept paying for all his toys and putting up with his behavior. One day while they were on duty at the fire station this guy looks at Tony and says, “You mean you would never sleep around on your wife. Why?”

Tony replied, ” Because its wrong. AND because my wife isn’t as nice as your wife.”

Guy, “What do you mean?”

Tony “I mean my wife isn’t a nice as yours. She’ll take a sledge hammer to my knees while I sleep.”

He was not wrong, I am not that kind of “nice”. I come from a long line of women who don’t put up with that kind of mess. Boundaries matter, it’s also good to understand what happens when lines are crossed.

Now, some of you are having issues with my words. I mean how can a decent person advocate such violence. I am a God-fearing Christian, how can I advocate such violence? All I can say is that sometimes, violence is the answer. I know this just seems wrong, but how many times have people needed to get out of an abusive situation and had no help from law enforcement because a crime had not been committed or there was a crime and the abuser paid bail and was back on the doorstep within hours?

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Here’s the thing- I have never had to get physical in defense of myself or my family. I even tried once and the girl wouldn’t engage. Some punk beat up my younger sister on the bus. I wasn’t there and the girl, who was close to my age, jumped my sister who was 4 years younger. That would not stand. I chose to ride the bus to school the next morning. We exchanged nothing but words, however she did not hit on my sister again. Bullies know who to target. They target those they can attack without any repercussions. I am not one of those people. I may wear an orange jumpsuit for a time, but there will be repercussions if you mess with one of mine.

This cute little lady in the pictures above drove a school bus for a couple of decades. She drove a bus in the more “questionable” parts of Dallas. When my grandmother married my granddad, she was 5’4″ and weighed 105 lbs. By the time I was riding along on her bus routes, she weighed a little more but was still a small woman. This particular day, she was running a route that was predominately high school kids from a rough part of town. One boy mouthed off at her and I was like “uh-oh”, where I come from you do NOT mouth off to the women. I was also scared because she was going to need back-up and at around 10 years old (when I married I also weighed 105 lbs. and was 5’4″), I wasn’t going to be much help. So she looks up in her mirror at this kid and says, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t bad. I’m bad, now turn around and shut up.” I was in awe. He did it, too. The whole ride was calm and no-one gave her any trouble. Again, I was taking notes in my head and I thought “That is how you handle your stuff.”

So, now here I am at 48 and I write books with strong lead females. I don’t know how to write anything else. The women handle their stuff, they love hard and value their husbands and their families.

I am so grateful to have had my grandmother in my life this long. I am grateful to have been raised by a strong woman and been in the company of strong women my whole life. I am also grateful to have raised strong women, as well. Pictured below is five generations of the oldest daughter having an oldest daughter. The line goes back for seven generations.

This One Thing That Will Bring Peace to Your Marriage

Grace.

That is the one element that will make your marriage better. Grace will make any relationship you have better- including the relationship you have with yourself.

What is Grace exactly?

grace

Definition of grace

 (Entry 1 of 2)1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b: a virtue coming from God

c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

2a: APPROVALFAVOR stayed in his good graces

b archaic MERCYPARDON

c: a special favor PRIVILEGEeach in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage— Rudyard Kipling

d: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency

e: a temporary exemption : REPRIEVE

3a: a charming or attractive trait or characteristic Among disagreeable qualities he possessed the saving grace of humor.

b: a pleasing appearance or effect CHARMall the grace of youth— John Buchan

c: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing danced with such grace

grace verb gracedgracing

Definition of grace (Entry 2 of 2)

1: to confer dignity or honor on The king graced him with the rank of a knight.

2: ADORNEMBELLISH graveled walks graced with statues— J. A. Michener

There is a lot to this one word, but I think the part that applies the most to marriage is “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency“. Frequently, we demand more from those we live with, especially our spouse. We let our anger show, our impatience colors our words, and we keep a long list of flaws and mistakes. But, what would our marriage look like if we responded with grace instead of “justice” or harshness?

I think sometimes, especially for women, we think it is our duty or job to fix everyone around us. The world tells us that we do that by pointing our every flaw and demanding perfection. That isn’t how God does it. He offers GRACE every second of every day. If we are in a new season, he offers grace. If we are struggling, he offers grace. If we are learning a new way of being or doing, he offers grace.

Grace is key to living at peace.

My therapist once asked me what I wanted to remember in January when I thought about the holidays.

Peace- Joy- Reverence-Laughter- Ease

But most of all, in every season of my life, I want peace.

You need grace to have peace. You can’t be at peace with yourself if you don’t extend grace to yourself. You can’t live at peace with others if you don’t extend grace to others. There is a time for calling someone on their sh*&$. But those times are NOT everyday and not in every moment. Plus, if you are constantly busting someone over every flaw and mistake, they are not listening to you. However, if you deal grace like a drug dealer deals meth, people will listen when you come to them out of love and talk with them about a problem or pattern that needs attention.

GRACE should be thrown around like confetti on New Year’s Eve. Give it freely because God has certainly given it freely to you.

I also looked up antonyms for Grace:

Bitterness. Disapproval. Hostility. Unforgiveness.

Wow, sometimes you can learn more by looking at what something is not than what it is.

Jesus is our Prince of Peace. How fitting that His Father is a God of Grace.

Talk About It! The Biggest Hurdle in a Marriage

On this Marriage Monday, I want to talk about the biggest hurddle you have had to overcome in your marriage.

For me and my love, it has been communication. I am betting, that this has been yours. Even if wasn’t THE biggest hurdle, I can guarantee it was key to you overcoming that hurdle. Communication is key when building a marriage and probably the most challenging aspect early on.

With us, it wasn’t even that one of us didn’t want to communicate, it was that we didn’t understand the other’s communication style. Every person comes from a nuclear family- even if they spent the majority of their childhood in the foster system. That nuclear family, for better or for worse, defined how that person communicated. Mostly, the ways of communication are defined by all the unwritten rules.

The unwrittten rules of communication.

Those little devils can really make communication hard. Its been said that the devil is in the details and the unwritten rules of communication are the details.

Think about it. For those of you that grew up with your mom in the house, what did it mean when she huffed? I know exactly what it means when my mother huffs. I have a whole vocabulary of sighs that my kids and my husband understand. However, a stranger would have no idea.

But this is what we bring into our marriage with us.

In my family, we communicated loud. Like all the time. If you wanted to be heard at a family gathering, you had to be louder than the person sitting next to you. I am telling you, it is an introvert’s nightmare. I married an introvert. I thought for a long time, that he hated my family. He didn’t, he just needed a nap- but that is a topic for another post!

So, in the beginning Tony would say “Stop yelling” and I was like, “I am not yelling. Would you like me to yell so that you can see the difference?” Tony on the other hand is a man of few words. I had to learn what his body language meant. After 28 years, I am pretty good. I still miss it sometimes, so I am still a fan of using your words.

Another example of different communication styles is the phrasing that is used. Tony, being a laid back guy who is, well, nice- would aske me, “Are you ready to go?” To this I would reply, “Yes” or “No”. In the early years this caused problems because in his mind, he just told me he was ready to go. In my mind- he asked me a question. Where I came from, I watched all the men in my family walk in and say, “I am ready to go.” I thought all men did it that way. So, we had to hash that out in the car.

As time went on, I still expected him to be more direct, but I also realized that that wasn’t his way. I needed and loved the steady love he gave me, with that came an indirect approach to communication. I choose to acknowledge that when he aske me if I was ready to go, that he was politely telling me that he was ready. I then showed him love and respect by leaving then, or at least communicating when I would be ready.

It’s funny, but because he didn’t grow up with direct communication- everything that was said had underlying meanings- he didn’t take what I said as what I meant. Trust me- I don’t know any other way to be. If I don’t want to have a conversation or I want to avoid conflict- I just don’t say anything or I make noises of agreement. I don’t speak in veiled meanings because I don’t know how. Now, learning how to phrase things so that it doesn’t sound like you are attacking the other person is important.

How something is said is just as important as what is said when you are communicating with your spouse.

Regardless of where you came from, learning to communicate in your marriage is essential.

On marriagetoday.com, Jimmy Evans shares this:

That’s how you overcome conflicts: You talk through them. Talk about money. Talk about sex. Talk about parenting issues. One study showed that 86 percent of divorced couples admitted they had communication problems in their marriages.

https://marriagetoday.com/the-six-levels-of-communication-in-marriage/

86% of divorces might could have been avoided if they had learned how to communicate. If you are having trouble in your marriage, get some help. There are a plethora of articles online to help improve communication. Apply what you know from communicating with people at work to your spouse. If you wouldn’t call your coworker an idiot, then don’t call your spouse and idiot. If you wouldn’t tell your boss that he was the biggest loser you ever met, don’t tell that to your spouse.

Sometimes, communication is hard because we think we should get to say whatever we want to our spouse. We don’t. That person we promised to love and cherish to death do us part should get the best of what we have to offer- especially our words.

So, what has been your biggest hurdle to overcome in your marriage?

The Power Is Yours

Thank God! My healing, your healing is not in anyway dependent upon the one who did the wounding!

Think about that a minute.

Your healing is not in anyway dependent upon the one who did the wounding.

This is so great because I have no control over the other person. Neither do you. Neither does God. Nope, not even God has control over people. He is a crazy risk taker and gave us this thing called free will. I have the freedom to do whatever I want, consequences be damned. This means other people can do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences to those around them. Now, don’t confuse God’s gift of free will as a blanket approval for every action- because He doesn’t like what was done to us anymore than we do.

Now, God does have control over my life because I freely choose to give him control.

AND THAT IS THE POINT

Because I have free will, when I chose God it is because I CHOSE God. This makes God over the moon happy because if a choice is forced, its not really choice. Love that is demanded and required is not LOVE. God so loved me that he gave his son. God so loved you that he gave his son. So, when I choose God, it means something. It sounds a lot like a love story, does it not?

My friend, it is the greatest love story ever told.

Since I have chosen God and his son Jesus, I have given them access to my heart, soul, and mind. I have surrendered my life, therefore he refuses to let me remain the same. He will pursue me, until I drop the barriers and let him see where it hurts. Not so he can add to the wound but so He can heal it. Kind of like the Alpha male in those love stories where he pursues the heart of the woman he loves, regardless of the venom she throughs his way? Yeah, just like that. God is the ultimate Alpha male and thanks be to Him, he has pursued my heart. This usually means that he keeps poking at the tender spot, not because He is sadistic but because He needs me to grant him permission to get in the middle of it.

As of late, any statement or question from Tony that could in any shape or form be construed as him saying that my best wasn’t good enough has brought out a huge reaction. Think angry mountain lion hissing, growling and baring her teeth- maybe even taking a swipe with the claws. He and God both just take all the anger and let it roll off. Neither walk away and for that I am so grateful. Nothing Tony has said was meant to imply that I wasn’t enough, for whatever reason he thinks I am freaking amazing.

No matter what I do, how hard I work, how much I accomplish- it’s NEVER enough. How hopless is that situation? Can you relate?

But, its not really a situation. It’s a mindset.

A mindset framed and built by words and messages from my past and fed by the enemy. Yes, we have an enemy whose whole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. We have an enemy but we have a bigger God. The commander of Angel Armies has come to our rescue. Once again, I get love story vibes. God is writing the love story of your life. DO NOT give in to the enemy.

Seeing the truth of the situation, seeing the lie that is being told, this is the beginning of healing. The healing is not dependent upon the one who did the wounding. The healing is dependent on you- YOU have to power.

Hear that again- YOU have ALL the POWER over your healing.

That doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You don’t. BUT, your heavenly father does. Give Him control over your life and let him into the wounded areas and HE WILL heal you. You have the power to choose life and recieve the healing.

Now, please do not expect this to be an easy process. It won’t be. Healing is scary. But living with wounds unhealed is even more scary.

For me, I could not stand the idea that the enemy would have any power or control over my future. This meant the wounds had to be healed or they would steal joy and peace from my present and my future. I will NOT give the enemy one more victory in my life.

I have wounds because others did not let God heal their wounds. I am NOT riding that merry-go-round another minute. I will not hurt others by refusing to let God heal my wounds.

Hallelujah!

My healing is not dependent on the one who did the wounding- neither is yours.

Galveston Island- A Place of Inspiration

Twenty nine years ago, I started something and didn’t finish it. I hate have something unfinished hanging out there. Because of Tony’s encouragement and a word from God, I went back to school. At this time, I am attending college full-time. College Algebra (read with crossed-eyes) and Art (read with a GREAT BIG SMILE!) are in their last weeks. One of the projects in art was to make a collage. I had so much fun doing this project.

We were instructed to include things that inspire us and explain the meaning behind what we choose. This was so easy for me, all the things that inspire and motivate me are around me everyday. This island holds all my treasures.

The timing of when and how we got to the island is remarkable but no accident. God’s timing is perfect. I had no idea what season we were walking into, but God had a plan. He works all things for our good and answers prayers in ways we never dreamed.

It isn’t a crazy thought that we moved to an island. I am quite sure that my birthstone is actually a seashell, not a sapphire. The water makes me come alive in a way that nothing else in nature does. But yet, it is crazy that we actually packed up and moved. We had lived 23 of our 26 years of marriage in a small town where I grew up. Most of my family still lives in that town. It was a good place to raise children and live. But that season was over.

We were coming out of the most challenging time we had ever faced. Our farm had been destroyed by a massive tornado. We had spent a year cleaning and rebuilding. Every time we were ready to start on the house, God would say just wait. So, we waited. Then, one job opened up for Tony- in Texas City, fifteen minutes from Galveston. Against all odds, this door opened and every other door we needed open, opened. We just kept walking through them.

And here we are, beginning our third year at 1220 Winnie St, Galveston TX. I can walk a half of a mile and have my feet in the saltwater and feel the sand between my feet and the sun on my face. This has been a season of restoration and healing. The trauma of the tornado had left us raw and worn. God has been restoring and healing us day by beautiful day.

Not only was I healing from the recent events in our history, but God had appointed this the season to heal some deep wounds from my childhood. This has not been an easy journey, but is has been good. I am so grateful that God gave me such a beautiful and unexpected place to heal. This island has been a place of restoration.

I began seeing a therapist, who is so fabulous, and she has been a God-send. One day, last summer I was getting ready for my appointment and I prayed, “God, if there is anything you want to talk about, bring it up with Dr. Casper.” In the middle of our session she asked me, “Have you ever thought about being a therapist?” Well, as a matter of fact I had. About three decades ago I was in college pursuing a degree in Psychology. I told her about this and she said, “You should go back to school.” Later that day, I realized what I had prayed and what had been said. I told Tony that apparently it was time for me to go back to school. He said, “I know, I already got your paperwork done.” And so phase two of my college career began. That unfinished thing in my past won’t be unfinished for long.

The past is being dealt with at the same time that new things have begun. I have launched a writing career. I am now owning this as mine. I am a writer. One day in my kitchen talking with all my kids, I said how being a writer would be my dream life. I had already written a novel at this point, but I had not owned that life. I stared at them all and said, “Then why aren’t I chasing that thing down?” Well, here we are. I am running down a dream (I love Tom Petty).

So, when I am asked what inspires me- all I have to do is look around. My husband (My Leading Man), my children, my grandchildren, the sea, the historic homes and my faith. All are held on this one island. Now, the children and grandchildren will come and go. But, I will always have the memories and new memories to be made.

Do This One Thing To Make Your Marriage Stronger

The one thing my husband tells our children and any other young person who askes is this, “Move at least 3 hours from both sets of parents.” I have to say I agree.

Lest you think we hate our parents, let me set the record straight- we don’t.

But, with that said, if parents are close at hand the process of leaving your family of origin and creating your own, new, nuclear family will be greatly thwarted.

I had an overbearing mother and my husband had an over bearing father.

To be clear, neihter was overbearing because they hated us. They loved us dearly. The problem was that they both thought that they knew what was best for us but they didn’t agree on what that was.

So there Tony and I were caught in the middle. This created a lot of stress on our newly born marriage. We hadn’t been “grown” long enough to be comfortable with not doing what we were told by our parents.

I can’t really figure out why either thought we needed to be told what to do. I mean we were all of 19 and 21!

Can you blame them? I am still weighing in heavy on my 19 and 21 year-old children’s lives. They were just being parents and we were just being children.

And that was the problem, we needed to stop being children and be adults.

My second daughter did what her dad said. She left Canton and moved to Galveston TX, 5 hours away, with her new husband. She said that even though we weren’t the meddling kind of parents, she would have continued to depend on us instead of her new husband. The distance caused them to forge a tighter bond faster.

So, do yourself a favor, put some distance between you and your parents so that you can become one.