A Tribute To My Husband of One Year…

This is a tribute to my husband.  I try to find ways every single day to make sure he knows how much I love him!  Life is short and precious.  Time is something you can never get back.  Treasure it.  Treasure your relationships!  Nourish them!  Grow them!  Don’t sweat the small things.  In the big picture they don’t matter.  In the scope of eternity – people are what matters!  My husband is incredible in all he does to take care of his family and responsibilities.  I love him to the core!  He is my blessing and greatest gift from God.  I’m truly blessed beyond measure.

It may only have been a year, which seems a smudge on the radar of what’s still to come, but I’m looking forward to the years ahead because I’ll have those years with Tommy by my side and in my heart!  I only wish I could have found him sooner so I could love him longer!

In 12 days Tommy and I celebrate our first year of marriage!  This morning in particular I’ve been reflecting on the incredible journey to get to today, the life God has called us to as a couple, and what our future looks like.

We were actually broke up when we eloped.  I actually was not even talking to him when I decided I’d marry him.  I had blocked him on my phone so he couldn’t call or text me.  I wouldn’t respond to emails.  I had un-friended him on Facebook.  So for hours he sent me private messages through messenger.  It started during the day on May 22nd; first with pictures of him fishing in our favorite mountain creek, then of his rainbow trout he had caught, then a nice picture of him kayaking.   I knew he wanted to share it with me, but I wouldn’t respond.  I ignored him.  After all, I was mad and extremely justified in my personal opinion.

The messages continued throughout the day and escaladed into the afternoon and early evening.  Actually, they were non-stop for almost five hours towards the end.  I’ll never forget standing in a Target store looking at frozen pizzas, trying to decide which one I was going to splurge on.  After picking out my pizza I was going to go and get me an Oreo Cream Pie and go home and gorge myself.  That was my Friday night plan.  (A pretty awesome plan I think) I certainly had not woken up that morning with any intentions of eloping that night.  Tommy and I had dated for 20 months (with several break-ups during that time).  My heart was crushed and I wanted to be a vegetable. However, standing in front of that massive selection of frozen pizzas at my local Target, I decided to take a leap of faith and breathe again – and I’m so incredibly glad I did.  That very next day I married my best friend in the Great Smoky Mountains where we absolutely love to spend time together.  It’s our favorite get-a-way place.  We love the fishing and kayaking, the swimming and biking, the nature trails and scenic views, sitting around the campfire, and disconnecting from the rat-race that life so often is.   Now it has forever been imprinted on my heart because it’s the place I said “I-DO” to my best friend while fighting back the tears; tears of joy of course.

We didn’t wear fancy clothes.  I didn’t have anything remotely dressy to wear.  Tommy wore Khakis and a button up shirt.  I wore sandals, a white cotton sundress and peach cardigan wrap over it, but I would have married him in blue jeans on the creek bank.  It didn’t matter what we were wearing in my opinion.  What mattered was that I knew from the beginning God created Tommy for me to love and God created me for Tommy to love.

I can’t believe how the time has flown.  You know that feeling you get on New Year’s Eve? “I can’t believe a whole year has gone by-So fast-Again!” and then you start to wonder what you’ve achieved in the past year… That’s kind of what it feels like as our first wedding anniversary approaches.

A whole year has gone by! I can’t even begin to believe it! Except there is so much we have done, learned, experienced and achieved.  There is so much that we have overcome.  So many tears cried, so much laughter and joy, and so much peace and assurance found in each other’s arms.  This is how life is supposed to be.  I know that no matter what life throws my way – it’s throwing it Tommy’s way too – because we are a team.  My team-mate is always there for me, fighting with me and for me, cheering me on, winning with me, celebrating with me, learning with me, training in the trenches with me, serving with me – I’m so grateful, privileged, honored, and overjoyed that I get to DO LIFE with my best friend – What joy he has brought to my life!  Life isn’t perfect.  We are deceived if we think it is.  No one person is going to meet our every need and expectation – that’s unrealistic – and that’s God’s job!  No person is perfect.  Tommy and I both are filled with imperfections, but perhaps that is what makes us so perfect for each other.  True love is two imperfect people perfectly loving each other!  Tommy makes my heart smile in ways only he was created and designed to do.

What I love more and more about relationships is that you just never stop learning about each other (which makes sense if you think how much people grow and learn about themselves as each day goes by). This year we have gone through some of the toughest times. There were fights, there were arguments, and plenty of stresses; but they were all learning curves and we’re so lucky that things that could have drawn us apart have only brought us closer together. That in retrospect seems like a great accomplishment in and of itself.

An element of it really is being married to your best friend, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When you wake up together, want to share the latest/greatest/most important news with one another (which to others may or may not be great or important at all), be the first to tell them a secret, tell them your deepest darkest fears (or slightest concerns). They’re the person who’ll love you (and you them) forever no-matter how silly you dress, fat or wrinkly you might get (one day), emotional you are, they won’t judge you, they laugh when you talk in your sleep, they won’t get mad if you forget to wash your plate or pass gas in the middle of the night…. They’re the single most important person to you, you make each other better people, and their happiness is always your happiness.  With God as the foundation and cornerstone – all things are possible!

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Not On Our Watch – Not Just Another Christmas

A Christmas Theory by Valerie Goodman 2015

 

As I think back on my favorite Christmas memories from childhood I can’t help but pause and reflect on how wonderfully and richly God has blessed me.  I look around and see so much pain and hurting (even in my own family) and I am reminded that family and friends are truly one of life’s greatest treasures and gifts.

Growing up Christmas was a babe in a manger – a savior for the world, Christmas cantatas, snowmen and ice, jingle bells and the sound of my mom singing Silver Bells and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus as we drove down Highway 47 – all while I was standing in the middle of the seat beside her (yes, that was before car seat and seatbelt laws).  It was home-made angel wings and gowns for the annual Christmas program at church – wings that left trails of glitter and feathers everywhere I walked – like a fairy sprinkling her magic flying dust.

Christmas was the smell of cookies and pies, mom’s lemon icebox pie and potato salad, turkey and dressing, sparkling lights, and twinkling lights. It was driving to Southern Haulers (dad’s work because he worked 60-80 hours a week many times) on Christmas Eve to sit with him in a grease pit, and then waiting for him to arrive home Christmas morning before Santa could come. My dad has always been such a hard worker and those are some of my earliest memories of him and Christmas. Christmas was going to Little Mama and Daddy Cups’ house Christmas Day and the house being filled with so many people you couldn’t find a place to sit – the smell of excessive amounts of food filling the air (including butter beans and corn bread – which were staples at all meals) and gifts piled high from floor to ceiling.  Then there are the memories of sitting with my cousins in the back room as we gorged ourselves with plate after plate of turkey, dressing and deserts and giggled about things that made sense to no one but us. Christmas was staring intently in amazement at the Christmas Tree cake my mom’s mom (my beautiful grandmother) had made – that was so pretty no one would dare cut into it.

Christmas was dressing up like an angel for the church Christmas play, singing the Silent Night solo (which you were always asked to sing -but you really wanted to sing What Child Is This). Christmas was giggles and laughter, Candy Canes, Hot Chocolate, broken doll carriage wheels that Santa broke accidentally while coming down the chimney, and driving around with the family to see all the town’s Christmas lights. Christmas was (and still is) Bing Crosby and White Christmas, Elf, and stringing popcorn with momma to hang on the tree. We ate more than we strung.

12039298_10205341952009326_8933012505312015737_n603714_10203091436307840_5706488084701056662_nChristmas was looking through the Sears & Roebuck catalog, making my wish list for Santa, and checking it more than twice. It was trips to Wal-mart and Bills Dollar Store, gazing with anticipation at the toy isles.  Christmas was watching The sleigh radar detector on the local news and sleeping with one eye open hoping to catch a small Glimpse of Santa as he made his Christmas delivery to our house.  I would listen intently trying to see if I could hear Rudolf and Prancer on the rooftop.

Now we have new family traditions and we are making new memories.  I love decorating the Dining Room tree and decking the house out with decorations and lights.  I love coming together with the kiddos and decorating the Family Tree in the living room, eating pizza and home-made chocolate chip cookies, followed by the annual trip to see the beautiful lights at Nocallula Falls.  I love seeing the smiles on their faces as they open their gifts – oh how I love giving (and receiving) surprises.  Even more, I love the look on their face when they open the annual GAG GIFT I have over-thought and carefully constructed!  I love the family get-togethers and the anticipation of a new year ahead. 10988503_10204563649232243_1431033095000537532_n

Reflecting back on Christmas memories is so much fun, but I find myself at a place and time in my life where Christmas is somehow so different now. It takes on an entirely new meaning.  I still love all the above mentioned memories and traditions. AND DON’T GET ME WRONG – I’ve been a good girl Santa and I have made my list and checked it twice to insure I haven’t forgotten anything!  (giggles)

Somehow these days I find that my heart longs for something deeper. I imagine it’s because, as Ephesians 2:10 outlines, we were created for something so much bigger than ourselves.  We were created to be a part of the grand design of God’s plan, precisely woven into the tapestry of His master plan.  The fanfare of secular Christmas traditions (although fun and nothing wrong with it when our focus is where it should be and we keep the MAIN THING the MAIN THING) is not what brings fulfillment and joy and purpose to my life. Jesus came because we needed him. And likewise, those around us need him – and we can be His heart extended to the world. This brings true fulfillment. When someone sees the hands of God reaching through us – When our acts of kindness bring the smile – That is when we know Heaven has kissed earth.  If we want to feel the warmth of heaven touching earth, if we truly want others to know that they are not alone, or forgotten, or overlooked, then we should be courageous and take action. This is the true wonder of Christmas – so my challenge to you is don’t let this be just another Christmas!  Go out and be the hands and feet of Christ.  Be His heart, His hands, and His feet.  This is why He came to begin with – so that we and others may know and experience freedom and be restored to our Father God in Heaven. 12038022_10205342407100703_4074331008410666255_n

If we truly want to see the wonder of Christmas and feel the warmth of Heaven breath upon the earth, then we must rise up and say – NOT ON OUR WATCH!  Not on our watch will a 17-year war veteran go another Christmas without a smile, a warm meal, a coat and a gift, when we have it within our power to help.  NOT ON OUR WATCH will another child not have a winter coat and a gift to unwrap when we have it within our power to help.  NOT ON OUR WATCH will someone contemplate suicide because they feel so utterly hopeless – because WE DO HAVE THE POWER TO HELP!  NOT ON OUR WATCH will we sit idly by when we have the power within us to do good.  We may not can do everything, or even change their circumstances, but we can do something!  We can offer kindness and hope that may change their outlook – and that is the greatest gift of all!  To love people and serve people and let them know THEY MATTER!  The power of one is miraculous.  The power of a group of us coming together for one common purpose and goal is divine! 12046736_10205346658726991_5768458805157005748_n.jpg

May we never again say to God – “Do Something, Send Someone to Help”.  God created us and we are a somebody who can do something!  So let’s go do something – let’s go do what we can!

Merry Christmas everyone and God bless!12042797_10205332340049033_5586366431347545703_n

The Heart of Gratitude…………

Gratitude unlocks the richness of life and brings joy. Gratitude can turn what we have into more than enough. Gratitude turns rejection into approval and acceptance, brings order in the midst of chaos, and brings precision and clarity during times of instability. Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, and a stranger into a friend. Having a spirit of gratitude helps us make sense of our past; bringing peace for today and creating vision and hope for tomorrow. CALMNESS RESIDES IN A LIFE THAT IS LIVED WITH GRATITUDE; A QUIET JOY.  The beauty of gratitude is that it gives us a chance to push the pause button on busy lives and reflect on our blessings, the people we love, and freedoms we enjoy.

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Beauty and Heartache…….

I was reminded of something just a short while ago from a person I look up to.  Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of a season where there is beauty and heartache at the same time. You’re completely aware of God’s presence in and on your life, yet you find yourself constantly in a position of having to lay down questions, doubts and pain. You find yourself asking, “when is enough ENOUGH”.  You find yourself having some seriously intense conversations with God. One thing I’ve realized through this season is that there is no shame in asking why.  There is nothing wrong with having questions – but worshipping and trusting Him through it – that brings the break-through and healing. It’s about learning through it all to praise Him – in the midst of the storm even when we can’t begin to understand.  The presence of His spirit breaks through walls of deep disappointment. We are created in the image of our Father, and He is so very well acquainted with our deepest thoughts and hurts.  In His presence we can find peace that cannot be explained.  As I’ve been walking through this season of tough love with a family member, I’ve come to learn more and more that waiting on the Holy Spirit, worshipping while tears are running down your face, surrendering your questions and fears, letting go of hurt and disappointment, all while waiting for Him to meet you where you are – that’s what helps – so…here I am Lord—waiting on you!  Stand with someone today.  You don’t have to know what words to say.  Just stand with them and worship with them.  Be a part of the break-though.

Your Heart Walking Around Outside Of Your Body…..

How do you cope when your heart is being ripped out over your wayward child? I know first-hand the unimaginable grief and heartbreak this brings.  I am also very well acquainted with the grief, blame, heart-ache, regret, condemnation of others, and longing desires for brighter days that are associated with it.  I hope my being completely transparent here can offer a glimpse of hope to someone, and shed the light of education on the topic for others.  I’m not looking for anyone to agree or disagree with me.  That’s not the purpose of this.  This is just a compilation of my thoughts.

The older I get the less I care about what others think.  I don’t mean that in a ruthless nor a cold-hearted manner, but rather in a direct and intentional, premeditated method and approach to dealing with the heartache of disappointment.

Kids are not required to be appreciative, thankful, or grateful for that matter – simply because they never asked to be born into this world.  That was our decision.  What they are required to do and be is respectful.  And if they cannot be respectful in attitude, tone, and actions, then they need to be put into a place of depreciation that will help them learn the value of such. 

This statement has been replaying in my head ever sense I heard it yesterday.  It has been very thought provoking.  It may appear at first glance to be very calloused and cold.  At first I thought the same.  But after thinking on it for a while, my initial thoughts have changed.

Growing up I was always told that I didn’t have to agree with every decision my parents made.  What I did have to do was to be respectful and honor my mom and dad.  That was my God-given responsibility and commission.  Being respectful and honoring did not in any way take away from my individuality and right to have a different opinion.  It did however show that I had reverence for authority placed in my life regardless of deferential opinions I may possess.  It did show that I was courteous and polite.  My mom always told me that she was open to my expressing my opinion as long as it was done in a reverential matter.  It wasn’t so much what I said – but how I said it.  With that said, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you are saying or how you are saying it.  Some things are simply and undeniably – jaw-dropping disrespectful, even when said in jest.  From the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak!  It is a heart issue that must be dealt with.

We live in a society that always wants to point the finger of blame to the parents for unruly and disrespectful / out of control kids and teenagers.  Add to that the extreme burden and weight of guilt the parent carries already thinking, “where did I go wrong” or “what could I have done differently” or “what is wrong with me”.  I must respectfully disagree with this theory and mind-set, as well as this self-condemnation, from personal experience.  I don’t claim to be perfect – in reality, I’m probably the most complete mess of a person there ever was.  (which is exactly where God desires us to be, because he takes our mess and makes it into a masterpiece)  With that being said, I know that sometimes you can do everything right and it still isn’t enough.  That’s because sometimes it is a heart issue.  Sometimes it stems from outside influences you have no control over.  We can train up a child all we want to, but when the rubber hits the road it is still the reality of the fact that WE CANNOT CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF ANOTHER.  WE CANNOT TELL SOMEONE ELSE’S HEART HOW TO BE!   We simply cannot.  No matter how hard we try to instill morals, values, respect, dignity, honor, reverence, etc… into our children, at the end of the day they are their own person, designed by God, with free will and the ability to make their own choices – and they will make their own decisions.  (this is how God designed all of us – with the ability to think and make our own choices) This is where we as parents have to trust that someday our investment will yield a return.  I think this is the epitome of the phrase “Let Go and Let God”!

Some may not agree with me.  To those I’d like to say you do not know that of which you speak or pass judgment on.  I learned a long time ago that things are not always as they appear; especially on social media.   I reserve my judgment for the things that God says we rightfully should judge, and nothing else.  Condemnation is not mine to give to anyone.  No parent holds up a newborn baby and says – “I hope they become a troubled out-of-control teen one day”.  Parents are full of hopes and dreams for their children.  Unfortunately, despite parents’ best efforts, it’s possible for a teenager to exhibit some terribly frightening behaviors. They can be verbally aggressive and disrespectful, refusing to play their part in the family or participate unless things are going “their” way.  They can deploy plans to make everyone around them miserable unless they are getting “their” way.  They can be hateful with their words, trying to make sure others “know their place” in their world.  An out-of-control teen may be verbally or physically abusive, dive into dark worlds of drugs and alcohol, drop out of school or run away from home. He or she might acquire a criminal record. Parents may feel helpless and hopeless when it comes to the troubled teenager in their family, and it’s unlikely that there’s a quick fix or a cure.  It’s a heart issue.  There is an old saying – You can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you are trying.  But that doesn’t mean we give up either.  Draw healthy boundary lines – YES!  Give up – NO!

It’s heart-breaking to say the least – raising, or trying your best- to raise an unruly out-of-control teen.  Having a child is momentous.  It’s deciding forever to have your heart walk around outside of your body.  Our children are our hearts!  The worst nightmare of many parents is to have a rebel — a kid who makes her own destructive way through life, ignoring everything they’ve ever been taught, refusing to abide by any rules, causing chaos in all of the lives they touch. The fear is so great that some parents stress over everything their teens do, taking even normal behavior as a sure sign that their kids are headed for the edge of the cliff.  Other parents do the opposite. They ignore obvious warning signs, hoping it’s a phase their kids will grow out of.

At the end of the day we have to remember:  1) We cannot control our teen’s choices.  They alone decide if they want to listen in class and complete their work.  They alone decide if they are going to make healthy food choices when away from your supervision.  They alone decide if they want to dabble in drugs and alcohol.  They alone decide if they want to study or cheat on a test.  They alone decide if they want to be successful or the class clown.  We can give them all the necessary resources and tools, but in the end – there is nothing we can do about it.  They will make their own choices and learn to live with the natural-logical consequences of such.  2)  We have to learn to art of relinquishment.  This means learning to let go.  Learning to LET GO and LET GOD.  This may mean releasing our dreams and hopes and desires for what WE wanted for our child.  We give up control and leave the results to God.  3)  Obtaining help if necessary.  If we broke our arm, we’d naturally go see a doctor to receive treatment.  So why are so many people ashamed of seeking help for issues such as this?  Could it be the stigma that society places on it?  Could it be the mantel of disgrace that society cast upon people dealing with this?  What a shame!  What a shame that society designs their own little box of what is NORMAL and cast out everyone who doesn’t fit their mold.  4)  Sometimes extreme measures have to be taken for the good and health of everyone involved.  It doesn’t matter what other people think.  People are going to think what they want to think and believe what they want to believe, so don’t waste your time and energy here.  Do what must be done.  It’s not an easy decision and one that no parent should ever be faced with.  Yet it’s the reality of the world we live in.  The most important thing to remember is safety for all involved.  5)  Don’t be afraid to let others know what you are dealing with.  So often we are too scared to let others know because of the veil of shame that is cast upon us.  “what will people think?”  DOES IT MATTER?  “they will think I am a failure and talk about us.”  DOES IT MATTER?  God sees and knows all and His opinion is the only one that matters!  Don’t share with gossipmongers, but be real.  Pain shared is lessened.  Shared joy is increased.  People were made to be in relationship with each other.   That is God’s design.   6)  Allow yourself some enjoyment and don’t feel guilty about it.  Don’t put yourself into suspended animation of barely hanging on.  You don’t have to suffer until there is resolution.  You don’t have to feel guilty about having fun.  You simply can’t keep going on in life without being recharged.  7)  Hold on to your core values.  Know what you believe in.  Take a stand.  Don’t back down and don’t become weary.  Don’t let a continuing crisis wear you down.  Did you believe before that God knew you, right down to the number of hairs on your head? Guess what – He still does.   8)  Be relentless.  Never give up. Move forward no matter what. Pray, Love, and never give up.  Draw the lines of what is and isn’t acceptable.  Always love.  Without love we are nothing and have nothing.  Love unconditionally.  Stick with the things you know are right.  Don’t be moved.  Stand your ground.  Stay the course.  Love, but draw the line and be set on the fact that you will not allow abuse, violence, aggression, etc….  Take the necessary steps in the face of adversity to protect.  9)  Be tough and tender.  Have thick skin with a sensitive heart.  That is especially true when dealing with the comments of others.  Even well-meaning people can say hurtful things in ignorance.  Ignorance is not a bad thing – but it does mean they do not know that which they speak of.  Don’t let their barbs penetrate.

Above all, hold fast to the belief that we have not failed and we are not defective, no matter how many of our children’s stinging words and actions may try to reiterate the belief that we are.  Maintaining joy in the midst of such heart-breaking adversity is never easy.  Some days are better than others.  Some days, despite encouragement, I feel so very low.  But I am reminded that true joy isn’t conjured up by outward circumstance, but rather from deep within from a personal relationship with Christ.  So I will go to the Rock.  Every day I will go back to the Rock.  It is there I draw my strength.

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