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The shot I didn’t want!

Yesterday I received my first (of two) COVID shots. It was the Phizer one. The shot itself was no big deal. It didn’t hurt, sting or burn going in. No after affects as I waited 15 minutes in a chair 6 feet away from other lucky recipients. But this wasn’t MY plan.

That seems to be how life goes a lot of the time. Our plans don’t pan out. I remember thinking I wanted to see for several months how it went. My plan was to watch and wait. Feeling pretty healthy and at low risk for complications if I did get the vaccine, I wanted to let others go before me. My dad is 84 with a serious heart condition and at risk for a stroke. He’s waiting for his turn to get a life changing procedure. If anyone should be vaccinated in my mind, it was him. My brothers and I have been trying to bubble wrap him to keep him safe so he can get this done.

I remember saying back in April of 2020, I am going to get COVID. I was prepared and wasn’t afraid. And I waited. And waited. Yes I wore my mask, washed my hands and followed all CDC, ABC, and EFG guidelines. We sheltered the first few months and then slowly, when I felt safe and we had more information, ventured out into the world for some social distancing events. We had a daughter who graduated high school during the pandemic and moved to college across country during it.

Having suffered from depression and anxiety on and off in my life, I knew one thing about being an introvert, I can’t stay isolated too long. It’s dangerous for me. Mentally, physically and spiritually. So I prioritized my mental health and did what I needed to do, in the most safe way possible to take care of me. Selfish, yes. But at the cost of others, no. I did my best to follow the rules. (It’s a type A and enneagram 3 kind of thing. #rulefollowers)

I think if COVID has taught us nothing else, it’s that everyone’s needs (emotionally, physically and spiritually) are different. These needs should also be respected. I am not asking anyone else to follow the same path I am, nor do I judge others for the choices they make to take care of themselves. It’s part of what God gives us, free will. Now I don’t think anyone should be reckless with their free will but there are so many long term effects this pandemic is going to have on not just me, but my family and friends.

Being in the mental health field has its advantages during a time like these. I need to practice what I preach and also show compassion for those who are suffering. While some fields are shrinking, the need for mental healthcare is not. It’s hard to hear and see the stories of individuals and families struggling. The blessing of COVID is that seeking help is becoming less taboo and more of a proactive step in creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Which brings me back to why I got the shot yesterday.

I don’t know what all is in the vaccine, if it’s going to work, if it’s safe or if I’m going to have some sort of longterm side effects from getting it. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. That is not who God made me to be. He gave those gifts and talents to other people. So I chose faith yesterday. Not in other people, but in God. I trust that in order to do the work He has called me to, I need to be around people. And right now, for me, that means a shot. What else I do know is, I am someone who needs to be with my family and friends for support, encouragement and strength. I am someone who is in an office that has people I do not know coming in and out a public door. Many are desperate for help and they need more than a virtual telehealth visit can give. I am running a business that encourages, leads and guides women in their day to day lives and I want to see them face to face this coming spring. Therefore, I will do what I need to so that others feel safe around me. The vaccine isn’t about me. It’s not about what I want right now or giving me comfort. It’s about the gift I might be able to give someone else because I’ve taken a step, that was offered to me for free, to get a vaccine that will prayerfully eradicate this horrible virus.

My choice doesn’t have to be your choice. But we do need to choose compassion and understanding as well as respect for those around us. Last year was hard, this year needs to be full of Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Living day to day,

Jennifer

I Get To…

As we approached the stoplight I could see we weren’t going to make it to turn left.  According to my husband Ryan, we missed it because the people in front were “poking along”.  I looked at him and remembered a phrase my dad used to always tell me as a little girl in the same situation. Out loud I said, “We get to be first!”.  Ryan looked over at me and said, “We do huh?”  Me: “Yes, we get to be first next time” (insert cheesy grin on my face).  Ryan: “We get to”(said a little puzzled but reflective).  This obviously wasn’t the mindset he had or quite frankly I usually have in these situations.  I tend to react just as Ryan did by feeling we missed out.  For whatever reason it never dawned on me until that moment the optimism and lens my dad viewed life.  Instead of seeing missing the light as a missed opportunity, he turned it into a game of sorts and opportunity to be the one who goes first next time.  The heart attitude is drastically different between the two responses.  One is sad while the other is happy.  

I often challenge my leaders and clients to view potential goals, challenges and sometimes mundane tasks as “I get to” opportunities. Think about this with me for a moment.  What would happen to your attitude and heart if you said, “I get to call a leader today to check on them” verses “I have to make a call so I can get that over with?”  I ‘get to‘ offers encouragement to someone who may be feeling overwhelmed. I get to leave an encouraging voicemail for someone who may have only heard discouraging words that day. I get to share some information with someone who may have too busy to pay attention to resources available. Even in the mundane day to day chores it can work. I get to do laundry so I can wear my favorite pants tomorrow. Can you see the differences in outlook?  The way we choose to view our circumstances will impact not only ourselves but those around us. 

With my dad, I always thought going first was the best position to be in. It was much more desired to be first in line verses the last one to make it through the light.  I’m not sure where I lost my enthusiasm for going first but this Christmas season, I want to find it.  I want to view life’s moments as “I get to” and opportunities to “go first”.  Will you join me?

This weeks challenge, take a look around and see who you can get to bless.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

MOSAIC

Twenty years ago my husband Ryan threw out the idea he might want to have his own private practice for counseling one day. As the idea came up over the years we would slightly entertain it but we really weren’t in a place to do something that felt so big and so costly. All we ever heard was it will take 10 years to get a return on your investment. And we didn’t have anything to invest to begin with much less could see 10 years down the road. So, as dreams go, we would talk about it here and there and for the most part push it aside.

There is something about being married to a risk taker that really stretches my “analyze and strategize” mind. Is it just me or does everyone marry someone who when you are dating, their traits seem exciting but once you’re in 20 years they seem unreasonable? No? Just me? It’s like we hit an impasse and neither wanted to budge. I’ve learned though (the hard way) that risk takers can see the culmination of a dream and approach life with less resistance than me. Their fear of failing is less important than never trying.

In 2015, my husband was in need of an LLC to be able to do some additional work to supplement our income. My non-profit work wasn’t as financially rewarding as it was personally but he always supported me and we always felt very blessed for my job and the work I did. It was my dream job and I was content with the life we had. Nonetheless he needed the ability to separate this income and so we established the LLC with the state and on paper birthed Mosaic Counseling and Consulting. It was more consulting than counseling at the time but Ryan knew (and so did I) he wanted options down the road.

Ryan worked in public mental healthcare for 20 years and also taught graduate counseling. He opened and ran a community counseling center at a satellite campus for a university. When the university shut down the campus in the city he worked in, he found himself self-employed full time. I couldn’t see it at the time but having the business set up gave us an opening for him to see clients and his relationship with other professionals provided an opportunity to do work with them in our community. Peers and friends were so gracious to us and have blessed us by giving Ryan the opportunity to see clients at their clinics. They will never know what a blessing both the work and mentorship has meant to us both. It showed grace, love and support when we were struggling financially and in our marriage. In some ways, they were part of the glue that sustained us and helped us stick with it.

Through the last year and a half we have seen God open doors left and right. Mosaic Counseling and Consulting now has six therapists.

While Ryan’s dream has been a lot of work and a little frustration (starting any business with your spouse is!), the return has been a lesson in letting go and letting God do His thing. All the while though, I wondered where did I fit into this business? As co-owner on paper, I really wasn’t involved or understood much of the world Ryan lived in and yet I too found myself a few months ago without a job and in the in between. I wrote my first story on this site about it. You can read it here. One of the last paragraphs I wrote was this one:

“This space I now live in, is the in between. In between what life looks like going from working 40 hours a week to looking for a job. The questions of what now and the white space in my days is both hard and good. You see, I live my life with a core belief that God has a purpose and will for my life. Each day I choose to walk towards that or away from it. Each unexpected twist isn’t anything He didn’t already not know. There is comfort for me in this and also a wrestling of sorts. What’s next?”

https://www.themosaiclifestyle.com/

This week, I got to unveil what is next for me. After months of seeking where God was leading, re-imagining old dreams for myself and feeling called to use what God has given me, The Mosaic Lifestyle launched. I am finding my place in the meaning of the word we chose so long ago. Mosaic. In simplistic terms, mosaic means to arrange small colored pieces into a picture or pattern. It’s the process of taking the pieces of your life and making something beautiful out of it. It’s the opportunity to create a masterpiece. God already said we are His masterpiece, created in His image. Why is it so hard for us to see how all the pieces in our lives fit together? The shattered pieces put together in a mosaic turns something broken into beauty. Not all of the pieces of our lives are broken. Some are a little worn or dull, while others are vibrant and sharp. But it’s the process of creating the mosaic that you see it is all as it should be, a masterpiece.

I’m probably getting a little too lengthy and a little too deep for some but the amazing God who created the sunrise and sunset, the air we breathe and provides all we need just keeps overwhelming me with his goodness.

So now my family has two Mosaics. One which I partner with my husband and the other in which I partner with my friend. Day to Day with Jenn and Ivy Mamma have joined forces to bring you The Mosaic Lifestyle. A lifestyle consulting business. We are taking the years of leadership, organizational management, love for scripture, an appetite for reading and learning and developed a system that you get to use to create your mosaic life. We realize that one book, one system doesn’t fit all. Each of us is an individual, uniquely made. Why would we think our life’s experiences, current activities and future hopes and dreams would be the same? So off I got to write some copy, create some digital images and pray about the next step our business should take. I have learned in my life when I give God all the pieces, (not just the pretty ones) He can do so much more with it than I can ask or imagine. Consider this your invitation to follow us on Instagram, visit our website and register for our first Mosaic Experience in April where we will walk alongside women who need to pull the pieces of their lives together to accomplish all God has for them and they dream to be.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Shattered Dreams

The words themselves evoke sadness but the story it tells is all but sad. When I was younger I remember looking upon failure as something that would be humiliating and crushing. In our youth we strive to reach the top and avoid the pitfalls along the way. Skip forward 20 years and failure has been my greatest friend and teacher.

Growing up I avoided dreaming big. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I really didn’t see myself as having the ability to do more than get married (God willing) and have kids. (The greatest accomplishment and joys in my life I must say!) But the concept I could pursue personal dreams, have a successful job and make an impact on anyone wasn’t even a thought. If it was a thought, it was quickly squashed by my other thoughts of not being worthy, capable, or enough. I guess you could say I had really low self esteem. Internally I was a ‘woe is me’ girl (which still rears its ugly head). Not only did I not aim high, I just didn’t aim at all. Until.

It’s amazing how powerful we are as human beings. Did you know we have the ability to influence those around us? (read here) It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that fact clicked with me. I was the recipient of someone who said ‘have you ever thought about’, and ‘I think you would be good at’, along with ‘I believe in you’. Just a small nudge unleashed a 15 year journey into leadership development and organizational management. I returned to college to finish the degree I started (after having the twins!) and decided the risk of failing was worth not trying at all.

I began dreaming. I think we can all agree that 2020 has knocked the wind out of us at times and slapped us around a bit. Learning to surrender (read here) has been a forced lesson of sorts. For many of you, like me, we lost our jobs (read here) and in the moment of believing we were living our best lives, things didn’t just fail, but shattered. I sat in sadness and disbelief of it all for a while. The process of processing was necessary and painful. Yet through it all, God spoke loud and clear! (He had my undivided attention.) What I thought was lost wasn’t really lost at all but was about to be found. I needed to take some of my own advice (read here) and realized God didn’t give me the gifts, experiences and dreams for one adventure. He expects me to use them even in the midst of shattered dreams. I read this week a quote that explains so well where I am at today.

“Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. Shattered dreams destroy false expectations, such as the “victorious” Christian life with no real struggle or failure (or the perfect marriage without work). They help us discover true hope. We need the help of shattered dreams to put us in touch with what we most long for, to create a felt appetite for better dreams. And living for the better dreams generates a new, unfamiliar feeling that we eventually recognize as joy. Our pain will always have a purpose. It will not go away, but it will do its work. It will stir an appetite for a higher purpose – the better hope of knowing God well enough now to love him above everything else…and trusting him no matter what happens.”

– Dr. Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams.

What I once thought might be the greatest contribution in my work life is now replaced by God saying, it was an improperly valued dream. God doesn’t want us to be limited to one adventure. He wants us to dream big again and again. So that is what I’m doing. Dreaming, creating and finding so much joy in the process. I now have hope in my next adventure. I also am acutely aware it could fail. And I’m okay with that because if you don’t try, you will never know what you might have missed out on.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Keep Growing

I was reading a story I wrote a few years ago and wanted to share it with you. Although the setting was for leadership teams, I believe everyone is a leader in one way or another. A mom leads her children, a dad leads in his job. A woman leads by the example she sets for her neighbors, a young adult leads by holding back words they think but don’t say. In life, you are either a leader or a follower. Let me encourage you to be both. Enjoy this story today and be thinking about what areas of your life you are a leader. -Jennifer

I read an article on Leadership Freak by Dan Rockwell the other day talking about growth. Here is what it said, “Growth isn’t an accident. We grow on purpose or not at all. You’re stuck if you can’t identify the leadership behavior you’re developing today. If you can’t describe it, it isn’t happening.”

I think of how many times in my day and week I am just making it through. I am not aiming to grow, develop or invest in myself.  Dan’s words ring true to me today. If I am not intentional about growth, it won’t happen.  It is a simple concept and yet difficult to do at times. It is much easier to lead and develop others than it is yourself. I can think of several areas of my life right now that could use some tlc. How about you?  Are you growing in your leadership or just leading others?  

Here are a few of my personal favorite ways to invest in my own leadership:

  • Figure out who your favorite authors are on leadership and read.
  • Follow a blog or two on leadership.
  • Attend a local leadership conference.
  • Take advantage of any church conferences on leadership in your area.
  • Seek out a mentor to meet with periodically who can be honest with you and give input into your leadership.
  • Spend time with your closest circle of friends. Getting to know them and learning from them is a great way to grow your leadership. Let your friends push you and challenge you in new ways to grow. 

I am sure there are many more ways but these are just a few to get your mind thinking. You are a mighty force as is, but can you imagine all God could do if you continue to grow our leadership skills?  Praying for you today as you lead others and take time to invest in your own leadership. 

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Learning to Surrender

I am a planner. I like to mull over ideas, think about what could be and map out every possibility (both good and bad) that could happen. I like to think of myself as prepared for the worst and it will be a blessing or surprise if something wonderful unfolds instead. Life isn’t always predictable though and you can’t always map out and plan what is to come. I have learned God is funny that way. Just when I think I have figured out my plan in life, well, life happens. Plans have to change and sometimes I can’t foresee what the future holds. At times these feels may bring anxiety or uneasiness but in this season of my life, I am finding it rather freeing. What would normally cause me worry and wonder has brought about a new surrender in my soul.

There is a realization I am not in control nor do I desire to be right now. Big life changes and events are happening all around me and I feel like they are swirling and trying their best to distract and derail my faith. Yet I am finding a stillness in the midst.

Why in the past have I worked so hard and used so much energy on trying to control what is out of my control? I believe it’s a lifelong struggle. It’s also been for me, a lack of obedience and faith. I say I believe and trust God but then ask myself, can he really…..(fill in the rest). At times I let my prideful, independent self, take over and take charge because I am self-sufficient.

Self-sufficiency takes so much energy, emotion, time and effort. It can be exhilarating for a time and then becomes exhausting. God had a different plan when he created us. He wanted us to rely on him. To allow him to carry our burdens, allow him to take charge of our lives. It’s been a lifelong learning process for me. 

Why am I sharing all of this with you today? Because I believe I am not alone. I feel God saying some of you might have those same struggles in your life. Maybe you are in a season right now where you aren’t overwhelmed or maybe you are. I believe there is strength in sharing our weaknesses. I believe the leaders and moms we know may be struggling with the same things. I believe we can encourage one another by living authentic lives.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Parent.Teacher.Conference

If you have kids, you are familiar with the phrase “Parent Teacher Conference”. You get a note home or an email asking when your preferred time to meet is within a few days they have set aside. You make your first, second and third choice. It is probably me, but they never were at a convenient time. Either way, I juggled after school activities with taking off work early to go by and hear about how well or not my kid was doing. This year is different and I couldn’t be more happy. I’ll explain in a moment.

At this point in my life, I’ve been eligable to attend for 17 years in a row. Let me pause for a minute to make sure and clarify (because we have to do that in todays society). I am very much a supporter of my kids teachers. I homeschooled a couple of times in my life with our oldest two and have the most respect for them. I believe they are underpaid and overworked. I think they have less of a voice in the system and still SHOW UP FOR WORK. I couldn’t do it and am so thankful they do.

Now, let me also say, parent teacher conference has always been a dreaded time for me. Not because I didn’t want to talk to the teacher, but because I never knew what I would need to hear. Some people call this a pessimist but I call it a realist. I really believe my kiddos are human. I believe they aren’t perfect and that neither am I. I also believe that learning to be kind, compassionate, Jesus followers trumps an ACT score. Do I want them to do well academically? Yes, of course. But to the detriment of their emotional health and confidence, no.

To me, each of my kids is different. That is good and that is how God made them. I want to celebrate and advocate for them to be who God made them to be.

A few years ago one of the twins, Izzy, had a teacher who was great at communicating with us but seemed more pressured or worried about test scores than we were. We had already been down a long road with Izzy. A story for another time but here we were with a diagnosis of Tourettes and always feeling the need to explain our child to every teacher and coach. We tried to send a letter and make note when we meet teachers at the beginning of each year. We also check in during these Parent Teacher Conferences to see how she’s doing with her peers. This one particular year though I had my last nerve pinched. I try really hard to be as compassionate and passive as I can but I was out of those words and had to lay out my honest feelings with this teacher. I debated sharing this but feel it’s part of me being vulnerable and also hoping to give encouragement to other moms out there just trying to do their best for their child. Here is what I sent the teacher after she requested her sixth parent teacher conference with me that year…..(name has been changed)

Thank you Ms. Smith for the update. We do want to be made aware when Izzy is not completing assigned tasks.


With that said, we believe at the beginning of the year we tried to set you up with information that would help you understand Izzy and who she is. Compared to most of the children in your classroom, she has probably had the most early intervention and testing for diagnosing her syndrome. She’s had special education therapy’s in preschool, been tested multiple times in elementary and diagnosed with Tourette’s after two years of trial and error on different medications. We have been told she is average (from her tests).  We are okay with that.  We understand as a teacher you want the best for your students and for them to achieve the highest marks on tests and be able to learn the maximum amount required by the state in a year. We want the same for Izzy.  But what we want more is for her to be compassionate, humble, kind and respectful. We have worked very hard over the years to turn a very upset and frustrated child into who she is today. In fact, most people would not even realize she has overcome so much unless they have known her over the years. We see this but realize you have not had the opportunity too. We like to focus on her progress more than what she isn’t doing well. She responds much better to “catching her doing good” verses pointing out what she is lacking in. Does this mean we don’t have consequences? No. In fact, we try to be as consistent with discipline for the things we are aware of such as your email today.  She has consequences for not doing her homework and loses privileges. There are times Ryan and I are passing with our work schedules and may not be following up daily with signing her reading log. Ryan is in Little Rock serving on the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling this week. I fly out for work next week.  We do our best but may not always check all the boxes with every child if they do not initiate it. At this point in her life, we are not concerned about her ability to be a successful student even if it’s just “average”. Could she do better having us sign a reading log? Yes, but we are not sure having a sixth meeting this year is going to be productive for either of us. If you feel she is lacking in a way that is holding her back from learning, then we suggest meeting with the principal to discuss our options.   

Sincerely,
Ryan and Jennifer Martin

I will admit this isn’t how I would prefer or have ever since addressed a teacher. But I know my child and I know what limits she can handle.

This brings me back to this weeks Parent Teacher Conference requests. Now that the twins are in junior high, I have 12 teachers that have sent me their google sign up sheets. And for the first time I have been able to reply that my husband and I will be out of town visiting our daughter at college during that week. So far all of them have said have a good time and the twins are doing great. Praise Jesus! This doesn’t mean I’ll be skipping out of them in the future but it does mean that right now, my kids are doing okay. They are thriving in a world that has been very chaotic this year and loving school. This is largely in part because of great teachers. Izzy is now old enough she took over the role of sharing this year with each of her teachers about her Tourettes. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and how kind and receptive her teachers have been. I expect there are still bumps ahead but I am celebrating where we are now and a little victory dance for a well scheduled college visit.

God gave us the kids we have. Each of them with all their differences. I have doubts at times I am the best mom for Izzy. But God reminds me over and over He chose me to be her mom. Do you have a child that tests you or has an obstacle they may need to overcome for life? Guess what? God chose you to be their mom. These kids of ours shape up and grow us far past the first 18 years. Let them. Let them grow us and shape us into who God wants us to be. And along the way, tell someone else they are doing a great job. I promise, we all need to hear it.

Living Day to Day-

Jennifer

Four Losses

I’m 1 in 8 and 1 in 4.  Something I don’t think about daily anymore.  It was something I thought about hourly for a while. This week I have seen so much awareness for infertility and infant loss.  Something I am very familiar with. Some details have faded but the memory of the feelings don’t.  My first miscarriage came after we had our first child Morgan. New Year’s day I went to the hospital in immense pain knowing I was pregnant. I quickly learned the pregnancy was ectopic and had ruptured in my tube. I was rushed to surgery and in a blur was released the same day to go home. Three hundred and 364 days later, Katie was born. I’m not lost on the timing or the way this part of my year was bookended. What started with the greatest loss in my life at this point, ended with one of the greatest joys.

After we had Katie, we needed a break. She was spit fire and 100% energy. When we did decide to try for one more, we instead lost three in a row. Crushing blow after blow. To complicate the whole thing we almost always had to use fertility drugs to get pregnant. The routine had become familiar but the emotional rollercoaster was draining and expensive. When I had lost all hope, Ryan said, “let’s try one more time”. My reply was, “you better make it a good one”, too which we now see the results of our twins, Gabby and Izzy.

A big part of my story after I had Katie was finding like minded friends. Moms in the same season, going through the same thing. None of us had it all figured out but we were doing our best or wanting to do our best. Those friends in that season were the hands and feet of Jesus for me. They jumped in with flowers and meals during those losses. They knew I would be sad and loved me anyway.  Their company was a soft place to fall when everything else around me seemed to be spinning. Those women knew me and my desire to have more children and walked the journey with me.

We each have a story about how we became a mom and the variations are all different. Being a mom in and of itself is a binding factor. It might be through adoption, through In vitro, through a surrogate or all natural childbirth. Mine included an ambulance ride, emergency c-sections and long stays in hospitals. (That’s the part I leave out when talking to a pregnant mommy!) But it is all what makes us a mom. The joy, the pain, the love and the loss.

You have a story too. One day God might place on your heart to share your story in just the right moment when a friend needs help and encouragement. How to love someone through loss is hard, but what an opportunity you have to love and minister to someone who doesn’t know Jesus or the hope he can bring them. They just might need a little help learning how to share their story too.

Reflecting day to day-

Jennifer

Aim Until…

Top Golf Northwest Arkansas

At the beginning of spring I got an email telling me about what sounded like a really good deal. If you know anything about me, I’m all about saving money and having fun. It so happened a new Top Golf facility was opening in my town. Let me stop right here and give you a little bit of my golfing background…..putt putt. That’s about it. I’ve been on a driving range years ago and remember the frustration that built as my husband was patiently trying to encourage me to hit what seemed like a mosquito towards a button hole many yards away. It was no fun at all! After that, I had no, zero, interest in playing golf, learning to golf, watching golf, well, you get the picture. That is until. It’s a missed word most of the time but it has a lot of meaning. The definition or meaning of until is this: up to the time when something will happen or become true.

It wasn’t until I got invited to a place called Top Golf that my interest was peaked. The setting was a team building outing and I went prepared to have my best team player attitude along with it. I tend to be one who prepares to lose as to avoid disappointment. So off we went whacking at this little bitty ball that comes rolling out from the machine. In a short amount of time I felt myself having fun! It shocked me. I think the most joy was found in being with my team, laughing and just trying. None of us were LPGA hopefuls and the environment and friends cheering each other on made it so much more enjoyable than the driving range years ago.

So back to the email about the really good deal. It was promoting the Summer Fun Pass at Top Golf. I did the math and even if me or my family went three times, it would pay for itself. So, I took the plunge. Even with Covid pushing back opening dates, by June I found myself with my whole family enjoying the fun. It didn’t take long either before something pushed me to aim higher.

Now I didn’t have any aspirations of actually playing golf on a course but I thought, what if I could try to just hit the ball and make it go in the direction towards the hole? Anyone who actually can golf is probably laughing hysterically at me right now. That’s okay. I was laughing too. It sounds so minuscule but was like Goliath to me. The task was a bit daunting but then, I like a good challenge. Each week I committed to going and practicing. It’s kind of cheating because the holes are huge and if you can get anywhere near one, you get points but I wasn’t play with friends at this point, I was by myself just trying to learn. How do you stand? How do you lean? How do you hold the club and swing to hit that little thing? How do you make it look like you aren’t just playing extreme putt putt? Would I be able to get it in the air and consistently land it in one of the targets? I’m sure the staff (who some started to recognized me) were wondering all these things for me as well. Bless my own heart.

There was one thing I had going for me though, until. I was determined to aim for the targets and hit enough balls until I got closer. This reminds me so much about my walk with God. I am sure He looks down and wonders if I’m even aiming at all but I am reminded we are running a race with an until in mind. We know we will never be perfect but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to stay on course and walk the narrow road. It requires dedication and remembering what we are aiming towards. We do this with goals in life and seasons of life. We aim until we either accomplish the goal or need to move to the next target. How frustrated would golfing be if you couldn’t move to the next hole until you got a hole in one? I would never make it past the first one. But that’s not what life is about. Sure it’s nice to hit a hole in one so to say every once in a while but it is the lessons learned, the persistence, consistency, determination and dedication that keep us moving forward.

The progress I have made in golf is small but for me, worth celebrating. More so than not, I can hit it in the direction I want it to go. When I remember to do all the things that help me stand, grip and swing well, I come much closer to the target. Same for my relationship with God. When I fellowship with other believers, spend time with God in prayer, scripture and worship, I am much closer to Him than when I don’t.

Friends, I encourage you to aim until. Keep up the good work and keep striving for the next target. Don’t allow yourself to get tripped up in perfection but remember it’s the time spent and journey that get’s you to the target.

Living Day to Day-

Jennifer

Stepping out in faith

Most of my audience and work in ministry has been done inside a church or organization with very little external reach. I was totally okay with that. In one sense, it felt safe and I was a bit protected. I cheered others on to leave the walls of ministry and to go out into the world and make a difference. In fact, I LOVED when I could see someone with so much more potential than I had. Now I’m not trying to put myself down but I feel like at 45 years old, I know myself now. I know what God has and hasn’t called me to do. I’ve learned to say “no” when others wanted me to say “yes”. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not in order to advance or gain position. Ambitious, yes, but I PRAY it is never to the point of sacrificing others or out of pressure to perform.

I realize today a few things I don’t want to give up in this next season of life.

#1 – Writing. I may not be a novelist like my brother, but writing helps remind me of God’s goodness in the little day to day moments in life. Encouraging others is a blessing to me. I hope I can do that in a small way through sharing stories.

#2 – Teaching. I love the word of God and feel like there is so much to learn even after 45 years. I believe every women has influence and we can use that influence in our homes, community and world if we pursue the Lord and follow His will for our lives.

#3 – Speaking. Nothing replaces the intimacy of being together with people. To see someones face, interact and encourage women has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. I will love on you with the word of God.

As I step out in faith, I have found myself in a position I have never been. I am not a self promotor or loud gong. I have never felt the need to do more than the work that was set before me. But I am available in this season to step into new places and walk by faith down a new road. I feel God nudging me to do what I love for His glory. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. More than anything, I can promise you I will take you through the deep and not just shallow waters. It’s the little moments in life I don’t want you to miss. Let’s do this together! You can find me on Facebook, Youtube and of course here.

Stepping by faith, day to day-

Jennifer

Stop and Remember

Houston Airport 8:30am 9/11/20

I knew when I purchased my ticket and even this morning as I drove to the airport that today was 9/11. It’s not lost on me that I chose to fly this day and what emotions and feelings it brings to most Americans.

As I was dodging and weaving through the terminal this morning, I stopped in my tracks when this display of respect, honor and remembrance occurred. So while the video isn’t professional, I thought it was very appropriate to share with you today.

As you read this and watch, I ask you to remember. Whether you were alive or not, we can all stop to appreciate what our soldiers, home front hero’s, search and rescue, fire fighters, paramedics, EMT’s, doctors, nurses and so many others sacrifice so our country can remain free.

Next I ask you to pray. Pray for our country, for the leadership and for God to be merciful and give us protection from those who want to harm us. Pray for those serving now and for their protection. Thank them when you see them and let today remind us all what they do daily so often goes unseen.

My brother Grant (retired Colonel- Army) and I with the twin towers in the background before 9/11.

Remembering and living, day to day-

Jennifer

Seize the moment!

This morning I wasn’t sure I would feel like writing a story. It’s been a bit of a crazy week and I unexpectedly left town to be with my Dad for a couple of days.

I stated in my first blog, I’m in the in between with an aging parent. My mother passed away several years ago but my dad is still with us. He doesn’t live far which is a blessing. What doesn’t feel like a blessing is Covid. It makes everything more complicated and hard.

As with many aging adults, independence and a sense of control is important. Sometimes it is the only thing left they have. So in my life, my brothers and I are trying to make that happen for as long as we can with our dad. It’s a fine balance between being nosy and advocating for them when they can’t, and also allowing them as many opportunities to make the decisions for themselves.

When I think about God and our relationship with Him, I see some of the same things. He gave us free will so we get to make our own choices and exert our independence. He also is there ready to give us advice (the Bible) and advocate for us (“let your requests be made known to Him…” Phil. 4:6). All He asks is we come to Him and are willing to accept the grace, love, hope and gift of salvation.

So today, I sit with my dad and am choosing to be thankful for this time. In the same way, God asks for the same thing. He just wants us to sit a while and spend some time with Him. Will you make time today to spend with God? Today is fleeting and tomorrow is not promised. Seize the moment.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Pause and think twice

Remember when I told you all about our drop off for college kid #2 this year? (See: 1000 miles) Okay, it really was only two weeks ago. As I was sitting down to continue discussing parenting adult kids and actually answering the questions I posted last week, the phone dinged. As it has gone the last two weeks, I hear from Katie most mornings. It’s usually a quick chat as she goes to class or grabs breakfast. This was different. Whether it’s distance, change, loneliness or just plain not feeling well, she was more down. As with any time one of our kids call, we have options.

First, let me just go back to last weeks blog post. (See: Control or Influence) Did you catch last week how I really didn’t give any practical advice on parenting adult kids? I gave one of the keys that gives us the ability to parent them, influence and trust. You may have been left scratching your head and thinking, this wasn’t helpful at all! I believe a foundation is always necessary to build anything of substance. The beauty of relationships is it’s never too late to invest in them and to build or rebuild upon the foundation. Now before we get too much further into this story, let me just say, I have not gotten it all right. In fact I have missed the mark in parenting and how I’ve handled situations with my adult kids more times than I like to admit. It gives me though the first piece of advice I would give anyone for their kids.

Tell your kids how you’ve messed up or missed the mark.

I feel like I have built more credibility by admitting my shortcomings and failures and asking them for forgiveness. I don’t do it often enough and if our kids (and us) can’t learn from them, then what is the point? This requires sometimes we share with our kids the less flattering sides of ourselves. Now this doesn’t mean you dig up all the dirt you can and have a uncomfortable conversation but try to remember what it was like when you were their age and use your experiences to share in God given moments.

This brings me back to today and college kid #2. Following a few texts we got the phone call. If you have ever sent your kid to college you probably know the call I’m talking about. It’s not the “I can’t find my class” or “Where do I wash my clothes?”, it was the tone of her voice and what wasn’t said.

Immediately, I made myself pause and think twice.

More than anything, brains or beauty, I want and prayed my kids would love Jesus, follow His will for their lives and be kind. I want them to work hard and have compassion. I want them to be independent but humble enough to accept help. When Morgan went to college I knew I would need to back off and be quiet. Encourage her, yes, and even give her a nudge once in a while. She swam since she was 8 years old so her transition to college included being on the swim team. For me, that meant I knew she would have an instant group of friends. She would have routine and be busy enough to keep her going through the adjustment of going away. Or so I thought. She called crying over FaceTime several times a week. Who created that anyway? SOOOO painful to see her cry so much and watch her struggle. And that’s what we did. We didn’t call her, we waited. And when she did call, we watched and listened. Sure we would encourage her to hang in there and tell her it would be okay but we didn’t go rescue her. I always paused and thought twice before and during our conversations. Why? Because I am a fixer. I want to rescue you from danger (or anything perceived as such) and make things all better. There were even times (sorry Morgan) that I didn’t answer the phone and handed it to my husband Ryan. It was so hard on my momma heart.

Three years later and here I am again. Katie’s on the other side of the phone and I paused and thought twice. I suggested a walk and Starbucks (because doesn’t that make everything better?) but I held back asking leading questions like “are you unhappy” or “do you want to come home”.

My job now as a parent is to let my kids live their lives. Encouraging them while pausing long enough to think twice before I speak to them. Am I telling them what I want them to do or am I guiding them to help them make the best decisions for their lives?

Our kids know how we would answer most questions. Sometimes they are looking for an out and other times they need us to parent them in a way that encourages their independence and affirms what feels so daring to them in that moment.

Build a foundation of influence and trust, admitting and apologizing when you make mistakes, and pausing to think twice. For anyone sending off their kids to college, these are the lessons I’ve learned and things that have helped me to along the way.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Are you trying to control or influence?

Parenting adult kids. Those three words together seems a little odd. Parenting kids, yeah, that makes total sense. Parenting adults, not so much. I mean, how much can you really control when your child turns 18 and goes off into the world?

I’m in this in between season of having two kids leave the nest, so to speak, and two who I’m still buckling up for the teenage years. There is a little bit of common sense in parenting adult kids and then there is a whole lot of questions that begin with “how much”.

How much to do you call them once you’ve dropped them off at college? How much advice do you give them? How much do you still ask where they are and if they are making good choices?

I had so many of these when my first, Morgan, went to school. Bless her, she’s the firstborn and who I called our experimental child. Everything we did first and right, we did with her. Everything we did first and wrong……we did with her. So as I found myself navigating questions like, “Did we do enough to prepare her?” and “Is she ready?”, what I really was saying, was, I don’t feel like I did enough and I’m not ready. Can anyone else relate?

I asked the question at the beginning, how much can you really control when your child goes off into the world? Let’s just clear something up, it’s not really about control. I’ve learned this year in a big way, I have control issues. In January I did a 30 day fast and focused my prayer on what I felt God needed me to work on that was keeping me from him. Funny thing about God, if you ask and listen, he will answer. Over and over, he said I needed to work on control. What I have learned is it’s an illusion. The more I try to grasp control, the more I realize it’s not something I can attain. There’s not an end to the hunt and pursuit. The more I tried to gain control in my marriage, my parenting and even launching my adult kids, the more I realized it was crippling me with anxiety and fear.

So if it’s not about control, you might be asking what it is about? It’s about influence. We can’t control our kids but we can have influence. We have 18 years to lay a foundation of trust with our kids. That foundation opens the door and gives us the ability to speak into our kids lives when they become adults. If you can build trust and grow your influence, you don’t need the illusion of control. Guide them, yes. Give them advice when they ask, yes, and continue to teach them when needed but not control. And while every child tests the waters (some more than others), some are known to test them when they launch. Listening to their parents may seem….optional for a season. Some do, some don’t and some will test their new independence by departing from you not just physically but emotionally. I wish I could say one size fits all but kids are not cookie cutter. They are each different in the way they respond and spread their wings no matter if you think you parented them in the same way. See what I said there? We want to believe we are parenting each child equally and the same but because our kids are different, often times we parent them accordingly. Our personalities either do or don’t mesh all the time and they will or won’t flourish how we think they should. While I can’t control my kids, I can pray for them, I can talk to them and more importantly listen to them. One of the biggest ways I learned how to parent adult kids and develop my influence with them was watching and learning from those who have gone before me.

I learned to listen to wise women but not listen to everyone.

I think that last sentence has shaped not only my parenting but every aspect of my life. You can read all the books, listen to all the podcasts and talk to every girlfriend but often end up as confused and frustrated as when you began. You only need to sit by the feet of those who have shown they are modeling what you are looking for. Pray for discernment and then use it when God gives it to you. Choose wisely whom you will glean from. While most people are very well intended they don’t know your child like you do. God loves relationship and puts people in our lives for a reason. They are there to help us walk this road and to show us what it’s like to live through the defeats and celebrate the victories. I believe we all need a few good women that allow us to come along for the ups as well as the downs in parenting.

Oh how I wish someone had told me years ago to work on parenting with the mindset of building trust and influence. There’s a window of time in your kids lives where you want to give them room to make mistakes but it be under your roof. You want to start letting go without giving up on them. You need to speak to them, and often but at the same time listen, with your heart. Parenting is not for the faint at heart and neither is sending them off into the world.

While I’m not an expert and still have two to launch, I am learning. I am also thankful for the wise women in my life whom have shaped my parenting and helped me build influence in my kids lives. If you are looking for and need women in your life to help shape your parenting and influence, I encourage you to start with one step. Pray. Ask God to put into your life those whom are the best for you to watch and learn.

Living day to day-

Jennifer

Rainy Day Jar

Doesn’t everyone have a rainy day jar? We’ve had one for years. Some times we are better than others adding to it. We began the change jar with intention. It was supposed to be our rainy day fund. The kind that saves up for spending money on vacation. We used to be really good at putting all our extra change into it from our cars, cushions and wallets.

I’ve noticed the change jar hasn’t grown much over the last 8 years. In fact, I don’t think I’ve rolled coins in at least 8 years. The reason why is we haven’t filled the jar and quite frankly, kind of forgot about it. We stopped using cash for the most part which eliminates the ability to collect change.

The past couple of weeks I’ve done a whole home purge. I’ve gone through drawers, cabinets, closets and purses. Along the way I gathered the coins I found and remembered about the rainy day jar. To my surprise I filled it up. I didn’t immediately have plans for it, rather I tucked it back in the cabinet it’s been hiding in and went along my merry way.

Most know this season has been different. Not just for me but many. For being the “crazy Christmas lady”, I hadn’t bought any gifts until today. Not because I’ve procrastinated but because I’m going to have to be more careful and less frivolous. Now that’s really not a bad thing but it’s a thing. And so as it is literally raining today outside, I had an idea. I decided it was time to pull out the rainy day fund and get to rolling. This concept is obviously foreign to the twins. They are asking what I’m doing and then why. I haven’t burdened my kids with “moms been out of work for four months” and really, they hadn’t a clue until today. I’ve been keeping busy, volunteering, creating and continuing to write and speak. In their minds, I’ve been working and working to them means moms making money. With all smiles and quite proud of myself for thinking of the rainy day jar, I enthusiastically shared when asked that I was going to use it to buy Christmas presents. To me, this is what the whole point of the rainy day change jar was for. But what happened next broke my heart.

Gabby’s eyes filled with tears. The realization and a short explanation that I don’t make money right now hit her like a semi truck. Why I’m not sure. I didn’t make that much when I was employed. But she’s 12 and not oblivious to how much things cost. Her next question shook me more. “Mom, will we have to move?” What? That’s not on my radar but the simplicity of rolling coins to buy Christmas gifts equaled to her we may need to move.

I’m not sad at all about a more simplistic Christmas. I was worried for a while the kids would be upset or disappointed. And they might be. But I am hopeful they are much older and more mature now. I also am banking on the fact we value each other more than things. Sure, it’s nice to spoil our kids and lavish them with things we didn’t have growing up but doesn’t that all get lost in the whole reason for Christmas? We will still eat way too much sugar and good food. We will still sing songs, watch movies and play games. We will still be together with family and friends. And don’t worry? They will still each be getting a few gifts. and thanks to my rainy day jar, I’m not worried about it at all.

Do you have a rainy day jar? If so, what do you use it for? After Christmas, ours will need to begin again. I think I’d like it to have a new purpose.

Living joyfully, day to day,

Jennifer

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