Wednesday, October 7, 2015

20 Years Together

I shouldn't be writing this.  Statistically, we shouldn't still be married.  That's what the guest preacher spoke to the congregation at my home church that Sunday night in 1995.  Still, I sat there: pregnant, 18 years old, and unable to clearly see another path.  We had wanted to marry anyway... but most young pregnant couples say that.  We barely knew each other. 
"In those days" no one had cell phones.  No one had the internet in their home.  Long distance calls were very expensive.  Gas and cigarettes were the only cheap things and we lived 330 miles apart.  What we did know of each other was from a few visits, letters (the kind that are written on paper, stamped, mailed and which took three days to arrive), and long distance phone calls every few weeks from community phones. And our relationship was just over seven short months long (two of which we did not speak). Yeah.........

People still ask how we met.  A city boy from New Jersey and a country girl from North Central Arkansas?  Well...  I had a close school friend who went to live with her grandparents our Junior year of high school.  Her (then) boyfriend had graduated that year and joined the Army.  A year later they reconnected and he came to visit her in Arkansas.  She asked him to bring a friend.  He brought his roommate "Jim" (i.e. Will Jimenez).  And we met on that day in September of 1994.

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Despite our young love and the statistics that doomed us, my church held a bridal shower for me.  One sweet church lady came to our wedding and told my mom later that she had cried-- that it had been that beautiful.  I pondered that.  She must have had hope for us.
Both of our families supported us, and we too, began to feel hopeful.  We had just turned nineteen and twenty.

After our wedding in October, we rented a small trailer (to live in) outside of the Army post.  Will was sent to the field five days later for a month.  Not long after returning, we put up our first Christmas tree.  Then two months after Christmas our son was born. 
We only had one operating vehicle, which Will took to work.  Five months later, I got an evening job.  We barely saw each other, but we didn't have money to pay a sitter and we shared the car.  Times were hard, but we were making it.  Both sets of our parents did the best thing they could do: they left us alone and they let us make our mistakes and learn from them, while still encouraging us from the sidelines. 
We grew up. 
A ton. 

A year later we moved to an apartment.  I began working two part-time jobs and the baby went to a sitter.  Eventually, I was offered a full-time position at the second job, so I quit the first one.  Will got out of the military and we discovered that we were pregnant again.  This time, more on purpose, but not exactly the timing we'd expected.  Will worked whatever jobs he could.  We saved every dime for when the next baby came, and at the end of that year, Will landed a job in Nashville that was somewhat steady with good pay -but with many hours.  Two months later, our second son was born.  It snowed that first day in March. 

I didn't want to put the boys into daycare, so instead of returning to my management position at Food Lion, I began babysitting, despite knowing little about children.  We
moved into a rental house.  I began running a 24 hour fully operational daycare.  Will was commuting daily to Nashville, then driving all over TN for work.  He left by 5am and most times didn't get home until 6 or 7pm. 
Marriage was hard.  So. Very. Hard.
Life was hard.  I was tired from all of the kids --and lonely without good friends.   I was suffering and in a rough place.  We had had to grow up so fast and were both angry most of the time now. 

After a few years of that, both of our jobs began to taper off into places that seemed more reasonable and we were able to buy a house in a quiet neighborhood.   It looked like a good place to raise our boys, now five and two.  It had a basement for my daycare business, which I had further established.
We took a beach vacation. We bought an SUV.
Will still commuted to Nashville for work, but we were doing a little better. 
I began taking the boys to church and made some friends and it was a good starting place back, but I still felt very empty inside. 
Then, knowing that I could no longer have two different lives - I gave my full commitment.  If God would still have me, I would be His. 
He would. 
And He did.
Circumstances changed little.  But life changed dramatically.  Especially the way I saw it. I was so excited!  I was twenty-six. 

I started teaching preschool and went back to college. Will was hired locally (same line of work) but we could see him more now. Things were looking better.
Then, in 2007, Will had a heart attack.  He was 31.  Our boys were 11 and 8 that year. 
Then we found out even crazier news: we were expecting a third child.
Now this blew us away.  We were scared. Perplexed.  We were trying hard to be thankful. It was so strange.
I learned so much that year. Like where to find strength.  Like keeping my eyes constantly fixed on Jesus.  Amazing. Emotional.  And exciting.  And near the end of that year our beautiful daughter was born. 

Two years later we hit rock bottom.  A deep bottom.  Hot tears.  Pain.  Frustration. Agony. Prayer. Conflict. Hanging on...but barely. 

But we held.
And we made it through that year.
And the next one...
And I fell into his strong arms.  And he kissed my head.  And we knew what we'd known deep down all along.  That if we can make it one year, we can make it two and so on and so forth-- and the years really do get better.  Despite the occasional hang-up years (and those do happen) we will live through the Rough.  The not-so-easy vows.  The wow -"I cannot believe we made it through"- times. 
Statistically, we really shouldn't be married.  Barely knowing each other....selfish, young, inexperienced, lost, and longing for dreams that we hardly knew then.
Yet, We Are.
And we have been....7,300 days.
Because with GOD all things are possible!
And I love him deeper than I ever dreamed possible.  Because that is what God can do through two people who are committed to seeing it through each year......(or sometimes just each day)!
We look forward to our future together, watching our children grow, sharing our time and love together, learning new things, and experiencing the joy and triumph of this LOVE.
And we look forward to being amazed.
If you cannot see the above video of us click here.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The End of the Last Summer - the Beginning of the New School Year

We stayed at home all day today.  Since that rarely happens, it's notable.  I'm cleaning out Brielle's room.  We've hoped to paint it all summer, but now with so little time left, it feels like "crunch time."  Time to prepare.  Time to fit it all in.  Time to enjoy every last second.  Time to do something fun!
For me, that every last second is an all-encompassing time.  Josh will go into his Senior year of high school. Tyler will enter as a freshman.  And Brielle will begin Kindergarten - at a public school, something I never thought would happen.  I can't read the above sentences without getting choked up and tears making their way back again.  Earlier this afternoon, I had a moment.  While cleaning B's room I got to the books and had to stop.  I realized that I've been collecting (used) books for years with the intent to homeschool her.  I imagined teaching her, spending out our days learning, delving, exploring - right now- when she's just a sweet little sponge.  Before she dislikes learning any particular subject.
I thought I was at peace with our decision, and now my mind is like a whirlwind of second-guessing everything!  Should we really be sending her off to public school?  Should I be driving half-way across town to take Tyler to different school- just because we believe he's being given a greater opportunity?  Even if he dislikes the whole idea immensely?  Are we making the best decisions as parents with these children God has entrusted to us?
Parenting is such an emotional event sometimes.  Last night I was reading my friend's blog and thought, wow.....  She is doing exactly what she's supposed to be doing and she knows it.  AND she LOVES it! (She's homeschooling, of course.)  When I was a young mom with children, I had no idea there were other options than public school (unless you could afford private school).  Yet, when I put our firstborn on the bus that first day, my heart fell to my stomach.  I felt it fall.  I released him to the world, and it scared and baffled me.  That was twelve years ago.
Now that I'm older, I know more things.  My mommy-friends know things also.  They and I have talked about such.  We've felt torn and questioned everything.   We love our children immensely and desire the absolute best for them.  We've prayed and prayed.  Some of them chose to homeschool, some public school, and some private school.
Sometimes I am afraid I feel jealous.  This pains me, as deep down I know we all make the best decisions -for our unique families.
I'm still cleaning B's bedroom and she is all over the place, making messes in the living room, then the kitchen and I get frustrated.  Honestly, why all the mess?  I think to myself I should have waited until she started school: then I could clean without distractions.  I want school to start and I feel guilty.  Was I not just crying to homeschool her?  I'm so confused.
Then this song comes on and I realize.
I am moving into new ministry position this Fall, one that I have been a part of the past five years, but  will now be directing.  I'm certain this is God's plan and place for me.  I know I need to be available for our teen sons.  I know God gave me this wonderful life, full of blessings and responsibilities that He has entrusted me with.  I know He has a plan and a purpose.  And I know that trusting Him this upcoming year - and every consecutive year - is absolutely necessary.   I inhale deeply.  I exhale through tears of joy and I praise Him for the blessings that I have been given.  Thank You God- Thank You God.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summary of Josh's Mission Trip to Guayama!!!!

Josh and his team had a wonderful experience in Guayama, Puerto Rico last week!  I know that God heard your prayers as you lifted them up!  Many of his group were on their first mission trip ever.  The week has not worn off of them yet.  Randomly, Josh will say, "I miss Puerto Rico" or "I miss Charlie."  I know now that he's not just missing this island (where part of his family & heritage come from) but the island, the team of friends that formed a family while there, the natives who showed them love and joy while they worked, the efforts they collectively accomplished, the lunch breaks on the bay, and on and on......God showed them so much!
I didn't get any updates from Josh during the week.  His friend Brooke posted picture updates online, but I didn't really know what the stories were until Josh came home and sporadically told them.
130 Participants of July 15-19 Guayama, Puerto Rico
World Changers
Last Monday they arrived in Guayama at World Changers --a mission camp where projects are organized in each location (they are many all over the U.S. & the world).  They lodged in a church building - the guys in one large room (a balcony actually) and the girls in another.  Apparently cots had just been donated the week before, so they were the first group to use them.  The showered in makeshift showers outdoors.  There were 130 participants from eight states that attended this week of World Changers.  They were placed into groups of six to twelve people then went out on their "assignment."
The "Plumb Bobs" at Phillipe's house
Josh (and Brooke) were in the "Plumb Bobs" group.  Their group went to Philippe's house.  Philippe's niece, Mildred, went with this group.  The Plumb Bobs spent all four days there.  At first I thought, "how much work can eleven people do at one man's small house?"  But after seeing the pictures, it is obvious they had plenty to do for four days, and they did a great job.  Josh said Philippe was at first reluctant and wary of the group.  He didn't want them in the house much, only cleaning up the yard (aka jungle) outside and allowing them in to clean the kitchen.  But by day three he was sitting out on his porch anticipating their arrival and excited to see them coming!
They worked hard.  They only stopped for breaks when they tired.  Two participants in their group (who had been to four other World Changer camps sites) said this was the "least-complaining" most "hardest working" group they'd been with yet.  Though labor-intensive, Josh said the weather was great and they could feel the constant breeze coming up from the ocean a mile away.
Josh & Brooke taking a lunch break on
the bay.
They loaded up everyday at lunchtime and went to the bay where picnic tables under brick pavilions were located, not far from Philippe's home.  While there on one of the first days they met Charlie.  Charlie did not have a job, just a bike.  He asked Mildred what they were doing, and she told him.  He asked if he could come along?   She said that would be fine, but not to get in the way.  She said he'd have to work too and not be lazy.  Charlie agreed.
Charlie on site holding a crab!
(There is a video where he caught an iguana!)
When they returned to Philippe's house to chop down the yard with machetes, Charlie jumped right in.  Josh said he was the funniest guy.  He loved to laugh and to make others laugh.  And he chopped down most of the yard, a task Josh said would have taken the rest of the group a very long time to do!  By the end of the week Charlie
Bananas in Phillipe's back yard!
definitely became a part of their Plumb Bobs group it seems.  And though he had joined them to pass time and have fun, he affected their time there greatly, and they had a powerful influence on him as well, as Charlie was able to see Christ's love by spending time around this awesome group of young servants.  Josh didn't give me the full story, but did say that Charlie was not a Christian when they met him, but that he was by the end of the week.  Praise God!
Josh giving the basketball to Joshua.
sThe highlight of Josh's week:  The twelve year old (also named Joshua) who dribbled his basketball everywhere he went.  The basketball was tattered and worn, but the kid didn't care.  Here, when a basketball gets that worn, Josh will throw it out, as it's no longer worth playing or practicing with.  This may seem like some kind of snooty Westerner thing, but this is his sport, and quality of ball does matter, just like a marathon runner's shoes would.   So, the next trip to the local store Josh purchased a basketball for the boy, and his face -when Josh handed it to him- was the highlight of the trip for him.
Cage, Josh, & Michelle
On Friday it rained, so they couldn't work much, Josh took advantage of this and took a long nap.  On Saturday morning they left and headed to San Juan to enjoy an day of hiking, swimming in a waterfall, and sight-seeing.
Overall, from the stories I have heard (which you have now read), it seems to have been an awesome mission trip for all involved!  God is so amazing!  We are so thankful for everyone who supported Josh & his team, financially, in prayer, through encouragement, in EVERYTHING!
There is a web page of the week produced from World Changers if you want even more information.  The video is great - but long.  So we marked the "time starts" if you want to specifically see Josh's team:  minutes timed in at 4:17 & 4:45 (on this one look carefully at Philippe's face full of excitement!)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Smearing Calendars and Summer Whirlwinds

Wow, the days are just flying by.  Calendar pages are being flipped and summer is smearing right before is.  It was just April!  Now it's mid-June!?!  The Clarksville Downtown Market started with a BANG!  Loved it!  Love my new location on the lower level parking lot.  The traffic volume is higher and so my inventory is being taken out - which is SO GREAT!  It also means more work (to main that kind of inventory level) which was not the case last year.   Last year (on the upper upper lot) I had time to work on things, chat with other vendors, even walk around and shop a bit.  This year - very seldom do I get a break - and I'm super happy about it, because God is so good!   And the coolest part is that I love creating and sharing it with appreciative customers.  It's like art flowing from my life into theirs.  It's so beautiful.  I love talking to people and hearing their responses, their suggestions, and their ideas.  I like hearing about their lives!  It enhances me to be even more creative in my work.  I love it!
Back on the home front there are still household obligations and family schedules though.  Which means I have to juggle a lot.  Josh (the oldest) is pretty self-sufficient, getting himself to work and basketball practices, which is a blessing.  Tyler (currently at church camp this week) can also get himself to summer day camp, the pool, the store, etc...   Brielle, she's the one I have to really work with on scheduling, time, activities, and play dates.  She's playing T-Ball, attending Vacation Bible School(s), and is currently at Tumbling Camp.  All of this and my household chores haunt me daily!  I do actually mean haunt.  That means I'm barely getting them done, and when I'm not doing them, I feel haunted by them, nagged even. My sweet husband even noticed-- and washed the dishes yesterday.  (Bless him!)  So, I've asked the kids to help out some, and I'm currently reading, "The Entitlement Trap" which I hope to implement soon!
But just for this morning, I'm pouring into my blog as I sit looking out the window of the 2nd story of the Library, trying to capture -or slow a bit- of this summer.  The kids are each somewhere, and I decided that I would save gas by staying around downtown for while two of them await transportation rides home.  I did kind of envision a slower, more laid back summer, but I'm embracing this action-packed one too.
This week I'll also be making more coasters, laundry soap and play-dough!   And beads.  Always beads.    I hope to so see you soon & thank you for reading my blog through!  It means so much to me!  Have a great SUMMER!!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Great News!

The greatest news is that Josh is fully funded for his Mission Trip to Puerto Rico!!!  Yay!!!!!!!!  We are so thankful for the generous support of friends and family who just amazing lavished him with prayer, support, and the funds to be able to take this trip!
Well, okay, the greatest news of ALL is that Jesus was born, lived an amazing life, did lots of cool things (like miracles) and turned everything upside down, then gave His perfect life as a sacrifice for ALL people for ALL time.  That His gift continues to give to us every single second of every day is GRACE FOR ALL TIME.  Yes, that is the greatest news of all!!!
But Josh getting to go on mission for Him, that's pretty freakin' great too!  :)
If, I could ask: Please keep praying for him!!!!  We would all super appreciate it!

Getting Ready!
In other great news:  The Clarksville Downtown Market starts tomorrow morning!!!!!  SOOOOOO Excited about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope to see you there.  Mention you read my blog and you will save $1 on any purchase!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I keep my prices as low as I possibly can, so this could help!   Thanks for your support!  My family and I really appreciate it!!!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Josh's Mission Trip to Guayama, Puerto Rico

When we found out that Josh's group (Relevant Students) from OneChurch were going to go on a Mission Trip to Puerto Rico this summer, of course we asked how much it would cost.  When Josh found out it was $1,000 - he told me he couldn't do it.  Reason being: he could not ask people for money to support him. (This guy doesn't even ask for a ride.  Ever.  Even if there it's freezing rain, tornado coming, lightening striking wicked out).  Okay, maybe that's extreme, but it's true!  Josh does not like to ask for help.  (I have NO idea where he gets this from!) <sheepish grin>
But I really thought we could raise the money, if he truly wanted to go, which he did.
Then I discovered how vulnerable it makes a person to ask for support (especially the financial kind).  But I typed up a letter and posted it on Facebook and we started asking.  My friend called that very morning and I shared my apprehension with her and she said to me, "you know when you ask people to pray and support you (or your family) you are inviting them in to share the journey, the blessing, that will be experienced through God's mission.  For His Glory."  Wow.  So, asking for prayers became easier & easier, as I thought about her words.  And in just a short time Josh grew more confident and trusting.  He believes he'll get the support he needs.
Me, I'm trying, but I've been a little stressed out by it.  Then, I had lunch with a friend who had adopted a baby.  We were friends before this was even an idea, so I was involved in the whole process, somewhat.  I remembered clearly how anxious she had been and how apprehensive she was about raising the money for the adoption (it costs a LOT of money to adopt!).  She looked at me and said, "Don't worry about it.  My parent's mission trip was recently funded.  His adoption was funded."  She said this so confidently.  It stuck with me.  And I kept praying.  Then, a few days later a check arrived in the mail, from a friend of mine who'd moved away, who knew our family.  She had written words of encouragement and prayer.  And I thought, "her family is joining us in the blessing.  You can take this."  And honestly, it was humbling.  And so encouraging.
So, as hard as it is for me/us to take anything, it's much easier to invite people to join us in supporting Josh on this journey - supporting him in prayer, financially, whichever.  So that they too, can partake in the blessing of God's great commission, His heart for life changed.
If you would please PRAY we are so grateful.
If you would like to support Josh financially (he currently has $591.74 still to raise) there is a link at the top right of my blog or you can mail a check to him, just email or FB me for our address.  Thank you for just reading this though!  God bless you!