I don’t know how to explain it, but I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach 2016 was going to be a long haul.
Some things I knew were happening—a wedding in the same time frame as a graduation. A child’s genetic testing. Another child transitioning from high school to college.
But, as the year unfolded, there were plenty of surprises.
- I felt a stirring I attribute to God that I was to my own ministry/business as an author and speaker. By February, I was moving forward with Surrendered Scribe Media. By March, ENTRUSTED was re released and ENTANGLED was released.
- My husband changed his job. I had a feeling this was coming, but what I didn’t anticipate was his working from home much of the time.
- My father-in-law passed away in July. The kindest man, talk about a huge void.
- Grief from loved one’s choices I couldn’t control (and still can’t!)
- A complete flip in health that was hormone/menopause related. It hit me HARD.
It was rough, and I honestly wanted to define the year that way. However, the word for my year is perspective, and I’ve really tried to apply that. I see why it is the word for me, because I learned a lot.
The absolute fear and anger I had over my husband being home on “my” schedule also offered a lunch partner at times, and help when I wasn’t able to get our child from school.
Watching God grow our loved ones closer through as they listened to us share with transparency regarding choices. Had I stayed grief-stricken, I don’t think God could have used us. Seeing it in time as an opportunity instead of devastation changed everything.
I’m sure there is more I’m not seeing yet, but perspective definitely helps me move forward and not dwell on the negative. As we wind the year down, we also had a very thankful Thanksgiving. Not only are we surviving all these things, but we learned Tom’s oldest daughter is expecting. It’s the first grandchild for us, and we are thrilled for her and her husband.
What are you thankful for this year? Do you think of perspective at all? How?
Sometimes it’s easy to write a confession down and share it with you. Afterall, chocolate is something people can relate to. Admitting I’m not over a situation, we’ve all been there, right?
Then there is a confession like today.
Sometimes I get sucked into reality television.
I’m proud to say I’ve never watched a bachelor show or anything about a housewife. I could care less about anything Kardashian and I only watched American Idol when visiting my mom and she was watching.
But, I’ve enjoyed a few episodes of Wahlburgers, the look at life inside those crazy Wahlbergs from New Kids and Marky Mark fame I knew as a teen and have grown up and old with. Poor Paul can’t catch a break as he runs the restaurant and takes flak from Donnie and Mark. I enjoy seeing fame doesn’t seem to have changed those knucklehead boys, especially Mark, who still has the same friends he did when he was a teen.
I thought that would be the end of it. A safe little reality show about a family I enjoyed as a teen.
But then Donnie fell in love and married Jenny McCarthy.
And now that’s a reality show.
And it was on after Wahlburgers.
And well, I didn’t change the channel.
I was ready to hate it. Afterall, she got her start in Playboy. She caused a lot of controversy talking about autism and vaccinations. She was on The View, the show I titled in 1998, The Only View. I can’t say as a book loving nerd that Jenny’s going to be on my top ten list. Jealous or whatever, she’s just never been.
As the show progresses I realize something.
This wacky couple is convicting me regarding marriage.
Scripted or not, what I saw on screen was a good lesson to remember.
Although they are newlyweds, their deeds are for all married people, myself included.
Jenny worked late and Donnie wanted to help out by taking her son to school.
He wanted her to have a restful day off. It meant getting up earlier. Fixing a meal he wasn’t perfect at. Taking a boy that isn’t biologically his to school. Then he promises him lunch, which means traveling from his Blue Bloods set to the school and back. Then he picks him up after school.
I don’t know where Jenny’s son is diagnosis wise but if he is on the autism spectrum, I know schedule and routine are imperative. Jenny mentioned it and added something I never thought about. It was just the two of them for over a decade. Every morning she had to get him ready for school and make those eggs just so. It was the two of them working on Science projects and school pick ups. For Donnie to come in and offer to help rattled her. How would the son react? Would the mess her husband make be worth it?
Her dad enters the picture and he sees the conflict. But he reminds her how many nights she prayed for a man to come and help them be a family. Where she could sleep in and her son would have not only a safe place, but a safe person.
With that, she wants to show Donnie how she appreciates his efforts.
She can’t cook, God bless her, but she calls her mom and tries. She puts on a candlelight dinner and dresses down, if you catch my drift, as grandpa takes the boy for ice cream.
Again, I don’t know how much was scripted and if a maid was on hand behind the scenes throwing down some rose petals and candles, but the message still got to me.
When do we stop trying?
I know I have and we’ve been married almost 19 years. Those times when we know they should sleep in, but we don’t want the extra burden. Thanking them with a special dinner? That’s so much work, I say in my whiny voice.
But it’s worth the effort.
That boy ran and gave Donnie a hug. Again, if he’s on the autism spectrum, affection like that is not easy. And if not, he’s a boy entering teen years. Either way, Donnie got a miracle. It spoke volumes to me. He didn’t care that he’s not “the real dad.” He gets they are a family and he wants to be hands on.
She could have done her nails all day long but she went to the store and bought ingredients to make a dinner.
How many times I’ve kept writing when I had a little nudge to do something extra.
My confession isn’t that I enjoyed Donnie loves Jenny.
It’s that they taught me something about marriage. I remember as a newlywed hearing this at a FamilyLife Marriage conference:
“Every day you make one of two choices—isolation or oneness.”
I think those crazy kids have “The Right Stuff,” and for that sweet boy’s sake, I hope they never stop doing those extra things for each other and the son.
And may I never be complacent in my own marriage.
Can you relate?
In the beginning of 2013, I felt led to start my own blog. I wrote about God, but nothing in particular. I also ended up going through a divorce that year, which completely changed my life. I was married for 19 years. I was a stay at home mom for a great deal of that time. The last 3 years had been dedicated to my three children, because we pulled them out of public school to home school.
As I sit and type this up, I am thankful for so many things. It is hard to pick just one.
I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who has gotten me through the rough spots. This journey we call life is not an easy one. Being a Christian is not a “get out of trouble” free card. We are still going to have hard times. Jesus even said, in John 16: 33, “33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It’s not an IF, it’s a WHEN type thing. God is always here for us, no matter what.
I am also thankful for my children, friends and family. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. They have made me laugh, hugged me as I cried and told me the truth when I did not want to hear it.
God has really moved in my life and heart over the past several months. He has started talking to me in every day ways. I have started writing those things for others to see that He is there, daily. He cares about our daily lives and He just wants to help us make it to tomorrow.
Take a moment and think about what you are thankful for. Maybe it’s totally different from me. And, guess what? That’s ok.
Jill Barlow is a mom of three, an administrative assistant to two, and a writer. Divorced after a lengthy marriage, she started finding God in her every-day life. Jill says, “God really cares and is interested in talking to us through the little things. Showing people His love and character in a way they might not have ever experienced is my passion.” You can find Jill at www.coffeewithsnoopy.blogspot.com and on Facebook .
Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!
Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.
We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.
by Sharron Cosby
Christmas. The mere mention of the word sends thoughts and memories skittering like a box of spilled ornaments. Some roll toward sweet remembrances of times shared with family. Others bounce to the let’s-not-go-there corner of our minds.
I recall Christmas 2009. The one I wanted to cancel. My only son is an addict, and this was his worst year ever. I had convinced myself it would be his last, assuming he would be in prison or dead by the next Christmas. I told my daughters we would exchange gifts and have our usual holiday dinner, but no tree or decorations. I couldn’t dredge up the emotional energy to plaster contrived cheer around the house.
I’m usually the decorator, gift purchaser, food preparer, and mess cleaner-upper. Executing the necessary holiday tasks takes time and effort. Worrying about my son had left me drained of the required get-up-and-go. I couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for online shopping; at least there would be presents to hand out.
My pastor’s message four days before Christmas cut straight through my Scrooge-like attitude. His sermon points were: The holidays are too much trouble, count your blessings, and forgive someone.
Considering Christmas too much trouble reflects a selfish attitude, according to my pastor. What if Jesus had thought that way? My icy heart began to thaw.
The second point, count your blessings, stopped me dead in my tracks. Count blessings with a broken heart? I considered my husband’s love and my two daughters who have stood by their brother. I smiled as I pictured the faces of my four grandsons and the joy they brought our family. Yes, I had many blessings to number.
The third was the hardest: forgiveness. Forgive my son for the pain and suffering he had caused? “God, you can’t be serious,” I protested. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on him, he’s broken our hearts, and he’s in worse shape than ever before.”
“Forgive him,” the Spirit whispered.
Tears slid down my face as I chose to forgive my son. No strings attached.
After church I headed home with a changed attitude. When my husband left for work, I retrieved the ornaments, dragged the Christmas tree from the garage, and set it up, my gift to the family. Decorating our tree with the children’s handmade ornaments is always a joint project, but that day I worked alone. I held the clothespin reindeers, popsicle stick picture frames, and monogramed angels and remembered the good times.
With tear-filled eyes, I watched as amazement etched the faces of my daughters when they came to our home Christmas morning and saw the decorated tree. “Mom! You put up the tree after all,” they said.
The biggest surprise of the day came when our daughter’s boyfriend knelt in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me?”
The discouragement of addiction was replaced with the joy of new beginnings, which is, after all, the message of the Christ Child.
Sharron Cosby has been married to Dan for thirty-nine years, is Mom to three adult children and “Mimi” to five grandchildren. Her family was rocked by her son’s drug addiction for fifteen years until he laid it down on February 18, 2010. She uses her life experiences to offer hope and encouragement to families caught in the chaos of addiction. Sharron is available to speak to groups on addiction related topics. Sharron recently published her first book, Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90, a ninety day devotional for families in recovery or those wanting to be. Receive weekly encouragement at her blog, www.efamilyrecovery.com, and Twitter @sharroncosby or contact her at moc.liamg@ybsocnorrahs.
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The Ordinary Life
Most of us live what is considered an ordinary life. We go through life each day with the typical routine of getting up, going to work, doing laundry, shuttling children to their events, and retiring for the evening. The days and months pass by and before we know it, November hits and we are reminded to be thankful.
The retail stores force images upon us, the commercials on television have us grabbing the tissue box, and the Hallmark channel releases heart-warming movies with happy endings. It is that time of the year when even the most ungrateful person finds a reason to be thankful. We look around and begin to be appreciative even in the small things.
A few years ago my husband and I decided as parents we wanted to begin to lay the foundations of thankfulness in our children. To be completely honest, instilling the practice of thankfulness in our children forces us, beckons us as parents to model for them an attitude of appreciation. Beyond Thanksgiving, we wanted our children to recognize how blessed they are and to be thankful for how God has provided for our family daily. We began by asking a simple question, “What are you thankful for?” Most responses seem so child like. “I am thankful I got to eat lunch at school today.” “I am thankful that I got to jump on the trampoline after school.” “I am thankful I got to stay up, watch a movie, and eat candy!”
As they have grown, their thankfulness focus has turned from “I am thankful I got to watch Veggie Tales today,” to “I am glad I met a new friend at school.” As I listen to my children express their thankfulness for what seems like the “mundane” things in life, I am reminded where Christ tells us to come to him as little children, with child-like faith. A childlike faith finds good in the simple things, gives the benefit of doubt, extends grace when there is hurt, and even can be thankful for getting to eat candy before bed!
Being thankful for the small things helps to provide us with eyes that see how blessed we truly are in our lives. We have opportunities to be thankful for something small like having a friend who can be your running buddy, finding a $5 bill in last year’s winter coat that has been packed away, folding laundry which means we have clothes to wear, or a friend sending a text saying that she is praying for you and thankful for your friendship. These are the things in life that swell our hearts with gladness. It is in the ordinary things of life that we find God moving and blessing us.
It seems this time of year more than any other we find ourselves evaluating, assessing our thankfuls in life. We contemplate because we want to have attitudes of gratitude. The challenge of thankfulness is not just being thankful during the Thanksgiving season but creating mind-set of being grateful in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being thankful that God is in control no matter the circumstances. Being thankful that we woke up this morning with hands and feet that move and eyes that see. Being thankful we live in a country where we can freely worship. Creating a year around attitude of gratitude starts with a speck of gratefulness for the ordinary life so when the big blessings come we have no trouble recognizing them, but we also realize that the ordinary life is our biggest blessing.
Leslie Umstattd has been involved in women’s and children’s ministry areas for over 15 years. Before moving to Missouri in 2008, she was an elementary school teacher in both the public and private sector. She recently graduated from Midwestern Seminary with her Doctorate in Educational Ministry and currently serves as Adjunct Professor in the Christian Education department at Midwestern. She has been married for 12 years and has two daughters.