The Right Rights

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Right: a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.
“she had every right to be angry”
entitlement, prerogative, privilege, advantage, due, birthright, liberty, authority, power, license, permission, dispensation, leave, sanction, freedom;

What are my rights as a Christian woman?

Since the early 1900’s, the world has been in a mass conflict over what “rights” women should naturally have as citizens of The United States. To list some -and i’m certain these aren’t all of the “issues of protest”- :
•working outside the homes
•equal pay for equal work
•owning property
•being issued loans
•to be viewed, treated, and accepted just as any man
•basically…the right to choose any “thing”

Now while i’m fairly certain as well that every single protest/rally/convention has not been composed of true God fearing and obeying women, I will safely assume that some have been held with women whom have at some point accepted the teachings and commands of Jesus.
Which for me…is THE actual issue at hand.

Do I appreciate my life in 2017? In the USA? In the perfect little small town of Belgreen? With a God fearing husband whom values and respects the commands and ordinances of his Father?
And more than anything yes.
So do I know the true physical struggles that others face in other areas of the world with other “types” of men? No. I do not. And now that that recognition is out of the way…on to the main 2 points of my writing.
1. As a soul -living inside a woman oriented vessel- I have submitted my own will (at a much later date than my baptism btw) and that MEANS more than a reserved for me seat on a church pew and Sunday ritual of showing up and then showing out. Let me interject that I do understand the purpose and value in those of like faith gathering together and the commanding God did for this…but I also see the twisted and robotic fashion in which this is carried out MOST everywhere. Not all – most. Returning to the point … one “thing” I have come to understand about being a woman of faith is my responsibility of living as one. Which coming from a place of years of serving myself and my own ego has been a challenge in itself. Submitting my life to the Savior of the world MEANS seeking/praying/obeying His will for me as a soul -living inside a woman oriented vessel- in His kingdom. And while that is as deep as it is wide, I am zoning in on the influence my life has on others. How do I present myself? How do I respect -or disrespect- my marriage? How do I parent? How do I treat others? How do I choose my hobbies? How do I show to the itty bitty portion of the world around me that I seek/pray/obey Gods will in my life? See, these are the decisions I make. The CHOICE I had to make was do I want to obey or do I not want to obey. And then after I made the CHOICE to obey…my rights surrendered into His commands. So when the questions arise like “how do I present myself?” and the others above, the answers don’t come from the world or myself. THE CHOICE I made to surrender then demands every decision to be made based on what He says. And what does He say about the presentation of a Godly woman? Loud? Obnoxious? Half naked? Glorified? How about a Godly woman in her marriage? First? The head? The provider? The decision making authority? Degrading? How about a Godly mother? How about a Godly woman servant of others? How about a Godly woman’s activities? See the pattern. The choice I made to become a daughter of God instead of a daughter of the world’s prince of deception -satan- means that my choices reflect His commands. Not mine. Not the worlds. My “right to choose” came at the moment of choosing to be His or to not be. And since I choose to be a daughter of the Most High…my choices in all aspects should reflect just that.
2. Believe me when I say that I KNOW what it is to be an independent, strong willed, capable, intelligent, goal oriented, very driven woman. I’ve been her. I’ve done the college days of semester hours worth of women in history and politics. I know the pleasures of being single and “powerful” and knowing how to use my appeal for my benefit. I know desire for respect and focus on career. So i’m not coming from a place of “you don’t know because you’ve never been there!” I’ve been in both positions and on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to choosing my dreams/goals/satisfaction and choosing to submit to God. And I just do not see where it is possible to mix the 2 and be pleasing to Him. I see where I can please myself and give Him a little of what’s left over -claiming to be “love Jesus” while fulfilling everything I want in life. So IF I am going to be a woman in Gods kingdom…do I get to choose limits on that? Do I get to say “I want a little Jesus and a little of my own way!”? Do I get to proclaim “my life is for Your work Lord” and then live/scream/protest that it’s my life and I can do whatever I want with it? That I have rights?! See what I see from the praying/seeking I talked about earlier is that Gods design was not for men and women to be the same…in their physical bodies/nature/roles. The value of our souls is the same. But what God intended for us is not. We are not equals. We each have purposes. We each have roles. We each have capabilities -some of which God did not give the other- that make us distinctly different. How many protests or marches have you known where men are holding signs that read “I demand to give birth!!” or “Aunt Flow better come see me!!!” or “I have breasts too so why can’t I feed my baby??!!” or “Men deserve equal pay for equal work!!” or “I should be allowed to be a stay at home mother!!” I’m NOT saying men have not/do not wish they could do the things women can do, because I’m certain some have/do…but can we just admit that instead of fighting and arguing and griping and protesting and screaming and degrading ourselves over what we WANT we would be better -and truer- servants of God IF we accepted His design and purposes and roles for us as women?! And men?!

So instead of becoming involved in a back and forth argument -which is usually composed of my thoughts/opinions vs your thoughts/opinions and gets no where- or protesting or marching or begging for “rights” which as Christians we simply just do not possess…
Why don’t we all just simply humble ourselves to accept Gods design. Why don’t we stop trying to align Him with us and align our lives to His will? Why don’t we search MORE for truth and less for evidence of why we’re “right”? Why don’t we understand that His way is so much better than any way we can come up with that -if we can’t already conclude- completely turns into chaotic mess?

I read an article today about “why I didn’t march” … a mom wrote to her baby girl. And of course it got me to thinking. My daughter is 15. My only daughter. What I pray for my life to reflect to her is less about what I THINK I have a right to do or what is fair and MORE of submission to what God says for me to accept as His will.

I can’t think of any right-er way to live for her.

The 4 word prayer

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These 4 words…easily spoken, easily thrown around, and easily “accepted” by every soul professing Christ.
Allow your minds to think about this sisters:

To offer -with body, mind, heart, and spirit- the ONLY thing that is truly yours (your will) to Him so that His will unfolds for your life is submission. It is powerful. It is life changing. It is hard. And so so worth it.
Sisters, let me nor anyone else ever fool you…uttering these 4 words to your Father -and accepting what comes next- will absolutely be nothing like you been taught. Let me explain…

When I see Jesus in the garden and He’s face down praying for another way for people to be saved (which was Gods will)..seeing and knowing the pain it would cause HIM (and He wanted there to be a another way-His own will)…He uttered these 4 words. From His heart. I imagine the trust He had in His Father was immeasurable and from THAT moment until His dying breath … He gained nothing physically. He didn’t blend in. He wasn’t compromising a little tiny bit so that people would accept Him. He didn’t do one single thing that benefitted Him physically. He wasn’t respected. He wasn’t defended. He wasn’t loved. He didn’t change The Plan for Him in any way that was “good” for Him. He had no pride. He didn’t SAY the 4 words and then LIVE His own way. He 100% accepted what that will was…
For Him to suffer. For Him to be withdrawn from. For Him to be ridiculed and mocked and condemned by “religious” people. For Him to be lied about. For His body to be beaten and His face spit on. For His friends to no longer know Him. For Him to suffer ALL of this for … me. And you.
But is that what we have been taught? Or have we fallen victim to a society of 12,693 religious teachings that sell a happy and comfortable and physical blessings and acceptance when one submits to God? Have we believed and accepted the worlds version of submission instead of the example that His Son laid out for us? Do we know what it means to truly love our husbands and our children? Do we even recognize what service is? What about modesty? Or purity? Self control? Are our minds set of being and doing and fulfilling the role of being taught by older women and teaching the younger women good things? Have we even considered what a gentle and quiet spirit is and why our Father is pleased with His daughters when this is characterized in their lives?

Do we know what we are saying when we utter “Thy will be done” ?

We as women in the kingdom are commanded to imitate the submissive character of Jesus. The Holy Spirit delivers the message to us that we as wives have a very powerful responsibility in living our lives showing our obedience by submitting to our husbands. The power in that is that he may be won to the Lord by this…we do not even have to say a word. Our conduct is observed and when that behavior is exhibited because of our desire to be like Jesus…the power that that has is it can save the soul of our husbands.

Jesus suffered for praying “Thy will be done” and then getting up and LIVING out that will. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t praised. It wasn’t accepted. It wasn’t about Him. It WAS hard, and lonely, and scary, and judged, and weird, and so so different than anything else those people had ever witnessed. So. IF you, my sweet sisters, offer this same 4 word prayer from your soul and mean it…

Will your life be any different than Jesus’?
Know your purpose. Accept His will. Be a soul who loves and appreciates and values its womanly exterior and LIVE a life of submission to His will just as Jesus did…live a life of purity and kindness and love and mercy and service -especially when you aren’t praised and loved and admired for it- because in doing this, you live the life that Jesus lived when He defined submission. And for that short time frame -in the grand scheme of time- He suffered. BUT His eyes were fixed and His soul trusted and His faith was never stronger that the PROMISE His Father had made Him was just beyond that suffering. He knew that by living this submitted life to His will was going to save every soul who accepts Him and follows Him. He knew it was worth it. He knew that place of rest and reward was just beyond the lying, mocking, doubting, beating, and nailing to His cross. It is for us as well sisters.

So my advice, based on the last 3 years of life experiences -physically- is this: do not utter this 4 word prayer if you do not mean it. And if you do mean it, find and rely on your sisters who have submitted their wills as well to His and find strength renewal and a source of uplifting to continue in the short while you must suffer for being obedient. There will be people and times when you are praised…my husband admires and encourages and respects my willingness to surrender my will to what Gods will is for me but I have women who hate me for the same. Our calling is to set the example of Jesus in which God has commanded us -no more no less- and our obedience to that calling is noticed. It is observed.
And it is powerful.

And you are not alone in your submission.

Just beyond…

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Driving today to do some very routine practices in my life, I looked up and saw this. And of course…it got me thinking.

Life on earth -for me as a soul longing to be like her Savior- is just like this picture. So many of my days are cloudy and dark and gloomy and scary even. As I am traveling along with my suitcase full of “desire to be like Jesus” and my “want to to do good” and of course my “striving to get close and closer to my God” I find it so easy to be distracted by the evil one. With all his “this person is SO mean to me” and “why am I hurting” and “gah I am so hated” devices he uses my happy journey to heaven is regularly interrupted with the dark and cloudy and gloomy and scary distractions. It is easy to focus on that. And to totally miss what is so evident…

Just like in the picture.

That sliver of hope. That beautiful and perfect “over there” where clarity exists and nothing scary can live. And it’s just right there. I want to get there. When I see it, instead of just look at the message and totally miss it, I am SO motivated to pick up my suitcase full of Jesus and walk with my head high and my heart full of the promises He gives me that I can do this. I can make it. The journey is gonna have its dark and gloomy and cloudy and scary days…
But oh that “over there!” That place. Perfection and clarity and peace for eternity awaits me. And it’s just that little sliver He gives me -what a blessing right?!- is just enough for me to KNOW that I am loved. And awaited.

Pack your suitcase and take a walk with me sisters. Let us gather together on this narrow path and serve our God together in the capacity in which we are allotted. Let us hold hands and give each other strength and courage and a friendship of Christ magnitude as we see our home with Him…just over there.

I resolve.

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In her book “The Resolution for Women,” Priscilla Shirer writes

“If you and I take the time to zero in on our unique, divinely given set of ‘whatever you do’ qualities and then commit to bring them wholeheartedly to the tasks the Lord has given us, He will help us not only accomplish those task sufficiently but also in a way that brings Him glory. Trying to do what someone else has been commissioned to do will not honor God, no matter how well we try to do it.”

I am praying over and reading this book with a dear close sister of mine and when we got to the section “My Best” we had both, unknowingly of the other, underlined this sentiment. So when we met that week, we talked about the question
“Am I doing this?”

Am I zeroing in what I have been commanded to be doing?
Am I wholeheartedly committed to my tasks for the Lord?
Am I focused on bringing God the glory or myself?
Am I even interested in what He wants OR is it really about doing it my way?
Am I pleasing Him or myself?
Am I willing to submit to Him and His word?
Am I selfLESS enough to accept the simplicity of His role for me?
Am I prideful in my life?
Am I honoring my husband in my life?
Am I growing and learning or staying comfortable?
Am I willing to change my way(s) of thinking to humble myself in Him?
Am I blinded by pride?

These are tough questions sisters. Only you know your answers. Your heart. My answers were shameful and embarrassing to admit…
I am selfish.
I am prideful.
At least, I have been.

Looking at a sister and revealing deep rooted truths about yourself is challenging…its naked feeling…its handing her the glasses to see the real you. The real you who you work so hard to keep hidden from
Your husband.
Your family.
Your congregation.
Your friends.
Your parents.
Your neighbors.
Because SHE is selfish and prideful to the core. She does what she does to be praised, respected, revered as a “good Christian woman,” glorified. Her image is so important. How she is accepted among her groups controls her actions. If group A is going thing B, then she will be doing thing B as well. If group C is going thing D, then mark it down that she will as well. She MAY even be the leader of these groups and therefore her followers will be mimicking her. Following her.
But. What happens when she decides that God is Who she will follow, and not another woman or a group she is a member of?
The “Am I”‘s become the “I will”‘s.

I WILL zero in on what God requires of me.
I WILL wholeheartedly work for Him.
I WILL focus on His glory, not mine.
I WILL be interested in His ways.
I WILL please Him.
I WILL submit to Him.
I WILL be selfless in accepting the roles HE gave me.
I WILL let my pride die.
I WILL honor my husband.
I WILL grow.

And when obeying the Lord becomes her focus instead of the acceptance of people, her life -her heart- her thinking- her focus- her ways- her everything will change. Others will view these changes as “sad” and “confused” and “out of the Lord’s presence” and that is to be expected. When ways are changed, there will always be results of questions/judgment/condemnation/and comparison. Here’s a question for her to ask herself when those results arise:

“Am I in love with God and His commands OR is being accepted by my groups what truly matters?”

Whatever that answer is…
Is up to her.

I, and my sister, are resolving to be women in love with God. We are resolving to accept the simplicity of His word and committing ourselves to submitting to the roles He has ordained for us. We resolve to pray for our husbands daily to be the spiritual leaders of our homes, to be husbands who love their wives just as Christ loves His saved. We resolve to pray over and for our children and their souls to maintain their humility and develop a deep true love for their God which will result in being directed by Him. We resolve to be women diligently working on our hearts, our thinking, our desires so that they revolve around being reflective of Christ’s character. We resolve to strip away worldly expectations of us and accept that being Godly women will result in isolation from and judgment of others we love.

Encouraging one another in being a woman of the Lord is a role that I am thankful Mrs. Shirer is accepting. I am thankful for her sharing with me in things relative to my marriage, my children, my service, my time, my heart. And I am humbly grateful to be able to share the same with my sister…and all of you reading.
#titus2women #teachgoodworksoflove #resolving

“I want” should mean “I will work”…teach them early.

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So this story starts off with this:
Scout – “Mom, guess where the Ambassador field trip is going to be this year?”
Me – “No idea.”
Scout – “Universal Studios!!” (with the utmost excitement)
Me – “Wow. How much is THAT going to cost?”

Enter in the information of the cost. Which to me sounded like a whole warehouse full of styrofoam cups rubbing up against each other…or the styrofoam packing that fragile items are packed in…because THOSE are the absolute WORST sounds to me E.V.E.R!

Scout – “probably around $750.”
Me – “forrrrrrrr….just you?”
Scout – “yeah something like that…but I’ve earned it because I was elected an Ambassador by the teachers!!” (like this was EVER gonna work in his favor. bless)
Me – “well, talk to your daddy about it.”

A “hey dad, can I go to Universal Studios?” and a “how much is it gonna cost?” mixed with a “$750 for just me” later…we have the meat of our story.
Dad – “So, $1500 for you and your mother to go to Universal Studios for a school field trip?!”
Scout – “Yes sir.”
Dad – “Well, if you want to go, then you are going to have to earn the money to pay for it.”
Scout – “well that won’t be so bad. I can just ask people for money.”
Dad – “Um, no. No no ya won’t. You are going to WORK to earn the money.”
Scout – “it shouldn’t be that hard.”
Dad – “You think $1500 is easy to earn?”
**wait for it**
Scout – “W.H.A.T??? I gotta pay for mom’s TOO?!”
Here’s the first set of info we received about this trip…

And so began the tough, but much needed, life lesson 101 for our little and precious 12 year old son Scout Bragwell…”IF you WANT something, you are going to have to work for it!”

See, we have always talked to and trained our children to understand that we as their parents are responsible for their needs: food, warmth, clothes, safety, protection, guidance, wisdom, love. However when it comes to their “wants” we have limited the amount of giving we do for those “wants.” When they were smaller, maybe 5/6ish, and they would want something from Walmart -a ball for Scout usually and a doll of some sort for Autumn- I would give them the opportunity to earn the money for the want. Like, “I need those weeds pulled out of the flower bed in the front yard…if you do that I will give you $5.” And “the furniture in the living room needs dusted so if you’ll do that I’ll give you $10” now..let me interject here that our children have chores that they do NOT get paid for…they have always been responsible for picking up after themselves, cleaning their rooms, started washing their own clothes at 10, they clean up the kitchen after I have cooked, Scout is responsible for taking out all the garbage and getting the big can to the road every Thursday, Autumn keeps their bathroom upstairs clean, these are just known jobs that they get “paid” for by being allowed to live in a warm safe house. But when it comes to things that I don’t necessarily want to do, I am willing to pay them to do and therefore…they have earned the money to buy whatever little insignificant thing they want. And there have been times that we have bought them things “just because” they are phenomenal kids and we want to reward them. But when it comes to the training of “if you want something you have to work for it,” we have been Hitlers. And criticized. And praised. And thanked. And hated. Yet the emotions/opinions that our training produces are NOT the reasons we do what we do. We firmly believe in training our children for the realities of life, the harshness that it can bring, and the responsibility it takes to be/have something worth while.
It’s tough.
It’s challenging.
It’s not liked.
BUT IT IS for their good. And they know this, whether they like it or not is really not a factor. Lol

So. TJ begins explaining to Scout about the opportunities for him to work and earn money:
*An aunt had had a load of dirt dumped in her front yard that needed spreading. She also needed some trees trimmed, limbs picked up, rocks moved, etc. just some yard work mainly. She was made aware that Scout was looking for work to make money to go on this trip so she hired him. She talked with him about how much she would pay per hour per job and they agreed on the terms. So for a couple of days, he would spend time out there–after school and on a Saturday or two–working for her. She paid him. This was his first earned money for his trip and even though he had sweat and worked extremely hard at less than minimum wage, he was so proud to have that payment. It was his. He earned it. He WITNESSED the principle and learned the lesson. This was different than the $5 weed removal…the seed was planted as a child and when he became a young man…the sprouting had occurred.
*TJ sat him down and showed him how to create a spreadsheet –this is SO TJ BRAGWELL right here btw– and record every dime he brought in and every dime that went out. He wanted him to be able to see the link between income and expense to be able to register in his mind “I have this much and have spent this much.” This was genius. Just genius. I hate it wasn’t the mom idea. #failed
*Deposit deadlines started coming in…and he was ever proud, and ever like “aw man, I gotta spend this money?” at the same time. But with each deadline, came the opportunity for him to pay that deposit/expense on his own. Here’s the first deposit he made:

So proud. Not very liked, but I was so proud. Mind you…he’s a 12 year old BOY and responsibility and accountability do NOT come pre-installed in them. It is NOT even as easy as “insert here.” The training that MUST be involved in installing these qualities in them is straining on the mind…it pulls on the heart strings of moms because we want to just love the crap out of them and baby them and let them run to us and hold them and make it all better when mean ole daddy tries to teach them something good. Right? Ya’ll know that is true moms. But ladies let me tell you all something…and listen as rationale Christian women and NOT precious big puppy dog eyes sweetest little boy EVER’s mother…THESE LESSONS HAVE GOT TO BE TAUGHT AND LEARNED!!! Daddy’s have got to be fixed on training the minds of their sons for these types of life character molding traits. It is CRUCIAL for preparing them for the kingdom…for the work they must do, for the leadership they are called on to have, for becoming the “true man” God designed them to be. If your son is allowed to have everything, get everything, want everything and have it given on a silver platter with side dishes of compliments and showering of mushy kisses and “come here baby let’s get away from that mean ole daddy!”‘s…this will be the demise of him. He must be trained to think, act, work, behave, be responsible and accountable like the man God intends for him to be when he is grown. It will not happen magically…it will not “just happen”…he will not go from a sheltered protected babied boy child to a responsible mature spiritual leader man simply by accident. And mommies…I KNOW we want our sons to become men of God, obedient souls, leaders for His kingdom, a spiritual head for his wife and children, a mature and knowledgeable teacher of God’s word, a financial provider who is selfless and giving for his family and neighbors…and it is IMPERATIVE that he be TRAINED in THIS WAY. If he is trained to be spoiled and lazy and self gratified and babied—what do you think the result will be when he is 25? 35? 50? The “train up a child” command is given for this purpose. If our children are trained to be obedient, responsible, accountable, lovers of God…then that is exactly how they will be when they are old. If we train them to be selfish by always making everything about them being happy and satisfied, and never holding them accountable for choices/actions, and protecting them for consequences…then THAT is exactly how they will be when they are old. The will not depart from how they are trained. They CAN overcome the lack of training, but the implanted character will always be things they must overcome which makes their “job” as a Christian somewhat burdensome. That just is not fair to them. At all. They deserve to be taught truth, and love, and all things God charactered.

Ok so here was another way Scout was given the opportunity to earn money:
*he would make cutting boards and butcher blocks and sell them. TJ taught and trained in the process of how to make these and I advertised for him on Facebook and the orders started rolling in…
They are beautiful. And made from precious hands that had a purpose and a focus and an aim. The first one ordered was by one of our most precious friends and her words when Scout finished hers and brought it to her at school…”Well I can’t cut on this, its TOO beautiful!” So she is using it as decoration in her kitchen. Lol

He also was allotted the privilege of fundraising. And again the avenue of Facebook and group texting was used and with each set of sheets sold he would earn $15 profit towards his trip balance.
14 sets were sold and $210 was put towards his balance. I did not ever buy a set. #badmother lol

And here is a bonus~~~he was allowed to spend his earned money however he wanted. He was told up front “if you’re trip is not paid for by the deadline…you will not go.” so he knew that the trip was/well should be/ his priority. But yet -as with the life of a child- a side track came into play. He wanted a guinea pig. So he chose to take $130 of his own money ~without the trip being paid for mind you~ and buy the rat (as I call her), her cage, her travel bag, hay, food, watering tube, and food bowl. ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLARS THAT HE HAD WORKED AND SLAVED TO EARN and THIS was what he chose to do with that money…but hey, we choose to spend our money the largest package of Dish so that I can watch every sporting event on every channel possible so in reality we make stupid choices too. BUT…he did the very smart thing in continuing to work to earn more money to finish paying for his goal. It was good for his to be allowed to choose what to do with his money once he had earned it. A “side reward” of sorts. Here is that pic…for your viewing pleasure:
“FuFu” is in the carry-on. #forthelove to quote J Hatmaker.

And so comes the end of this story…the work is done, the boards are all made, the sheets are ordered and delivered (well most of them anyway lol) and the deposits/payments are all recorded and so he was given the total remaining balance on his account. After the decision to drive was made ~to save him money~ AND because our BFF family is going as well and we as moms just could NOT pass up the opportunity to carry our children on a 12 hour road trip…here was what my young and precious man owed:

And these payments later…

READ THAT LINE…”paid in full” (and the chorus sings “hallelujah!”
I cannot even fully express in the right and deep enough semantics how utterly PROUD I am of this young man. And how humbled I am that his dad saw the opportunity and took it to teach and train in the thinking and action of “I want” should mean “I will work.” And how thankful I am for the seed being planted in his heart to be receptive and obedient to the training. And how much more in love I fell with his dad for being the man Scout needs him to be in his life. And how in awe I am that TJ continues to strive to be the man his God desires/commands/expects him to be for His kingdom and his family and his neighbors…because ultimately what TJ is doing is training a worker in His kingdom, a teacher of His word, a husband, a father, an employee, a brother, a neighbor…and seeing that “bigger picture” in his decision to train Scout when it came to wanting to go to Universal Studios is just awesome. And Scout being willing to receive it AND accomplish his goal is just awesome.
I HAD to share.
I HAD to write.
It is having these moments~~these lessons~~these wins~~these accomplishments in our parenting (lives in general) that we as sisters in Christ should be willing to share with one another. Even our failures can be lessons learned by someone else. It is my absolute pleasure in being a woman who takes what God has allowed in her life and voicing that with you so that you can contemplate, think, discuss, simply have the opportunity to know that wins in parenting ARE completely achievable.

Go Scout. #fistbump

When “Miss Popular” became “UNpopluar”

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1993. Sitting in Mrs. Keeton’s English class probably daydreaming about a boy (didn’t we all?) and over the loud speaker I hear the following:
“We would like to announce this Senior class’s ‘Who’s Who’…’Most Popular’ Tressa Hovater and ____________’…”
And just like that I was forever known as “Miss Popular!”
Well, forever is stretching it. More like for the next couple of months and especially during the photo session for the annual when “Ok, so Most Popular is next” was announced. And for your viewing pleasure…I am sharing that photo:

I was your perfect picture of “Popular but for no material reasons what-so-ever!” I did not drive the new car of the day, I did not have the name brand clothes, or shoes, or vacations, or the most money in the snack room. I never not had what I needed…food, clothes, and a warm bed…but I never had “the best of everything” like so many around me did in the fashion/car/stuff categories. My first car was a 1982 Mercury EXP (in 1992), I shared clothes with my mother/sister, I had ONE pair of Guess jeans (you my age people know what this is) that I got for my 16th birthday, and my first pair of brand new Nikes came when I was in college. Soooo, I was NOT “that” girl. I was all but her. The outfit that I am wearing in this picture was my mother’s. That is just hilarious to me. She was a good mother to let me wear her clothes.
I was simple. I was generally in a good mood every day at school. School was my “escape” from the crazy unknown at the time bi-polar world I was living amongst. And I was happy there. I could be myself and laugh (yes I was loud then too) and make the posters for the basketball season (I was a cheerleader…not a “yay go me” one but a “if you’re gonna play basketball, then you’re gonna cheer too” one and I was GOING TO PLAY BASKETBALL. I loved it. Heck, I still love it. I get plum cray cray come “March Madness” season. Brackets er’where. Anyway…I loved my high school days. They were good to me. I had friends and great teachers and great teams and some of the best happenings of my days. I of course had the “high school boyfriend” on/off/break up/hate/love/best/worst/learn/stupid story of my very own. He and I are still very good friends actually so it was not as “typical” as most I guess. I had some of the best guy friends anyone could ever hope to have…8 of which were in my wedding as groomsmen and 21 years after graduation, I still could/can call at any minute and they’d each be right there for me. Of course, my husband who was one of those best guy friends in school says it’s because I married him and they are all his friends. Whatever TJ. Whatever. Lol
College life was not much different for me. I still did not have the great and awesome car (had my sister’s 1991 Maroon 4 door Escort at this point) but I was super proud that I was paying for it. Paid it off actually. Then a WHOLE MONTH of NOT having a car payment then B.A.M. T-Boned by a man running a stop sign. Yay me. I seriously write like I talk and therefore one little description of my life leads me to tangents…I know. It’s distracting. I get it. Apologies.
Soooooo, I experienced pretty much the same thing(s) in college as I did high school. I never brought any great material gifts to anyone at anytime but I never had a problem “fitting in.” I never joined a sorority but attended plenty of frat parties. I sang with a popular local band at several little bars and events. I dated whomever I wanted. I was liked by all but one college professor…he was a straight up self proclaiming male chauvinist who did not believe that women should be in the Political Science department of study. Therefore, I was not favored by him in the 831 classes I had under him. Maybe the sarcastic very loose lipped call you out in a second personality I had then may have had a teeny tiny bit to do with it. For example…he was attempting (and I use that term very loosely) to draw for us the process of “How a Bill becomes a Law” right?! And we are talking about chalk board days. Which, for those who messed up and use an eraser to erase said mess up and start over, was fine. Yet he would mess up, smear the chalk with his hand, and keep writing. And within a 49 second roundabout session of this topic there was nothing but a HOT MESS on that board…and MAN I wish that term had’ve been created back then cause I woulda used it at that very second…so I, being just as disgusted as the rest of the closed mouth class, slammed my pen down on my desk and said (code for OUT LOUD) “THIS is ridiculous. Can you please just erase this crap and start over?!” To which he totally ignored my sweet and appropriate request and continued to just cloud up that blackboard. Lovely. He also taught a Political Equations” class required for my degree and at the end of the semester asked for suggestions for teaching this the next spring (he was fresh out of PhD school) to which I wrote on the suggestion paper “Um yes. How about you get a new teacher for the next class. One who knows what in the crap he/SHE’s doing.” He was the ONLY B I had that LAST semester. 21 hours…7 classes…POLITICAL SCIENCE…and THAT class taught by him was the only B I had. An 89.6 and he left it 89. I was also the only woman in that class. I’d like to slap him. 15 years later. Lol
So comes marriage. Then the baby carriage. And all along these times of my life…I am pretty well liked. I carried “Most Popular” well. Sure I had people who hated me…but most of that mess was boy related. And as I look/think back on all.that.time. I only have a few, and when I say a few I mean a few, times that my Christianity was ever an “issue.” Once was in high school a guy asked me “Why do all you Church of Christ people think you are the only ones right?” And he was not asking in a harsh or mean way. He sincerely wanted to know my answer. So I gave the best one I knew to give: “Well, all I know is that everything we do as a church, I can find you book/chapter/verse for why we do them.” Sounded good. Pretty sure I had heard that taught to me in a lesson before. And the other was I had a college professor who was an Atheist. First and only true one I have ever known. His mother passed away when he was 15, he was an only child, and he said the day she died he had been praying to God to heal her. These were his words to me to explain why he did not believe that God exists: “when her spirit left her body…I saw it go out the window. And my belief in God when right out with it.” He was a believer that we as humans “made up” the notion of a God, heaven, afterlife, no pain, tears, etc. to make ourselves feel better. That in all reality, when we die, we are just dead. Nothing else. And because we “don’t like that notion” we created this story that has been passed down for generations so that we do not have to feel that we are nothing. When you really ponder this…it seems feasible. And because he knew that I was a Christian, a loud/outspoken/not afraid of a good conversation Christian at that, he would call me out sometimes. Example: (he was a political science professor as well) “So in the process of voting/choosing for the President…if you only have 2 choices, maybe 3, in whom you did not choose to be the candidates…are you really getting your choice? Kind of like with the Bible. God says ‘you do it my way or else’ so is it really a choice? Tressa. You’re a Christian. Tell us then, do you really have a choice?” Things like that. He loved it. I was always willing to just open my mouth and let it out. I was his favorite Christian because I was so much like him. Raw, hard, cold, calloused, outspoken, not afraid, and with all of that…very likable.
So I say alllllllll of that exhausting life history to make the point that popularity came easy. It was not sought out, it was not desired, it was not accomplished by denying my faith. I was a popular girl. Through high school, college, marriage, babies, all things life I have been very fortunate to have been liked by many many folks. In the congregations we have been members of, our family has been received and loved and “fit right in.” I have been a woman who, even though I have that rough and cold and harsh side, has never had a problem having friends. And believe me, I am not telling you this to be boastful/prideful/arrogant…I am simply stating “how” my life has been…as a person AND as a Christian. See, what I realize is this:
I have been “Most Popular” as a person…as the Christian I was…but now, the Christian woman I am…is so UNpopular.

“What do you mean ‘unpopular’ Christian woman Tressa?”
From what I have diligently studied at the feet of my husband for the past 2 1/2 years, the Christian woman of the world standards is VERY different from the Christian woman of the Bible standards. The biblical portrait of a God fearing and Jesus following woman, from what I gather, leaves NO impression she was:
Career eager
Hungry for equality
Desiring to be seen/known
In control of her husband
Self absorbed
These are clearly ALL things the world tells us we should be…have to be…want to be in order to be respected/successful. And as long as I was intermixing the two concepts ~a little Christian and a little worldly I was popular. And liked. And accepted. However, the decision to be less like the popular and liked and accepted Tressa and MORE of the Christ like, God fearing, obedient, submissive and obedient woman of faith Tressa has caused a much different outcome when it comes to my popularity.
I am not.
And I could not be any more satisfied that the world is no longer my desired accepted version of me. Jesus is. Being the woman who honors and follows and obeys His commands for me is. I read and study and pray to be just as His word reveals to me how I should be. And so many of my “friends” and dear sisters in Christ have abandoned, shamed, and condemned me for doing so. A local congregation even went so far as to publicly announce that my daughter and I are lost and condemned…simply because we are starting from scratch and studying and obeying simply from the Lord’s instruction. Our obedience is no longer at the understanding of a “name” of a religious group. Because when you are faced with obeying a man made organization of believers who are set in their ways of worship/obeying and it comes to a “you will do as we tell you to do or else” verses what the scripture simply reveals…the choice is truly simple. Or it should be. Just be warned that when you are truly convicted to be a simple Christian, you will be complicatedly labeled as a “lost soul.”
That sounds crazy huh?! Yeah, I would say my popularity has been stripped of me. L.O.L But thanks be to God that being obedient to HIM is finally the goal and not being recognized as “Miss Popular.”
That truly never fit me anyway.

When God gives you life…make time. But, HOW?

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Wake up
Diaper change
potty visits
teeth brushings
diaper change
clean ups
sippy cups refilled
nap time conquering
diaper change
floors mopped
counters cleaned
laundry started
rested young’uns awake
clean up
diaper change (seriously, this is truth)
more cartoons
3:00 pm ALREADY?
thoughts of more laundry
wishes for clean windows
spanking #7
diaper change
“Honey, I’m home!”
quick dinner
clean up
wash dishes
diaper change
more cartoons?
bath time
“Lord, help.”
last round of potty visits
6 bedtime stories
8 attempts to sneak out
toys picked up
last kitchen check
10:00 pm
“wanna touch?” “um yes, my pillow.”
enter thoughts of EVERY THING you didn’t get done.
sleep for 3.9 hours.

Raise your hand if THIS sounds so familiar.
If you have the beautiful blessing of babies…you know this day. You’ve had this day. On repeat even.
So, it’s common for women to say “make time for your children” but for all of us who have had (currently having) these days…”HOW” is screamed at the top of our lungs -causing a sore throat that just doesn’t have time to factor in to this mess of a schedule- because we just can’t see it. We are told to do it all the time but we aren’t told HOW. We know THAT woman who has the pretty little schedule with the pretty little outfit with the pretty little pageant winning babies with the pretty little diaper bag (are they even called that anymore??) with the pretty little figure due to her pretty little gym routine and we just want. to. vomit. Our momma’s taught us to “be nice and learn from those who know more than you” but come on…we want. to. vomit. Because it just seems SO out of reach of the possibility that WE can be that “together.” I get it. I have been there. I am STILL there but on a schedule now that eliminates “diaper change” and replaces with “pray for teenager” and “cartoons” done away with and “you’re grounded” introduced. So see, as our lives with our blessings we are to see for who they are -souls entrusted to US (whooooooole nother post lol)- start…they never stop, only change. While my “babies” are 13 and 12, and your babies are actual little humans who require 100% attention, we are ALL in this same dilemma are we not?

Time. I need it. My kids require it. My husband deserves it. The Lord provides it.

With all this said…I present to you a proven -not universally or anything so don’t get all excited- method of “making time” for all who need it, require it, and deserve it.
When I was a stay at home mother, I was overwhelmed most days. I had NO idea HOW to make all this happen in a 24 hour period. And I outright failed at being all/doing all/taking care of all for everyone SEVERAL times. And so will you. Rule #1…don’t set expectations you will FAIL in because DISCOURAGEMENT is NOT YOUR FRIEND. Be realistic. Rationale. The absolute key in being successful at any task you create for yourself is to be reasonable about it. If you are not a runner, it would be admirable to set out to be a marathon runner next month, but more than likely TOTALLY UNDOABLE!!! So, no matter where you are in your motherhood…set a reasonable, rationale, and realistic goal for managing your time. It will be different than your BFF, it won’t be better or worse, just different. It may take you longer to achieve than your favorite sister in Christ, and that’s ok. Your life…your babies…your husband…your Lord…your daily tasks.
I did this. I started small. “Tomorrow…I will do ____________.”
And when tomorrow came, no matter what time of the day it was when I did it, I did _____________. Like, if I knew that my husband had just been overlooked for the last 4 days because of “days of our lives” -not show, who’s got time for that??!- I would tell myself “tomorrow…I will take the kids to (grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends/whomever) and have a quiet dinner for just us. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Nothing formal. But a dinner for JUST US, at our table. For maybe an hour. And I would completely and utterly erase the entire world around me except HIM and HE would get my every ounce of attention. He probably didn’t deserve it. He may very well have had to cut it short because he had to cut the grass. There would be a great chance that he wouldn’t even have acknowledged that I did this just for him. BUT HERE IS WHAT IT DID DO…it gave the proof to him -regardless if vocally told to you or not- that HE. IS. STILL. IMPORTANT!!! And sisters, that is important. See, when your mind/heart/soul is SET ON service in your marriage…you lose the selfish desire for it “to be all about me.” And I will challenge each of you reading this to contact anyone who knew/knows me today and ask “was Tressa just born selfless with a selfless heart and mind?” Because you will be told quickly “Ummm…NO!” So I’m not speaking to you as a woman who was born with this “I am just gonna always think about others and never about what I want.” I’m SO the opposite. I have to train myself every single day. Remind myself. Fail and get back up. Enough about my failures…lol.
So, starting tonight…when you are in the “wind down” phase of your day…plan for a “tomorrow…I will do _________.” And look, it can be a NUMBER of things…
Begin with prayer
Spank her leg the next time she tells me “no”
Let lunch mess stay messy
Go for a walk with my babies
Kiss my husband passionately before he leaves for work (brush teeth first please)
Call my mother
Watch 3 full cartoons with him
sleep late

It’s your day. Your routine. Your babies. Your husband. And once you have started setting same and reasonable/rationale/realistic goals for your day and you ACCOMPLISH it/them, you will begin to train yourself that TIME in your day can be spent doing whatever it is that you feel is important for that day. It can/will change from day to day…and THAT IS OK. Your life is already overwhelming enough just making sure that people stay alive in your house…no need to over-overwhelm it.
You can do _________. In your time, in your way, for your people…and ultimately for your sweet Father in heaven :)

It’s noticed. I promise :)

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First order of business ladies:
Repeat after me…
“I, ___________, am a loved daughter of my Father — the Creator and Sustainer of life. My soul rests in knowing He holds my today, tomorrow, and eternity. I vow today to keep my eyes fixed on these promises. When satan tries to distract my eyes, my heart, my time, my motivation, my desire for my husband – my children – my home – and most importantly my faith – I will NOT be moved. I will not be shaken. I will press on! I will love my husband even when I feel it isn’t returned in the same way given. I will be his helper in training our children to love their Lord. I will love my home and be motivated to keep it /or make it for the first time/ a safe and warm and loving refuge for my family! I will pray daily, even minutely, for strength and courage and fuel to keep on keeping on! And when I feel that my soul is weary and worn…I will seek out help and advice and a shoulder/hand/prayer from my sister in Christ. God gave me these blessings and I will live my life set on being selfless for them, and yet knowing that God promises reward not only eternally but here as well in that our husbands will rise up and praise us and our children will rise up and call us blessed! Those are promises. And I stand on His promises!”

Now…don’t you feel better?! Motivated even?! Ready to take on this month ~~day by day or even minute by minute~~ driven by this network of sisters God has provided for you?!
So. For the remainder of the week…lets do this:
•each of us ~daily~ in our prayers utter words of courage, strength, and endurance for each of our sisters. And stars in heaven…don’t forget YOUrself!
#wecandothis #olderwomenteachtheyoungerones #countyourmanyblessings

Satisfied?! Be certain.

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So after listening (reading the words more than likely. I know.) to this beautifully written song by my FAVORITE song writer of all time ~~ JEWEL ~~ the water that sometimes fills up in my eyes and then gains weight in the process so that gravity pulls them down my cheeks…left me with such a “yes. 100% yes!” feeling. I mean, I have always been “that person” who will just say it. My motto has always been:
*if you wanna know…ask.
*if you feel it…say it.
*if you love him/her…tell him/her.
And I live by that. No brainer that this motto is not always liked/accepted/or approved. And believe me, I have tweaked and tweaked my approach over the years as to not be so “in your face” when delivering truth, feelings, opinions, or advice. I usually will ask this question…
“Do you really want to know what I think? or what I would do? or what my advice is?” as to give the questioner another moment to think about this. ANYhoo…
I immediately thought of my sweet dad upon absorbing this song the other day. I DID. I said it. I meant it. I laid it on the line and looked him in the eye. He felt it. And it was in time. I made those moments count.
And this my dear sister friends…is my pass along of Jewel’s phenomenal words of wisdom.

Do not wait.
Do not waste moments of precious time.
Do not take for granted “tomorrow I will.”

Forgive. Reach out. Talk. Hug. Laugh. Cry. Call. Lie beside. Take a trip. Send the card. Ask for forgiveness. So that when your day is over…”that feeling inside, that’s called satisfied” will be your lullaby and goodnight.

Your life prepared me for your death.

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The decision had been made. Cancer was present in his body and he wanted no chemo or radiation. Period. There was a massive amount of respect that was granted to him from my being in him making that decision. He wanted to live. He wanted to be himself. He wanted to not focus on being sick. And ONE of the top five reasons I respected this and him so much is because he spent SO much time, SO many years, of my life being sick. Cancer was not the enemy during those times and years…his mind was. “Manic Depression” was the title of his sickness then and that evolved into a condition given the name “Bi-Polarism.” Believe me when I tell you…cancer was a much better sickness. Because what I witnessed with my eyes and absorbed in my soul was the selfless decisions my dad was making in “dealing” with cancer that I never saw him make during my child/young adulthood with bi-polarism.
I was realistic. I am a realist. Things just “are what they are.” I knew the day/time was coming that my dad would be in so much pain that he would need to be medicated ~~HIGHLY~~ to not just be miserably dying. So, a couple of attempts had been made to ease his pain (which he never ever ever complained about mind you) because Extra Strength Tylenol just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Yes, a full body infested cancer patient was managing pain with Tylenol. He did not want to be highly medicated and talk out of his head and not know my mother or mistreat her in any way or be a lifeless burden she would have to take care of every minute. He chose to rely on God and the power of prayer to deal with this tissue destroying disease…he sacrificed comfort for his own body in order to make life “easier” for my mother. He was choosing to think of her and not his own needs. But the pain began to increase. And intensify. And wasn’t easily subsided anymore. A pain patch was administered and after hours of feeling anxious, restless, and agitated…my dad ripped it off his body. He began to feel similarly to how he felt when he was mentally unstable. Aggressive. Ugly. Mean. And he DID NOT want to treat my mother in a disrespectful way. He realized he had done that for too many years as it was. (THAT is called sacrifice people). So, I asked my mom and dad “do you want my opinion?” because I have grown and matured to understand that my parents are adults and are completely capable of making grown up decisions without me telling them what to do. How that happened… hand of God!! Straight up. And upon asking that question, while standing at the bedside of my dads hospice provided hospital bed for their home, my sweet dad replies “yes baby, I do.” Humbly. Honestly. And here is what I offered…
I crawled onto this bed, at his feet and sat facing him as he laid there. I began to rub his arm and speak in a very mild and tender way that a daughter should speak to her daddy.
(And these opportunities ~~THANKFULLY~~ were afforded to me and him several several times during his last year of life on this side of heaven. Thank you God…mean it.)

“Dad, what I want you to understand is this…we KNOW you do not want to ‘not be yourself’ or ‘mistreat mom in any way’ or behave in such a way that is NOT who you really are. We know that you do NOT want to be a burden for mom. So let me inform you a bit about the morphine options. It can be administered to you in high enough doses to not talk out of your head but to just basically put you to sleep. So that you are not in pain. But also know that once this is done, there is likely no chance of you ‘waking back up.’ So. When the pain is just too much dad, just know that we do not want you to be in pain…you deserve better than that from us. This is your life and you have done a brave thing in living like this and we are all very proud that you have handled this like you have.” to which, with tears in his eyes, he replies…
“that’s the best thing I’ve heard today. I think I will just wait a few more days.”
“that’s fine dad. You do what you want. This is about you knowing that we are in 100% support of you and your decisions in this. And you know dad, I spent SOOOOOOO much time as a child/young adult asking the question ‘why’…why was I the child left to witness the sickness of you? why did I have to endure that? why was my time as your baby girl such crap? why did you have to be sick? why was I chosen to be grow up with a dad who was like a freaking roller coaster? why were you so mean? why. why. why?? From the age of 8 and hearing that my dad did not want a wife and 3 kids to the first heart attack that almost took you from this life -which I was praying for at that time- I asked WHY. Well you know dad…it may have taken 31 years BUT the Lord did allow me the understanding of why. I was chosen because the result of that sickness would be a daughter who experienced a full circle life with her dad. You, unknowingly by either of us, built me into a God-fearing, strong, capable, forgiving, and compassionate woman. I now know why. I can handle this (meaning his death) in a way that mom, brother, and sister wont be able to…because I am real, and rational, and understand your purpose. And dad, you nailed it. I’ve told you before you weren’t the perfect dad. And yet that is not entirely true. You were the perfect dad because you were chosen by God to be my dad. And what I learned from your sickness then was strength and overcoming and survival. What I learned from your recovery was forgiveness and humility and compassion. Now, dad, what I am learning every day of life with you here is I am prepared for your death. You have completed your purpose in my life. And I am a better person because of you.”
Being the humble soul my dad was…tears are no longer being held back. They are flowing from his beautiful brown eyes and he musters up the strength to whisper “why are you so good baby?” and immediately…without hesitation…I answer back “Jesus dad. I am only good because of Him. what kind of child of God would I be if I couldn’t forgive you dad for your wrongs in my life? This is so much bigger than us dad. This is about BEING who we are supposed to be because of WHO JESUS is to us. And you deserve forgiveness and love simply because you seek it. You are a good man dad. Your past does not define you. What you leave us does. And you are leaving us an example of humility, and rebuilding, and overcoming, and trust, and simplicity of being a mess up and being made perfect all in one little 67 year span.”
“I love you baby.”
“I love you too dad”

This was the Tuesday before the following Tuesday which brought about my dad’s last heart beat and breath. But I want to involve you in what all my dad lived and was a part of in this short 7 day period…
He went to mid week bible study Wednesday night.
He confessed sin and asked for forgiveness to the Christians at Srygley, where he was an elder for the Lord’s people who congregate there.
He hung out with a host of his family. Smiling, waving, and talking sweetly to each one.
Hosted a spend the night party for me and my kids on Friday night. He was so much fun.
Woke up Saturday morning and made the decision to go to Peach Park. A 3.5ish hour drive. Because he loves peaches. and I had told him back in June that I would take him on some Saturday soon. So, we loaded him and his oxygen and his wheelchair and his wife, his Weasel, his only daughter in law, and 4 of his grands and set sail on the Peach Park journey. Was a pure joy to be around the whole day. Even is EXTREME pain…and factor in running out of gas only 12 miles from home…and 100 degree heat…he never complained. He laughed. he made jokes. And he uttered probably the most funny thing ever…
Mom asks “you alright babe?”
Dad replies “what do you consider to be alright now-a-days?” He was just the best.
Hosted yet another spend the night party for me and my babies on Saturday night.
Attended worship service on the Lords Day morning
And then begin the last 48 hours of his physical life. I visited with them Monday afternoon and shelled peas for them. I sat on the hearth, as I had done SO many times, and just talked with him and mom. He was so easy to talk with…he would listen. Never had a great deal to say. But never had to. The last private conversation he and I shared would be the most beautiful gift he ever gave me. It wasn’t physical. It wasn’t a pretty shiny pony or a brand new car or anything that can be seen or touched. That gift was his undivided attention to me. His expressed assurance of my souls condition because “I know you baby” and he sees the fruit in my life that I listen to and obey the voice of my Maker. He gave me the gift of his love. His last act of selflessness came at the desire he expressed for me to “just spend the night again Weasel” -which he knew I would in a heartbeat- and then immediately followed that with “no, go home to TJ. I don’t like when you leave him by himself for me.”
“I love you too Tressa.” would be the last words I would hear my dad say to me with a full conscious mind. The following day brought about the time that the pain was just too much for him. And in the crazy way that God answers prayer sometimes…dad’s heart would just stop beating BEFORE he was ever administered one ounce of morphine. I mean, it is just impossible for a human being to convince me that God doesn’t hear and answer prayers of His faithful. I seriously, even with as much as I love to write and love to express feelings and love to capture moments down on paper could NOT have written a better “ending” to the story of “a dad and his weasel.” He lived a life…and for 31 of my 39 years was not one of the typical “daddy hung the moon”…and that life prepared me for his death. I know the spiritual applications to make. I know the peace that passes understanding. I know the love my dad had for me. I know my dad was truly heart broken over “that” part of our story. But “that” part…that part my dear sweet friends…is what made the WHOLE part so beautiful.

I pray to have the humor, the humility, and the great hair that was Gary Carl Hovater. My dad. My sweet imperfect perfectly redeemed dad.

This is the last selfie made with him. The night before his passing on. He looks so happy doesn’t he? And yes…that is happiness on my face as well.