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 -every.single.day- 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 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.

Don’t hand…let them earn.

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Pink and yellow stripes. On one wall only because I have limits on the circus themed little princess room. Autumn was only 3 when we bought our home and her room would be upstairs. We kept her and Scout downstairs for about 3 years just to be on the safe side (mom paranoid about staircase made of wood with no carpet covering) until they were both old enough to be in their own rooms. So we made the dining room into their room. Anyway, when it came time to move then upstairs, I wanted to go all out for Autumn. And by all out I mean, her headboard was purchased by an aunt for $5 at a yard sale -super pretty white wicker princess look- her furniture was my mothers from when she was a child we painted white and trimmed in gold- my mother also made her the cutest circus themed curtains out of pink and yellow material- a light pink wall and a light green wall later…voilà…Autumns room was exactly as I wanted. She was just tickled pink. Yes, that’s corny but cute. And fitting.

Fast forward a couple of years and I began to hear “this is such a baby room” right?! So a “pick some paint you’ll want for a while” talk and a couple of days of moving and painting happened and she now had a lime green and hot pink room. And raise your hand if you think that look lasted to teenage land!!

So, this spring I had asked TJ for our staircase and upstairs hallway to be painted due to some Sheetrock work and 30+ years of stair usage. Well of course I started hearing “mom, can I have my room painted??!” Tidbit of info ya may/may not know about me…I have never been a mom who causally gives her children everything they want. I have had 2 major philosophies in parenting my little grown ups to be:
1) I am here to fulfill your NEEDS…not your wants
2) this world does NOT revolve around what you want
Of course, before you do the hand over mouth “I cannot believe you would be that way to those babies” reaction, I explain these principles to them and by 13 and 12 they have NO problem understanding. Doesn’t mean they always LiKE them…but they understand. I am a very fair mom. I am a deal making mom. My kids LOVE a good deal…one year for Halloween, I wanted to go see Cam Newton play -well the whole AU team but him specifically because he was just a beast- in Oxford, MS. Being only 2.5 hrs from me, made sense…AU is 4.5. So, this particular game fell ON Halloween night and at the time, my kids were still itty bitty and liked the dressing up for candy thing. So, I made them a deal:
•if yall will be ok with me going to Ole Miss…I will buy you a WHOLE BAG of your 5 favorite candies!!
Deal agreed upon.
~~that whole “this world isn’t about you and what you want” philosophy…I’m STILL trying to teach myself. So yes I see the practice what you preach line thrown at me. Annnnd I hear ya.

Back to this. Autumn hit the grown teenage world just as expected. So began the “I hate this pink/green room” talks for about a year. I reminded her I had said for her to pick a color that she would be happy with for years so she was just going to have to deal. But since I was having our staircase and upstairs professionally painted, I made a deal with her. I would let her pick a simple basic natural color and have her room painted. BUT that would mean that NOTHING in her room would match because everything was loud and colorful and ready for a peace sign convention at any moment. So if she was willing, she could work and buy new bedding and accessories to go with her basic color. She quickly agreed. And will give young people advise about making quick deals without giving much consideration.

“I found a bedding on Amazon mom and it’s only $79!” To which I replied “ok baby, here’s what I want you to do. Pick out every single thing you want for your room off Amazon and put everything in the cart. Bedding, curtains, rug, picture frames, art work, load it up. And when you’re finished, look at the total. Then I want you to sit down and write me a proposal. Present me with a series of jobs you will do and the amount of money you expect to be paid for each. I will look over the proposal and tell you if each job is worth what you are asking and let you know. Then, you can redecorate your room. I will pay for the paint job, you will work and pay for your stuff.” She thought and said “oh wow. This will be easy. $10 for dishes per loa–” she was QUICKLY heartbroken when I interrupted to say “oh no baby, CHORES don’t have a pay reward…you do those things because you live here and that’s your contribution.” “Soooooo…what can I do then if I’m not gonna get paid for chores?” “Well, I don’t normally wash my base boards. So, you wash them and I’ll pay you $25. I hate to wash the outside of windows. You do all the windows and I’ll pay $50. The tops of door frames…dusty. Dust em all off and that’ll earn ya $30.” (She was used to the concept because as 6,7,8, etc. year olds we would make them work in the flower bed if they wanted a toy or a ball. Or things of that sort). The last job we came to an agreement on was sweeping and washing ALL THREE PORCHES! See above photo (well below for you FB readers) So once her stuff was picked out, and the jobs were established with appropriate pay out, the room was painted a beautiful light shade of gray and redecorated as desired.

The value in training a child that wants come with a responsibility to work and provide a way by oneself is just crucial, we believe. When children learn that stuff comes at a price, and that price is their time, sweat, energy, and effort…they become more aware of sacrifice and less spoiled and entitled. They begin to appreciate the value of needs being fulfilled and less focused on having a bunch of worthless stuff. Our children are so over the top spoiled in ways that aren’t material, and yet have all their material needs met as well. They are spoiled with parents who adore them, who are madly in love and goody and silly and fun. They are spoiled with food every single time they want it. They don’t even know what a true hunger pain feels like. They’ve never slept in the cold, or the dark, or been abused physically, emotionally, mentally. They are told they are loved every single day. They have their own rooms and their own things. And yet we KNOW that continuing to train them to know about work, money, taxes, sacrifice, effort, accountability is CRUCIAL for them in order for them to be content and satisfied adults. Handing a child every single thing he/she asks for is setting that child up for an adulthood of disappointment! Because come on…who of you reading this has that person just dishing your every “hey, I want that” out to you??

So. It’s worth thinking about what you are training your babies to know about wants vs. needs. It’s worth making them earn what they want. Be creative and think of ways, no matter their ages, to train them to understand the difference between a need and a want. Be willing to take care of every single need they have…and also be willing to make them earn their wants.

Best Advice #1…Vow THIS vow.

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“Dear God…please…I love him so much. Please let him love me. I do not want to live this life without him loving me. If You ever answer one prayer of mine…let it be this one.”
Yes. You may go back and reread it. And yes. It sounds just as ridiculous the second time as it did the first. I admit. Yet this was a serious prayer I offered up to my Father. I all but begged, well I guess I actually begged, Him to just give me what I wanted…which was for TJ to love me the way I loved him. I knew he loved me, I was his Tressa and he knew my character and heart. But he was not in love with me the way that I fell in love with him on complete accident. He never allowed me to believe he was, he was always very honest about his feelings. We always had THAT on our side…honesty. So. I prayed. A lot.

And the day came.

TJ realized, in a very unexpected way, that I was the woman he was in love with and from that moment…he never denied it. Upon thinking, “Tressa would have never done that” and “that’s just not the way Tressa is” when analyzing the girls who had been a part of his life -whether at the moment or in his past- it hit him. “I LOVE TRESSA!!” He was not able to hide it from that moment on. I remember telling him the second or third time we were together after he knew “you might as well just say it because it is written all over your face dude!” We had been broken up (for good we thought) -for the THIRD time in THREE years- and over 6 months. Yet, it was as easy as breathing to be back together and finally IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.

So immediately the wedding talk began. I had just started back to college after taking 2 semesters off (code for I quit due to the overwhelming siphoning college had on my life) and we knew that I would have to graduate before my mother would ever be ok with me getting married. After checking the college calendar and learning my graduation date would be May 13, 2000, we set our wedding date for May 20. Yes it was dumb. Would not have changed it for anything in the world. Except THIS…

TJ was not brought up in a very Christian devoted home. So as an adult, even though he was the best person I knew, he did not live his life seeking his God. He did not make decisions based upon obedience to the Lord’s word, even though he made very good decisions. I mean, I was raised to go to church and I made horrible and sinful choices, so I am not saying that because he was not devoted spiritually that he was a bad person or that I was a better one. I knew enough to know that I was supposed to marry, join my life with, a man who would lead me and serve God with me. And I realized what had happened…God had heard me…God had answered me…He gave me TJ’s love. What did I do with that answered prayer?? I put that gift above the Giver. I loved that gift more than the Giver. I was choosing that gift over the Giver. I was begging and crying and pleading (and I’m sure getting on His nerves about it too…I mean, I know my mom, sister, best friend were all tired of it!) for God to give me what I wanted…and when He did I could picture Him going “Now…what will you do with it?”

So I made a vow. I promised my Father this: “if May 20, 2000 comes and TJ has not dedicated himself to serving You and putting You first…I will not marry him.” And I never told that to anyone. This was in October 1999. Only weeks after answering his question of “will you be my wife?” with an “absolutely I will!” I never forced, ultimatiumed, or pushed loving God on him. I never insinuated that I would call the whole thing off. Only God and I knew of this vow. And as much as I loved TJ and as much as I had begged for him and as much as I knew I would never be happy in this world without him…I knew that I could not marry him if he was not a man who would love God more than me, if I was not a woman who loved God more than him. God HAD TO BE FIRST. It was/is only right. And with this vow I knew the consequences of not keeping it. I knew that marrying a man who had not aimed himself in God’s direction with the expectation that he just one day would after we married was a lie that the devil will tell. I had witnessed this lie with people in my life. I had watched couples marry and not be devoted to God and they were just a disaster. I wanted to be Mrs. TJ Bragwell…and I wanted to be a couple fixed on God. So I prayed once more…I prayed that His will was for TJ to love Him more. I prayed that His will be that we unite as husband and wife in His sight with the desire to be led by Him. I prayed for the very thing that God Himself wants for TJ…and for me. His will is always for our good and when we set our minds, hearts, desires, and wants on what He is looking for in us -our lives- we can trust that whatever happens is a blessing. Even if that means we have to give up our wants. TJ was a want. He was also a blessing I was praying would be His will for me. I knew in my heart that my life was designed to be united to his, I was meant to be his wife, and yet I also knew that if God was not the center of this life…that meant my want for him was not of God, but of self. And how crappy that was to realize — for my selfishness — and what a blessing it would turn out to be for my spirit.

Now please understand that I admit, in shame, that I was not the perfect example of God for TJ. I was a sin filled soul who while claiming the name of Christ was not living a life in His image. I was loud, obnoxious, lustful, selfish (this is a reoccurring problem seems like I know), made horrible choices as a young adult, so TJ had no reason to come to love his Lord because of me. I was not set on leading him…I was set on having him. So there is no claim made that I lived the pattern of our Jesus and that is what provoked a love for Him in TJ. Granted I was a church goer, he knew this, and would want TJ at every service I was attending. But NOT for the reason that God Himself would want TJ present at an assembly of Christians. I wanted TJ with me because I got the benefit of that. See how it was all about me?! It was what I wanted. It was about making me happy. Me getting what I wanted out of TJ’s life…being with me. The embarrassing truth is that I somehow thought that TJ’s existence was for me…that I was the reason TJ was created. Lord, that’s just a jacked up way of thinking sisters. Let me tell you a very important truth that you may not be aware of: your man, your fiance, your husband, whatever his title, is NOT here for THE primary purpose of you. You are not THE reason for his existence. Know what is? To have a relationship with his Creator. THAT is the reason for his life. THAT is the purpose for his existence. And until he knows, accepts, and is humbly grateful for THAT…his life -nor yours with his- will be able to truly experience happiness. It can be disguised as a beautiful engagement ring, an elegant and cagillion dollar wedding, precious babies, a dream home, the perfect job, vacations all over…but notice that ALL of that revolves around our physical wants?!! Our own desires, even if sometimes of good intention, will ultimately leave us empty. Void. We can spend our whole lives filling up with stuff, and have long moments of what we interrupt as happiness, but will always always always end up empty. Searching for that “what is it I need?” God is our source of true happiness. And a marriage revolved around His principles and His commands and His roles for us has no other option but to be a happy one. Will you have the best stuff? Probably not. Will you be materially wealthy? Good chance ya won’t. Will you be of a social standing that brings friendship and acceptance with those of high standing? Um, I’m going with slim chance to none here. BUT…will you be a couple set on His will? Will you be one flesh determined to reflect the relationship of Christ and His church? Will you be completely filled with His presence and His blessing which will keep your cup running over? Yes. Yes. and Yes.
Weigh the two. Which is of more value?

“So what happened? Did he commit to loving God first?”

December 30, 1999. We were attending a mid week Bible study and when the invitation song began, TJ looked at me and asked…”will you go with me?” And knowing that I would have gone into an outhouse and just sat down beside him while he pooped -because that’s how ridiculously attached I was- it seemed like a rhetorical question. “Yes I will!” Was my simple reply so down the aisle we go. He confesses Jesus as His Savior and repents of his sins and then is baptized for the remission of them. Jesus could’ve come back at that very moment and I probably would’ve been like “just hold on a minute Jesus…I’m too emotional to stand trial right now!” THAT was the single most wonderful moment of my life. TJs obedience to God and the dedication he was committing to His kingdom was the REAL answered prayer. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt in that moment that His will had been done.

Over the last 15 years since our wedding date of May 20, we have grown and grown in the ways of the Lord. We have been stagnant at times and even apathetic to real service. We have prayed A LOT for us to be used in His kingdom the way He has designed for us. We have asked for true understanding of His word and then the courage to live out the simplicity of it. We have been praised and exalted…we have been criticized and torn down. We have been regarded as true and faithful Christians…we have pitied as lost and erring sinners. We have been a deacon and a deacons wife…we have withdrawn from from the very congregation that we served. And yet THE one consistent and unchanging truth has been this: TJ puts God first. Exactly what I prayed for. Exactly what my vow was centered around. See how that works? God’s will for TJ as a man is to be a leader, a teacher, authoritative, a husband, a father, and to seek God for wisdom in how to be all of this. And through the continual prayer offered before the throne of our Father, TJ is/does the best he can at fulfilling His will. The true gift. I am so thankful for that vow!

That’s what I want you to know sisters. The power that YOU possess as the woman in his life is SO great. You can use this to manipulate, control, degrade, or weaken him so that YOU are exalted and honored and looked at as “such a good Christian” or you can submit, honor, uplift, encourage, inspire, and pray for him in his endeavors to be a Christian leader for you and your babies. If he’s not, I know it can be discouraging and saddening, BUT your conduct and chaste behavior could be the very thing that leads him to obedience. You cannot force him, guilt him, or make him do anything for the Lord…BUT you can influence him by your submissive and obedient behavior. You can live in such a way as to invoke a wonder. You can set such a powerful REAL reflective image of Jesus and His submissive and obedient character that he becomes amazed at why you are this way. You know how I know this?? Because God says we can. So no matter your situation…dating, engaged, newlywed, or 25 years in, these are absolute truths that you can be doing for your boyfriend/fiancé/husband. Pray for him. Live a life reflecting Jesus’ character that you are commanded to reflect. Be pure minded. Be humble and gentle. Be kind. Did I mention pray for him? Well in case I didn’t…PRAY FOR HIM. Pray that the Lords will be fulfilled in his life. Pray for time. Pray for a marriage that shows the world the relationship of Jesus and His church. Vow today that THIS will be your prayer. Vow that you will put the Lord first in your own life and will obey the commands He gives to you as a woman/wife/mother. Vow that your relationship be Christ centered. Pray for your attitude to be one of compassion and love. Pray that in EVERYthing you do, you are honoring God and respecting your husband. And THEN have faith that God will answer. Because He WILL. When prayer is offered for His will to be done…it is. Every.single.time! Don’t doubt because of time. Don’t doubt because of satan. Don’t give up because it’s too hard. Allow God to be God and to answer when it’s the right time to answer. You patiently wait on Him. Reach out to other sisters for help. We are HERE!! Don’t hesitate in asking others to pray with you, for him. Rely on wisdom of sisters around you who are living out Gods will in their own lives. That’s what we are for ladies…we are to be teaching one another about how to succeed in the areas of wife and motherhood! We are to be encouraging pure and humble conduct and dress and behavior in one another! So the song “use me til you’ve used me up” comes to mind but in a spiritual way not the physical lustful way I think that song implies! Hahahaa! I’m here. She’s there. We are all in this together sisters!!

So, let me tell each of you that the #1 best advice I have about thinking of marriage, being married, or any stage in between is this: VOW that you will put the Lord first in your own life and pray that he does the same. The Giver loves to give His children good gifts…and your relationship with him may very well be a gift. Don’t love it more than the Giver.

I thank you all for your encouraging words and your outreach or appreciation for these posts. I have truly felt a purpose in my life to teach and share with other women my stories and advice and what has/had not worked for me in my spiritual life and my physical as well. I love you all for knowing I am not perfect nor have all the answers. I’m just a daughter of God and a wife to TJ and a mother to Autumn and Scout and a sister to you. I want to fulfill my purpose in each of those roles. I pray for more wisdom and understanding every day and I know that when changes are required, He gives us strength to change. We are His and He is ours.
Much love!

Best Advice #5…leave the parents

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The walk down the aisle on our wedding day was more than just a ceremonial tradition. It was more than just a photo opportunity. It was more than just “what you do” at a wedding. That walk was symbolic of my life as their child and leaving that place to become TJs wife. I walked one last time as Gary and Shea’s baby, with him on my right side and her on my left, down that aisle. And I walked out as TJ’s wife…with no parents beside, in front of, or behind us. Just us. Man and wife.

Why is this important to understand? To me, the independence of TJ and me, is part of the start of us becoming one flesh. Leaving the comfort and dependency of a parents home–emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially– is truly a must when making the decision to become husband and wife. For if I still depend upon my parents for anything that my husband is responsible for…am I taking away from him? Am I truly able to submit to him and his authority if I am still clinging on to my parents and their ways? Is he truly going to lead me and be my head if he is still relying on his parents? Is it possible for the hanging on to create serious issues for a husband and wife? I’m not meaning that a sever of the parental relationship is required…on the contrary, that relationship is only changed. Parents become a source of wisdom and advice instead of a source of responsibility. This transition period should begin way before the marriage. TJ and I are already in preparation for the leaving of Autumn and Scout for the joining of her/his life to her husband/his wife. We desire that we, as well as they, know and are ready for what it means for them to leave us and begin their own lives. It’s natural. It’s commanded.

This “separation” will be different for everyone. And for those who know me, you know that I’ve put a “one hour away living zone” on my children when they grow up and marry. Meaning, neither are allowed to live more than one hour away from me…it’s my reward. I think it only appropriate. No laughing or judging. So the distance between houses is not the greatest focus of the leaving of parents when married. It’s leaving the dependency. Leaving the checkbook. Cutting the cord as they say. A man and woman need to understand, and accept, that marriage means more than just sleeping in the same bed and cute photos and a “Mr. and Mrs.” on the mailbox. Marriage requires a massive amount of grown-upness (tressaism). It requires a couple accepting responsibility for themselves and their decisions. It is necessary for the couple to mess up…then learn better…and make wiser decisions the next go around. It is good for a couple to royally mess up financially and then work to fix it and do without and struggle and cry and be stressed out…ALL THE WHILE learning together as a couple. If parents come in and “fix” everything for the wife (their daughter) or the husband (their son) then it belittles the marriage. It says to the husband “you can’t do it” and to the wife it screams “you still need us because he’s an idiot!” Now, I am NOT saying that in the event of NEED that parents shouldn’t be asked or willing to help…THAT is a role they play for their children for AS LONG as they live/are capable. But come on, we claim “NEED” all the time right?! We all know the difference between need and want. It cripples a marriage when it knows that it requires no real responsibility or accountability because parents are always available to “fix it.” A man should be in a position to provide the needs of his wife and the wife should be in a position to respect the direction her husband is leading her. If this is not possible financially, emotionally, and physically…maybe the marriage should wait a bit.

If you are blessed with parents who know and love and obey the Lord, then use them as the vessels of wisdom they should be to you. Rely on them for advice in areas of your marriage as you grow and change and learn and mess up and recover. They’ve been there. And when they are willing, utilize their experiences and wisdom. And count your blessings 😉

A husband and wife should grow together spiritually. Each should be focused on maturing in the role he/she accepted when he/she became a husband/wife. This is a lifetime process. This should never stop. Prayer should be offered continually for the strength and courage it takes to stand alone as a couple in this world of spiritual living…all the while being held tightly by their Maker – the center of them!

TJ and I made the conscious decision to be completely independent of either set of parents once we married. We were dirt poor. And were completely rich. There was a time right after I found out I was pregnant that I needed 4 new tires…and we had a one income situation that was unable to sway off the budget path. I mean, wieners and kraut was a common meal…bless his heart that man just ate and never complained! Anywho…the tires. A need. A must for my safety. And my sweet mother offered to buy them for us. That was never forgotten. And so appreciated. But that next year when we wanted to take that baby I was preggers with the year of the tires to the beach…we didn’t dare ask or let anyone know that we “needed” money to make that happen. No, we cut grocery corners just a bit–Autumn and I didn’t go anywhere for a month–and we saved up enough dough to spend 2 nights in a motel about 8 miles from the beach that should’ve offered a tetanus shot with the room key at registration. And our wittle baby girl had the time of her life. She knew no better. Water is water and the sun was the sun. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water from facets and survived. It was simple. Gross a little (lol) but ours. All ours. And it is moments like that which create a sense of accomplishment and pride in a couple for doing things independently and just as they can.

God is very cool and wise in the ways and commands He established…He’s always had a purpose and it’s beautiful to come to the understanding of things. So, my best advice coming in at #5 is to be a couple who accepts –the successes and failures– of being independent from their parents. That’s part of the reward process too for parents…leave my home—leave my money!! Lol