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


Best Advice #4…date while married

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imageOur first baby was just a doll. She was a good sleeping baby, a sweet baby girl, and she smelled like the best smell in the universe. I literally stared at her in amazement that she was this perfect little mirror image of her daddy. Beautiful. And ours.
From the 1st heartbeat we heard of hers, we knew that she was going to blow our minds upon arrival and we would be those typical parents who’s baby is THE most gorgeousest beautifulest perfectest super baby ever to be born and breathe oxygen! You know them. You probably were/are then! Lol
The amount of love that is felt once your baby is felt by your arms is just the best. I mean, there’s just NO comparison to this. None. So it is very tempting to allow this perfect little baby human to become your complete and utter purpose in life right?! You put her first, you care for her every need, you hold her, you snuggle with her, you focus on her. Like that momma hawk in her best getting NO sleep ever from constantly watching for that stronger faster eagle…that’s you. That’s a momma. We all feel this way and we have all dealt with this feeling of “my baby is more important than my husband…he/she is helpless and my husband can take care of himself!” Remember? Feeling it now? If you are a mother, you have. If you are an expecting mother you will. Or if you plan on having a baby in the future, be assured this is coming.

So. What do we do? Is it a selfish thing to desire to have a close intimate relationship with your husband -as your priority- once becoming a mother? Should he be placed on the back burner? Will he understand if he is? Does putting him first benefit your family as a a whole? Or the baby first? These are all questions that mothers will be asking, thinking, contemplating, and ultimately the answer(s) may save your marriage from future temptations or destroy it.

I have had many conversations with young first time mothers and my main advice to them is this:
•keep your husband as your priority. Your marriage is ’til death do us part’ … your babies are only going to be in your home for 18ish years!” Make time for your relationship with your husband. Keep the fires of passion alive. Date him. Love on him. Give him praise for being the man he is…even when he doesn’t neccesarily deserve it. Don’t forget you are his wife…don’t be just a mother.
Autumn was 6 weeks old when TJ went on our first date. Just a simple high school football game. No big deal. I had everything put together for Autumn, planned ahead, and my parents kept her for 4 hours. I breastfed her so I had pumped a bottle for her. All was ready. And for those 4 hours we were simply being TJ and Tressa, husband and wife, and not feeding-burping-changing-rocking-bathing-pacifying-cleaning house-washing clothes-being at work, just US. We made a vow that we would continue this pattern throughout our parenthood years. And we have. We have gone on cruises together…the first being when our babies were 4 and 2 1/2. We make weekend beach trips together, we go out to eat alone, we stay in and just watch and movie sometimes, we have even made a week long “once in a lifetime” dream trip to Hawaii…withOUT our kids. And it has worked. Our marriage has been kept as a priority. I’m his wife and I want to always be his girlfriend. We text sweet little “you are amazing!”‘s and we flirt with each other. Have we had times of boredom and blah? Yep. Has stressed ever caused an emotional barrier between us? Yes. Have I put forth more effort than he and he more than me? Sure. Yet we talk and hold each other accountable for what we KNOW it takes for this marriage to be what God intended. We KNOW what will work. We KNOW how important it is to stay boyfriend and girlfriend and date each other years and years and years after becoming husband and wife. We KNOW that 50+ years is A LOnG TIME and it’s very likely that if we DON’T make THIS a priority…that those years may be spent without each other in them. And I/we just don’t want that. God doesn’t want that. He wants for us as wives to continue in being just that for our husbands…even when we become mothers to their babies.
I remember telling my mother “Autumn is going to grow up and leave me…in 18 very short years. And I want TJ around and happy LONG after that so HE will be my priority. She is a result of my love for him, not the other way around. She is important, and I love her with all I got, but I love him more. And if I don’t put him first, when she leaves we won’t know each other…that’s IF he’s still around!”

We have always talked to our children about this. They know why we do what we do. They have been trained to see a husband and a wife be in a relationship that takes priority over them. They know that this is just another way we show them what a God centered marriage looks like. They realize that we really like each other and enjoy being with each other…I more than TJ sometimes but he deals. Haha so I advice also for you to talk to your kids about this. Don’t leave them in the dark or may them feel they aren’t important. Explaining that the decisions you make in your marriage and parenting are revolving around what God has said is just HUGE! And when they know why…and they see the positive results…this is a pattern they will emulate when they become husbands and wives and daddies and mommies!

A husband and wife should be a daddy and mommy…but never replace them. Remember to date. Remember to pursue. Flirt. Be silly. Make alone time. Make him a priority. Adore him. Praise him. Shave your legs for heavens sake. Lol And that my best advice #4 slot.


A friend who sticks.

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imageSo I’m at the beach again right?! This time not for a physical cure for a physical depression, not for a much needed connection time with the husband, and not for a family vacation. This time is different. This reason is different. This…is friendship.

It’s 2005. My cousin is getting married. She and I are also 1st cousins so we have had a long time relationship. I remember the first time I ever saw her — I was 6 when she was born — “man at that red hair!” was my reaction. I love her. She loves me. We’ve been more like sisters over our lifetime than cousins really. I was asked to be a bridesmaid for her and I lovingly and humbly accepted this role. So during her planning, she tells me that a friend she works with is her matron of honor, her name being Lindley Hollander. I respond with a “who is that?” because I did not know her. Fast forward to the friends Bridal shower we threw for the bride and this would be the first time I ever laid eyes on this Lindley “Matron of Honor” lady. And instantly, almost unrealistic, we connected. We complimented one another with a “wow, you’re so pretty” and a “you remind me of Genevieve” (a lady on a remodeling show on TLC. We talked in the crowd, we laughed, we just in that moment started to get to know the other. And from that moment…we became friends.

I remember the first time I called her cell phone to set up the arrangement for me to fix her hair for the wedding. I was doing my cousins and my own so she had asked if I would be willing to do hers. I dialed the number, got her voicemail, and heard the sweetest greeting…”Hello, you’ve reached Lindley Hollander and I cannot come to the phone right now. Please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thanks and have a blessed day!” To which I was like “aw, I love her.” So the rehearsal comes and we casually talk throughout the night, you know-nothing out of the ordinary for women in a bridal party. Until the dinner. When dinner is served, my sweet and big eyed baby boy, with his precious duck fuzz for what should’ve been hair, got ready to eat. He was 2 and seriously the most adorable creation ever. Lindley asked him if he wanted a bite of her potato and the next thing ya know, he’s in her lap eating her ENTIRE potato. And this was BIG because Scout was a momma’s boy. He didn’t very often even sit with TJ let alone someone he did not know. And she fell in love. She did not hesitate in feeding my baby, a baby she had never known, her entire potato. Like, every bite. And when I watched her love on him and give him what was rightfully hers…I was amazed. I witnessed a very selfless young woman, with no cause except a heart of service/love/and giving, become my best friend in that very moment. I didn’t know this at the time of course. It was be an unveiling blessing.

A spend the night with the beautiful and hilarious bride and a sweet wedding later, we embarked on a friendship that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. We would share in some big time life events together…my husband took a job that required us to move to Anderson, SC…a 6 hour away move…and in less than a month after meeting each other. We visited, we called, we kept in touch during this 6 month relocating. Blessed fully, we were able to move back to AL that December! She was then pregnant with her second child. Her oldest had just turned a year old that November. So in March of 2006, I drove her to hospital, in labor, singing “Harder and Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5!! We have suffered devastating news about our parents health together. We have struggled together in parenting our babies. We have learned and failed and messed up and been a success at being our husbands wives. We’ve done doubt, worry, anxiety, joy, ecstatic, depression, clueless, faith, disappointment, disagreement, up, down, “Sex and the City” (for the funnies and friendship..not the sex), breaking habits, starting new ones, desiring to know and be who we are supposed to be, back and forth all together in our 10 years of this blessed and God gifted to us friendship. Before you ask, NO! No we haven’t always agreed on everything. No we aren’t a perfect edition of the friendship illustrated. No we don’t do exactly the same things or believe the same things, or live the same ways. No we aren’t a more special than any other best friendship relationship. This is not a comparison writing, it is not a “this friend is better than my other friends” downgrade. This is not to be mistaken for any of those. Don’t miss the meaning of this post. This is about celebrating this woman and our decision to become really close people in this life. It’s about encouraging women to be this friend and to have this type of closeness with others. It’s about building faith in friendship. It’s for the encouragement that SHE or a whole of SHE’s is out there…waiting…wanting…needing a God fearing/husband respecting/children loving…YOU! You are needed by someone. You are being waited on by someone. You are called to be this someone.

We decided last summer that we would make a “BFF getaway” an annual thing. Our 1st trip was interesting to say it best. These are some highlights from last years adventure:
•no hotel
•attempts to sleep in car
•selfie with Mr Policeman (he was super nice and understanding)
•not arrested for sleeping in public area
•dead car battery
•ride to Waffle House with total strangers who we were pretty sure were not supposed to be seen together
•beach and back (6 hour drive) with no sleep..ALL in a 24 hour period!!

We set a high standard right off the bat! Lol

This year we celebrated 10 years of being each other’s person. Our trip this year was much more planned and relaxing. Hours and hours of just talking. And listening. And truly trying to be who we are supposed to be for the other. Friends.

Lindley is an amazing person. She is a fabulously fun and deep caring woman. She loves her Lord, her husband and babies, her parents and family, and every single person she comes in contact with..you just feel her goodness. And she deserves to hear this. She’s my biggest fan and my source of confindence and strength on so many days! I am thankful, honored, and just tickled pink that she is who she is and allows me the privilege to love her and be loved by her. No matter the changes, the years, the LIFE that happens to/around us…I know, with pure confidence, she will be in mine and I in hers.

Being 6 years older and married for 3 years longer…a mother for 3 years longer…she has been such a great and patient friend in learning and growing with me in these areas. She has admitted at times that she didn’t quite agree with or understand why I was so hard on my children when it came to back talking. And that was because at the time, her babies weren’t back talking. When the time came that her boys began smart mouthing…the little light bulb flashed on and she was like “oooooooooooooooh ok, NOW I get it!!” And she paid attention to what worked for me in this and tried it in her own life. It worked for her as well. She has voiced on several occasions about learning from me about being a wife…a Christian…a sister/daughter/friend just by watching my life. We never know how valuable our example is do we??!! Our conduct is an absolute key in showing the world around us that we love God, love Jesus, and want to obey the commands given to us. I am thankful for Lindley being a friend who can learn and appreciate the life that I am diligently trying to live in His kingdom!

So now, what kind of friend(s) do you have? What kind of friend are you? Women all around you need you to be a friend who sticks. Be a friend who endures. Be a friend who is valuable to her friends. Be a friend God wants you to be. I know I have failed people in my life at this..I have been a disappointment, a failure, hard to love, and easy to leave. I have forgiven and been forgiven and have some of the greatest women in my life. Ones that have proven will forever be in mine and I in theirs. THAT is so valuable. THAT is such a true blessing. And I will never take these women for granted but will build up, edify, grow with, laugh with and sometimes at, forgive and then forget what had occurred, all the days I have to live loving them! And THAT…is just unbeatable.

And if you haven’t watched “Ew” clips of Jimmy Fallon’s show…you just haven’t lived. #checkemout #youtube #ew


Best Advice #3…fist bump YeS!

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So for the young sweet ladies — this is your pre-“thinking and searching and finding my husband” advice. I mean, just can’t even stress this one enough here girls. There are SO many reasons why this statement is true and this may produce future posts but for this one I’m gonna stick with the best friend advice.

So when you make your list and check it twice I strongly advise that “being my best friend” is at the top. THIS is what sustains marriage (aside from the given being God as the center and foundation). Your best friend should be your husband because he is going to be the one who will be with you through all the highs and lows of your life. Because let’s be honest here ladies…looks diminish, money comes and goes, jobs change/disappear in a flash, personalities can change, and all the fluff can become flab—but a friendship being the basis for the relationship can surely stand the test of a lifetime of this!

Laughter is such a phenomenal characteristic trait to be embedded in a relationship…a hobby per say shared between two people in a marriage…a tool used to bring joy, happiness, and sometimes comfort! The night that I fell in love with my husband was a random, very common night of us just hanging out. We had been friends for 15 years…survived 13 years of school together…survived each other’s relationships…and on this particular night — I laughed SO HARD that my mascara was running into my eyes, I was driving and had to pull over because I could not see to drive. And look, this was at a time I had nothing to laugh about. My life was pretty crappy. But he had (and still has) the ability to just bring about this LIFE in me with laughter. He knows just when I need it! He is my rock. He is my best friend. And when changes come in our life whether HUGE, small, significant or of none, he is solid. He is my best friend. And I cannot imagine marrying anyone else. For many reasons, but THIS one being at the top of my list.

So when you picture your life…at 75 years old, and the wrinkles replace the gorgeous skin, and the hair that you once ran your fingers through is gone, and the bank account is just enough to by your ensure, and the vacations are trips to the doctor and the pharmacy, and the passion is as dried up as your ovaries…what kind of husband do you want by your side? I want my best friend. My laughing partner. TJ. And that is reason #2 I chose him.

For you wives…consider this: your husband can become your best friend, if he isn’t already, by you entrusting him with that blessing. Rely on him. Confide in him. Lay all your worries and frustrations and doubts and fears on him. And then, allow him to do the same. Open up that avenue of friendship. You know, the one that you have with your best long time girlfriends. Desire that in him. Pray for that in him. Build that in him. Start today with a heart to be his best friend…his safe place…his refuge from this cruel and punishing world. Be soft. Be gentle. Be loving and patient. The best time to create a best friendship with him is now. It may take work, sacrifices, prayer, and time.
it. Will. Be. Worth. It.

The best friendships are the ones you give your best to. Your marriage deserves your best!


Best Advice #2…have THIS talk.

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There are just some moments that happen in which make no sense whatsoever while they are happening, like make you scratch your head…and them BAM! 5 years later I’m like “ahhhhhhh…so THAT was smart!!” Best advice #2 is one of those moments.

TJ has not even proposed yet. We have decided that we are so ready to be married but no “formal” proposal had taken place. He drives me to a beautiful area of hunting land that he was a club member to hunt on at that time. And he asks me this question:
“What are you going to have to have in order to be happy married to me?”

Ok. So something that is important in understanding why this was a scratch my head moment — I had loved this man from the first visual contact at the age of 5. There was this precious little BIG beautiful blue eyed boy wearing a #12 Roger Staubach Dallas Cowboy jersey and I was just wrapped. We did not date through school. We went on one “date” in the 11th grade simply because his dad bought him a Toyota truck and I was (and still am) a Toyota truck lover. We were just the very best of friends. We were simply “TJ and Tressa” without the complications of dating. And when I fell madly and completely in love with him at the age of 20…by sheer “accident”…there was not any single “thing” I wanted more than to just be his. Simple. His. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day…his. So when he asked “what are you going to have to have in order to be happy married to me?” I was like….um, nothing. Just THAT–married to you. Oh poor naive little Tressa who truly thought that THAT would just always be enough. Hahahaaa. Good thing TJ knew better!!

So my answer was “being married to you is what will make me happy…so that’s all I have to have!” he went deeper with the meaning of the question. What he meant was what was important to me that I would have to have in order to maintain a happy state of mind with him. He foresaw the icky mushy gushy stuff of newlywedville not being enough. I did not. See, he is clearly a planner. A thinker. He analyzes and contemplates and weighs and thinks ahead. I do not. Not when it comes to him…I am just weak and in awe of him. LOL. So when he explained what the question meant, to think BIG PICTURE and LONG TERM I started to comprehend what he was asking. This is what I realized I would have to have:

-His attention. I would need to be noticed by him. I would need for the things I do for him to be appreciated…like cooking a hot meal, having his clothes washed and prepared for him, having his home a place of quietness and solidarity, being respectful and polite to him, etc. I would have to be told “Thank You” for things. I am a woman, based on certain circumstances in my life, who will shut off after a time of being under appreciated…overlooked…ignored…not valued. I will quit. So to be provoked to think about that BEFORE I married him was just genius.
-His compliments. I would have to be reminded how beautiful he thinks I am. I cared (and still care) a great deal about my appearance FOR HIM. I want him to see me as a beautiful woman outwardly because I know he does inwardly. I would need for him to remain attracted to me…which would require a great deal of effort on my part POST baby making days. I need for him to be proud of me for the efforts I make for him in this area. A simple “you look so good today baby” or “I love your hair dark, I’m so glad you went back to natural” is all it takes. Just a simple compliment for all I do in order to maintain a clean and healthy appearance JUST for him. This would prove to be the hardest for him.
-His affection. A hug. A surprise arms around my waist while I’m standing at the stove cooking for him. For him to put his arm around me and pull me close to him while sitting beside me. A hand on my leg while driving. A kiss on the cheek before leaving for work. A kiss on the cheek upon returning. I am a woman of affection. I love to hug. It’s just a thing I do. If you are someone I really like you just might get a kiss on the cheek with the hug. It’s an innocent form of affection I use to show you I love you. He…NOT.SO.MUCH. It’s a difficult thing for him. It’s weird even. So this as well would be a huge challenge for him. But hey, he asked right?! lol
-His leadership/protection/providing. I would have to know that he is always willing to lead me. And that that willingness would provoke in him an action to do just that. I would need to feel safe and protected. I would have to know that he will always provide for me…spiritually, physically, emotionally. I was a woman at that time very much STARVING for this. My dad, God love him, just wasn’t this for me. Most of not all of his “failure” was at no fault of his own, but the affects were what they were. I had never had a father who led me, protected me, or provided for me. And I was CERTAIN I would NEED and WANT this in my husband and the father of my children. This has never been hard for TJ. He has the mental capacity and spiritual desire and love within him to accomplish this with blue ribbons and first place trophies.

So that was mine. My verbal confession of what I would have to have in order to be happy with him. I felt so empowered to say those things to him and for him to listen and receive those “requirements” and not just throw me out of the car and leave me to be eaten by whatever wild animals live in this area. THIS was a mark of evidence of his true love for me.
I return the question. Expecting (in arrogance) to hear “you already give me everything I need to be happy” …yes it’s appropriate to laugh…and his was much more simple. Imagine that right?!

-His time. He would have to have his time to hunt, be alone, work outside, whatever he wanted because THIS is how he survives. Time alone. Easy. Simple.

And doesn’t that just explain man and woman in a nutshell?!

Now for the explanation for THIS being best advice #2…see, when you and your man discuss and communicate honestly about what each of you want/need, and accept each other’s wants/needs prior to marriage, then there will be an avenue of accountability down the road. Several times I have been justified in reminding TJ that he KNEW before marrying me that I had these desires in order to be happy. This should eliminate the element of surprise in you and your husbands relationship. Be aware that these will change, some will completely disappear, some will just be modified, and some will stay exactly the same…and that’s ok. Always always communicate. Don’t be shy about saying what you need or/and want and always be willing to listen to him.

TJ and I now, 15 years after the wedding, still remind each other “you agreed to understand that I would need _____!” and that has eased many of the areas of our lives that have brought about the biggest needs…i.e, babies, hormones, age, …LIFE. So talk. Be honest. Say what you need. Ask what he needs. Listen to him. And be willing to have your heart set on being/doing all you can to fulfill him.


Best Advice #6

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The wedding. Our wedding. THE moment that I had SO prayed for since falling in love with him…to become “Mrs. TJ Bragwell” was here. I was standing across from this radiating beam of love and truth and honesty and humility confessing to God, me, and everyone in the room that he would be my husband until death parts us. The words that just flowed from his mouth were perfect. Nothing short of perfect. The whole thing…perfect. And once we were finished professing this make you wanna gag vow session – hahahaaa – our preacher uttered some of the WISEST advice I have ever received…
“What goes on in your marriage should stay within your marriage. Be careful with the private matters you share outside of your marriage.”
Yeah yeah preacher…we are 24 year old “know it alls” and we are just dying for you to get to the part where we are pronounced “husband and wife” right?! So, he does. We kiss. We are introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. TJ Bragwell” and down the aisle we RUN.

Fast forward 15 years, 2 kids, moving twice, job changes, family, and ALL that is life later…

Those wise words projected from our preacher’s mouth truly stuck. It wasn’t long after life began as husband and wife that we were proven to that THIS is just spot on. And here’s the sentiment that follows the advice:
TJ and I can have a “knock down drag out” (as my sweet mother calls it) and just be totally and completely ON FIRE mad. I call my best friend and unload on her all that makes TJ just the worst. Tell her everything he said in anger and what I smart mouthed back -in which case I am really good at (prayers for me please lol)- and what does that leave her with? I mean, TJ comes home from work and simply runs his finger up the middle of my foot, smiles and me and says “I’m sorry baby,” and it’s totally over. Forgotten. Done. I don’t even remember what we were fighting for honey. We kiss and go on about our fairytale way. But…the BFF is left with an impression. She doesn’t know the intimate love and forgiveness side of us. She won’t get the “I’m sorry baby” that I will. He won’t smile that gorgeous smile that only TJ has at her. She is left with the memory. The visual. The knowledge of how mean he was/I was. So, this done over a period of time will cause hard and unforgettable feelings toward my husband/our relationship. See that?!!

People are curious by nature. Some people genuinely care. Most people are just hungry for that ONE story. That one spat or fight or argument or angered moment. They are looking for that piece of information that will prove to them that you are not as happy as you claim. And simply because of the age old theory “misery loves company.” So when you give a person an insight into your angered moments…your spats…your heat of the moment disagreements…you are giving them a reason to look at your relationship/marriage in a way that will not be productive. They will form opinions. They will spread these opinions. You can/will forgive and forget even why you were mad…they will not. They cannot. At no fault of their own. It’s yours/mine.
Now when you have that person/those people who truly love you and care for you and are that ear of concern, wisdom, compassion, and trust…use them. I have a couple of those. And I do NOT ever want to know what my life would be like without them. And I am that for them. I listen, without judgment or contempt. I offer help, they return that. And those relationships you just CANNOT beat. When you can know very intimate and ugly and disgusting info and want nothing more than to just listen, cry with, and love that person and her relationship in simple heart felt love…THAT is a true companion. Keep her…be her.

So, “Be careful who you open up to. Only a few people actually care. The rest are just curious.” Is my BEST ADVICE #6. I know I haven’t given #1-5…this was just where I started and it gets #6 because I’m sure there are 5 better. Lol.

#think


Just don’t. But, when you have…

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Sisters. Does this prick you the way it totally did me? Read it again. Now, consider its truth.

Through obedience of my children’s souls, there came a true humility to my own. That humility has lead me to accept simplicity in God’s plan, His will, His intention for me. I read Titus 2 and know beyond any convincing or debating or demanding by humanity that God instructs older women to teach younger women things of being a woman. So this simplicity has caused me to self reflect and to come to an understanding that some “things” I hold precious or important or even once accepted as truth must change. See, through the truths taught to me simply from God’s word and not from human wisdom, have caused a choice. I have been shown from His word that so many choices I have made have been made outside of Him. Unknowingly I might claim…ignorance for sure…acceptance of human tradition or pattern or teaching…because that’s what I was told to do…whatever “excuse” I may use will not hold water for when I am asked by Him “Why did you do ________ when you came to an understanding that it was NOT what I wanted from you?” Just picture that scene. I do. I mean, I have a whole list of questions for Him. Like, “how did You deal with Judas?” and “what’s up with not making me a man?” and “why in the world did You create mosquitoes?!!” And yet no answer He gives me for these will be of ANY importance right?! But what about my answer. What about the defense I try to muster up for the WHY that He demands of me? A simple question. Why? There’s a popular hymn that causes one to think “what will your answer be?”

So. “Don’t go outside of obeying GOD to get something because you will HAVE to stay outside of God to keep it.” really caused me to admit that I was/am guilty of this. I have gone outside of God/His word/His authority to do what I want to do. In His name of course, because come on…we as “Christian” women in today’s world just do not outright rebel. We do what we want to do and claim that that is what God wants too…we can quote some big time scripture and back them up with some fantastic explanations that have taken us about 3.6 minutes to memorize. We have the highlights set on automatic…”I do ____ because of ____!” Our answers are quick, proud, with extreme confidence and we spout off exactly what we have been fed.
Think:
How many of us women have ever been willing to be taught instead of being the teacher? How many of us have ever wanted to be lowly, submissive, obedient, silent? How many of us desire to be the woman of God’s plan over the woman of our own desires/fulfillment/understanding? How many of us are selfish in the kingdom yet claiming selflessness the whole time? Better yet, how many of us have ever questioned what we SO PROUDLY claim to KNOW? I cannot answer for anyone other than myself…and I KNOW that I have been guilty of “leaning on my own understanding.” Pitiful. Sad. Playing the role of a Christian woman and yet NAILING the role of a hypocrite. Which I am pretty sure just disgusts Jesus. That’s what I gather anyway. And for heaven’s sake…I don’t want to disgust Him, any longer.

We -my husband and myself- had come to the understanding we had gone outside of God in making some of our decisions. And we knew that we would have to stay outside of Him to stay true to those decisions. One specific area was in my role in God’s kingdom. We had been blindly following, in good conscience, a humanistic understanding of my role. It made sense. It worked. It was productive. It was accepted. Everyone was on board. There was an universal agreement that THIS was obedience to God’s plan. It was easy. It was liked and pretty and fun and smiled upon. Every single Christian we knew agreed to this way. So the right thing to do was to just continue in it right?! Surely if all the good and honest and strong and faithful Christians were doing this it MUST be right!! And yet…the “but…’s” just could not be shaken. So, “seek and you shall find” became a promise we held Him to fulfill.

So, a journey of study began. Individually and collectively we studied His word. We relied on His word. We sought His word. We began looking to Jesus and The Holy Spirit’s message with the intent to obey THAT! We stripped away all preconceived ideas and all patterns and all accepted “truths” that had been preached to us for years and years and years. And THIS is when our lives were (to steal another’s writers words–Jen Hatmaker) “Interrupted.” When we began listening to HIM over the wisdom of people, what we began to hear was truth. His truth. THE truth. And so began the recognition of choices made outside of obeying God that we now would have to CHOOSE to continue outside of Him to keep. And it was like taking our hands and doing the up and down version of weighing the two. THIS over here is what GOD HIMSELF says…this over here is what these people are saying…hmmmmm, what to do what to do. Are you kidding me? I mean, THIS is what we do. It sounds ridiculous and I am willing to guarantee that some of you will think “oh no, not me, I never ever do that!” when in fact we ALL do. We are born and trained to believe “a way” — “a teaching” — “a denominational pattern” — and we seldomly if EVER question what we are taught. We just do it. We believe it. We practice it. We defend it. We even teach it to others and tell them they are wrong if they are not doing it, believing it, practicing it, defending it. And let me interject here and say that IF we are trained in God’s way, teachings, and patterns then when we do question them, we will find that our way, teachings, and patterns are in line with His. BUT what do we do when we find out they are NOT??!

Hence this post. Hence the calling to think. Women we are being taught and trained and programmed to believe all this stuff that most of is NOT what God has said but what we as humans want God to say. We twist and turn and pervert and change what IS to what we think it IS. Hmmmm, seems like somewhere I have read about leaning on our own understanding….and being proud in ourselves…and directing our own steps…and doing what is right in our eyes…so, we/I rely on God. We are searching diligently for truth. And once we understand through prayer and seeking, we obey. Simple –spiritually, it’s so simple. Physically…it’s so not simple. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking. It’s controversial. It’s angered people. Many many people have turned away from us and no longer socialize with, fellowship with, or recognize us as saved in His kingdom. We are “in error” to them and therefore they understand that they must pull away from us. We understand this thinking. We knew this would be the outcome. We saw it in scripture that THIS is the result of truly obeying. Physically it’s hard. Jesus knows that too. Spiritually it’s worth it. Jesus proved that.

I am a woman submitting to my Lord and Master’s will for me in being submissive, and obedient, and silent when commanded to be, submitting to the authority that He has placed in my husband as my head, and choosing to obey Him over men. I am a woman who loves her God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am a woman who is learning what that REALLY means. And in that, learning more and more of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. I am a woman committed to obeying His clear and undeniable commands to teach younger women the things of being a woman. I am learning to choose Him over me. Learning to listen to commands over wants. Trying my best in sacrificing over fulfilling desires. I try. I fail. I repent. Beg for forgiveness. I try again. I succeed. I fail. The pattern will more than likely repeat for the course of my life. But I now know, through a continuation to study, that when I make choices to go outside of obeying God to get something…I have to stay there to keep it. And I just do not like outside of Him. It’s scary out there. I want to be “All In!!” Inside of Him by obeying His word.

I pray for courage to let go of any “thing” I gained outside of obeying Him. I pray for pride to not be what drives me. I pray for strength in enduring the “persecution.” I pray for all of my sisters, ones I know and those I don’t, to be ruled by humility. I pray for wisdom in loving my husband and children. I pray for time to become all that He wants me to become. I pray for understanding of my role in His kingdom and then courage to do just that, no more/no less.

I just LOVE quotes that make me think.
Hope you enjoy reading my thoughts. :)


Change…beautiful or brutal

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“Just call me…because you are going to be a basket case who will not be able to stop crying!” was the advice I was given from a few ladies about my baby babies starting kindergarten AND pre-k the same year. See, Autumn was always a very independent and confident child so I was not fearful of the routine change for her in starting kindergarten. Scout, however, was THE momma’s sweet baby of ALL the momma’s babies ever alive…so I was CERTAIN that the change from being home with momma allllllllll day evvvvvvvvery day would just be the worst. And the two only being 18 months apart in age meant that Autumn would start school and Scout would be home. Alone. With momma. For a year. I mean, that would have just been over the top hard for that baby to recover from the following year. I could just imagine it…”Aw, here Scout let’s take sthisssther (he had the cutest lisp) to school every morning then we will snuggle and laugh and play all day every day. Until it’s your turn to go to school. Cause I’m SURE you will totally understand that!” He would’ve needed serious therapy. Like DHR would have been called the first day right?! SO our answer was this…we will enroll Scout into a pre-k program so he and “sthisssther” can prepare and do the first year of school thing together. It was brilliant. And BONUS…our local school (the one hubs and I both graduated from) started a pre-k program THAT VERY YEAR that Autumn would start “keeen-dee-gar-tun.” Score.

So here we had all this CHANGE coming upon us. Individually AND as a family unit. My world would be changing drastically because my last 6 years had been CONSUMED with pregnancy, newborns, diapers, feedings, no sleep, spit up, just plain vomit, cuddling, snuggling, laughing, hide-and-go seek, Dora, Charlie and Lola, town runs, play dates, ALL.THINGS.BABY/TODDLER/CHILD. And yet, with all of that…the biggest change would be NOT BEING WITH MY BABIES EVERY DAY! I mean, I had devoted my entire life to this. My “job” was being home with them every day. And.I.LOVED.it. And then there would be the change that A and S would be making…the same as mine — NOT BEING WITH MOMMY EVERY DAY!
Please do not miss this though…there would be WONDERFULNESS in this change as well! I would be able to go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned ALONE. I would be able to go to Wal-Mart and grocery shop ALONE. I would be able to clean my house DURING the day light instead of at 12 midnight because that’s when all is quiet and still. I answered one lady this way when she asked “aren’t you going to be so sad when they start school?!!” :
“UMMMM, NO. IT’S LIKE RETIREMENT FOR ME!” Who have you ever met that when their job is finished and complete isn’t ECSTATIC for retirement?!! I had been doing something else over the past 6 years…I had been preparing. I knew that if the world stood and time remained that in 5 very short years, my baby would be going to “keeen-dee-gar-tun.” I knew that was the natural progression of time. I knew that with maturity and growth would come change in her/our life. I knew that it was what was necessary for her to become who she was meant to be. I knew there would be sadness mixed with the excitement. I MAINLY knew this: THIS was part of the reason I would commit myself to her. THIS was why I would sacrifice a career, my pride, my need, my desire. THIS was why I forbade myself to miss these 5 years. THIS would be what I would NEVER be able to have again. A job was ALWAYS a possibility…my baby girl and baby boy’s first roll over, first word, first steps, the snuggles, the kisses, the TIME with them would not be ever again. And that TIME with them both would be over so quickly, I just didn’t wanna miss it. We made decisions to do without. We didn’t do vacations every year, we didn’t eat out, we didn’t buy new or expensive clothes, we didn’t have extravagant “things,” our home was small and simple, we didn’t have “stuff” … and ya know what? we made it just fine with what we did have — L*O*V*E and commitment. We had food every day…and we had clothes every day…we were provided for in every sense of the words “for our needs.”

I took a nap, on our big bed, with my sweet and precious and BEAUTIFUL babies one afternoon and woke up to be fixing pancakes and bacon for my 5 year old and 4 year old children’s FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. It LITERALLY happened that fast. With “Build A Bear” creations as support (Autumn’s voice recording was me saying “I love you baby…don’t cry.”…that bear still says that 8 years later) and backpacks full of goodies/supplies for their classroom and full stomachs…we head out. Scared. Unsure. Nervous. Excited. Giddy. Back to scared. Like a roller coaster that with every up there was a sign that read “good part” and with every dip “bad part” and every curve “good luck figuring out what you’re feeling now!” we head out to this CHANGE. THIS moment in our lives is EXACTLY what I thought of when I first read the above quote. THIS was such a beautiful and natural and exciting and new “era” of time for all of us…that was the BEAUTIFUL part. And yet it was so scary and different and challenging for us as well…that was the BRUTAL part. So how’d it turn out you ask?! Autumn (my very independent and confident child) cried EVERY SINGLE DAY for the first two weeks…like the embarrassing outpour crying that made me tell her on day 6 “I am NOT leaving you at the Hannah Home box for the love…it’s school. Your aunt is in the office and your momma lives 3 MINUTES from here…get it together!” Bless. And once she learned the routine and got comfortable with the “change” she fell in love with school and has never cried to go since. Scout (my very momma’s boy child) walked into that pre-k class, straight to his table, took off the supply filled backpack, waved at me and said “bye ma!” He cried WHEN I CAME BACK TO PICK HIM UP! The “change” wasn’t so hard for him afterall. Wow how our babies can totally fool us huh?!

Now. When I look at this quote I see a spiritual application and not JUST a physical one…read it again.
bryant-mcgill-change-can-be-beautiful

Based solely upon our children’s obedience to Jesus and His Gospel…our lives changed. And that “change” has been BEAUTIFUL. And brutal.
We, as 4 saved souls, have started at the point of the Cross. We no longer are just following after men, patters, traditions, ways, doctrines, etc. There is something very enlightening about simply and humbly seeking The Lord and His Word. The change that THIS brought has spiritually brought about a peace which doesn’t make sense in the world (isn’t it ironic..don’t ya think?). We accepted that we did not know a lot…and then begin to pray for the change that was necessary for us to know exactly what He wants/requires/demands. That change was from a commitment to trust. Trust Him to do what He says He will do…He is completely ok with being held accountable to His promises. That change was from a commitment to have faith. Faith that He is able to do just as He says…and to rest in that faith that He wants to. So, for us to have hearts which desire truth, seek truth, and ask understanding, trusting Him to lead us and having faith that He will…CHANGE has been beautiful because through His word we are brave enough to accept what is required of us. NO MATTER THE COST. It’s beautiful because it’s relying on Him…beautiful because He is ENOUGH. His Word is ENOUGH. And because we know that He is faithful and just, the change(s) we are making is/are not brutal in that we are fearfully resisting…change is brutal because becoming more obedient to God means being less obedient to self/people and self and people just DO NOT LIKE THIS!!! It doesn’t make sense. It’s weird. What I am obeying may not be what you’re obeying and therefore I can say you are wrong and you can say I am wrong…but say all we want right cause we know all there is to know and we are responsible for making sure that every soul is obeying the way we obey. Clearly, that’s the right thing right?! I have it all figured out…you need me to tell you what to do…and when you don’t, then you are wrong. Cause you will have to answer to me one day about how/what you obeyed. I am your judge. I have the answers. You must please me. You have to do what I am doing or you are wrong because I am right. This means this and if you don’t see/understand this this way…then clearly you are wrong. Now wait. Hold up. Surely when you read that and maybe even say it out loud when you reread it…it sounds REEEEEEEdiculous. It was intended to. See, change in what we do – what we understand – what we believe – what we know – what we practice – is almost 100% of the time looked at brutally. If we begin to do things differently…immediately those new ways are wrong. And yet, CHANGE is exactly what will happen when we accept His way for us. CHANGE will continue to happen our entire life after that moment as well…as we mature, we change. As we learn more, we change. As we understand more, we change. I use the #think a lot in quote posts to simply get people’s minds a’turning. So, just think about this with me for a moment:

We make physical changes ALL the time and they go without question right?! I may go from having dark hair through several steps to become blonde and only an occasional “ah, well, you look different” will occur. We change jobs, houses, cars, shoes, hair styles, friends, hobbies, ALL the time and hardly ever do we question those changes. There may be physical changes we make that never even get noticed. We change the type of music we listen to…we change the liquids we drink…we start painting our finger nails light colors instead of dark ones. These “types” of changes do not bother us or anyone else normally. They are vastly overlooked. BUT…let a family of 4 souls who submit to Jesus start making changes based on spiritual understanding AND THE WHOLE WORLD CEASES TO TURN. THIS is not accepted, or overlooked, or unnoticed. Let a woman and her husband and their daughter accept simple instruction of silence during gatherings of The Lord’s church and THIS has GOT TO BE WRONG…and ADDRESSED IMMEDIATELY. There can be a family of 4 who’s child is slowly making subtle changes that are proving his/her choices to serve self instead of God but since they are physical choices like dress/dating/friends/habits/behavior/etc we don’t get all ruffled about that. We call that “normal” and “hormones” and “teenagers” and “sowing wild oats” and “figuring things out”…BUT if a woman and her daughter are choosing to submit to God in the instructions He has given them in being silent, it will not be tolerated. “They don’t understand those instructions clearly.” “That’s not what that means!!!” Do you see that?!
Why can’t we accept spiritual change? Why do we fear it? Why do we judge it? Why do we condemn it? Why do we not allow it? NOW…let me interject here and say this: we are commanded not to change what God has said right?! What He says is what He means. Clearly. And that is NOT the changing I am referring to in this post…it’s the change that comes from a true submission to His Word. The change that happens in our hearts…our thinking…our understanding…our choices…our actions…our worship…our devotion…our commitments…ONCE we humbly submit to Jesus, His example, His commands, His ways. Once we humbly submit to God, His Word, His will. Once we humbly submit to the Holy Spirit, His teachings, His commands, His instructions. THIS WILL CAUSE CHANGE. Change that will be BEAUTIFUL or BRUTAL…and that depends on us. Sisters, submitting to my Lord’s will for me is the best thing ever. It’s weird. It’s laughed at. It’s doubted. It’s questioned. It’s abnormal. it’s BRUTAL…To the world only. To my Lord — it’s the most BEAUTIFUL THING EVER!!! And I pray for Him to allow me time to change in whatever ways necessary to be pleasing to Him, to honor my husband, to love my children, to be the complete servant He desires. WHATEVER changes THAT requires…may I see them as beautiful and not brutal. May I understand the brutality would be in resisting those changes…resisting humility, resisting selflessness, resisting instructions from Him.
Change with intent to obey Him = beauty
Change resisted because of fear/pride = brutal.

#think ~~~~~ Just think.