I just sat down at my desk.Â Itâ€™s an antique secretary desk in a heavy, dark wood with a hinged, fold down writing surface covered in black leather.Â Itâ€™s a real treasure, one I found while doing display design for my friendâ€™s store, Imagine, many, many moons ago.Â Several of the pieces Laura (beloved friend, sister and store owner) used to display her fabulous inventory was purchased from the same antique store just a couple blocks west of her boutique in Terrell, Texas.Â I bought the desk and a beautiful wood keepsake frame from there.Â Itâ€™s made out of comparable heavy, dark wood and sits open for me to place my inspired finds in.Â But, the desk sits empty and the keepsake frame does, too. Â
One of my goals this year was to reimagine the space it was in.Â I wanted it to be set apart from my actual office, peaceful and free of anything that could take my attention.Â No mail to open, no orders to fulfill and no clutter to procrastinate decluttering.Â But, as I type these very words, I sit at the desk and under the keepsake frame that have yet to be filled with things that inspire me.Â Thereâ€™s a bag of Riverâ€™s hand-me-downs that I need to deliver to his friend sitting in the chair behind me, and, laying over it are six coats I wore to brave the winter here in Texas that Iâ€™ve been trying to get into the downstairs coat closet for more than a week now. Â
Generally, Iâ€™d not dare sit down and get to work until Iâ€™d gotten things in perfect order.Â But, here I sit at and among three unfinished projects, with my son singing â€śJesus Loves Meâ€ť from his bedroom just one door down and my husband preparing for a video conference call downstairs.Â On top of my desk burns a fragrant honeysuckle and davana candle and the low light pipes through the window to my right as chirping birds and blooming trees boast of spring. Â
All seems right in the world yet itâ€™s not.Â The global pandemic, COVID-19 has us all reeling.Â Itâ€™s like something from a movie or bad dream.Â How will it end?Â What is the reality weâ€™ll wake up to?Â Nobody can answer those questions.Â The top ranking officials of our great nation are working tirelessly to get on top of whatâ€™s already here.Â Weâ€™re up against the unknown, something that we cannot see or know much about.Â Weâ€™re urged to do something weâ€™ve never been urged to do before- flatten the curve.Â By staying isolated or somewhat isolated, washing our hands and not touching our faces, weâ€™re likely to reduce the rate of infection and not overwhelm our hospitals, thus decreasing deaths caused by this horrendous virus.Â
It sounds so simple, but itâ€™s challenging to do.Â Isolation is not something most of us do well for long.Â So, this will be a test.Â But, we do have multiple ways to interface with those we like and love safely.Â Thank God for technology.
The last few mornings, I woke up to my alarmed husband who is not at all an alarmist which is extra alarming.Â He debriefs me on all things heâ€™s learned about COVID-19 via social media, the news and his favorite radio show, 1310 The Ticket.Â Then, he goes to get Riv from his bed and takes him downstairs.Â Meanwhile, I get down on my knees beside my bed and pray to God for protection.Â And, you know what, in my plea for protection, something stirred my heart.Â God is in control.Â His resolve is unwavering.Â He is the one we must turn to.Â As Psalm 46:1 assures us, â€śGod is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble.â€ť Â
In times like these we take refuge in our Creator and find strength in Him.Â If you feel weary, go to His book of promises and be reassured by the scriptures.Â Then, carry your weary hearts worry to God in prayer and remind Him of His promises.Â Itâ€™s a powerful combination that withers worry and illuminates hope.
As you all know, Iâ€™m not a preacher or teacher.Â Iâ€™m an ordinary person created by an extraordinary God.Â And, Iâ€™m in the business of hope.Â Our Sparrow Project collection was designed with the intention of fostering hope through infusing beautiful things with scripture and giving back to help domestic violence victims transition out of horrific situations.Â My life, though imperfect, is Christ centered.Â My business, though small but mighty is Christ centered.Â I feel compelled to share more, and I want to be obedient to that calling. Â
In the words of Rumi, â€śbe a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.â€ť We could all use that right now, right?Â So, if you already subscribe to our Divine By Design blog, get ready to see us a bit more regularly.Â And, if youâ€™re not signed up, simply go to jlparish.com and click on the Divine By Design blog and sign up.Â Itâ€™s easy, I promise.Â In addition, weâ€™ll work to keep our social media outlets bright with hope and possibility.Â Follow us on Facebook (JL PARISH) Instagram (@jlparish), Twitter (@JLParish) and Tumblr (jlparish). Â
Now, chin up buttercups!Â Godâ€™s got this!
At the end of 2019, I read a New York Times story that would shape the first part of my 2020.Â It was titled, â€śDo Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain.Â It was published in early 2019 but didnâ€™t find me until the end of the year.Â It sparked a few questions for me and how I was functioning under the influence of all things revolving around my phone.Â While I knew I wasnâ€™t as dependent on my phone as the writer in the aforementioned story, I knew I was somewhat dependent.Â Like food, we have to have our phones.Â We need food to survive.Â We canâ€™t just stop eating.Â Thatâ€™s why food addiction is so prevalent.Â Bottom line, we need to consume it in a healthy, balanced way.Â Our phones are no different. Â
So, I sprung into the new year with restricted access to my phone.Â Early on, I realized how many things I used my phone for- email, bank accounts, social media, Bible, devotional, calendar, weather, news, stocks, Waze, Google Maps, GOOGLE, Kindle, Audible, August Lock, Lutron and the list goes on.Â My phone was literally a portal to my world. Â
I knew I was going to have to communicate some by phone, but for all the other things, well, I took it back to the old school.Â The notion of that was exciting for me because â€śold schoolâ€ť for me is the 1990â€™s. I pondered life in general back then and without my phone.Â Rewind, I did have a cell phone in the 90â€™s.Â But, it was giant, expensive and only to be used in case of an emergency.Â So, what did I do?Â I opened up actual books, read the words and turned the pages.Â I turned on lights with my fingers and opened doors with actual keys.Â I peeked outside my window to get a sense of what the weather was going to be like.Â If I had a question about something important like who Brad Pitt was dating, I pondered it instead of googling.Â I used the navigation in my car (that Iâ€™d never used before) if Iâ€™d lost my way here in the concrete jungle.Â And, I searched through my books to find a multitude of devotionals just waiting for me to dive into. Â
I adapted to this easily.Â It felt natural and also rewarding to be more resourceful and self reliant.Â I didnâ€™t need to start my morning off, opening app after app.Â Instead, I was enjoying my evening with a good documentary and waking up to the sounds of the city while I prayed, meditated, stretched and read a little before starting my day.Â To compensate for the time I spent on my phone, I was doing things that were fulfilling.Â Like food, we can eat junk upon junk and never get full, or we can eat good food and be satisfied and full in the way it was intended to be consumed.Â Â
But, I wonâ€™t lie, there were many times in the early days of my month long sabbatical with restricted use of my phone that I reached for it out of habit. And, where did I immediately go?Â Facebook or Instagram.Â As soon as it opened, I quickly shut it down and put my phone away- far, far away.Â I knew that once I got on social media, I would be carried down a roaring rapid of information that I couldnâ€™t get off of. Â
As I reconnected with myself, I started feeling disconnected from my people.Â You know, the people I kept up with day in and out on social media.Â Though our interactions might have been somewhat superficial, I still felt in touch.Â And, that was a good thing for me.Â What was the newest finding on Alanâ€™s sesame centered Facebook page, â€śSesame In the City?â€ťÂ How many months old was sweet little Baby Teagan (I missed seeing her cute little smile and dimples)?Â What adorable thing was my sister and brother in lawâ€™s doodle, Rougie, doing today?Â Was the Wills Point Tiger tennis team in full swing and whipping up on the competition?Â These were things I actually missed.Â The heartfelt stories, photographs of families on vacations, news of promotions, praise reports for good health,Â encouraging scriptures and quotations and the simple thumbs up for â€ślikeâ€ť and heart for â€ślove.â€ť Â For me, these things are heart warming and affirming, and I missed them.
But, the greater revelation for me was this. We may know from what we see on Facebook or Instagram, for example, that sweet little Baby Teagan is eight months old and smiling ear to ear, but what we canâ€™t know is if she didnâ€™t have a good nightâ€™s rest or if sheâ€™s got an ear infection or if her mom is tired and needing support.Â No, we canâ€™t know that by a photo on Facebook.Â We can only know these things if weâ€™re organically connecting people in conversation that exists ear to ear and heart to heart, not through a social media post.Â I say it again and again, everything that glitters isnâ€™t gold.Â Thereâ€™s a lot going on behind some of these posts and pictures that weâ€™ll never know if we donâ€™t connect on a deeper level.Â And, why do we need to know these things?Â Well, God may have appointed you to pray for or encourage a particular person or group of people.
When we connect in an organic way, we learn ways in which we can better serve our tribe.Â That brings up another question?Â Do you know who your tribe is?Â Knowing who the people are that God has placed in your life to support and serve you and you them is essential.Â Recently, on a Facebook post, my beloved friend Tanisha gave a super sweet shout out to her cousin, friend and god mother to her daughter.Â The person she was referring to is also my friend, Norma. Â What she was saying to her was, â€śI know youâ€™re someone I can count on because youâ€™ve always been there for me and my daughter.Â And, Iâ€™ve got you.â€ťÂ Whoâ€™s got you?Â Really ponder this, who are your people, your tribe. Â
Once you know the answer to that question, then you know where your energy should be.Â You can focus on these people, investing in them the way theyâ€™ve invested in you.Â And, that may be by an occasional â€ślikeâ€ť or â€śheartâ€ť on Facebook or Instagram, but it will be more impactful when youâ€™re involved in their day to day, leaning in, loving and serving in the way Godâ€™s called you to.
I could pretty much disregard most of the apps on my phone that I use to check this or that.Â The vast majority of them are not necessary.Â But, I cannot be without my phone in terms of connecting.Â More than my phone being a portal to my life, itâ€™s a portal to communicating with my tribe.Â I love my tribe.Â Itâ€™s filled with new friends and old friends, friends of friends, friends through business, friends with similar interests and family. Â
In conclusion, restricted use of my phone was revelatory.Â It put whatâ€™s important in life in perspective.Â We can ditch our phones, but we need our people.Â To every member of my tribe, thank you for reading this humble little â€śblob,â€ť for liking and loving and sharing the things that are both on my heart and make it smile.Â I see you.Â You are special, important and loved.Â Always and forever, be sure of this.
P.S. The little cutie pictured on this blob is Teagan. Â Her smile makes my day. Â Can you see why I missed it. Â Teagan’s mom and aunt and grandmother and great grandmother are all members of my tribe. Â I love them, a lot!
Last Monday morning early, my husband was off to work, and I was at home with River, getting him ready for his swim lesson. That hour before swim is a hectic one because Iâ€™m getting River ready, getting his bag ready and getting 8,000 dishes in or out of the dishwasher before we set sail for the Landry Center. But, this particular Monday morning, right as the door closed behind my husband, River says, â€śMommy, Iâ€™m not feeling good. I feel sick in my mouth.â€ť I think, â€śOh, great, are we in the throws of step throat, again?â€ť Then, he scurries over to me and says, â€śMommy, hold me.â€ť And, before he could tell me he was sick again, he vomited down the right side of my face, hair and body. If this has ever happened to you, you know the drill. First, you stand there freaked completely out. Second, you mentally devise a plan of how to remove the articles of clothing that were effected. Third, you check to see if your child is, in fact, ok.
So, I freaked out, threw my vomit drenched pony tail over my shoulder, pulled both mine and Riverâ€™s shirts off, and grabbed that sick little cutie to make sure he was ok. Then, I hurdled the vomit on the floor en route to my iPhone so that I could text Rivâ€™s beloved swim coach, Cameron, and tell him we couldnâ€™t make it and why. But, as I picked my phone up, I noticed that someone was at the door on my doorbell/camera/thing-a-ma-jiggy app. Like a ninja (that had been vomited on), I eased toward the door to see if it was someone who needed something. But, it just looked like two young guys who were contracted to do work in the neighborhood and got the wrong address.
So, I go back to caring for my sick child and cleaning up the vomit (letâ€™s see how many times I can say that in one BLOB) when, this time, I actually hear the doorbell ring. I think, â€śTheyâ€™re either at the wrong house, or my husband has hired them to do something and didnâ€™t communicate it to me.â€ť So, I grab River, mainly to cover myself, and hide my body behind the wall. Then, I open the door partly and stretch my neck around enough to gently holler, â€śGuys, can I help you?â€ť They begin walking toward the door and I shriek, â€śSTOP! Iâ€™m topless!â€ť With a terrified and somewhat curious look on their faces, they stepped back. And, through the crack of the door I say, â€śI mean, Iâ€™m not topless. I do have on a sports bra. Iâ€™m also holding my child to cover me.â€ť They, gently replied, â€śMaâ€™am, weâ€™re just here to clean your windows.â€ť I said, â€śOk, carry on.â€ť And, as I closed the door, I got so darn tickled. So, I cracked the door open and hollered once again, â€śHey, Guys.â€ť They said, â€śYes.â€ť I said, â€śThereâ€™s nothing quite like being greeted by a topless mom first thing in the morning, is there?â€ť I couldnâ€™t see their faces, but I could hear their smiles in their voices as they replied, â€śNo, maâ€™am.â€ť
Then, up the stairs, River and I go to shower, put clean clothes on and relax. And, as I sat beside my son, all snuggled up on the â€śheavyâ€ť bed (thatâ€™s what he calls the bed in the master), a surprising smile stretched across my face. I was both exhausted and elated. Exhausted, of course, after a marathon of mishaps and elated that I- have a son (even when heâ€™s vomiting on my hair), a house with windows that need washing, a husband with the foresight to get things done that would never cross my mind and the kindness and grace that two complete strangers showed me in a moment of chaos. Itâ€™s pretty amazing when you start that little mental gratitude list. Because, what looked like a few things becomes a few thousand.
In this season, thereâ€™s so much pomp and circumstance. We canâ€™t just put a pair of warm mittens under the tree. No, they have to be Gucci and wrapped to perfection. By the way, if this was anyoneâ€™s gift idea for me, please do not return it. Iâ€™ll make do, I promise. It canâ€™t just be a simple salad that we bring to the family dinner. No, it better be congealed to perfection, in the rightful Christmas wreath jello mold form with maraschino cherries for the holly. And, your Christmas card canâ€™t be a candid shot from your summer vacay developed at your local CVS. Heck no! Your whole family needs to be photographed in the Swiss Alps, wearing coordinating tartan plaid, smiling like youâ€™ve all just won the lottery, foil stamped and bathed in potpourri before being mailed to two hundred family members and friends. I mean, it has to be BIG, or itâ€™s meaningless. Isnâ€™t that sort of what the world tells us?
The truth is that it doesnâ€™t have to be BIG for it to be a blessing. Let that sink in. We donâ€™t remember the Gucci gloves. We remember the loving intention of the person gifting us. We donâ€™t remember the Christmas wreath congeal salad. We remember the community that comes with gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones. And, we donâ€™t remember what the card looked like. We remember the love we feel toward the person who sent the card and their significance in our lives. What Iâ€™m saying here is, it doesnâ€™t have to sparkle to be gold.
This season is about our Savior. And, you know the story. He wasnâ€™t the son of a mother and father of means, born in a private hospital suite and swaddled in bamboo. He was the son of two ordinary people chosen to carry out an extraordinary mission, born in a manger which was used to hold food for livestock. There was no meal train or sip and see. But, there were three wise men who traveled from afar to bestow special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh upon this little baby and, then, his ministry unfolded for all the world to see. And, this unsuspecting child became Godâ€™s greatest gift to humanity.
I hope that in this Savior Season and, really, every single day, youâ€™ll make seeing whatâ€™s big in the small things a top priority. In doing so, the gift of gratitude is promised to multiply like mosquitoes in the Texas heat. And, if youâ€™re like me, a real rascal at times, I hope youâ€™ll remember that Godâ€™s gift to humanity in our Savior isnâ€™t exclusive to the righteous. Itâ€™s available to ALL. No age, no color, no gender, no political affiliation, no sexual preference, no debt unpaid, no sentence served- nothing, and, I do mean absolutely nothing can take Godâ€™s gift of grace through Christ Jesus away from you. If you believe that Christ is the Son of God, then you receive Him as your Savior. You are saved. Can I get just one AMEN!
Ephesians 2:8 NLT â€śGod saved you by his grace when you believed. And, you canâ€™t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are Godâ€™s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.â€ť
Merry Christmas, my friends!
Thereâ€™s a small metal easel at the end of our bar filled with Riverâ€™s artwork, all crinkled from paint, with streamers hanging off of it, perfectly imperfect. Just behind it sits two containers of Advil and Tylenol for infants. Riverâ€™s not an infant anymore, so theyâ€™re in that spot until I think of who I can give them to. Just in front of Riverâ€™s artwork, thereâ€™s a photo that Riverâ€™s â€śsister by choiceâ€ť and neighbor, Ivy, took at his 2nd birthday party. Itâ€™s small, in a neon green frame and has â€śto: River from: Ivyâ€ť written in fine black sharpie on the bottom of the frame. And, last but not least is the Cucumber-Mint Burtâ€™s Bees chapstick standing tall beside Riverâ€™s 3×3 framed birthday portrait. He lubes those plump lips up like a pro, and, in the process, works it around his entire face and Peaches pout before sticking his finger directly in the middle of it. I pause before making this admission, but in a day when my lips are parched, I pick it up and smear it on my own fully knowing where itâ€™s been.
Two years ago, the thought of such a â€śmessâ€ť at the end of my bar would have sent me into a tailspin. But, not today. Iâ€™m becoming more comfortable in an environment thatâ€™s not staged for a home tour. Thereâ€™s a message in the mess. That bar could be free and clear of everything I just described, but my home would be free and clear of the greatest joy giver of all. And, thatâ€™s a trade Iâ€™d never want to make.
After giving birth and catching my breath enough to realize I needed new underwear (you know, the pull almost up to your ears, postpartum kind), I headed to Nordstrom where the sales person pointed me to these lovely knickers and assured me they would fit. She was my size or bigger and said they were â€śone size fits all,â€ť so I picked out a pair in each color and headed home to launder them. The next day, I tried a pair on and they didnâ€™t fit. So, I reverted back to my old faithfuls. A week later, like the Little Engine That Could, I tried again. This time it was a success- perfect fit and, more importantly, the confirmation I needed to know that they were not â€śone size fits all EXCEPT for Jill Lide Parish.â€ť That evening, as I shed my clothes to get into the shower, I realized Iâ€™d been wearing my underwear backwards all day, and they fit me perfectly. I digress.
My body isnâ€™t what it was before giving birth to my big baby boy. But, then again, I never had a Sports Illustrated swimsuit modelâ€™s body. These days, thereâ€™s more of it. Some parts are higher and others lower. Nothing is in itâ€™s rightful place. One year ago, I would have shamed the h-e-double-hockey sticks out of myself. But, not today. Iâ€™m becoming grateful for this machine of a body thatâ€™s kept me alive for 43 years and carried and birthed the most precious gift of my lifetime. Beauty isnâ€™t about perfection. Itâ€™s more about progression. Growth and evolution are beautiful beyond compare.
Not even six months ago, Iâ€™d say I was addicted to people. Or, more specifically, pleasing people. Long after River came into this world, I was still on the people pleasing hamster wheel, and I was tired. So. Very. Tired. I had so few boundaries with people. I donâ€™t mean that I was allowing people to abuse me. That wasnâ€™t the case. But, if you needed a place to stay for seven days, of course you could stay with me. Or, if you needed to unload every negative thought youâ€™ve ever had in life, Iâ€™d sit on the phone with you for five hours listening intently. Oh, and, last but not least, if you told me you were going to arrive at my home for a visit or a restaurant for dinner and were three hours late, Iâ€™d smile and say, â€śNo problem,â€ť meanwhile wasting away because I was waiting to eat or drink or whatever my brain told me was appropriate to do or not do in my people pleasing interaction. Relentless in my pursuit of pleasing people, I hit a wall. Hard. Yâ€™all, I hit the wall HARD. And, when that happened, I had to take a true inventory of myself and why I was doing what I was doing. In my wholehearted attempt to please people, I was falling short. Ill in that attempt and completely exhausted, I surrendered.
Iâ€™m becoming more in tune with my own needs. Not that I donâ€™t care about the needs of others. Iâ€™m just clearer on what I need to function and be a decent wife and mother. Currently, little to nothing comes before that. The people in life that really count also really understand.
There have been a gazillion epiphanies in this motherhood journey. And, truth be told, some felt like moments and others felt like seasons. They werenâ€™t all easily learned or accepted. But, they were necessary. Iâ€™m not who I used to be, and Iâ€™m not certain of where Iâ€™m going. All I can say is this, Iâ€™m becoming.
Iâ€™m constant in prayer and knee deep in Godâ€™s word because in becoming who Heâ€™s called me to be, I know I must do His will. Fully embracing the gift of life Heâ€™s given me and honoring it by caring for myself and those entrusted to my care is my full-time spiritual appointment. While I may fall short in the eyes of others, I donâ€™t want to fall short in the eyes of God.
Two days ago, I was dropping River off at his classroom with his rock star teachers, when Miss Bridget says, â€śWait, Mom. River wants to give you something.â€ť And, out he walked with a laminated card with his picture and poem followed by a plant in a beautiful pot with his colorful finger prints all over it. With a Kermit sized frog in my throat, I said to myself, â€śDo not cry. You will look like the amateur of a mom that you really are.â€ť
Moms, Iâ€™m still very much an amateur. You raise the bar for mommas like me. Cheers to becoming. Because of your growth and evolution, the very seeds youâ€™ve planted will follow. Keep nurturing them, and watch what they become. Happy Motherâ€™s Day! You are Godâ€™s gift to this world.
A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for â€śRepurposedâ€ť at my church. Itâ€™s a training program designed to help you find your God-given purpose. Several of my friends had gone through this training experience, and I was excited to take part in it until I received an email with a pre-training assignment. In this assignment, my task was to list my top ten â€śhigh pointsâ€ť and â€ślow pointsâ€ť in life. Ugh, my mind immediately went to the low points, and I really behooved having to recount them. Then, onto my â€śhigh pointsâ€ť which was, of course, so fun. The magic, outside of actually qualifying your top ten high and low points in forty-two years of life, was connecting them. They call these connections â€śhinge moments.â€ť From that, one thing was clear, if God brings you to it, Heâ€™ll also bring you through it. Every single high and every single low prove one thing, Godâ€™s faithfulness.
In lifeâ€™s mountain top moments, we understand Godâ€™s plan fully, right? He is great and greatly to be praised. But, in the valleys, we plead with him for understanding and resolution. His ways are so mysterious. And, mysterious(ness) is alluring when youâ€™re on the periphery of it but not in the middle of it. All of our lifeâ€™s experiences are purposeful and necessary for our evolution earthside. Now, itâ€™s easy to say that when allâ€™s right in the world. The challenge is maintaining that same understanding, rather, mindset when life throws us lemons (big, fat, giant lemons).
Many moons ago a beloved human being/co-worker/friend, grabbed a piece of printer paper and pen and wrote the loveliest verse on it to give to me. It read, â€śThe heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9)â€ť She was moving onto the next adventure, but, in her heart, felt the calling to share that verse with me. To this day, I have that very piece of paper that Tonya K. Dunn-Harris gave to me, and I treasure that truth like I treasure her. She and I shared a lot of lifeâ€™s highs and lows. We laughed and cried. We wondered what was next. Iâ€™m grateful that Godâ€™s divine plan brought us together, or, as she would stay, â€śthat she was one of my steps.â€ť
My personal plan for every single day is for it to go along perfectly, but I know that is not Godâ€™s plan. He uses people, things and experiences to sharpen us. And, why do we need to be sharpened? So that we can live out His purposes for us on earth and bring His kingdom the glory it deserves. That thought alone really makes me want to SHOUT FOR JOY! It is true, God doesnâ€™t waste a thing.
My friend and family member by choice, Donna Rankin Whitehead, had a stem cell transplant this last year. I donâ€™t know if you know much about it, but itâ€™s a serious, serious thing and THE absolute miracle in modern medicine. I hated more than anything in the world to see her go through that, but, listen here, what I experienced watching her go through that changed me. And, it changed other people. You would never see her without a smile on her face. You would never catch her with a bad attitude. You would never see her treat the angels attending to her with anything but kindness. You would never see her without makeup (God love a Texas woman). She was going through the valley of valleys and putting on a clinic for all the world to see. I weep as I type this part. Her smile, positive attitude, kindness toward others, appreciation for all those who helped her in any capacity and her FAITH made me better. It made everyone around her better. Never, ever, ever would I have wished such a difficult time on Donna, but, I know one thing for sure, God established that step. He knew she was strong enough to take it and that her faith would move mountains while others watched in amazement. The angels in heaven must do the Texas Two-Step every time they hear her name because she brought a kind of glory to Godâ€™s kingdom that is rare and precious.
Friends, today and every day that follows, remember Proverbs 16:9. Our lifeâ€™s purpose is really revealed in our own personal highs and lows. We have a choice as to how we see those moments and how we use them to help, heal, lift up others. And, if you look around at the world and it all seems bright and shiny, remember this, no matter how good someone elseâ€™s life looks, theyâ€™ve been through the valley(s), too. They could be like Donna, in the valley with lipstick on and super-sized faith. We are all more alike than we are different. Better yet, we are all Godâ€™s, and that makes the journey even sweeter.
When I was a little girl, I loved dolls. And, oh, the care I took in the dolls that belonged to me. Their hair was always styled to my liking, their clothes were meticulously coordinated and they were always carefully put up in their rightful place, most often their crib, to ensure they were comfortable enough to get their much needed beauty rest.
Caring for my baby dolls as a young girl was pretty much what I knew about caring for an infant. So, I was confident that, if anything, Riverâ€™s hair would be combed. His clothes would be neat, tidy and, most importantly, cute. And, that heâ€™d have a cozy place to rest. So very little did I knowâ€¦ Fourteen and a half months into being Riverâ€™s â€śMuh-maâ€ť and, sometimes, â€śMay-me,â€ť I know that combed hair happens once a day, and, on good days, his entire head of hair gets combed, not just one side, the front or the back. Most days, he starts out with a well coordinated outfit, but, by the end of the day, itâ€™s soaking wet with drool and stained from various types of food heâ€™s dropped throughout the course of the three meals heâ€™s had that day. And, that cozy place to rest exists, but it doesnâ€™t enter the picture until heâ€™s been bathed, snuggled up in his jamas and sleep sack, taken eight ounces of milk, burped, been read to, loved on, prayed for, and, yawn, put in his crib.
Unlike the days of caring for my dolls, when the day winds down, Iâ€™m as they say, â€śtired as a mother,â€ť literally. A job that looks simple and somewhat monotonous is also filled with nine innings of curveballs and a thousand invisible side jobs that only a mom can do. Itâ€™s the greatest joy and the most challenging job. When Iâ€™m not feeding River or playing with River or getting River down for his nap, Iâ€™m trying to take care of the basics for myself, be a decent wife, mother, sister and friend, run a business and rest (well, that last one, letâ€™s just say Iâ€™m still working on). Motherhood is not an eight hour a day job. Itâ€™s a twenty-five hour a day job.
While the job is demanding, itâ€™s also quite rewarding. I can say, without question, that I delight in doing anything for my precious son- changing his diaper, chopping up his fruit, taking him for a walk, getting him ready for church, being silly with him, singing to him and the list goes on and on and on. On the days when I feel â€śtired as a mother,â€ť I remember my mother who did all these things and more, backwards and in heels x 2. When she nursed me back to life after being a sick baby, she never complained. When my Dad passed away, and she had to assume being the mother, the father and the breadwinner, she never complained. When she carried and picked me up from various school activities, she never complained. When I decided I wanted to attend a university halfway across the country, she never complained. When I got laid off my first job with no job leads and even less savings to live on, she never complained. When my second Dad (and, her beloved husband) was dying and I was coming home from the hospital with River and needed her support, she never complained. I mean, my Mom never EVER complained.
Through every season of my life and my sisterâ€™s life, she’s loved us boldly. And, I use the word â€śboldlyâ€ť because I feel confident that there have been times when we were difficult to love. That sort of love, commitment and devotion is unparalleled and, quite frankly, the closest thing to being Christlike that Iâ€™ll ever witness this side of heaven.
I donâ€™t know that thereâ€™s any greater gift than that of being a Mom nor is there a job more challenging. But, when Iâ€™m â€śtired as a mother,â€ť I remind myself of the example set before me, and redirect my energy to being â€śawesome like MY mother.â€ť Iâ€™ll work day and night and never quite get there, but Iâ€™ll strive to manifest all her love, her commitment and her devotion as I mother my little boy. And, in the process, Iâ€™ll do just as I know my Mom has always done by thanking an awesome God for the great gift of being â€śMuh-ma.â€ť
To every single Momma out there, thereâ€™s not a thing in this world more beautiful than you. We love you. We celebrate you. We are inspired by you. Happy Motherâ€™s Day!
I was in Virginia Beach, Virginia meeting up with two of my very best friends, Kelly and Holly, at the boardwalk. It was a lovely day. Water was glistening and sun was shining just as it should be when youâ€™re sharing a day with your people. They wanted to take the ferry over to a restaurant and bar, and, although I wasnâ€™t quite ready to go with them, I decided to just ride over with them and then ride the ferry back. Once the ferry stopped, Kelly and Holly stepped off and I stayed on. The captain said, â€śEveryone off.â€ť I stayed on. He said, â€śEveryone off and that means you, too, maâ€™am.â€ť I said, â€śI was just riding over with my friends. Iâ€™m riding back so that I can get to my Dad. Heâ€™s disabled.â€ť The driver replied, â€śIâ€™m sorry. Itâ€™s policy. Everyone has to get off the ferry.â€ť
When I woke from that dream, tears were streaming down my face. I knew that the day was coming, and faster than Iâ€™d hoped, when Iâ€™d no longer be able to get to my Dad- to see him, talk to him, joke with him, seek his counsel, love on him, spoil him, just BE with him. Well into my second trimester, I hustled to get myself ready and waddled to my car to hurriedly get to my Dad who, since August of 2016, had been living in a skilled nursing facility not far from his actual home he shared with my Mom. When I got there, he was resting and looked somewhat grey. I let him know I was there, sugared him up, stroked his hair and encouraged him to rest as I sat in a chair by his bed.
Less than five minutes into the quiet of sitting with him, he spoke loud and clear. Because my Dad suffered a debilitating stroke almost five years prior, speaking loud and clear was a feat. It was something he was able to do on occasion, something heâ€™d worked so hard to regain with years of speech therapy. He said, â€śIâ€™m dying. And, Iâ€™m ready to go.â€ť I stood up, leaned over him and asked if heâ€™d repeat what I thought he said. And, again, he said, â€śIâ€™m dying. And, Iâ€™m ready to go.â€ť I let him know, with tears falling out of my eyes like rain upon him, that losing him would be very hard on me. He looked away. Then I said, â€śYou know, Jimmy (thatâ€™s what we called him), only God knows when itâ€™s our time. So, while weâ€™re here, weâ€™ve got to live it up and love it up. Now, when it is your time, you know where youâ€™re going, right?â€ť He replied, â€śYes.â€ť I said, â€śWell, ok. Iâ€™m glad we got that out of the way. Now, tell me this. Are you going to hang around to meet this baby (his grandson)?â€ť Once again, he nodded and replied â€śYes.â€ť As sure as he was that he was going to heaven when it was his time, he was also sure and downright determined to meet my son, his grandson.
Being pregnant was such a gift. I mean, in general, itâ€™s just such an incredible gift. The greater gift was that, not only had I waited a long time to have a child, but that, in a season when my Dadâ€™s life was coming to an end, a new life was taking shape. And, by the absolute grace of God, he not only allowed me to be the recipient of such a gift but to share it with Jimmy. Every single time Iâ€™d see him, Iâ€™d raise my shirt, show him my belly and get close enough for him to touch it. Though he couldnâ€™t remember my actual name since his stroke, he knew me, who I was to him and that, by golly, I was having a baby. He was, in the sweetest way, completely and totally invested in this kiddo growing inside of me. My sister, Susan, would tell me that when sheâ€™d come to see him, he would often use his good hand to show her how far out my bump was. To this day, envisioning that, makes my heart swell.
As I got closer to my due date, Jimmy was declining. But, again, he was on the baby train, waiting patiently to learn about the arrival of his youngest grandchild. And, just one week after River was born, we were able to make the trip out to see Jimmy. He was weak. I was weak. We were all making a concerted effort for Jimmy to meet River and, more importantly, for River to meet my Dad, his Grandad. It was a precious, precious time. I donâ€™t know, quite frankly, if Iâ€™d ever been so proud and grateful to share something with him. God had blessed my husband and I with a child, my parents and his parents with a grandchild and, while Jimmy had the desire and determination to meet River, a very sovereign God persevered him through the final weeks of his life to meet his grandson.
Two weeks later, Jimmy finished â€śliving it up and loving it upâ€ť here on earth and made the ultimate trip to be with his Savior. The word â€śbittersweetâ€ť could not be more fitting for that season in my life. Iâ€™d lost the second Dad I was so graciously given. And, Iâ€™d become a mother to River all in a matter of weeks.
You see Jimmy was our â€śother Dad.â€ť My biological father and first Dad in life passed when I was seven years old. He was a wonderful human being and father to my sister and I. And, in the mausoleum of my mind, I preserved him as saint. Lord knows, he was very human, and Iâ€™m sure he would not want to be remembered that way. Nevertheless, I kept him pretty perfect in my heart and mind. So, when Jimmy came along, three years after my Dadâ€™s passing, I wasnâ€™t sure how that was going to work. I mean, I had a Dad. He passed away. But, he was still, first and foremost, MY Dad, and Jimmy coming into the picture was absolutely not, in my mind, going to compromise that.
But, in true Jimmy fashion, he had the emotional intelligence to pick up on both mine and my sisterâ€™s feelings of who OUR Dad was. He made it clear on more than one occasion that he would never take the place of our Dad, who was, in his words, â€śa great man.â€ť But, that heâ€™d like to love us, too. That was conflicting for me and probably my sister for many years. In my mind, I needed to keep them separate. Thereâ€™s my Dad and, then, thereâ€™s Jimmy. And, I like him. I want to love him. But, he needs to know his place.
Thirty-one years later, nobody knew his place better. Over time, heâ€™d become the king of our hearts. After being married to a lovely woman, Shirley, for many years (and, way before my Mom came into his life) and conceiving and raising two of the most beautiful girls inside and out, our â€śsisters by love,â€ť Vicki and Pam, he married my Mom. And, along with his new (and, quite a bit younger ) wife, he inherited two kids who were resistant to any man other than their Dad being in their lives and home.
And, you know what, Jimmy rocked it. Day in and out, he edified us, encouraged us, corrected us and loved us. He didnâ€™t have to, but he did. And, it paid off in spades for us and him. As he would say, he had â€śtwo daughters by blood and two daughters by love.â€ť We were not bound to Jimmy genetically, but through thirty-one years of life with him, we were and will always be bound to him by spirit.
In our grief, itâ€™s so hard to find a silver lining. But, the truth is, in order to find that silver lining, thereâ€™s got to be a cloudy day. After losing our beloved Dad, God sent us an unlikely angel in Jimmy who loved us up and raised us up in our Dadâ€™s physical absence. And, in the wake of losing Jimmy, God delivered the most precious baby boy in River. The greatest gift is that God saw to it that Jimmy was able to meet his grandson before he made the ultimate trip to heaven.
While my heart grieves, my mind knows that, without question, I was twice blessed with the two greatest Dads that any child could ever ask for. I also feel pressed to find the silver lining, cling to the blessing that both my Dads were and will always be and pour every ounce of love they blessed me with into this beautiful baby boy.
Friends, I know this â€śblobâ€ť is heavier than most. But, itâ€™s really a declaration of gratitude and great reminder that though sometimes the clouds seem to roll in, thereâ€™s always a silver lining if we look hard enough.
Just as I encourage myself, I encourage each of you to look for it. Reach for it. Live it. Life is short and precious. BE the sunshine, the blessing of a silver lining in someoneâ€™s cloudy day.
Just four short days after giving birth to an 8 lb 11 oz hambone of a baby boy, River Williams Parish, my husband and I were up and off to see the pediatrician. Lawdhammercy, what a feat! It seemed like it took us an eternity to wake, feed, burp, change, dress, load and head out. Once we were in the car and around the block, River started to cry. But, not to worry, his Mom, yours truly, is in the back with him singing every Beatles song I can recall because, who can cry when hearing the Beatles? River can. Yes, apparently, even the sweet sound of the Beatles couldnâ€™t soothe River. Then there was the diaper bagâ€¦ You know, the one we forgot. My husband said, â€śJill, do you really think he’s going to need a diaper change between the time we leave, make the appointment and get back home?â€ť I nod my head, â€śYes, heâ€™ll probably need fifteen. My-lanta!â€ť
We finally get to the parking lot of the pediatricianâ€™s office. Of course, thereâ€™s nowhere to park. So, my husband parks illegally. Friends, let me tell you this one thing, Iâ€™m a rule follower. Not parking in an actual parking space challenged everything in me. We get out of our illegally parked car, and Patrick, my husband, trucks it across the parking lot with baby in tow while I move at a snail speed behind him. â€śWait,â€ť I yell at Patrick. A car was pulling out near where we were illegally parked. â€śGive me the keys, and Iâ€™ll get the car parked in that space.â€ť And, without a thought, my tall, brawny, linebackeresque husband hell maryâ€™d the keys over his shoulder and into the sky so high that I completely lost sight of them. I threw my arms up in the air and I shrieked, â€śARE. YOU. EXPLICATIVE (donâ€™t judge). KIDDING. ME.â€ť Poor Patrick looked back at me like heâ€™d seen the devil then forged into the office to a) get our son checked into his first appointment ever and b) get the heck away from his wildly hormonal and sleep deprived wife.
I bent down to pick up the keys (which seemed like it took twenty-five minutes) and, as I stood up, a car pulled into the spot Iâ€™d planned to move into and, from periphery, I see the most perfect looking, young, energetic, boss of a Momma be-bop up the stairs with her baby. Let me guess, weâ€™re going to the same office. Glory be! I walked in, sat down quietly beside my doll of a husband and baby and looked to my left to find the perfect looking Momma who, witnessed my meltdown, sitting right beside me with her perfect baby and perfect diaper bag that she actually remembered. We exchanged pleasantries. I wanted to crawl under my chair, but I wasnâ€™t in good enough physical condition to do so, and, if I did, I might sleep through Riverâ€™s appointment.
The last three months have been comprised of countless â€śHumble me, Lordâ€ť moments. Though I was as prepared mind, body and spirit as I could be in the forty weeks and one day that I carried River, I now know that nothing can really prepare you for motherhood. And, as fixated as I was on this precious gift of an angel boy that God so generously blessed my husband and I with, I was also completely overwhelmed with the elation and exhaustion that comes with having a newborn baby. Oh, and the diapers and butt paste, well wishes and gifts, fluctuating hormones and on demand feedings. There have been and continue to be so many things happening and changing that I still cannot compute them all.
I think sleep deprivation must be by design. It forces you to forget all the hurdles and remember every smile, every coo and every single warm snuggle. I can barely remember a day without River. Having him is my greatest reward, and, as cliche as it may sound, my greatest adventure.
Being a Mom for such a short period of time has changed me, challenged my purpose and exposed my shortcomings. I wish I could tell you that Iâ€™ve got it all together, but Iâ€™d be lying. What I can tell you is I know today that, above all, Iâ€™m Riverâ€™s Mom, and thatâ€™s the greatest title Iâ€™ll ever hold. No other responsibility will ever trump him. My sole purpose in life is to love him, care for him and raise him up to know the God that created him. And, though my shortcomings are infinite in number, I hope the best in me, the God in me, will shine through in such a way that the bad sifts through like sand and the good flows into this baby boy like water.
To all the Moms out there, my ten gallon hat is off to you. We exist because of you. The good and the glorious things in this life are a byproduct of all the goodness youâ€™ve poured into your little ones. When I struggle, I know that you have walked before me in the same struggle. And, when I look at my baby and smile and he smiles back, I bask in the same joy you have so many times before. Babies are Godâ€™s gift and a great reminder that a little bit of heaven resides in all of us.
I got married a little later in life. My husband, too. We were married for a couple of years before we started trying to conceive. Biologically, it probably wasnâ€™t the smartest thing to do, wait, that is. But, we were both old enough to have seen enough marriages fall apart early on. So, it made sense to be as responsible as possible and make sure we could tolerate each other for a couple years. Things didnâ€™t happen quickly for us in terms of getting pregnant. We sought out a great fertility doctor to put us (mainly moi) through a slew of tests to see if a baby was in our future. I became extremely anxious. Two days in a row, I thought I was having a heart attack. Both days, my husband trucked me into the doctorâ€™s office. Both days, they said, â€śthis is anxiety.â€ť
Anxiety. Anxiety that I might not be able to give my precious husband a child. Anxiety that he picked the wrong girl. Anxiety that this could change the course of my relationship with him. Friends, it was a rough time. And, it was all me. My husband put absolutely no pressure on me whatsoever. One day, when I expressed to him tearfully all my anxious feelings, he kindly yet sternly replied, â€śWeâ€™re ok. You and I are ok. Iâ€™m not worried about this, and I don’t want you to be either. When I played basketball, I missed every single shot I overthought. Letâ€™s relax. Be normal.â€ť
I had never heard such comforting words. And, I had also never realized how much I loved my husband. I took that command and carried on with life- loving my husband, my family, my friends, my work with JL PARISH and all the adventure that was to come. I also prayed, â€śGod, if it is your will, I know it will be done. If it is not, I will be the best god parent to my three god children and one god dog and the best aunt to my nephew and, soon to be niece.â€ť And, you know what, I left it there.
Months and months down the line, my husband and I finished a dream project. It had consumed much energy and creativity, but it was a beautiful labor of love. Five days after weâ€™d made the final touches on that dream project, I was pregnant. How could this be? â€śSurely, this cannot be,â€ť I thought. And, yet it was.
Joy unfurled between my husband and I. My Mom having to get off of the phone after we told her and â€ścall us back in twenty minutesâ€ť because, in her words, â€śshe had to cry and get ahold of herself.â€ť My sister screaming, then going into the very, very ugly â€śOprah Cry.â€ť My brother-in-law falling to his knees, face turning red and crying tears of joy. And, my mother and father-in-law, glassy eyed, beaming from ear to ear, saying, â€śWe knew it. We knew it all along.â€ť Friends and co-workers and neighbors and perfect strangers extended that same joy from well wishes to thoughtful, precious, generous gifts.
At 39 weeks and 4 days, I sit here with thighs that touch as if theyâ€™re best friends, a belly that could rival any Cave City watermelon, boobs that have never been bigger but never looked smaller and a smile thatâ€™s never been wider. I am blessed beyond measure. And, I hinge all my hope in my Creator, the same one that made possible, what at one point, seemed impossible. As the saying goes, â€śI do not know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.â€ť And, my husband and I are counting on that same God as we enter the uncertainty that comes with labor and delivery, oh, and actually raising a child. Sweet Baby Jesus, be with me. Be with my husband. Be with my family. And, be with this baby that we will soon meet.
While I share personal things here, this one is just a bit more soâ€¦ you know, personal. But, I share it because I think we all have things in life that weâ€™re striving for. All the time I say to myself, â€śTrust in Him, Jill.â€ť Then, I find myself hopelessly fumbling around in my own humanity thwarted with fear and anxiety only to return to that same thought, â€śTrust in Him, Jill.â€ť While His ways are not our own, His ways are perfect. While His timing is not our timing, His timing is perfect. He is a faithful, on time, able God. He isnâ€™t a passive God but an active one. We must never forget that. And, the best part about God is that heâ€™s accessible to us all- no matter how far we are from him, we are still within His reach, His grasp to pick us up and re-direct our path.
Thereâ€™s nobody like God. Nobody as faithful. Nobody as powerful. Nobody as creative. Nobody, no, nobody like God. And, you know what else, thereâ€™s NOBODY like you. We are each created in His image, put on this planet to be used for His purposes, and we are ALL perfect in His sight.
Friends, be blessed by the message of hope today that we have because of who our God is. May we all share in one anotherâ€™s blessings, scattering joy wherever we can. And, may our hope be hinged on the Creator of All.
I donâ€™t know about yâ€™all, but I wait to get everything in my house in order an hour before I know someone is coming over. And, I do mean everything. My routine consists of pushing all my piles of stuff into one localized and unseen area like a closet or drawer. I sprint around the house with my Shark hand vac, sucking up all the visible clumps of dog hair and dirt. Then, I methodically run hot water in one side of my kitchen sink before pouring â€ślavender scentâ€ť Fabuloso into it. Why? So that it will seem as if â€śJill, the good housekeeperâ€ť arduously mopped before her guests arrival. The pillows, of course, are fluffed, flowers are watered (thereâ€™s no sight more lovely than my well watered, dead flowers) and the most fabulous candle in the house is lit. So, when my guests walk through the door, their pathway is clear of dog hair, guided by the light of that fabulous candle into my living room where they can smell my oh so clean floors (wink, wink). June Cleaverâ€™s got nothing on this girl.
The truth is, June Cleaverâ€™s got everything on this girl. I cannot pour enough â€ślavender scentâ€ť Fabuloso into my sink to fool people into thinking that Iâ€™ve mopped my floors because I havenâ€™t. The bottom line is, Iâ€™m not perfect. And, my home isnâ€™t perfect. No matter how hard I try to create an illusion of perfection, I will always and forever fall short. Thatâ€™s a cold, hard fact.
I think perfection is like the plague. We all have it on some level. The questions is, â€śhow sick is it making us?â€ť Photographs on social media are posted with filters, ensuring the perfect light for the perfect pic of our perfect, non-aging, gloriously happy face. Weâ€™re able to create an image of what we want people to see from the traveling yogi to the die hard Democrat to the parent of the most athletic child in the world. Or, on the other side, we see the perfect depiction of the damsel in total distress with the passive â€śprayers please,â€ť to indicate that somethingâ€™s wrong without telling us so that weâ€™ll ask, ask, ask. Why would one do that? Because their Pinterest perfect posts were not even enough. Now, we have to sink to a new level of getting people to notice us.
The truth is, weâ€™re all struggling- struggling to be the perfect this or that. We work so hard to create an illusion that will impress others when, in fact, weâ€™ve got piles of our own â€śstuffâ€ť spilling out of drawers and busting out of closets. And, the worst part is, itâ€™s exhausting. A zillion times over, Iâ€™ve said and continue to say that weâ€™re living in a world that works day in and out to make us something other than what we really are. I have a problem with that. Iâ€™m not June Cleaver. I never will be. I need to stop creating the illusion that I am. I donâ€™t even have a Jello Mold anyway (Alan Boring, donâ€™t you dare judge me). So, who the heck did I think I was fooling?
I want to be me. Good old, hot mess, well intended, â€ślavender scentâ€ť Fabuloso loving me. And, I want the attention of those who know the real me and still want to be a part of my life. I donâ€™t want to have to be somebody else. I want to be me. And, you know what else I want? In 2017, I want you to join me in being YOU. Not the Pinterest perfect version of you, but the real YOU. Because thatâ€™s whoâ€™s loved and respected.
In the last year or so, a beloved friend of mine and awesomely positive Facebook Buddy, Jennifer Barnett McCann has shared her journey. She is quick to let you know that it hasnâ€™t been an easy one and that, leading up to it, she didnâ€™t necessarily like the person she was at times, but that, darnit, she was on the journey and getting better. Iâ€™ve been so inspired by her soul truthfulness, her choice to see sunshine instead of storm clouds and the audacity to stand in that truth, own it, tell it and transform others by it. Itâ€™s gritty. And, thereâ€™s something about that that really appeals to me. Sheâ€™s not striving for perfection. Sheâ€™s striving to be better.
I wonder what our lives would look like collectively, if we all simply followed suit and stood in our own truths. If, instead of living perfectly, we lived truthfully- each day striving to be better, not perfect. How beautifully imperfect we would be. And, instead of creating the illusion of a clean house or perfect life, that weâ€™d live in the â€śgritâ€ť a bit more, appreciating the here and now and being present for what is and whatâ€™s to come.
Hereâ€™s to an imperfect 2017. One thatâ€™s filled with impromptu visits from family and friends, stepping into our unclean homes. Bodies that arenâ€™t ready for swimsuit season but put their bathing suit on and cannonball into the water with reckless abandon. Photographs that may not show our best side but, instead, show the fun time we were having. Stories of hearts filled and hearts broken. And, instead of sharing what we think others want to know about us, we share who and what we really are, both good and bad. Adios to 2016â€™s Pinterest perfect mentality and hello to an imperfectly, perfect, downright gritty, beautiful 2017.
Happy New Year,