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,
When I think about one of the great gifts living on this earth brings, watching a sunrise or sunset is at the tip-top. Itâ€™s grand and beautiful and powerful and faithful. A cloud may cover a portion of it but only for a while. And, even so, it is still there- faithfully.
Several years back, after starting a diet (for the 95th time) and falling prey to the donuts that some â€śangel/devilâ€ť brought to an early morning meeting, my beloved friend and sister in Christ, Kelly Hornsby, shared a verse that I was partly familiar with. â€śGreat is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.â€ť I needed that verse at that time, my head held low and my running shorts tighter from my well intended â€śgood eating dayâ€ť gone very much awry. Iâ€™d heard â€śGreat is His faithfulness.â€ť But, never had I heard the remainder of that verse. It shook my spirit up in the most powerful way. God is always faithful in the midst of our faithlessness. And, His compassion, forgiveness and favor for us, all of us, is new every single day.
Those donuts are really a great analogy for things that get into our spiritual way and trip up who and how we really want to be. We can be moving along ever so smoothly and kindly until someone cuts us off on the freeway or smacks their gum or that one temptation weâ€™re always contending with rears its head in the sneakiest of ways, and, as my Sister would say â€śBAM (well, really, with her Texas accent itâ€™s more like, â€śBAAAAAYM)â€ť the devilâ€™s got us in a headlock. We failed. We let ourselves down. We hurt someone. We committed some unforgivable act. Yet, we are forgiven. Why? Because, my friends, His mercies are new every darn day. And, because of that, we can lift our heads and start again. We can forgive ourselves because we are forgiven. No matter how jacked up our lives get, Godâ€™s still got us. And, if we choose to follow Him, weâ€™ll never be separated from that.
My favorite verse from Maya Angelouâ€™s poem, â€śStill I Rise,â€ť reads â€śjust like suns and moons, with the certainty of tides, just like hope springing high, still I rise.â€ť Out of the nighttime sky, the sun rises in complete and total splendor. Yesterday is history. Today, it faithfully brings a new and somewhat familiar gift- an opportunity to rise, ascend and be at one with our Creator because we know that just like suns and moons, He rises in His children through His continual grace and mercy toward us. While it is new and very much the same, GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS. That, my friends, is the sparkliest, most divinely packaged gift of them all. And, we donâ€™t just experience it once a year, under a tree. Itâ€™s ours 3-6-5!
At this time of the year, we celebrate the Light of the World who, in fact, entered this world in a time of spiritual darkness. He wasnâ€™t born in some fancy-shmancy palace like an earthly prince might be. Instead, He was born in a trough used to feed livestock. He came into the world humbly and ascended into the heavens just as scripture predicted. Not even death could hold Him. His scripture endures because He remains the light of the world. In all things that are good, we see Him. And, though we are not â€śall good,â€ť we are His and His compassion, favor, forgiveness and, in one word, mercy, endures in His beloved (thatâ€™s you and me) forever.
At times, I find it difficult to show mercy toward someone who has hurt me or someone I love. And, while I know, itâ€™s hard for me, I know that, no matter how deep the offense committed or hurt caused, itâ€™s no task at all for our Savior. He loves us in spite of our humanity, and He is quick to show His mercy. In this season, I hope that, like me, you all will strive to remember this. God is faithful, just like the sun, to all of us, not just a select group of us. His mercies are not just for the small, â€śsmacking gumâ€ť kind of offenses, but the big ones, too. This year, I pray that, in receiving that gift, we will also grant ourselves the gift of â€śnew merciesâ€ť toward someone that, in our minds, may not deserve it, but would humbly and gratefully receive it. May we all walk and live in his BIG, bright light.
Merry Christmas, my friends! If you do one thing this season, for the love of Jesus, SHINE BRIGHT!
Yesterday morning the pastor at Fellowship Bible Church of Dallas put on a clinic. You know what I mean? He laid it down. Spoke the truth. And, I donâ€™t think one human left there uninspired or not in deep thought about what they need to do more of in and for their faith.
He was preaching from 2 Timothy where Paul is, basically, urging Timothy to live out the faith thatâ€™s been handed down to him in such a way that it inspires others to live in and for Christ. And, then he posed this questionâ€¦ â€śIf someone was following your example, what would their life look like?â€ť Oh, geez. What would their life look like if they were following me? Well, theyâ€™d eat a lot of RoRoâ€™s Cinnamon Rolls. Theyâ€™d always carry some sort of lip balm. Theyâ€™d make lists with some things that have already been done and check them off so that they would have a little momentum built into their to-doâ€™s. And, the list goes on.
My point here is that if this is the only type of example Iâ€™m setting, weâ€™ll have bellies full of sweet rolls, well moisturized lips and dwindling to do lists. But, how deep is that? How will that really impact the life of the one following and those that follow their example? Now, as an aside, I do want to make clear that RoRoâ€™s Cinnamon rolls are somewhat life changing (and, local and available at Central Market and Whole Foods frozen section). But, I started thinking, I want to be more. Yes, I want to see more of the change that I view as being necessary in this world. And, if I want to see it, I must be it (sweet Jesus, Iâ€™m channeling my inner Ghandi here). Why? Because, whether we know it or not, someone is always watching, learning, and, often, following our example. And, if thatâ€™s the case, Lord knows, I want to be a good one.
In this rocky political landscape, weâ€™ve all witnessed some straight up ugliness. I mean, â€śput a bag over itâ€ť kind of ugly. We sit behind our smart phones and computers and lay bare our innermost opinions. And, while we want everything and everyone to be inclusive, those with unlike beliefs are often excluded. If you vote for this or that candidate, then youâ€™re x, y and z. Itâ€™s all black and white with absolutely no gray in between. When I think of some of the things Iâ€™d like to see more of in the world, acceptance comes to mind.
I understand that weâ€™re not all going to agree all the time, but we can accept a difference in opinion. And, instead of being divisive, we can learn to be more diplomatic. Itâ€™s amazing what we can learn from one another when weâ€™re open to the thoughts and experiences and opinions of others. The more open we are, the more hope for change there will be.
In order to be the change, I must think about what type of example I want to be and diligently pursue living it out. In seeking more acceptance, Iâ€™m going to strive to live out a life that models just that. And, hopefully, inspire someone to do the same. Our examples have a ripple effect, we must never forget that.
What will it be for you? What change are you already or will you be in this precious world we live in?