waiting

I woke up at 2:46 a.m. with my thoughts bouncing around my head at warp speed. It’s unusual for me to do that. In fact, I like my sleep. A lot.

My mom said that whenever she finds herself awakened in the middle of the night, she prays for people. I probably should do that too. But instead, I find myself making lists of things I need to do: running through party plans for Charlie, worrying about getting the house ready for a afternoon showing tomorrow, thinking about what I am going to wear to church…

so now, here I am… writing…and thinking. Because I can’t stop.

I don’t know if it has something to do with my age, or the stage of life that I’m in right now, but I can’t help but feel like I’m stuck in a waiting room of sorts. Like things are meant to happen…just not yet.

When I go to the doctor’s office, I usually pick up a last month’s crinkled up copy of People magazine and catch up on a little important reading. I flip through the pages of Parents magazine and ponder all of the ways that I’m doing the “parent” thing wrong. I play stupid games on my phone. At first, waiting isn’t so bad. But after I’ve read every magazine and run out of things to “google” on my phone, I start getting antsy and bored: two emotions that are almost always followed by irritation and frustration. Will it EVER be my turn? Has the doctor forgotten about me?

I’m waiting now. So I read about people who are doing world-changing things. I see photos of hungry children and the hopeless. I hear stories of people fulfilling their God-created purpose in their lives, and I wonder…what does God have planned for me? What does He want for my little family? What does He see for our future? When will I begin to fulfill His purpose for my life?

Some of you may read that and think I’m being silly or dramatic. Others may read it and think that I’m saying that I’m unhappy with my life or that I don’t love being a mother and wife. That’s not what I’m saying. Motherhood and marriage are God-given purposes. I love being a mother and a wife…but there is a stirring in my heart too. It’s why I’m awake right now. Maybe it’s dramatic, but maybe it’s something else.

When I talk to people about my feeling of unrest, I think it makes them nervous. Like I’m going to do some crazy Thelma and Louise kind of thing. They say things like, “Well, maybe you just need to go to the gym.” or “Why don’t you go to lunch with some of your friends?” because they want to fix it for me.  It’s a loving and sweet thing to do, but it’s not really what I need. I can’t fix the waiting. I just have do it. I have to wait. And that is not something that I’m really good at.

Just when I begin to feel irritated  or frustrated, just when I think, “Will it EVER be my turn? Has He forgotten about me?” I’m reminded of His command to “Be still and know that I am God” and the beautiful promise of Jeremiah 29:11 – ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘Plans to help you and not to harm you. To give you a future and a hope.’ ” and those feelings of unrest turn into feelings of expectation.

Because I know that He has good things planned. And it gives me the strength to wait a little longer.

 

 

 

 

God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy.

Back in the 90’s, when family sit-coms were all the rage, there was a show on T.V. called Home Improvement. It was huge. If you’ve never heard of it, you either grew up on another planet, or were not lucky enough to be a Generation X’er. Sad for you. You missed out on getting to wear Doc Martins and oversized plaid shirts. It was awesome.

Home Improvement came on T.V. waaaaay back before TiVo and DVR’s were invented. In 1991, you couldn’t just watch a show on Hulu or catch up later on Netflix. Your only option was to watch it when it actually aired on television. When Thursday at 7:00 rolled around, homework was put on hold, dinner dishes were left in the sink, and life stopped for 30 minutes. Unless you remembered to set your VHS machine to record the show. And let’s face it: you had to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to set those things.

Home Improvement was one of those “can’t miss” shows for our family. If I close my eyes right this moment I can still hear my dad cackling with laughter at Tim Allen’s antics.

Anyway- on the show there was this neighbor – Wilson I think – who was always peeking his head over the fence to give Tim advice. On the show, Tim relished in the inexplicable wisdom of his mysterious neighbor. Wilson was wise, he was a great listener. He always knew just the right thing to say when Tim needed him.

Wilson-home-improvement-tv-show-30858877-372-500

source

We have a neighbor kind of like Wilson in that he likes to poke his head over the fence and give us plenty of advice. But that’s where his similarities to Tim Allen’s friend ends.

I don’t relish our “Wilson”‘s  mysterious wisdom. Our “Wilson” doesn’t make me cackle out loud. Our “Wilson” likes to tell us how to take care of our yard and anonymously call City Code Compliance when the grass gets too high. Our “Wilson” likes to brag about himself loudly and often. Our “Wilson” makes it hard to “love thy neighbor”.

While it’s been difficult to love our neighbor over the last 3 years, this week, it became even more difficult. This week, he cornered David while he was trying to mow the grass to give us unsolicited advice about our move. In a few short minutes, he berated our choice of realtor and price of our house listing, and then proceeded to say that homeschooling was kind of pointless since we live in such a great school district, and that I should just go back to work…. because, “Jennifer has lots of marketable skills. I’m sure she’d be an asset to any company.”

Oh, Wilson. You’re such a character.

Maybe it’s just me, but there is a (large) part of me that wants to come off the ropes like a WWF wrestler and put people like Wilson in a choke hold. Thankfully, there’s another part of me that actually remembers what it feels like to receive grace and reminds me that I can be just as big of a pain in the rear as Wilson.

The thing is, he’s right. Not about our realtor choice or the house pricing, but about the school and work thing. I mean, it makes sense that I would just send Avery to the neighborhood school, Charlie to Day Care, and go back to work full time. That is the logical answer. Work harder, make more money, see your kids less, and make sacrifices so that you can stay in a big, pretty house. Wilson wasn’t too far off the grid with his advice. But while that may be the answer for most people, it’s not what God wants our family to do right now.

One of my favorite country song lyrics is: God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy. Because

a. it’s funny

b. it’s kind of true.

Country music has a way of simplifying even the most complex issues in a few short lines. People are crazy. The thing is, I’m starting to realize that there are people who may think that I am the crazy one.

While I’ve had lots of supportive comments from my equally nutty friends (you know who you are, ya crazy nut balls), there are many others who think that David and I are legitimately and certifiably insane for making the choices we are making. I could choose to get my feelings hurt about that, or I could just admit that they are right. We are weird and we are making totally out of the ordinary, abnormal choices.

Working toward total debt freedom is not normal. Living below your means is strange. Being a stay-at-home-mom is crazy when you could just work. Homeschooling is a little nutty.

When you are not normal, people have a tendency to either avoid you or try to change you, because doing something that’s not normal makes people feel uncomfortable.

After a lifetime of seeking the acceptance of others, I’ll admit that not caring about people’s perceptions is a tough corner for me to turn. It’s hard to do, but I’m getting there.

Until I do, Wilson better keep his head on his side of the fence or this Mommy’s going to go Ninja on a brother.

when your dreams change.

Not very long ago, God gave me my dream house. It was a house in the perfect neighborhood and the perfect school district. It was a corner lot in a cove. It had all the little details that I always dreamed of having in a home. I remember walking in the house the day that we signed the papers and dreaming of all the things that our family would do together in our home. I pictured Avery walking down the stairs in her prom gown, Charlie practicing the drums in a converted attic space, and David and I growing old together in that house.  Before we ever moved in, I prayed over each room and asked that God would take the gift He had given us and allow us to use it for His glory. It would be a home filled with love, prayer, laughter, and music. And I never wanted to move. Ever.

That’s why it seems totally crazy that just a few short years later, I can’t wait to leave it behind.

I guess I should explain myself, huh?

The last year and a half has been a year of refinement for me. A time where God has stripped away a lot of the things and relationships that I thought were really important in my life. Being refined can be really, truly painful.  But this year and a half hasn’t only been about “stripping away”, God has given me things too. Awesome things that I always thought I wanted. Things that had a whole lot to do with what I thought my life should look like. Things on my super long “life check list”.  My house was definitely way up high on that list.

Thinking back, I’m convinced that God gave me exactly what I asked for so that I would begin to realize how unsatisfying loving “stuff” is. It seemed that the longer we lived in our house, the tighter things became for us financially. Pipes started to burst, the roof started to leak, and our our beautiful house started to feel more like a prison than a palace. Financial stress is horrible. It’s suffocating. It steals the joy from your life. It’s not the way that I want to live – even if I do have a beautiful house.

I used to think that life was full of huge, important choices and that one wrong choice could change the course of your life forever. I don’t feel that way any more. I’ve come to realize that when you have a relationship with a good and gracious God, He can take even the worst choices and turn them around for His glory. God is such a loving Father. He never forces you to learn something. Instead, He patiently waits for you to have that “ah – ha” moment. He will allow you to have the things that you ask for (even if it’s not His perfect plan), and when you finally wake up and realize that you’ve made the wrong choice, He will take you by the hand and gently lead you to the right one.

Slowly, slowly, over the last year or so… through people, through books, through events, through loss and gain, God has been gently leading me.

In the book Kisses From Katie, Katie Davis said something that totally made sense to me. She said that she’d always read the scripture verse “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” and assumed that it meant that if she loved God that He would give her a great job, a great home, a great husband and family. Those were always the things that she desired. Just like every American girl. Then she went to Africa. And God changed the desires of her heart. Her desires weren’t things anymore – they were people. They were God’s glory. God’s will. Those were the things that she desired. And those are the things that he gave her. He gave her the desires of her heart.

For most of my life, I’ve been busy desiring approval, position, and possessions. My mouth says that I value God, family, giving, and living with freedom, but my life says that I value people’s perceptions, my house, and all my stuff more.

Like He did for Katie Davis, God is changing my desires. For the first time in a long time, I really, truly, desire His plan. Not mine.

After a lot of discussion and prayer, David and I believe that God is prompting us to get rid of all of our debt and to live below our means. That means doing something that most people will think is crazy. It means selling my beautiful house in the perfect neighborhood and moving back into an itty bitty house.

It also means that we will be able to do things we haven’t been able to do in three years.  We will be able to travel when we want to. We will be able to give generously. We can plan for the future. Most importantly, we can finally dump all of the stress that living at the very edge of a paycheck has brought.

Ron Reynolds said, “Debt freedom is the one freedom that makes all other freedoms possible.” I’ve always believed it, but never lived like I did. I’m ready to change that.

Let’s start the next chapter.

our favorite Disney moments – part 1

Our trip to Disney World this year was so fun…for the most part. We hit a snag when Charlie got the stomach bug one day and then passed it along to Avery, but even a stomach bug can’t keep you down when you are at the Happiest Place on Earth.

These are our favorite moments from the beginning part of our trip. Tomorrow I’ll add the second part. I just didn’t want to flood this post with 8 million photos. That would be super obnoxious.

So instead, I’ll only show you half of the ridiculous amount of photos I have of my cute kids at Disney World. And half tomorrow. Because that is only half as obnoxious. You’re welcome.

Let’s start with the plane ride, shall we?

airplaneSomebody was super jazzed about heading to Disney.

We stayed at The Contemporary Resort this year. It was crazy amazing. The lobby smells like what I think Heaven might smell like: coffee, gardenias, and soap.

contemporary resortCharlie and Avery were obsessed with the carpet in the hallway. They called it “Green Eggs and Ham” carpet. Charlie liked to jump from green egg to green egg all the way to our room. Needless to say, it took us a while to get down the hallway every night.

contemporary hallsLike a total dummy, I didn’t remember to charge the batteries on my camera before we went to the park that night. I took photos on my phone and put them on Instagram though. So… check that out if you want to see those photos.

Day 2 –

We had lunch reservations at Yak and Yeti, so we decided to head to The Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning (FYI – when you are on “Tillman Time”, “first thing” means like…noonish. I think we were born on the wrong continent. We hate rushing.)

Apparently, my kids think they are models. That’s truth. I did NOT tell them to pose like this. I feel compelled to say that. And I’m a little frightened by it to be honest with you.

sunglasses

1st day at parkWe went on a few rides, and then ate lunch at Yak and Yeti. If you’ve never eaten there, I highly recommend it. I had this amazing ahi tuna salad. Fantastic.

animal kingdom maskWhen Animal Kingdom closed for the day, we headed to eat dinner at Boma – a buffet style restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food was good, but it would have tasted better if it weren’t so expensive. Avery loved sampling every dessert they had.

boma dessertsThat night, The Magic Kingdom was open for extra magic hours until 3 am. Crazy, right? So – after dinner, we rode the bus to The Magic Kingdom. The crowds became virtually non-existent as the night went on, so we were able to do a ton of rides without waiting. The weather was much cooler and…it was awesome.

poo at nightWe were super excited about being able to try out the new Ariel ride and the Enchanted Tales with Belle experience.

enchanted talesThe girl in the picture above is the most unhappy Disney employee ever. I think that it was around 1 am when I took this. She was d.o.n.e. and not even trying to look like she wasn’t. Belle however, was as lovely as ever.

enchanted tales with belle

mosaicWe had so much fun exploring the park at night without any crowds or heat. That night was by far the most fun I had during our vacation. It felt like we had the park all to ourselves. tangled lights

Day 3 – Epcot day

mickey icecreamThe above photo is the Obligatory Mickey Ice Cream Bar photo. A must have.

By the way – what in the WORLD is this smile that Charlie has been doing lately? He’s totally humoring me, which I appreciate and all, but man…

This next smile, however, is totally genuine:

meeting mickeyAs is this one…

laughing at plutoMy kids really love doing the Phineas and Ferb experience at Epcot. They think it’s so cool that you can make things turn on and discover hidden objects in every exhibit of The World Showcase.

playing phineas and ferbWe had dinner that night at Teppan Edo in the Japan area of Epcot. I adore this restaurant. Yummy food and great service. Last year, they made origami swans for the kids and gave them to them before we got to the table. This year, they didn’t do that. After dinner we asked the hostess for one, and she gladly gave both of the kids their own paper swan. If you ask for it, you can usually get it at Disney. I love that.

teppan edoAfter we came back to the hotel from Epcot, we let Charlie and Avery get a little gift from the gift shop in the resort. Charlie proceeded to take over the lobby of The Contemporary in true pirate style.

captain in contemporaryHe liked his patch so much that he decided to wear it to the park the next day.

Day 4 – Hollywood Studios

captain coolAt Hollywood Studios, we spent a good amount of time visiting characters since that’s what our kids wanted to do. How cute is Vanellope, by the way?

VANELLOPEOne of the things I always try to do when my kids meet characters in Disney World is to figure out a way for the characters to interact with my kids. Since the characters don’t talk, this requires a bit of imagination. I think it’s more memorable for the kids to “do” something with them than just to take a photo with them. I’ve found that the characters always jump at the chance to “do” something if they can.

I told Jake that Charlie was the best sword fighter I knew, and he grabbed a pen for him and a pen for Charlie and they had a sword fight. Of course, Jake let Charlie win and fell to the ground quite dramatically. It was awesome.

swordfighting with jake

We roared with Sully…

roaring with sully

…and flexed with the Incredibles characters. We even had a group hug before we left.

flexing with incrediblesI think vacation is about enjoying the little moments, taking your time, and not stressing out. We didn’t go from dawn until dusk every day. We didn’t wake up early. We took our time. We didn’t get to do everything on the “schedule”, but we had fun and made tons of family memories.

disney balloonsTomorrow, I’ll finish up our photos from the rest of our trip.

See ‘ya real soon (sorry. I know, I know.)

Jen. Not Jenny.

It’s my first post and to commemorate the occasion, I thought that I would go over a few ground rules. I guess there’s just one, really. But it’s a big one. As I type this, it occurs to me that it may not be the most endearing way to start a new blog – naming your annoyances I mean – but it’s something that must be said.

My name is Jennifer. I was born in 1977 and according to my extensive Google search, “Jennifer” was the number one girl’s name during the year of my birth. While some people prefer super trendy or unusual names for their children, (i.e: Rainbow, North, Apple) my parents were and still are super mainstream. As a result, I have an outrageous number of friends who share my name. I was never the only “Jennifer” in my age group. In fact, in every classroom that I can remember my name was “Jennifer H.”. In Middle School my BFF was named Jennifer. We nicknamed ourselves J2 (that’s J-squared – as in Jennifer to the second power). Not because we were Junior Mathletes, but because we were…Middle Schoolers. And let’s face it: Middle Schoolers are strange.

Most people have nicknames. Especially those of us with longer first names and/or common first names. And honestly, I get the whole “nickname” thing. It’s a sign that someone likes you (or can’t stand you), it’s a sign that you are loved (or not).
It’s what people do. I accept that.
But there’s just one rule:
You can call me Jen, you can call me Jennifer…you can call me whatever. But do not call me Jenny.

That’s not my name.

The details of my disdain for the name “Jenny” originate way back when I was in first grade. That year, there were three Jennifer’s in our class: Jennifer H., Jennifer K., and … Jenny. Jenny stole people’s erasers and smelled like green beans. True story.

Sure, it’s been a few decades since I was in first grade. And I have no doubt that poor Jenny-Green-Beans has discovered that no one really needs 8 million tiny scented erasers by now. She’s probably become a really nice woman who gives back to her community and smells just lovely. But I’m still not committed to taking her name.
Some things just can’t be undone.

Names are important. I read that somewhere. If you can remember someone’s name it makes them feel loved. Thought of. Considered.
So – remember…It’s Jen. Not Jenny.