SJ’s Hearing Anniversary

When someone receives the cochlear implant surgery they don’t hear anything until they get activated. This happens once the incision heals and they go to an audiologist for the external parts (the processor that goes over your ear). What the surgery does is implant the internal parts in the head but these parts are useless without the external processor and even the processor is useless without the mapping. A mapping is when an audiologist turns the device on and customizes the settings for each individual. This is maintained periodically as sometimes mappings can change.

So when a deaf person hears for the first time by way of a cochlear implant that day is often referred to as their hearing birthday. It’s not the surgery day, but the activation day and it’s special.

We don’t actually celebrate SJ’s hearing birthday. I’m not against it but SJ’s path to hearing took a lot longer than we expected. She had her first surgery for her right ear on November 5th 2012.

Her activation day was right before Thanksgiving. We were eager to see her respond to sound and anxious for her to say her first words. We had our video camera in hand ready to capture the life-changing moment, but were left disappointed when she didn’t seem to really enjoy this new world of sound. Even worse, she didn’t seem to react at all.

In the office that day we were given a giant case full of all the pieces and instructions that went along with SJ’s new hearing device and we were sent on our way. SJ immediately rejected the idea of keeping that magnet on her head so for the car ride home I just held the processor in my hand and SJ was more than content to ride along in silence in the backseat. As J left the parking lot I started crying looking down at this “medical miracle” in my hand knowing that I was holding something worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I was so overwhelmed. What if it got lost or broken? How am I supposed to be qualified to deal with this?  Why doesn’t she want to wear it? At that point I had so much to learn about the difference between reusable and disposable batteries, how to adjust the magnet strength, locking and unlocking, using the dryer etc. It felt like too much.

“What am I supposed to do with this thing?” I mustered out through my tears. I wanted a practical solution at that moment because I didn’t have anywhere to put the processor other than back in the giant case which was in the trunk. I was also asking a deeper question: What am I supposed to do with this thing… over the next few years and for the rest of her life. As doubts and fears swirled through my mind I felt the weight of the world on me wondering if my daughter would ever be able to hear and speak and if not would it be my fault? J was dealing with the pressure in his own way and basically responded in a short tone that implied that we needed to suck it up because if we fail everything falls apart. A fight erupted between us and for a moment I was glad that SJ wasn’t able to hear.

I thought about all the videos I had seen online of deaf kids and adults hearing for the first time and it was always so magical. Here we were in an emotional minefield that was anything but magical.

After that, all the questions poured in through social media, texts and people in person. Everyone wanted to hear about the big moment where SJ could finally hear for the first time. I managed to put a positive spin on it, explaining how it wasn’t this instant transition but something we would see her respond to gradually. I left out all the crying and fighting and how our two-year-old pretty much hated the entire process.

We still had hope though. We knew that the cochlear implants themselves were only a part of the puzzle and that SJ needed teachers, therapists, and a team that would allow her to decode all these new sounds and learn to piece together her own words. That’s when we sought out Ohio Valley Voices, one of the greatest schools in the nation that helps deaf children speak. She started at the beginning of 2013 and had cochlear implant surgery on her left ear a few weeks later.

While I loved the school I was still anxious for her first words because her third birthday came and went and we had yet to really see much progress. Then one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the whole journey happened when some of the directors sat down with me to inform me that they didn’t think SJ could really hear. What!? I said. She just had a majorly invasive and wildly expensive surgery which by the way eliminates any residual hearing she did have. It’s supposed to be worth it because you gain the ability to hear with a cochlear implant, but even if she was profoundly deaf at least she could hear fireworks or loud music. Now she was down to NOTHING! We put it ALL on the line and I was being told she still couldn’t hear! They could see potential and effort on SJ’s part but something just wasn’t right. This news terrified me. The woman at the school explained that SJ could hear some really loud deliberate sounds like a chip bag being crinkled next to her ear. That’s reassuring I thought, If she is super hungry maybe she will be able to hear if someone has chips nearby. In all seriousness though, my heart plummeted at that moment.

The woman seeing the concern on my face reassured me that there was hope. She said “We think she could hear if she just had the right mapping. We recommend requesting that her audiologist turn up the volume on her devices.” Okay, I thought and I caught my breath a little. That sounds simple enough. We can do that. The problem was SJ’s audiologist was self-proclaimed “conservative” with mapping and didn’t want to overwhelm SJ with too much sound. I mentioned this to the school and they sent an email to our audiologist explaing why this was critical and recommended we get her ENT/surgeon in on it as well, which I did. Even then she barely changed anything.

After this very discouraging failed attempt, the director of Ohio Valley Voices had a special meeting with me and with an urgency she explained how the ideal window of speech and language was closing for SJ. I started to panic again. I felt like I was failing my daughter and had no clue what to do now. That’s when I was told that the audiologist at Ohio Valley Voices was going to take on SJ’s case pro bono (because we lived out of state at the time and our insurance wouldn’t cover it). This was a huge deal and showed that we were at the right school. They had a genuine concern for our daughter and would do whatever it takes to help her. They knew that we were living in my brother’s basement with an income below poverty level and they stepped in to help anyway. I wasn’t there when they remapped SJ but the results afterward were evident. I tear up just thinking about it. Between roadblocks with hearing aids,  insurance, and doctors it felt like it was never going to happen but as soon as I opened the door to see SJ after this mapping I could tell that she HEARD the door then she heard me say her name! So many times I went in to pick her up from the nursery at church and I always said her name before she saw me in hopes that she would turn and run toward me, but she never did. For so long I wondered if she would ever hear music, or animal noises, or the words “I love you” then all at once March 12, 2013 she finally did.

Some sounds scared her a little bit and she did (and still does) like to take occasional hearing breaks, but it’s been an incredible journey. She said her first word shortly after that mapping too. She said “up” because she wanted to go upstairs. I asked her to say it again wondering if I heard it right and she said “Up” and she pointed to the stairs with her little finger in the air. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. We waited over three years for her first word and it finally happened. It was a dream come true. And that is the story of how SJ heard for the first time.

Fast forward to 2019.

Spring break was this week so SJ and my niece got to do an overnight with my mom. While there, the girls started to explore some of her makeup and jewelry. The idea popped in their heads that maybe they could get their ears pierced. My mom called and asked for my permission assuming I would shut the idea down because I am such a planner. Except I thought it sounded fun. Why not get your ears pierced on a whim with your cousin?

While I was still on the phone my mom turned to the girls and said “She said yes”. Immediate high pitch screaming erupted!

It was so cute. SJ’s ears have been such a focus because of her deafness. They’ve been sliced, stitched, examined through MRI and now she literally has flashing lights on them. I find it interesting that here we are 6 years after her hearing for the first time and her ears were the focus again, except this time it was for a different reason.

This time it is all about her being a girl wanting to have earrings like her grandma. This time was so typical and sometimes the typical is extraordinary!

 

The photos are of the girls day out. They went shopping, had donuts, pained pottery and got their ears pierced. The text is what SJ sent me from my mom’s phone. I love how she spells pierced, P-E-A-R-S.

By | March 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Should Children See Birth?

My birth plan always included a photographer but did NOT include having my children in the room.

I didn’t think I would be able to focus if my other kids were around. Except I’ve come to realize that plans hardly ever go as planned. There was a photographer but no children present at my first three births and for my last birth all three of my children were there and there was no photographer. That’s another story. The most common reaction I get when people find out my kids were there to witness the birth of their little sister is “Were they traumatized?” The answer is- No. They were not. Neither was my husband and neither was I. My oldest son who was 9 at the time said: “I was happy, but I was scared, but I was excited”.

There are some things that make us uncomfortable as parents and we don’t want to talk to our kids about these things. When we come into this earth and when we leave this earth are two big taboo topics. I don’t think it has to be that way. These transitions are a part of every single person’s life. We are all born and we all die.

“For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Most of us know the Bible verse or the Byrds’ song or both.
Is it appropriate to talk about or expose our children to these heavy and graphic truths though? I think it can be.

These moments of life and death are sacred and they need to be handled delicately but as parents it is our job to lead our children.

I am not trying to convince any expectant or future mothers to have all of their children with them while they are in labor. I didn’t want to have my kids there during childbirth. I am wondering though if the stigma or the fear of being traumatized is warranted?  When it comes to birth, our level of fear or even disgust will be projected onto our children. I think even the tiniest of tots are prepared to understand the miracle of childbirth. The younger they have information the more comfortable they will be. Children that grow up on farms have a far greater understanding of sex, babies, and death than the urban child because they are exposed to it. A couple of the resources we used to help educate our children are the books “Baby on the Way” and “The Talk

Baby on the Way is for younger children and it’s all about what happens when mommy is pregnant and what to expect. I wrote a post about it called “Baby on the Way

The Talk is for tweens and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. Instead of your classic birds and the bees talk it takes a biblical and straightforward look at bodies, sex, and conception. If you are waiting until the teen years to approach the subject you are probably too late. The Talk helps navigate this tricky terrain by giving seven lessons geared toward elementary-age children that explain sexuality at a level they can understand. The book encourages parents to keep the dialogue ongoing and not just that one time talk. It has diagrams and gives websites and other resources beyond the book. My husband J and I have gone through this book with both of our older kids when they were around age 8.

The other day J was watching old home movies and videos on the AppleTV with the kids while I was out. He told me that there were pictures of our daughter SJ’s birth in the slides and I didn’t bat an eye. Then he told me about how she burst into tears when she saw them. “Oh no!” I said. I might be a hippie home birth mama but even I had wondered if maybe she was *gasp* traumatized seeing photos of herself as an infant entering this world in a tub.

Then J interrupted my concerns as he shared that they were actually tears of joy. She was moved in a deeply emotional way at the sight of birth. I asked her about it later and she talked about how it made her happy. I have never seen her cry tears of joy before. This isn’t a typical reaction for her at all.

Her response is what got me thinking about how we as a society have made giving birth such an awkward and uncomfortable topic around children. Some of that is inevitable because it is sacred and intimate. On the other hand, it’s miraculous and natural and I think kids can grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. Again, I am not implying that everyone needs to bring their kids with them to witness birth or hospice care. Although I support a parents decision either way in those situations. My hope is that maybe, just MAYBE, we can change the conversation and normalize some of these delicate topics.   Your children are probably going to meet you at your comfort level so I say let’s take the trauma out of a typical healthy birth.

By | March 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

Today’s post is a sponsored post from All Reverse helping you Ease Your Financial Fears with a Reverse Mortgage.

 

 

When you are entering retirement, you may have some fears about the changes that will take place in your life, including the change in income you are likely to experience. Finding a way to ease your financial fears is essential if you want to enjoy your golden years. One possible way to do that is by taking out a reverse mortgage on your home, but you need to understand what that means before you do so.

Reverse Mortgage Versus Traditional Loan Repayment Periods

The repayment period, or loan duration, is how long you have to pay back a loan. A traditional mortgage has a set repayment period, such as five or 10 years. Typically, the total you owe and the loan duration are used to calculate the size of your ongoing scheduled payments. However, when you get a loan from a reverse mortgage lender, there is no specified loan repayment period. The loan simply requires you to live in the home to which the reverse mortgage applies. For as long as you stay there, the loan remains active. There are no specific scheduled payments, which means there is also no way to accidentally miss payments.

Reverse Mortgage Borrowing Calculations and Regulations

When determining your eligibility for a reverse loan, one issue that is considered is the current market value of your home. That value is determined by multiple factors, such as whether you already have an existing home mortgage and how old your home is. A loan issued by a large bank, such as a Wells Fargo reverse mortgage and a reverse loan issued by a government agency each require a reverse mortgage calculator to determine what you can borrow based on those factors. Government caps on borrowing amounts are also factored in.

Government regulations also play a role in the calculations that determine the amount you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. The government does not allow you to borrow exactly what your home is worth. Caps are in place to prevent bad deals for borrowers and lenders. You must adhere to those regulations, which is another reason a reverse mortgage calculator is necessary.

How You Can Borrow with a Reverse Mortgage

There are many ways you can borrow with a reverse mortgage. You have to choose the complete terms of your loan when talking to your reverse mortgage lender. For example, if you have concerns about paying your monthly bills, you can request monthly installments of set amounts until the home equity you can borrow runs out. Alternatively, you may decide a line of credit better suits your needs. You can also select one large payment if you have an unexpected expense to cover.

What You Need to Do to Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years of age. If your spouse signs the loan agreement, he or she must also meet that requirement. The home itself must also qualify. You cannot take out a reverse mortgage on a vacation home for example. If the home consists of several apartments it may qualify. However, you must reside in one of those apartments permanently. Other requirements to get a reverse mortgage may include undergoing a credit check and using reverse mortgage funds to pay off an existing standard mortgage if you have one.

Reverse Mortgage Repayment or Failure to Repay

You do not have to pay your full reverse mortgage balance back as long as you stay in your home, except under certain extenuating circumstances. For example, the loan can be called in if you fail to pay property taxes. However, when you leave the home you must pay back what you owe quickly. Typically, you have a few months to do so. Failure to pay gives the lender permission to allow the sale of the home. Remaining funds are given to you if there is a positive balance after the loan is paid.

By | March 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiring Mom Lula Gibbs

Lula Gibbs greeted me with a friendly smile before I began the interview and I went ahead and asked right away how she wanted her ethnicity described in the story. She cocked her head slightly and I continued “Well, since we are discussing race in this feature I was wondering if you preferred, African American or Black or woman of color…” She crinkled her nose a little bit at my last suggestion and sat up straight as she replied “Black.” She said it with confidence and certainty, then added “Proud black woman”. When I sat down to hear Lula’s story I knew there was no way I would be able to really understand the weight of it or to deliver it in its entirety, but I was determined to do my best.

Lula’s story begins in the 1940s in the deep south. Her family were sharecroppers in Alabama. Her days consisted of working in the fields. They would tirelessly pick cotton, peas, okra and sugar cane. Then they would give it to the landowners leaving only a small portion to keep as payment for their labor. Their shack was on the plantation. They had newspapers hanging all over the interior as a form of wallpaper. They used kerosene lamps. There are no photographs of Lula’s childhood because cameras and film development were far too expensive for them, but this photo from the inside of a sharecropper cabin at the Scott Plantation Settlement in Arkansas looks exactly like what Lula described.

When Lula was a child the only break she had from the tasks of tending the fields was when it was her turn to go to school. She rotated which day she could go between her 3 sisters. One girl would take one day to go to school and the other three worked in the fields with their mother.

Eventually they escaped the life of sharecropping and moved to Montgomery Alabama and her mother became a maid which was one of the only jobs available to African American women at that time. Lula was 12 years old when they moved and this was her first opportunity to go to school regularly.  She remembers starting her day with walking over to her friend’s house to wait for the cheese wagon (that was what the girls called the big yellow school bus and it always made them laugh). She rode on the bus for an hour passing several prestigious all white schools along the way before finally arriving at a tiny dilapidated wooden building. This was her stop. This was the school for black children.

Lula ended up dropping out of school when she was a freshman. She met her husband Nathaniel and they got married in 1955 when she was only 14 years old and became pregnant soon after. Unfortunately, the child passed away at birth. While Lula did become pregnant again with their son and they did raise seven beautiful children over the next several years they would aslo have to suffer the loss of two other infants.

This heartbreak along with being a teenage mother made the struggle of life before the civil rights movement even harder. Lula talked about how difficult it was to rebel against injustice as a young mother. She couldn’t boycott the bus because she didn’t ride the bus. She rarely left the house. When she did, discrimination and segregation were all she saw. She had to go to a special window on the side of a building when she needed to make a purchase. She couldn’t be caught anywhere near white restaurants, white elevators, white drinking fountains, white post offices, and the list went on. 

Lula was living in a world where she and her family weren’t valued and despite the whispers of an uprising all she saw was hatred and shame directed at her and her community. They were tired of waiting for change. Tired of being mistreated. The talk amongst the relatives was that there were factory jobs and maybe something closer to equality up north. So the Gibbs became a part of the great migration. They joined the millions of other blacks seeking a better way of life in the north and Lula and her family moved to Indiana in 1965. It wasn’t perfect but a lot had changed since her days on the plantation. Lula got a job working at GM. Her children went to good schools and no longer had to live a life of segregation. She could see hope for the future and knew that God had a beautiful plan for her family. One by one she watched her children graduate. They started to get married, get jobs, or go to college or the military.

In 1996 Lula became a widow. Nathaniel never got to see some of the incredible accomplishments of their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren some of which have become teachers and nurses while others have served in the military.

 

Lula Gibbs beams as she talks about all that her children have achieved. She is still very close to all seven of them. She gets daily visits from her sons who help with the house and vehicle maintenance. Even though some of them have spread out in proximity she still talks to her daughters every day sometimes more than once a day!

She has been an encouragement and an example to so many people to walk in the truth and the light of God’s word. Her perseverance has had a ripple effect that will continue on long after God calls her home.

Lula’s life these days is very quiet and peaceful. She loves her family, her church, and the casino. You might be surprised by the Casino part but she did explain that she only goes Tuesdays and has a certain amount that she spends each time if the budget allows and that’s it. After everything she has been through (and believe me there are volumes more than what I’ve shared here) this is a very calm place of contentment for Lula. Lula carries this demeanor of someone who is completely comfortable with who they are and that’s a rare thing. Now I understand why she would describe herself as a proud black woman.

 

It was such an honor hearing about Lula Gibb’s life.

As I sat there thinking about her education compared to mine, I reflected on what she said about the fields, and the bus ride, and the condition of her all black school. The first seven years of my education were at a private school. After that my dad’s job relocated us to various cities but my parents always found a house in neighborhoods with the best school districts. I learned about civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at these schools, but I know that all of my history classes combined could never compare to all that I had discovered and taken in while listening to Lula recount her experiences in her own words with her own voice. Lula Gibbs is one of the most inpiring moms I have ever met and I talk to a lot! Her story is a gift. Lula herself is a gift.

By | February 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Facebook Vacuum Networking from the Comfort of Home

I have had the same ol’ Bissel vacuum cleaner since 2013 and it sucks. No really, it did literally suck, but it wasn’t ideal. The hose would sometimes pop off of the attachment. The chord wasn’t very long and it took vacuum bags which are a hassle. It had served it’s purpose well, but I was ready to move on.
So at Christmas I told J I wanted a new vacuum cleaner.

I knew I had multiple friends on Facebook ask for vacuum recommendations and I thought I saw an overwhelming vote for the Shark vacuum. The only problem was I couldn’t remember the details. Thankfully Facebook now lets you search through your feed!

I remember in the old days of Facebook my sister in law and I would dream of a social media search bar.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just search for who shared that post?

I wish there was a way to search Facebook to remember who posted that funny story! Ugh.

We imagined a world where you didn’t have to scroll all day long trying to find a post when you couldn’t remember exactly who posted it. Then a couple years ago our cries were heard when Facebook introduced the search FYI.

Anyway, this was the perfect opportunity for me to search Facebook to find out who was already discussing vacuum options.

Sure enough, I found several conversations from friends asking “What is the best vacuum that won’t break the bank?” and I read through each of the comments. Various models of the shark vacuum were being given rave reviews from housewives just like me. I saw people with hardwood floors and carpet pledging their loyalty to the Shark vacuum which made it win hands down in the popularity contest.

So J and I went to Amazon (another modern-day convenience that I will forever be grateful for) and found a deal on a refurbished one. We were even able to add on an extended warranty for very little.

The vacuum showed up on our doorstep a few days later and it has revolutionized my cleaning experience. I’ll admit next time I will definitely go cordless and I wish I would have this time, but it’s still a giant step forward from what I was using.

Now it was time to get rid of the old vacuum. So I posted it to Facebook market place which I love and use to sell stuff quite a bit actually. I had a teacher friend who wanted it for her classroom and was able to pick up from my doorstep. Just like that, out with the old and in with the new. I owe much of these creature comforts to Facebook of all things. Who knew.

By | February 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Sophie Met Edouard

Sophie and Edouard are from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the heart of Africa. They grew up in the same area but their parents and grandparents were not from the same village so their cultures and upbringing were very different.

When Sophie met Edouard she knew there was something special about him but she kept her feelings to herself at first. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to pursue him then anyway since they met in the most unlikely of ways. The first time they ever saw each other was at a funeral! They had a mutual friend who lost his mom and so they actually met each other at the burial ceremony. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

As they talked in a large group Sophie connected with Edouard and hoped that maybe he felt the same thing she did. Afterwards there were more opportunities to hang out and over time there was no doubt that they were falling in love. Once their feelings were out in the open it wasn’t long before they knew that they wanted to share the rest of their lives together as one.

In previous generations not long ago the Congolese people were married through the families arrangements but now they can marry for love and at 21 years old Edouard and Sophie were in love! Marriage was on the horizon.

There are lots of varied customs in Africa when it comes to the marriage engagement but for Sophie’s culture when the couple is ready to get married the young man has to come and ask the bride’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage much like the tradition in the US but a little different. Sophie explains “In my culture, the young man has to come ask the hand to her father and he doesn’t come alone. He is always with his father or uncle and some members of his family. After that comes the “customary marriage ” when the man and all his family members, friends and community brings all the things he had been asked for. Then the lady’s family prepare a special meal for the other family. Generally, it is a big party before the civil and religious wedding”

So it was a family affair when Edouard asked Sophie’s father for his blessing. Edouard made a special occasion out of the proposal and of course Sophie said YES!

After the blessing was granted and the engagement was official all the women in the family began to plan the traditional customary meal. Except there was one little problem.

Sophie doesn’t like to kill hens.

This might seem like a strange conundrum to have if you are in America, but for the Congolese bride, it mattered. Sophie said

“In our culture, it’s so important to know how to cook and do special meals before we get married. For instance when you receive a very important person for dinner, you have to kill and cook a hen to show respect. So we learn it at home.

I can do it because I used to do it for my father but I was not always comfortable with it and my mom knew that I never wanted to do that. When I was killing the chicken myself I was not able to eat it! If it was someone else then I could eat.”

Thankfully Sophie had family members including her mother who stepped in to kill the chicken for Edouard’s family and it all worked out. 

On May 6th, 2017 when Sophie was just 22 years old she walked down the aisle and married the love of her life.

They had the civil and religious wedding on the same day with a huge party afterward. 

“The wedding was great! Lots of joy! Lots of music, and singing, and dancing” Sophie shares the occasion with fond memories.

The treasured photos show just how beautiful and festive the ceremony was.

Sophie who has been blessed with the voice of an angel was a part of the church choir and she was the children’s choir leader.

All of the people who had been impacted by Edouard and Sophie’s ministry showed up to participate and support the lovely couple. It was a day they will remember forever.

Only two month after the wedding Sophie and Eudard moved to the US. It was a big shock at first. There have been so many changes and adjustments since they came to the states only 7 months ago but God has been faithful. They have a precious baby boy that brings so much joy and happiness to their lives.

Edouard is studying at a local university and they have great expectations for the future because they know that God has a plan and it goes above and beyond anything they can ask or imagine. 

 

This love story is a part of the How We Met Series. For more testimonies like this one check out the rest of the series here on MessyMom.com.

By | February 15th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Jackie Met Chris

Today’s guest post is from Jackie Mason. Jackie is a wife and mother of three girls. You can hear more of her thoughts and story on her youtube channel, StubbornMomDotCom.

 

We met at church, I think I was 13. My dad was in charge of the church musical and I was tagging along. I was always tagging along in ministry or musical related things my dad was involved in. We had either just started going to this church or I had decided to start coming along, after going through a negative teenage phase where I had taken a break from church in favor of attending the church of St. Mattresses most Sunday mornings. After being coaxed into attending youth group and actually being social, I met Chris. 

I was into music and so was he. I think I caught his eye messing around on guitar and circulating around my copy of a Musician’s Friend magazine. Eventually we ended up hanging out during our parent’s drama rehearsals, sitting on the roof of the church, and riding around in our friend’s truck listening to all that was popular in the Christian rock and ska scene, which was all the rage at the time. We really bonded as friends from similar interests. Then we grew up together. As the internet emerged, so did our relationship. First it was talking on our landline phones while watching Boy Meets World (and those later seasons of Full House when Michelle was no longer cute) on T.G.I.F. Fridays with an old television that I was thrilled to have brought in my bedroom. Eventually we were messaging, before messaging was a thing, through means of back and forth emails made possible by the magic of AOL CD-ROM-in-the-mail dial-up internet. Can you hear that sound? It’s either like nails on a chalk board or music to your ears. I guess it depends on how fast your heart beats when your desktop alerts that You’ve Got Mail! 

Those hangouts, passed notes, awkward phone calls and connections over the new-fangled information superhighway between teens in the late 1990’s grew into a high-speed connection. Despite living on opposite sides of town we saw each other often, at church, playing in the youth group worship band, attending concerts, several school dances and forming a band with our friends.

Over this period of time as I was growing obsessed with my teenage boyfriend, he was growing into a man of many skills. He was the church drummer, not just for the youth group but for “big church” as well. Simultaneously, he took care of the sound and technical needs for the church, which grew into a passion for live sound engineering. That passion drew him to Belmont University. The draw to obtain a legitimate bachelor’s degree with the promise of stability and to be part of the Music City U.S.A. in Nashville was all too tempting of a notion for us music-obsessed teens. We moved away to Tennessee for college and set out to chase our dreams in the music business in a pre-911 world. 

We were good kids. I mean, really- good, Christian kids. In the face of a changing America and rapidly growing digital world, we stayed our course. We got our first cell phones. We waited- to have sex until marriage. Many of our friends joined the war in Iraq. We got our degrees as scheduled. 

Then kids came. And they came fast. 

Six months into marriage we were pregnant with baby number 1. When the firstborn was 6 months old, we found out were expecting the next. And at the next 6-month mark we were beckoned by the third baby girl. 

My friends called me Fertile Myrtle since by the age of 25 we had 3 kids. Meanwhile those friends pursued careers during the day and partied at night. My nights consisted of attempts to get the babies to sleep and praying for my husband’s safety while driving home from late-night gigs. The intensity of adulting came calling immediately and part-time job into part-time job, dreams were not reached. 

Now this is the part where I can get really negative. Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, right? The innocence of high-school sweethearts’ story through the rearview mirror. But my mirror is foggy, and I don’t see all so clearly. Here I am supposed to be writing a blog about How We Met but I am not meeting it with completely good vibes. I can’t write up something that is all unicorns and rainbows, “…and here we are 20+ years later with 3 kids living the dream life!” when the degrees we acquired brought insurmountable student loan debt instead of promised prosperity. Insert insincere happy-face emoji. 

 

Placing blame for a purported plan-change is easy, and we have each taken our turn over the last 15 years of our young marriage. Blame one spouse for not working enough, blame the other for working too much. Blame the system for setting us up for failure. Blame our mentors for not warning us or blame ourselves for not seeing it coming. Either way we have learned that blame leads to bitterness. Even if we live in a world that tells us to pursue worldly success or our passions, while making it wildly difficult to raise a family- being angry doesn’t help our marriage. 

We still aren’t sure where we stand. Do we keep pursuing a goal or change our expectations? We are not sure. All we know is that we stand together. The Bible says that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” And if it weren’t for the truths in the Bible and us individually choosing to follow those truths, there is no way we would be married today. And each day it seems, we take turns. One day I am the rock and the next he’s lifting me up. We don’t even know where we are headed. If you asked either one of us, we might not say we have been successful in all areas in life, but I think we’d both say we are successful in marriage. So if we’ve got that, then it’s something to hold onto. No matter what comes. 

 So here’s Four things I’ve learned so far. 

Your spouse is a sinner! Yep, another life-lesson from the Bible, and an essential one. They are going to disappoint, hurt and embarrass you at several points in your relationship. And you will do the same to them. So since you are just as much a sinner as your spouse, extend grace. “Freely you have received; freely give.”

Your Spouse is NOT Your All! No one person can be the fulfillment of all your desires. What kind of pressure is that anyway? They are a central player, call them your other half or partner-in-life if you like. But know they are not there to fulfill your every waking need or desire. Not even God exists for that purpose! Have friends, hobbies, interest, and a spiritual life in addition to a relationship with your husband or wife. Eventually you learn that the world does not revolve around you, but in serving others. Start by serving your spouse. “Walk in the way of love…”

Expect to Adjust Your Expectations. I am not naturally a flexible person, so I was all about the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book series when I was birthin’ my littles. There should be a book about that for marriage, but life just isn’t that predictable. When your hubby is grumpy, you can’t just burp him! Although gassiness may be a factor, dealing with adult relationships is much more complex. So if you have expectations going into the marriage that life doesn’t seem to deliver, know that it is normal. God has some crazy plan up his sleeve that is teaching us lessons along the way. Learn to be flexible. That doesn’t mean you lower your expectations, simply adjust. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

It’s About The Long-Game. I’m not a “sportsball” person, so excuse the misuse of the analogy, but marriage is a long-game deal. You are in this for the long haul so having a mindset that focuses on the long-term can be helpful. When praying, do you visualize the future? When in conflict can you let go of things that don’t actually affect the end zone? Maybe you are picturing the old couple in the end of The Notebook, or maybe it’s your grandparents, but if you have a picture in mind of how you want the future to look, it can really help how you shape your today. Know that each today is a piece of a bigger tomorrow. “Let us not become weary in doing good…

It’s only been 15 years or marriage, so I am sure I could learn a lot more from other who are way ahead of us. And I’d love you hear from you. In the meanwhile as we are trucking along, I am thankful that I am married to a man, a good man, with whom I share a lot of interests. I am not sure where that will take us, but I am glad that we are going there together. 

 

For more love stories like this check out the How We Met Series here on Messy Mom. You can also follow Jackie on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram at StubbornMomDotCom. Her website is under construction, much like her life.

By | February 13th, 2019|Uncategorized|8 Comments

The Mom With the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. My kids love to help me by taking turns dumping the ingredients and stirring and mixing. When the vanilla comes we all love to inhale that mesmerizing smell. I don’t know how many times I have had to convince the kids that it doesn’t taste good by itself. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Then the grand finale of the chocolate chips which I always add a little less than a full bag. I like chocolate chips but somehow this seems to be the right amount in my opinion. After all the cookies are in the oven everyone dukes it out for who gets to lick the remaining dough. Since there are four of them I usually manage to give the bowl to the oldest, the beaters to the middle two and a spoon of dough to the little one.

I have a certain texture and consistency of a cookie that I love. I don’t like it when they spread out and lose their shape. I don’t like too crispy or bready or dry, or crumbly. I like a sweet golden cookie that has a slight crisp along the edges but a chewy soft inside. The problem was that while I knew what I liked I never knew how to achieve it consistently. For whatever reason it took about 20 years for me to figure out a recipe that seemed to nail it every time. I’ve tried a lot of different recipes including ones from Pinterest. Most of the time I just went with whatever is on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Finally one day when the cookies were just right I saved the bag with the recipe on it. It was a generic brand semi-sweet chocolate chips from Meijer which I don’t go to very often. Granted I could have copied the recipe or taken a picture or something but instead I just kept the empty bag in the pantry. Even if I bought a different brand of chips I always used that recipe. Then one day out of curiosity I started comparing the recipe that I had with other recipes I had pinned or gotten off of chocolate chip bags. I wanted to know the secret. Was there more or less of something? Different cooking time? As I researched I found differences between each recipe but I stumbled on one recipe that was the exact same and when I saw what it was I was shaking my head. It was Nestle Tollhouse! I know this might seem obvious but if you are a fan of the show Friends you might see the irony in this.

There is an episode in season 7 where Monica is desperately trying to figure out Pheobe’s grandmothers chocolate chip cookie recipe. Pheobe won’t share the family secret so Monica makes dozens and dozens of cookies trying to duplicate Pheobe’s secret so that someday she can fulfill her dream of being the mom who makes the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. Eventually Pheobe divulges that the recipe came from her great great grandmother Nesle Toulouse (which she says with a French accent).

That’s when Monica realizes that the recipe was from Nestle Tollhouse and was on the back of the chocolate chip bag the whole time!

I had a complete flashback to that episode when I saw that my favorite recipe was technically Nestle Toll House.  I should have known that it was the world’s best cookie recipe! Why didn’t I just believe the Friends episode that I saw when I was 17?

Anyway, I thought it was too funny not to share and in honor of my discovery, here is a copy of the official Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • A little less than 2 cups of chocolate chips (that’s my modification the Nestle recipe is just 2 cups)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

ENJOY!

 

By | February 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Worship Retreat

I have been out of town all week due to a Worship Leaders retreat that I went to with J.

We got to meet and worship with some of our favorite worship leaders who have written songs sang by thousands of congregations around the world.

 

It was a really neat experience but it was also cool just to be around other people from a diverse range of churches that all have the same passion and calling as us.

The theme for the retreat this year was “Loved and Not Alone”. We definitely left feeling loved and that we had a network, or better yet a family of other worship leaders from around the country. It was really special.

I was so grateful to be able to accompany J on this retreat.

Because the retreat was for worship leaders and their spouses it made the dynamics interesting. For a lot of the couples there, this included a husband and wife that co-lead together. In some cases the wife is a worship leader and the husband was not musical at. For me, my husband is a worship leader and I am not, so I went to the small group for worship leader’s wives.

We met to talk about what God was speaking to us and to pray for one another. One woman in the group talked about being a tag along. Another mentioned how she brought a stack of books to read because she didn’t think she would be participating much. This ended up not being the case. We weren’t just on the sidelines watching our spouses. We were applauded. We were invited to step out and be prayed over. We, as worship leader spouses, were seen as part of the team. I can’t even describe how good this made me feel. I’ve been on stage with J doing everything from playing the conga drums, to singing, and most recently signing but for the most part I am in the background. I am at home taking care of the kids, fixing meals, and being a sounding board. One of the other worship pastor’s wives described it as being a “worship widow” meaning we get the kids ready on our own. We go to church alone, sit alone, stay at home alone while he is up early doing sound checks or out late for rehearsals. It can be lonely. I remember when J was working around the clock doing construction on the new church auditorium and getting the sound system installed. Our neighbor reached out to me out of concern. They are an older couple and they noticed how J’s car was gone really late at night and that he was rarely home. Yes, they were being noisy but I am sure it looked suspicious and they were watching out for me. I assured them that he was in fact working at the church and not bar hopping or something else and that he had plenty of alibis. We all chuckled about it.

I have a writer friend from the blog Airman to Mom who writes a lot about being a military spouse. She is a veteran who is now at home mom. She knows both sides from the angle of serving in the airforce and being the spouse. Amanda has written some really insightful articles about spouses in the military and how they make great sacrifices too. As a pastor’s wife I relate a lot to her perspective as a military wife. I realize that whether your spouse is a nurse, CEO, or trucker there are crazy hours and late nights and stress on the family but I think the thing that resonated with me about the military spouse is that they are serving. Having a spouse working for a church or nonprofit can bring a whole complicated mix of emotions and guilt. Am I helping or holding you back from this greater purpose? Are we serving together? Am I seen?

For the record, our church has always made me feel equally valued since day one. In fact they are the reason I was able to go with J on this trip. After this week I can feel like I can answer some of those internal questions with even greater clarity. I know we are on the right track as a team! It was also a good reminder to me to encourage those spouses whose husbands (or wives) are in leadership as they serve behind the scenes at home or from the sidelines. It’s important to let them know that they matter and that they are loved and not alone.

 

By | February 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My Voice

“Mommy, if we lived in the 1940s, would you not let me play with brown skin kids?”

What!? I stopped matching socks and gave my eight-year-old daughter a very confused or maybe even disgusted look before I realized she had been learning about racial segregation at school for MLK day last week. So I took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. Some of our dearest friends are people of colors and backgrounds different than ours. I have read books and had discussions with the kids about racism. Still, this was never an easy topic to address. I told her that I would like to believe in my heart that yes, I would have allowed her to play with black children if she were born in the ’40s. I also told her that unfortunately what she learned was true and that black people and white people were supposed to stay separate back then and black people were looked down upon and treated wrongly. It was all sinful and very sad, I explained.

Her question lingered in my mind. I even talked to my mom about it. If I were a mother in the 1940s would my children have the same friends they have now? Probably not. Would I have been an activist or would I have believed the lies that dehumanized African Americans and led the majority of Americans to believe that they were entitled to more rights? Would I have thought it was wrong but chosen to keep quiet and stay on the sidelines? I really don’t want to think so, but how do I know for sure which side of history I would’ve been on?

I think about that now with abortion. Rights for the unborn is something I am very passionate about. I worry, pray and in some ways fight for it year round and not just when something pops up in the news.

I was listening to a podcast years ago and it was a pastor teaching from the Old Testament and as he describes some of the barbaric lawlessness of that era he said,

Before you are quick to judge or think we have changed so much since then consider the thousands of babies killed every day through abortion. That’s our civilized country.

I got somewhat defensive as I thought to myself,

Well, not me! I am very pro-life. It is a black and white issue for me. I won’t be thrown under the bus for the sins of our nation. Even if I weren’t a Christian I would be pro-life. I would never be able to abort my own child.

Then I felt a conviction like a sharp grip on my heart. I remember as clear as day I felt the Lord say, “Apart from me you have no idea what you are capable of.” It’s been almost a decade since this happened and I remember it like it was yesterday and it’s stuck with me ever since. It gave me chills and I began to weep. My life motto is a quote by John Bradford “There but for the grace of God go I” meaning every good thing that I have or that I am is all because of the mercy of God.

I am still very much pro-life though. I am heartbroken about the news in New York. I do have friends who are outspoken pro-choice, or reproductive health, or however you want to say abortion rights advocates. I also have friends and family members who have had abortions. So it’s hard for me to talk about abortion like it is the holocaust because I don’t want to make anyone feel like I think they are evil or that I think I am righteous. However, I have to be a voice for the voiceless. It’s not the only time in my life that I have taken on this role. I have four children so when they were in my womb I was their advocate. They were living humans inside of me and they relied on me to protect them and care for them.

When I hear women say “It’s my body and I get to have control!” I think about the birth of Elle (who was born on the way to the hospital). I didn’t want her to come out in the van! I could have shouted IT’S MY BODY AND I GET TO HAVE CONTROL! But the fact was it was my body that was a vessel and I had no control. It wasn’t like I could cross my legs like a had a full bladder. I had no say in the matter (which is crazy because as a woman in the 21st century you would think I should get to maintain MY rights on whether or not I got to have the baby in the van). It was her time to come into this world and she had her own rights! She asserted herself at 37 weeks and no declarations on my end were going to stop her.

 

I see a little pro-life feminist in the making.

Speaking of which, this is about women and babies. I can be pro-life and agree that this is a women’s issue. I am a woman. Also, around half of the unborn are females as well. We are fighting for all females to have EQUAL rights. Of course in my story about Elle my baby was full term and healthy, but most abortions occur early on in the pregnancy before the baby is fully developed. To quote ex-abortion activist Frederica Mathewes-Green:

“When people say the unborn is “not a person” they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, laws cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is “can I kill this?” the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data.” There is a lot more to her point and it is all in the National Review in an excellent article called “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense” 

It’s a very heated debate in our country and I know that there are a million other points. I am not going to change the world with a blog post. All I know is that while I can’t guarantee what kind of mother I would have been if I lived in the 1940s, I do have a choice for how I live now. I want my great great grandchildren to know that even in this dark hour when the laws allowed abortion and the crowds cheered in praise of this act of dehumanizing children in the womb, I took an unwavering stand for LIFE. 

By | January 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment