18 YEARS

I have to be totally honest.  At one time I did not believe in marriage.  I did not believe that anyone could literally be there for me and me there for them for the long haul.  Even the day I got married as much as I did love Donald, and as much as I was committed to the idea of marriage I was still unsure of the actual idea that it could last forever.  I was married before and even though I loved my first husband it was never “in the cards” for us.  So after 3 years….Donald and I took the plunge.  Partly because we wanted to have a child together and partly because well frankly we had postponed our marriage several times…it was now or never and WE both felt that way.

Our marriage has been full of ups and downs, many learning curves, many hours of marriage counselling, days of non stop bickering but we ALWAYS LOVED EACH OTHER.  So after 18 years of “marriage” I feel that I can say we have learned a thing or two.  I have learned many more things….about myself, and about Donald, and the man he is.

I do not know what I did to gain God’s favor.  But I have felt his grace and peace surround me at the most surreal moments of my life.  To be blessed with a man that took my child and me into his bachelor life without hesitation.  He stepped in immediately as a father figure and has never wavered and for this I am eternally thankful, and I know Brad feels the same.  Donald has never shown a difference between Brad and his own biological children. We are a family and we are strong in our commitment to being a family.  We will go to any morally and ethical length to protect them.  They are our legacy.

As Brad has grown and married the love of his life we have come to love her as our own too. Anna is one of us.  She is our child and our children’s sister.  As we watch their marriage mature we are in awe of the commitment that they share.  There is no better feeling in the world than to see your child truly happy, truly loved by and loving someone unconditionally. Their story is just beginning –they have their entire lives ahead of them.

Back to Donald.  As much as I feel I know him after 22 years….he continues to surprise me.  He is a complex guarded man.  You would not know this unless you REALLY KNOW HIM…..he appears to go with the flow, yet things do hurt him…he won’t breath a word of it….VERY few times has he opened up and totally let me see that side of him.  He loves him children and me beyond measure.  His children are his world.  I am his world.  He tells us all of the time.  He sits down and talks to the kids, he plays with the kids, he wrestles (even at my insistence that he not) with the kids.  He is present in their lives.  That in itself is the best gift he could give them.  But he continues to give.  He believes that we should raise our children in church. I agree wholeheartedly! One of our proudest days in our lives  was seeing Cory confirmed in our Church, another was Brad’s White Coat Ceremony. He dotes on me.  We take advantage of opportunities like birthdays etc to get away for one on one time-to reconnect–to renew!

We go to the same place with our children for vacation 2x a year.  Some people do not understand it….they think it has to be boring after a while……we have been going for 6 years to the exact same place….it is NOT boring.  We are making memories.  We are enjoying our children, watching them, playing with them, walking the same familiar beach with them……taking the same family photos year after year.  These are cherished times for us all.  It is what we do. The continuity of year after year, time after time, is comforting to Donald.  He wants his children to know that comfort.  He wants them to know that security. We work to make that happen, although, we do not consider that work at all.

As I look back on our official 18 years and even further back to when we first met 22 years ago.  I see a man that has evolved but never changed at the core.  He is still as giving, tolerant, loving and full of life at 48 as he was at 26. He is still guarded but lets me see the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.  He is steady and strong.  He is kind and ethical.

We have been blessed with 3 children of our own.  Our business is growing every day.  Our lives are full of activity and lots of free taxi service all over NWA.  Our house is messy and the laundry is never ending.  My Mom and Daddy continually say “slow down”…….does anyone know how to slow down with a teenager in the house and two under 6 years old? Comments are appreciated! LOL!  We live in a constant state of GO! I know that will all change sooner than I hope.  Caleb starts Kindergarten in the fall, Chloe the following year…..Cory will be a freshman in high school.  It seems like a blur…….just yesterday that we brought Cory home to Overcrest….just yesterday that we brought the babies home….and now they are growing so quickly. They are forming personalities and becoming their own people.  Cory is learning to drive…….we are planning ACT testing……Brad is an M3.  Anna started nursing school………In another 18 years there will just be Donald and me.  What on earth will we do with all of our free time??!!!

The “plan” says we will be dividing time between here and Alabama.  The “plan” says that will be Donald’s first or second year of retirement.  Along the way we see grandchildren in our future!  Marriages, graduations and the dreams of our children coming true as they pursue their happiness.  Chloe’s dress fund has been started~ i am only 1/2 serious about that.  So bring the “BUSY GO GO!!” This is that time in our lives…..we embrace it and pray that we are here to live out the “plan” with God’s assurance and blessing.

Peace

Christi

 

a BREAKTHROUGH!!!

WOW! If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be writing this blog I would have said…..I sure hope to be…..Well today I am writing this blog…on this topic!!!! CORY COX has had a breakthrough!  Well, several breakthroughs actually.  He has physically grown 5 inches and gained 8lbs since school started back in August.  He has grown emotionally as he has just completed confirmation class at our church.  He has grown academically… the school year started out rough for Cory….he has…today…all B’s and an A!

My little boy is now a young man in so many ways.  He went turkey hunting with his Papa just last weekend and got his first turkey!  He is learning to drive! He just attended his first JR High Prom event (with a date).  All of these rights of passage are piling up and he is taking them in stride.

They say it’s darkest before the dawn…..and even in January……….ESPECIALLY in January, one of the darkest months of my life……it was hard to think about the dawn….but the sun rose again and I am happy to report that Cory has risen to each challenge presented to him….sometimes with me dragging him every step of the way….but MOST times of his own accord.

My friend was over last night and was astonished at his transformation…..she said “when did your voice change???” ….. I am not ready for him to enter this phase of development, but I am ready to watch him flourish.  I am ready to support his transformation.  This is a change for me as well.  I did not handle this phase of Brad’s life well at all… I was not ready for him to become independent and find love somewhere other than with us.  Brad and Anna will tell you that I am a far cry from the smothering mother that I used to be. I have learned over the years…..and YES you can teach an old dog new tricks….however I am NOT old!

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LOVE IN A JAR….

Thinking about what to blog about…..I had all of the usual things….crazy relative stories…goofy kiddo revelations…Super Mommy myths…and then it hit me.  As i was preparing dinner, I had to move a jar of sea shells off of the oven.  That jar of seashells is love in a jar. The following story proves that love can be saved, salvaged..redeemed, re-purposed and rekindled again.

Twelve years ago…..Cory was 2.  Donald and I were raging against each other or ignoring each other altogether  Brad was 12.  He heard far too many ugly screaming fights….he saw all too many nasty discussions.  For a time….a few years…Donald and I were unsure if we could make it. We thought it might be TOO HARD….we thought what we had might not have been worth working for. Even our marriage counselor said there was nothing further she could provide us in the way of therapy and suggested divorce.  How do you get fired by your marriage counselor ?? We did!  I know many marriages go through this exact thing.  I know far too many that end in divorce….they give up…they walk out….they check out.  We were there.  We could have easily chosen to end that marriage.  But we held on.

We recommitted ourselves to our marriage, to God and to our family.  After that foundation was stable we decided to try to have another child.  Had we not been strong in our renewed commitment to each other and strong desire to have another child we certainly would not have survived the storms of infertility that we faced for the next 3 years.  Surgeries, ultrasounds, shots, counting eggs, 4 failed IUI’s……it seemed to not be in the cards for us.

Then in January 2007 we found out that we were pregnant.  After all of the failed interventions….we had gotten pregnant….against ALL ODDS…God had blessed us with a pregnancy.  We were overjoyed.  We KNEW this was our sign from God ~ we KNEW. That baby was born in September.  A beautiful baby boy.  Healthy, blonde, big, strapping baby boy….well 7lbs 15oz is the biggest baby I have ever birthed 🙂  Caleb is the light of our lives.  As our family grew so did our faith.  We made a point to go to church to get involved.  We made a point to make our faith a priority in our lives not just another THING we do on Sunday. As our faith grew so did our blessings.  Twenty months after Caleb we welcomed Chloe Barbara into our family…trying ONE last time before the big 4-0. We got pregnant that month…..IMAGINE OUR BEWILDERMENT….after the struggles we had with Cory and Caleb.

So back to that jar of sea shells….

As we were leaving for Spring break —heading to the beach—for our annual trip down….Caleb went to his room and grabbed his jar of seashells.  Seashells that he had collected the summer before.  He brought them to his Daddy.  Donald doesn’t get to go on the Spring Break trip due to work demands…..he is an accountant…this is his busiest time of the year.  Caleb said “Daddy you can keep these with you here at home and look at them and think of us OK??!!”  When we called to visit with Donald on vacation, Caleb asked him if he was looking at his seashells….Donald said “I have looked at them EVERY day”

Our marriage was saved several years ago.  Our love has been repurposed and rekindled. People that do not know us do not know our past struggles.  They do not know that we too could have divorced.  Haggled over THINGS, haggled over our children….We did not stay together for our children…..some people do.  We stayed together because we took a vow…several in fact….but this one….FOR BETTER OR WORSE…seems to say it all.

I cannot imagine….nor can Donald, Brad, Anna or Cory….imagine their lives without Caleb and Chloe….to us they are God’s promise of redemption.  They are God’s promise of repurposed love ~ they are God’s promise of rekindled love.

I believe in God’s promises. I believe love can be preserved forever….just look at that jar of seashells……..lovingly and carefully chosen by those little hands a few months ago in the summer sun…….Image

HOW TO GET OFF THE HILL

Tonight, at the monthly Session meeting, we discussed how we can get OFF THE HILL and in to our community.  I have been thinking about this since I left.  How can we get off the hill? I decided that being a witness to what is wonderful about the hill would be an excellent start!

What do I get on the hill at First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville? Well, I get another family.  I get to enjoy the company of real people that are good people.  I get to look down the pew on Sunday mornings or onto the pew behind me and see familiar loving faces.  A couple years back “our” pew emptied out…..our hearts were hurting and our routine was upended. We were lost.  All those years before we had just made it our routine to come to church……we did not really participate….we just “showed up”.  That all changed 5 years ago….because Donald and I planned and budgeted (with God’s grace of course) I was able to stay at home with Caleb when he was born.  I started volunteering for little jobs. Acolyte Coordinator, VBS, attending Bible study with Donald’s sister, bringing desserts when called.  Soon I had stepped up my volunteerism and dove in.  I have received more back than I have ever given.

When we were shattered, our church family at FUPC picked us up, put us back together and surrounded us with prayers and love.  Not just a couple people…..but any person that we encountered.  It is amazing the love you can receive when you open your heart and let people love you.  When you let your defenses down and admit that you are human and you make mistakes and you ask for forgiveness….guess what??? God hears you.  Bad decisions? Yes I have made many…..Defensive moments….oh heck yeah…..but you know what? They STILL love us.  They still open their arms and hug us.  They still pray with us ~

And when the TERRIBLE AWFUL happened a few months ago……I called my Daddy, my best friend and my pastor.  Are we perfect people? ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Does God love us perfectly? Regardless of our continued efforts to not be loved?? ABSOLUTELY.

SO….this is my witness to the wonderful happenings on the hill.  I might also add that my youngest son has acquired an affinity for beautiful music at the tender age of 5 because he is exposed to it on a weekly basis.  Our choir, and musicians are top rate!

The best feeling in the world is when those smiling little faces in Pre-K Sunday School light up as they come in our room or gather with us at children’s time each Sunday morning.  Of course….2 of those smiling faces are my babies but each and every one of those children are precious angels to me.  Talk about some unconditional love…..it can be found in Pre-K Sunday School at FUPC.

Watching my 14 year old continue on his faith journey through confirmation is just a remarkable thing to witness.  He makes me proud to be his mom every day.  I hear about his commentary during the confirmation classes.  He doesn’t know all that i know about his goings on….but I do tell him quite often that I have been hearing good things.  So many children at this age (14) start to lose their way or find a different way…..Cory has stayed the path.  What a blessing.

If you are looking for a church home, if you are not happy or unfulfilled where you are then come and see whats going on up on the hill.  You will come off that hill with so much more than you ever imagined.

FIRST UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 695 CALVIN ST FAYETTEVILLE AR

and yes…that is a shameless plug. God expects you to share the good news!

Peace,

Christi

To My Momma

Today my Mom turned 67.  We celebrated last evening.  We celebrated Mom and Anna together! We had an awesome time.  Today as I think about the special evening we all shared I am reflecting on how much my mother has influenced my life.  Moms are supposed to do that I suppose….although I have always felt more of a kindred spirit with my father.  Looking back though today I see how much my mother and my life mirror one another.  

Specifically the choices that she made so long ago seemed to me, as a teenager, to be all wrong…. how could she NOT want to go to college?? How could she not want a career??? Why would she WANT to iron and cook and clean and sew for us? 

Well, she had a career….she had a FULL TIME JOB raising 3 children and managing a poultry farm – for the most part- managing the farm alone.  Daddy was an HR director in town.  She was educated- maybe not college educated but she was educated in loving her family and putting us first-ALWAYS putting us first.  She enjoyed cooking meals for us. She found humble accomplishment in providing hot meals for us every morning and evening.  We did not eat boxed cereal….We had homemade pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, cream of wheat, cinnamon toast, homemade biscuits and gravy….for breakfast every morning for as long as I was at home.  To this day if you go to Mom and Daddy’s for the weekend you will get one of those homemade items for breakfast.  

My dad figured up (at his retirement-he gave Mom a thank you card) that she had ironed over 6000 shirts and pants for him in the course of his 25 years of working in town.  One thing I do not do for Donald is iron….now he is a grown man and was cooking full hot meals at age 8 for his siblings….so he can handle ironing. 

She loved being home to send us off on the bus and being home to greet us each day when we returned.  One of the greatest pleasures in life that I have is being able to take my children to school and pick them up afterward.  She loved baking fun treats for our class parties….I host play dates and we always make fun treats since now you cannot take homemade things in.  I LOVE IT… I see where her joy came from…

So what have I learned from my mother? To be my quirky self and be OK with me.  To find the joy in the simplest of things. To love unconditionally and to forgive.  To truly embrace the opportunities that I have for interaction with my children.  This stage of life passes all to quickly.  It seems like yesterday that Brad was Caleb and Chloe’s age.  He is 24.  It seems like yesterday that Cory was starting kindergarten….Caleb starts in the fall. It seems like yesterday that Caleb was born……Time FLIES.  

This, this….being a MOMMA, is the most important career I have ever had.  I want to do a great job…I want to be the best.  I want my kids to remember that I was there.  I am here.  I will always be here for them.  

So to my Momma….THANK YOU for being your quirky self.  You are perfect for me and for us.  You were right about so many things.  As the circle of life continues and Anna reminds me so very much of myself at that age….I appreciate you Mom and I thank God for both of you in my life.  I see you differently but then I see so many things differently at this stage of my life.  Its surreal to be middle aged……I never really understood what that meant until I am there now.  You look forward and backward and see the phases of this life…..You ponder the choices of others but do not jump to defend or oppose.  As I ride the fine line of daughter and mother I am encouraged to know that I have a wonderful loving example to look to as I try to age gracefully.  I hope to be that sort of influence on Anna as time goes by.  

Thank you Momma.  I love you.  Happy Birthday!

Christi 

LATE BLOOMERS RULE!

There is something liberating about your 40’s.  Twenty years ago I thought that 40 was really REALLY OLD…I am 43.  I do not feel 43.  I do not act 43.  I do not look 43.  I am ok with 43 though.  I am embracing it.  I am the happiest, busiest, most active that I have ever been and people continually tell me to slow down…There is NO TIME to slow down!  I am raising babies that most people raised in their late 20’s – 30’s.

I have always been a late bloomer and while that used to seem like such a huge obstacle in my life it has turned out to be the biggest blessing of all.  I finished college at 35.  Working full time, mothering full time and school full time was not easy but with the support of my husband and two kiddos at the time….it got “did”.

At 34 we decided that we wanted to try to have another child.  Three years and thousands of dollars in failed fertility treatments and resignation to the fact that it would not happen….we got pregnant and had Caleb.  I knew miracles were real. I did, and when Dr. Bailey handed me that big strapping baby boy there was NO denying that God had shown his grace to our family once again.  Twenty months later we were blessed with the arrival of our sweet Chloe.

The babies that we never should have had were here. Seven months later I turned 40.  People said we were crazy for having more children at this age and stage of our lives. They speculated “why if you already have 2 children would you want more?”   That could not be farther from the truth…THIS STAGE of our lives is exactly when God wanted us to have these two children.

These two children have taught Donald and I more about patience than any book or class could.  They have allowed us to get back in touch with our inner child.  They have allowed us to witness Cory in a totally different light… That of big brother, caretaker, defender, friend….instead of the baby of the family.  Cory has the patience of JOB….sure he and Caleb fuss….but if you were a 14 year old boy and had a 5 year old kid “all up in your grill” you might be frustrated too sometimes.

The 40 decade has brought clarity on many issues for us.  Clarity on what we will and will not accept into our lives.  We will accept people and experiences that make us better people. We will be committed to our church and our church family.  We will be committed to providing for our children loving interactions with genuine people.  We will be committed to providing things that our children want as we are able but always meet their physical and emotional needs because that is what parents do. LOVE THEIR CHILDREN every one of them.

Late bloomer? YES!!! Finally figured out the big picture??? YES!  The big picture is not perfect but it is full of love and patience and forgiveness.  It is full of smiles and tears and hugs….there are some ugly spots too but they are overwhelmed by the amount of love that we feel for our children…and each other.  God knew when we needed to get it right.  God knew that Cory, Caleb and Chloe needed a full time mom.  A fully present mom.  He also knew that Brad needed the mom that I am now for him.  A mom that is there when he needs me …. a mom that is a phone call away but always thinking about him and praying for him…a mom that loves his wife as her own~Anna is just as much mine as Chloe is and that will never change…  God’s grace surrounded Brad when he was in daycare and school/after care full time just as it did Cory.

Donald and I are not perfect but we love each other beyond measure and cherish the gifts that Brad, Cory, Caleb and Chloe are and we thank God every day for the privilege of guiding them through these stages of their lives.

In Peace,

Christi

PROVERBS 14:30 Thank You Julie Mannon

Proverbs 14:30 “A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.”

Wow! That is a very powerful passage. If you know anyone that fits the description then you know how devastating this type of person can be to their relationships. The type of power that they seem to wield over weaker members of their circle is unyielding. They show NO mercy and are genuinely incapable of love. Rottenness to the bones…haven’t we all heard that saying when referring to a difficult child? “That kid is rotten to the bone”…I have heard it. I have never associated this reference to an adult. Oh, I have known rotten adults…don’t get me wrong…but I did not feel it was a jealousy issue because jealousy in my mind is a childish behavior….I really felt that they were spoiled and never allowed to grow up. Handicapped by their overzealous parents to make sure they “appeared” to be successful.

But Solomon had it right all those years ago. Solomon was not writing about children. He was writing about adults. Oh how I wish I had studied Proverbs when at JBU. What anguish it would have saved me.

Which brings me to these verses from Proverbs:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers,and be not envious of the wicked,for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” ~

PROVERBS 24:19-2

Fret not yourself because of evildoers…..OK at 43 I finally get it… I may have been a slow learner…but I get it. The burden of trying to please everyone has lifted from me. The true glory of pleasure is found in the simple things. When I take my kids to Sunday School and teach our two smaller ones….when my kids ask me to play games with them and we sit down and do that….when they ask me to “read a story mommy” for the billionth time…I know some books by heart….but that is ok…because that is where I feel true joy. When Cory says “mom i am nervous about ________________” and actually cares to hear my opinion on how to handle it….Do you know how seriously gratifying that is? I doubt it unless you have teenagers. When my husband looks me in the eye and tells me what is bothering him….not the facade of bravado that he generally shows the world…but he looks me in the eye and says ” I am sorry, this is really bothering me”. We talk it through and figure it out. That is a WIN FOR US!

Do my children drive me insane some days? YES!!!!! Do I contemplate getting a “paying job” on occasion???? YES!!!! I have been there and done that. I worked outside the home for 20 years. Not one day of it compares to an hour of the time that I am blessed to spend with my children ~ and here’s a little secret~ If I had only understood all those years ago that I was OK just as I was and that I did not have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulder in the form of a major “chip” ~ ie…that I could do it all and NO ONE could do it better and NO ONE would need to PROVIDE FOR ME…..and that I did not need help…well, then I would have had more precious time with my older children…that I will never get back.

I am blessed to report that our eldest son Brad is successful….smart….driven and married to a wonderful loving woman. Did we have a hand in the man he became? Yes obviously Donald and I did but by the grace of God he is thriving, intelligent and accomplished. He is a loving, giving husband, brother, son and friend. Sometimes when I look back on his time at home I wish that I had worked less and been there more for him…but as I have evolved as a mother I have accepted that I did what I felt I had to do at that time in my life…Hindsight is 20/20.

Sometimes you have to walk away from negativity. You have to accept your part in the drama and move forward. I have chosen to move forward. I have chosen to continue to be the best mom I can be. That does not mean that I fly off the handle and yell sometimes…I do! I am human and I hate to admit it but at 43 I am slowing down, so I try to stay active and fit ~ after all I have a 3 and 5 yr old at home that “hit the ground running” every single day.

I choose to not associate with jealous people. They can have exactly what I have if they work for it, if they set goals and WORK for it…tranquility is not a given…it is earned…it is prayed for it is accepted. My life is not perfect and we have struggles…but we also have faith in God. Do you?

One last passage that provides comfort……

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God ~

EPHESIANS 6:14-17

Peace,

Christi