Let me start by saying...I love the holidays!! i love everything about them! I love having all of my kids in the same place if only for a little bit. I love having time with my sweet nieces that I completely cherish. I love traditions! I love our yearly trip around Nashville looking at Christmas lights. I love going to my parents on Christmas Eve, followed by the Christmas Eve service at church. I love Christmas day spent with family enjoying all the loud laughter and the crazy of having everyone together! There really isn't one thing I don't love. This year, it's just a little bit different. We are missing someone - we are missing C (our soldier)!
This year has definitely been different for us. One year ago - I sat down with C at dinner, he had just enlisted in the Army and had been given his ship date. On January 15, we dropped C off and he left for OSUT (One Station Unit Training) for 15 long weeks. From the moment I dropped him off - I started counting the days until graduation...110 days. He got to come home on leave evening of May 5, and I immediately started counting down the 10 short days he would be home. When I left the airport on the afternoon of May 15, it hit me on the way home... I had nothing to count down. I didn't know when I would see him again. It was a horrible feeling - my baby was moving 3,144 miles away, and I couldn't do one thing about it. But then, I got the phone call in October that leave had been approved for him to come home for Christmas. So...guess what happened next?? You guessed it - the count down. I had something to look forward to - 63 days! Now... we are at 17 days and I could not be more excited!!!
As I started thinking about the number of days that have consumed me this year - out of 365, I have gotten to (or will) see him for a whopping total of 32 days! That means K, J and I have missed him for 333 days! I knew I would miss him - but I didn't realize just how much! So - this year, we will all enjoy having our family time just a little bit more. We will continue to love on each other and squeeze in as much family time as we can while C is here for 14 days and more importantly - we will celebrate the reason for the season!
Tonight I'm sitting a hotel room by myself and scrolling through Facebook. I immediately notice all of my friends doing the "Day 1 I'm thankful for..." thing, and I'm thinking what a great idea, but get real - I know I would NEVER remember to do this every day. I can't even follow through on a 7 day challenge to post a black and white picture for goodness sakes. It's definitely not that I'm not thankful, because honestly... I cannot even begin to count my blessings! As I got to thinking about my blessings, I decided I would do my 30 days of thanks in a different way - so, here it goes (my first 15):
1 - I am thankful for a God that loves me when I fall short every day.
2 - I am thankful for a family that loves unconditionally at all times.
3 - I am thankful for a family that supports my craziness (and we know there is a lot of it at times.)
4 - I am thankful that I have a job I love.
5 - I am thankful for friends that have turned into family.
6 - I am thankful for Christian parents that share their love for God.
7 - I am thankful that I get to be an aunt to some pretty amazing souls.
8 - I am thankful for church family that I truly love.
9 - I am thankful for lifelong friendships that are as strong today as when we were 12.
10 - I am thankful for my three perfect, precious kids.
11 - I am thankful that my kids truly march to the beat of their own drummer (they always have and always will).
12 - I am thankful for forgiveness and restored friendships.
13 - I am thankful for a big sister who loves me (even when I get on her nerves & laugh at her).
14 - I am thankful for a big brother who has always supported my craziness (never questioning my sanity).
15 - I am thankful for have 2 dad's in my life!!
16 - I am thankful for new friendships and relationships and the craziness they bring to my life.
So... there you have it - my first 15 (well, 16- I added one)! As I'm sitting here writing this - I realize that although I hope that I make sure all of these people know how much I love and appreciate them, I should really do a better job on telling them every day!
"I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers," ~ Philemon 1:4
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my sweet nieces as much as I love my own kids. They also know that they have a heart and willingness to serve. They love their family, but most importantly they love God. On spring break next year Lil B has been given the opportunity to serve in Ecuador and live with orphans in two different cities. This mission trip is sponsored by The House, which is an on campus ministry at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and they are partnering with For His Children (www.forhischildren.org). This group will be helping with physical therapy, caring for special needs children, and simply playing with and loving on these sweet kids! They will literally be living with sweet souls and being the hands and feet of Jesus for 10 days.
The other thing to know about my nieces is they have an amazing talent and passion for music. Lil B is combining two of her favorite things - music and Jesus! She is making and selling guitar string necklaces for $10 each, and all proceeds will go towards her mission trip. If you would like to donate to an amazing opportunity, or to purchase a necklace - please complete the form under the Contact tab. I will happily deliver locally or ship necklaces to anywhere in the world, and you can pay by PayPal.
Please pray over this opportunity and give Lil B the opportunity to live out James 1:27.
"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."
According to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of tribe is, "a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked." Well, let me tell you about my tribe! In 1989, I left home and went to college at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) - while i didn't complete my college education there (that would not be done until years later), what i did gain were friendships that would last a lifetime.
When I chose to rush (now called recruitment), I really had no idea what to expect. There were a bunch of young girls thrown together in a room, but we would all wear the same letters on our chest. We would all go through this thing called college together. It's kind of amazing when you think about it - we all came from different parts of this country, were all different ages, had different interests, different backgrounds - all we had in common originally was this sorority called Kappa Delta. We believed in what KD stood for, and we were"sisters" from the beginning. As the years passed - something truly amazing happened. We formed a bond... a sisterhood... that would withstand the test of time and could never be broken. Here we are, 28 years later, and we all are still the best of friends.
Over the years, as our friendships have grown and our circles have broadened - we have had other people come into our lives who we love just as much! They are the ones that make you realize, its not really about the letters you wore in college (yes, that is a bond that will never be broken) but about the person with a kind heart, who makes your life better by being in it.
We have been through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, kids growing up, people moving away and many other things! But i can tell you the one thing that never change...we don't judge one another - we support one another. We laugh until we can laugh no more, and sometime we cry. When one of us hurts - we all hurt! When one of us celebrates - we all celebrate. It doesn't matter if we saw each other last night, last week, or last year - we pick right up where we left off. We simply love and support each other unconditionally! So, this my friends...is why I LOVE my tribe!!
We all have our favorite memories while growing up. For me ~ some of my all time favorites are of my grandparents. They were my heroes growing up, and although they are both gone now ~ they are still my heroes today. Growing up I would spend weekends at their house, and I truly loved every minute of it. We would all sit downstairs in the den and watch TV...HeeHaw, The Lawrence Welk Show, my all time favorite - The Jeffersons, and whatever else they may want to watch. As the "good shows" were over, granddaddy and I would sit for hours and play cards - he taught me how to play Rummy and Solitaire (with a real deck of cards). We would sit on the couch at the table (which I have in my house today) ~ the table was carved and had a scene on the top. He would tell me stories of what he saw on the table. We would get done with card games, and then move upstairs to the chess table. Then, if I was still bored we would grab Granny, and we would play Sorry. When it was nice outside, we would play yard darts (yes... the real metal darts), climb trees or play golf. There are so many memories that I have with them, that I would NEVER trade for anything! We always sat at the table for dinner ~ that was family time! There was ALWAYS dessert ~ because that's what you had with dinner. I can still remember one night after watching HeeHaw, I asked Granny for a popsicle ~ she said, "Sugar, we don't have any." I thought the world was coming to an end, and just like any good little girl did ~ I went to Granddaddy. I asked the exact same question, but I got a completely different answer. His answer was, "Sugar, we don't have any, but let's go to 7 Eleven." And... off we went.
It's funny, he has been gone for years now and I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the 9th grade at Hawkins Jr. High School, and my dad came to pick me up early. I was pretty sure my heart would break that day! As the years have gone by, I so wish he was here to meet my kids and share in their lives. I just know he would be proud! I can imagine what he would have been like with the boys, and how he would spoil my princess. He was my hero, he fixed everything and always made everything right! One big bear hug from my Granddaddy and all the sadness was gone, and everything was right in the world! It's funny... I think I may miss him more the older I am ~ and I did not think that was possible.
Tomorrow, he would have been 107! It's hard to believe, he has been gone for so many years ~ but the memories never fade. Happy Birthday Granddaddy! I love and miss you!!
So... tonight I'm sitting at home with an extremely heavy heart. As I get older, I realize that true friends are rare and hard to find. I know that my friend circle is small and I am okay with that. I know I have a friend that I have had since birth, and that friendship is unshakable - whether we saw each other last night, last month, or last year. We pick up right where we left off and it is like no time has passed. I know that I will have her as a friend until the day I leave this earth. We grew up in church together, although we were at different elementary schools our friendship was strong because of church. We went through the awkward middle school years together, calling each other every night, staying on the phone for hours - talking about what we were going to wear, when we would go to the mall on Friday night, and who our latest crushes were. When we got to high school - that is when we were together every day at school for four years. We ended up rooming together in college - since that day, we have had first jobs, weddings, divorces, the birth of our kids, the death of loved ones, and so many memories they cannot all be remembered. And through it all - no matter what, we have schemed, laughed until we almost peed our pants, supported each other, prayed for each other, and have always been there for each other no matter the circumstances. There is no judgement in this friendship - just unconditional love!
With all of this being said, when you find out that someone you love like a sister has been going through hell, and you have not checked in like you should have because life gets hectic...your heart breaks! So.. what do you do? You sit down and talk, you catch up, you vow to be a better friend, you cry, you pray, and most of all you LOVE unconditionally!!!
I am very grateful, that I have a few "no matter what" friends - and I am so thankful that God put them in my life. So, today, pick up the phone...call them, text them. Let those people in your life know that they are loved, and that NO MATTER WHAT you will always be here!!! Y'all, we all need more "no matter what' friends!
How many times in your life have you simply wondered if God is listening and hears your prayers? And... if He is hearing them - why are you not getting the answers you want? For some reason, this is one of the hardest concepts for me to grasp at times. Although, I know that He hears my prayers - there are times when it is really hard to figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing. I have always said, "maybe he should just burn the answer in my front yard - then i will know exactly what I'm supposed to do."
A couple of months ago I decided to begin keeping a prayer journal, and then as my prayers were answered - I would highlight them. Y'all - you would not believe how many answered prayers there really are!! I knew God answers prayers - but to see them answered and have documentation in black and white is absolutely amazing! In 1 John 5: 14-15 we are told, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." I think so many times we get caught up in demanding what we want from God, that we forget it is about what He wants for us.
Seriously... what would our lives all be like if we constantly strive to do what He wants us to do - instead of what we want to do? I'm pretty sure that my life would be different. As I look through my prayer journal, I can see that He has given me answers... yes or no. And, for the ones that are still waiting to be highlighted - well, it's not that He has forgotten about them. Maybe...it is that He is using these things to teach me patience (which I need a lot of) and reminding me to put my trust in Him.
When C enlisted in the Army, I knew there would be a lot of firsts. There would be the first night without him at home, the first holiday he missed, the first school function for K. I am still preparing for the first big holiday season... Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last week was a big first for me - C's first birthday away from home. And, to make matters worse - he still doesn't have an address where I could send him presents. Although - he really didn't care... I did. It's a mom thing!!! So...I did what any mom would do when her child is almost 4,000 miles from home - I used the power of social media and found someone to deliver a birthday cake to Fairbanks, Alaska on post. The one thing I have figured out in the last six months is that there is not much that an army of Army moms cannot figure out!
Today, was another first that I wasn't prepared for - the first birthday that C and my niece, B, are not together for her birthday. And honestly - today it hit me like a ton of bricks. Normally, these two would be going to lunch, acting silly, and making me laugh until I almost pee in my pants. When I look at mine and my sisters kids - I am so very thankful and blessed that not only are they cousins...they are best friends. They are abnormally close, and they genuinely like and love each other. They are there to encourage each other, support each other, and just simply be there for each other in this crazy thing called life. This morning, I sent C a text and said, "hey, don't forget it's B's birthday" and his response was, "how could I forget my best friends birthday?" Y'all - I was in tears. Then came the Instagram post - and there were more tears! I cannot even tell you guys just how much I miss the little things! I miss my soldier and I watching these sweet kids (young adults) together!
I know there are going to be many more firsts over the next six months, and I know people say that things will get easier, but...we will see. So for now, I pray that we will all adjust to the new normal and that we will all have peace as things keep changing.
As everyone knows our Army family journey started in October when C called me one afternoon, and asked me what I would think if he enlisted in the Army. I took a deep breath and let him know I would support him every step of the way. And... that is what I have done - what our entire family has done! You see, when you have a child enlist in the military - it does not just affect that one person... it affects everyone! You have to find ways to adjust to the new normal. As a mom (who loves to be in control), you realize that you no longer have any control and it is HARD! When your child leaves, and will be gone for 15 weeks for OSUT (One Station Unit Training), you give up when you will talk to your SIT (Soldier in Training), you take your phone with you everywhere and you may kill someone getting to it if it rings. As a mother, you realize with every letter you receive that your child is being pushed to limits beyond which you ever thought was possible. They are training to be the BEST...they are training to be a warrior!
When C came home on leave, he was home for 9 days... and let me tell you - 9 days is NOT enough! We had family dinners, he had plans with friends, he went fishing, he slept late... he got to be an 18 year old teenage boy again. The happiness that comes from waking up and walking out to a den full of boys sleeping cannot be described. Some of these boys have been on road trips with our family, and have made every milestone during this journey with C. I'm talking from being sworn in, to being there the day he got on that bus, to family weekend, then to graduation, and to the airport with me the day he left. I cannot tell you how much we love them! They are FAMILY!
The morning C left for Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, AK - it was a crazy day! We spent the morning packing, I spent the morning holding back tears and soaking up every minute I had him. As we left for the airport we have several stops - the first was to sell his car, then a few last minute good-byes. We got to the airport, and I got my gate pass to continue soaking up every last minute. You know there are all of these "Army mom rules" people tell you about... #1 - Never cry in front of your soldier, #2 - It's never good-bye, it's always "see you later." - well let me tell you those 2 things are the hardest things EVER!!!! When we got to the gate, I was struggling but holding it together. When the airline started boarding the plane, I got one last hug and and "I love you mom" and I could not control the tears! I walked away from the crowd and stood in the back watching him wait to get on the plane. A lady standing not too far from me, came over and said, "Honey, is that your baby?" I said, "Yes, ma'am". She then said, "Well, he's holding back tears." With those words.... I was done - tears were streaming! Another lady walked over and just gave me a big hug - and then her husband walked over and said, "I plan on thanking him for his service, but thank you for sacrificing your family and for allowing him to serve." Yall... it was such a reminder that there are still kind people in this world!
I say all of this to say, that I could not have gotten through any of this without the love and support of my family and friends! The people who have been there to listen to me whine, cry, get angry, and ultimately make sure that I am okay. My co-workers have been beyond amazing...making sure that they have my back, so I could be there with my kids every step along the way! I have watched my sweet nieces drive hours just to spend a couple of hours with C, I have watched J and K give up their own plans to soak up the time with the little/big brother. I have watched the unconditional love and support, and the pride they have for the sacrifice their brother is making, and honestly... it's been pretty awesome! I have always said it is such a blessing that my kids are close, and their cousins are more like siblings than cousins - but I must admit ... it definitely pulls at the heart strings!
So.. THANK YOU to everyone who has called, contacted, showed up, sent sweet cards, or listened to me whine! YOU are greatly appreciated and LOVED!!!
As a single mom, there are many rewards and many heartaches. You get to be the one to tuck those sweet babies into bed every night, and you also get to be the one to discipline them on a daily basis. You get to be the first one to celebrate when great things happen, but you also get to be the one to wipe away the tears. As many great moments as there are, there is the moment of panic and being super proud (all at the same time) - and that is the moment when one of your babies decides they want to serve our country.
For me, this was the first time I had dealt with the military at all - so, I had no idea what to expect. Yes, my brother was in the Air Force. Yes, my dad was in the Army. But...knowing those things does not prepare you in any way for your child. I had no idea what went into enlisting in the Army, until C started the process. Now... I did NOT help with this process and as a mom - it was hard (especially if you know me). But...this is also how I knew this was exactly what he wanted to do. With every test, every appointment, the day he left got closer. Then, January 16 was here and he got on a bus to Ft. Benning. As I watched the buses pull away that day, my heart was breaking. Then came the hard part...no communication. On day 10 - I finally got my first phone call - and it was a short one! But.. I knew he was okay. I wasn't really worried about him being physically okay - it was the fear of the unknown. As the weeks went by, I became a mailman stalker - I lived for a letter! And... let me just say, we should really write letters more often - they are a great thing! Then came family weekend... and I really thought I would squeeze C to death! I was sooooo excited! Leaving that time was still hard, but I knew in 5 short weeks that I would see him again. The other thing to remember in all of this - while they are in BCT (Basic Combat Training) you know they are being trained, but you also know there are live fire exercises - because they are there to learn how to win in combat situations. So, for me... that is a lot to take in. Each day was started in prayer - praying for mental, physical and emotional strength for him.
The weeks have moved pretty quickly, and we just got home from the Turning Blue Ceremony and OSUT (One Station Unit Training) graduation. My sweet boy was has grown from a little boy into a man, and a civilian into a soldier in 15 1/2 short weeks. Now... we are on to the next chapter - he will be stationed at Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska (this is 3,914 miles from home). He will leave here on May 15, and start the next chapter in his life.
Please continue to keep my soldier in your prayers as he makes this transition, and J and C as they prepare for their brother to make the next move. And.. just know that if you see me anytime the week of May 15 - I may burst into tears and possibly need a hug! But for now... I will enjoy each and every minute of him being home and soak up as much family time as I can! I can tell you though my new favorite four words are BOOTS IN THE HOUSE!!
If you would like to follow my blog - please click on the RSS Feed button above.