it’s been awhile

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. A long, long time.

So much has happened in my life and my world over the past year plus since my previous post.

Kids have gotten bigger. (They’re now 4 and almost 6).

Marcus quit his job as a paramedic and took his lawn biz full time. Talk about a whirlwind!

And me? I’ve been busy building a business of my own from my own home. A health and fitness business. Say what???

I know. It kinda surprised me, too.:)

But I love everything about it.

Me. The girl who once weighed nearly 300 pounds.

Me. The mom who dreaded seeing her kids grow up because it would mean days playing at the park instead of parking them in a swing and sitting on the couch.

Me. The woman with MS who let it steal her vitality and rob her of so much joy and life.

Me. The wife who loved her husband enough to support him on his new mission to become healthy and in the process, changed all of our lives.

So I spend my days now, working on the internet, making new connections and helping women become successful on their own health journeys and building their own businesses.

My absolute joy is helping other women find within themselves, the same fight that I found. Once my ride got momentum, it was hard to give it up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still struggle. The hardest thing about losing weight is keeping it off, mark my words. And that’s why I love my community.

I run monthly challenge groups where we all workout in our own homes and check in online to hold each other accountable.

And I bring on new coaches as we build a team of strong women ready to help other women. Imagine that…women helping women. It’s a marvelous, beautiful, magical thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of flying to Miami, FL for my team’s leadership retreat. It was something I earned by just loving people through their own healthy transformations.

Anyway, we had so much fun that weekend. I can’t even begin to explain how good it feels to be surrounded by women on a similar mission. Women ready to change the world. Women ready to build each other up. Women encouraging and empowering each other to be the absolute best versions of themselves.

And of course, we took tons and tons of pictures. Especially during an amazingly fun photo shoot. But of all the pictures we took, this one is prob my fave. Let me tell you why, just as I wrote on my Facebook wall.

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This is my favorite because it speaks volumes about overcoming fear.

Do you know what it took for me to put my bikini top on and leave the halter top back in my room? It took more than confidence, because I sure didn’t have much of that.

It took the women on this team telling me I not only looked amazing, just the way I am, but that I need to celebrate my body for what it is and what I’ve accomplished.

It took them telling me over and over how beautiful I was, because sometimes (most times) I don’t believe it. Because I don’t have perfect six pack abs and will always have that belly. But they made me feel special and beautiful and free to be me anyway.

And it took them saying, “Jennifer, take that stupid halter top off and go put your bikini top on and rock it like the confident, beautiful woman you are.”

Here’s the deal. I don’t know what your perception is of a Beachbody coach, but here’s the reality: We are women. Real women. Women with heartaches and struggles and insecurities. Women with bellies and double chins and flappy arms. Women with beauty and positivity and light to shine into the world. Women who want to leave a legacy of love and kindness and goodness as we carve our path in this life.

This is coaching. We laugh together. We cry together. We mourn together. We celebrate life together. We tell each other to get over our insecurities, step out of our comfort zones and do things we are afraid to do every single day. We are our biggest cheerleaders and our biggest fans.

Don’t think for one second, that there isn’t room for you in this tribe. Why anyone wouldn’t want to be a part of something this special, is beyond me.

Imagine where you could be if you just say “YES. I want to be a part of that, too.”

This team is ready to welcome you with open arms.❤ All you have to do is reach out. I’m ready to introduce you.

You don’t have to be perfect. Just willing to make a difference. To shine your light being perfectly YOU.

And be perfectly imperfect.

 

Posted in Family, Favorites, Friendship, Gratitude, Health, Holy Cow!, life, Multiple Sclerosis, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Love Story – The Pre-quel

46 Years today and still going strong. Love them so much!!! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!!!

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Once upon a time, there was this handsome missionary kid who grew up in the Phillippines. He came back to the states for college and chose his parents’ alma mater, Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Where other missionary and preacher kids went.

One day, he met a nice girl with a beautiful roommate. He befriended this nice girl. So he could get to know her beautiful roommate. The beautiful roommate was dating someone else at the time and wouldn’t give this incorrigible missionary kid the time of day.

This missionary kid was persistent. He wouldn’t let up. And he got under her skin.  Enough that she told her mom about him. Who, being a preacher’s wife, knew of the missionary kid’s family. In fact, it turns out, his family once visited her family and the two played together when they were toddlers.

So the mother of the beautiful roommate, helped this missionary…

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The Boy.

This boy turned 4 this month!!!!  And boy has it been a month to remember.

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The morning of his birthday, he woke up to streamers hanging from his door and 74 balloons in the hallway that his daddy and I blew up the night before. He woke us up exclaiming, “daddy! There’s a bunch of bawoons in the hallway by my room!!”  Then we totally had birthday cake for breakfast.

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Later, we went to the park and he played with his friend, Tristan that morning.

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The next Saturday, we had his very first birthday party with friends. I’d say it was a smashing success.

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These kids had a ton of fun in the backyard. Especially on the new trampoline that MiMi and Papps gave him.

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Here he is in the Firefighter costume Grandma gave him.  He put it on, grabbed his axe and said, “mommy, I’m gonna go cut down a building. I’ll be right back.” Okay, bud.

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Then a week after his birthday, I posted this picture to Instagram and shared it on Facebook. My caption was something like, “This may not end well.” These two turkeys love playing together and horsing around. They’re a mess. :)  Little did I know that was a foreshadow of the day to come.

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Because just a few hours later, this happened.

Yeah, that’s gross. But he broke his arm when he fell off the trampoline. And I felt like the worst mom ever. But I managed to keep it together enough to get him and his sister loaded in the car, grab them both some clothes and shoes, and get to the hospital where daddy was working and waiting for us in the ER.  It was only a tad bit stressful.

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But he’s a total champ.


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Two bones. Broken.

While we waited, daddy made a purple minion (from Despicable Me 2) out of the hospital glove and put it on his foot. At least it kind of lightened the mood.

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But just a few days later, he got this super cool green cast.

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Then, six days after he got his cast, he smashed his finger on his opposite arm, in the car door when he got out to go to the last day of school.  He was really hurting and had a hard time settling down for all the fun activities planned that day, so we left sister there and he ran a quick errand with me to the eye doctor.

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We made it back in time for him to have a little bit of fun with his class and to have a picnic on the lawn with his friends. Here we are with his teachers.

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That night at bedtime. Poor thing…Smashed finger. Broken arm. What a week!

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Don’t worry, though. All these injuries haven’t really slowed him down. He’s back up and running around and around and around and chasing his sister and making us all exhausted with his endless energy. Maybe he’s in training for a football career.:)

Either way, I love this boy of mine.

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Dear Bubby,

You bring so much joy into this life of ours. You’re stubborn and silly. You take risks and get dirty and love splashing in the bathtub. You love to give “big squeeze hugs” and I don’t think you’ve ever met a stranger. You talk to everyone you see. And when you don’t, I figure I better keep my guard up, too, because your little spirit must know something I don’t. You light up a room with your smile and the most beautiful blue eyes. You make friends so easily. Kids love you and adults adore you. You are smart as a whip. You talk CONSTANTLY. I’m serious. I hear you talking as you walk down the hall before you ever make it to my bedside in the morning. You talk from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. You love to sing and are now singing along to all the songs on the radio. It surprises me how many you know when we’re in the car. But I love to hear you sing about Jesus. I hope those words you’re singing now, sink in and become hardcore truths to you in the future. You give random kisses and “I love you’s” all day long. And you tell everyone you meet about your “new” shoes, even though you’ve had them long enough to get them super dirty and super stinky.  You really are a pretty cool kid and you have such a big heart. I can’t wait to see how God molds that heart as you grow up into a man. I love you, son, with all my heart. Don’t ever forget that. Ever.

Love you forever,

mommy

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Baby Girl

So I’m more than a month behind, but this girl…

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turned 2 in January!!!

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Seriously, the cuteness is ridiculous.

Aubin,

You are growing so much, so fast! Here’s just some of what life is like with you lately:

– You are potty training, even though you’re so young and make lots and lots of messes. Honestly, if you weren’t so stubborn about it, I’d put you back in diapers, but you insist on panties. Hopefully you figure it out soon.

– You seemed to have stretched out recently. You’re suddenly taller. I keep having to switch out your clothes for bigger ones. You are currently in a 2T to 3T.

– Even though you’ve been jabbering for a long time, you’re actually starting to enunciate much better.  You form sentences and complete thoughts into discernible words. Like last night at dinner when you dropped your broccoli, you said, “Uh oh, Spaghettios! I dropped it!” And your daddy and I were like, holy cow. Stop growing up!

– You are still a climber, and are really pretty good at it. It comes in handy when you climb onto the toilet. But is quite annoying when I catch you making a super wet mess on the bathroom sink, “washing your hands.”

– You like to ride your “bike” (tricycle) and have become really good at scooting around on the little plasma car a friend gave us for your brother.

– You love to eat tofu and lots of other fun stuff, like broccoli and red peppers and hummus and cucumbers. And “peanuts” and “peanut butter sandwich”.

– You’ve become a stinker at nap time lately. Sometimes you take them willingly and easily, and sometimes you’ve made up your mind that you’re just not gonna. Telling me,”No. I non’t wanna take a nap.” Those are long days, sister. For all of us.

– Bed time is typically around 7 p.m. Unless you skipped your nap, then it’s as early as I can make it.:)

– You sleep in a big girl bed that used to belong to a friend’s daughter. It’s low to the ground and is perfect for you. You haven’t fallen out once!

Here’s you helping take your crib out…

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And here you are the first night in your new bed…

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I dare say, you look like me when I was a little girl. This picture is seriously like looking at a mirror of my own 2 year old self.

– Speaking of bed, I do believe that every single stuffed animal and dolly in this house is in your bed with you at night. I honestly don’t know how you sleep with all that company.

– You looooovve your daddy. You have enjoyed having him home these past several weeks. I’m dreading what you’ll do when he starts back on shift.

– You looooovve playing with your Bubba. Even though the sibling rivalry is in full effect. You can be pretty mean to him, you know. When I let your fingernails get too long, you start scratching him for any number of reasons: like self defense, and plain and simply not getting your way. Your poor brother. But you’re quick to say you’re sorry and ask for a “tiss anna hug.”

– You’re personality is outgoing and fun loving and talkative and full of life at home and cautious and clingy and shy and sober in public. Like you’re observing and sizing up the world before you open up. Very opposite of your outgoing big brother, who never met a stranger.

Oh girl, you are such a little blessing. You just light up my life so much. I love you with all my heart and I’m so happy you’re my daughter. My little baby girl. I’m so glad God made me your momma.

I love you, sweet girl.

mommy

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Joleen, Jesus and Grace

I’m gonna tell you a story I don’t tell often. Many years ago, I lived in a modest, one bedroom apartment in Houston. I had my second job out of college, but the first in my chosen field, Marketing. And I wasn’t living with my parents. Hooray!

I had the cutest neighbor named Joleen.

Joleen was a short, petite blonde with a very large, very scary, very loud dog I affectionately called Kujo. She had a strong east Texas twang and was just as green around the gills as any high school graduate who moved to the big city trying to make something of her life that had as little to do with her small hometown as possible.

She held two jobs, one was a contract job as an administrative assistant at one of the many large companies HQ’d in Houston, the other was at the mall at some place like Bath and Body Works. She and I got along great. I enjoyed having her over or chatting through the fence of our meager little back patios. I loaned her my foot massager after being on her feet for many hours at the mall job and I think we even enjoyed a bite to eat a few times.

She had a boyfriend from back home who would visit some, she didn’t get along great with her mother, and she was extremely close to her brothers. Somehow, even with two jobs, she managed to make it back home quite a bit on weekends.

I remember one Sunday night, though, after returning from a trip back home, I sensed something was very wrong. It was the first of the month and our rent was due. She had gotten paid on Friday, cashed her check (since she didn’t have a checking account) and headed home to East Texas. She kept the money in her glove box, I believe. Now, we could obviously argue the merits of this type of cash management, but that’s not the point of this story. Anyway, one night during the weekend, she went out and her car was broken into. All her money was stolen, among other things.

She came back tearful because she couldn’t pay the rent. And nobody from back home could afford to help her either. I had just paid all my bills and for the first time in a long time, I had extra. I don’t know how or why, but I did. Because, trust me when I tell you I was not rolling in greenbacks.

In spite of finally getting “ahead” financially, for some reason, I felt so very strongly that God was urging me to give her the money for her rent. So I did. I invited her over, told her my plan and that she was in no way obligated to pay me back, and I wrote a second check to our apartment complex in the amount of her rent (which for a smaller apartment was actually more than mine, for some reason.) It was a lot, but it was the excess in my account. After all that I needed was paid for, I still had enough to help a neighbor in need.

Money does strange things to people. Even though I told her not to worry about it, well, as you can imagine, it still put a strain on our relationship. Not from my side, mind you, but hers. Anytime she’d see me, she’d say, “I’m getting your money, I promise.” To which I always replied, “don’t worry about it.” But it didn’t matter. Because she did. She eventually moved out and I don’t know what ever became of Joleen. I hope she pays it forward someday or at least understands how I was really just being obedient to what I felt God urging me to do.

This leads me to today. Here recently, we’ve had our own financial crisis, if you will. Back in December, my husband discovered he had a herniated disk in his back that badly needed repair. When we saw the neurosurgeon on December 20, she actually said it was bad enough for surgery, and oh by the way since you’re a paramedic, there’s no way you can do your job and you can’t go back to work.  Oh, and the recovery time post-surgery is expected to be twelve weeks. So, yeah.

Jaw. On. Floor.

Surgery was scheduled for January 7. So we’re looking at 15 weeks, more or less, without a full paycheck.

To say I was in shock would be an understatement. How on earth would we pay our bills? How are we going to eat? How are we going to live?  And Christmas? Forget about Christmas! Christmas is cancelled. All the presents have to go back. (I didn’t actually do it, but I thought it.)

I was in crisis mode. I might as well have cashed the check and left it in the glove box.

Panicking, I texted my friend and she immediately went into action. With my permission, she let people know. She helped us formulate a plan to raise money and survive this crazy time in our lives.

Marcus’ parents were able to help us cover the medical costs and our bills for January. Then the strangest things started happening.

First we received gift cards to Target.

Then gift cards to Kroger.

Then people would ask me at church when we were planning the garage sale because they had stuff to donate.

Then we got cards of encouragement in the mail. With cash.

Then we got a big fat envelope full of cash from what people gave to my friend to give to us. She wrote on the envelope, “To George Bailey, The richest man in town.”

And I was completely overwhelmed. I even got a little weepy.

Then I opened the mailbox and more gift cards. More cash. In fact, going to the mailbox in January was kinda fun.

Then we had the most beautiful weather week in the history of January’s to prepare and have a garage sale. I’m talking spring time weather, people. Cool, crisp mornings, high’s in the upper 60’s and bright sun with the bluest sky as far as the eye could see.  And while we originally planned on only having the sale on Saturday, we decided around Wednesday night that we were probably ready to open on Friday, too. So even though the ad in the paper was placed as stating “Saturday only” we decided to share on Facebook and a local garage sale website and just hope for the best for Friday.

And people came. Not only did people show up in droves on Friday, but it turns out that the newspaper ad that was supposed to say “Saturday only”, and was approved that way, left that little tidbit out. People came on Friday, just to see if we were open because the paper didn’t say what day it would be, just listed our address.

I’m so not kidding.

Anyway, with the donations of the many and the tireless help of some friends, we had the biggest best garage sale I’ve ever had in the history of ever. We made more than one of Marcus’ paychecks.

All together, the money we received in donations, gift cards and from the garage sale, was basically enough to cover our expenses for another month.

That’s God right there, y’all.

I’m so incredibly blown away by God’s grace and His obvious hand in all this.

By far this has been the most stressful six weeks of my life. It’s hard not knowing if we are going to have enough to make it. But I have to believe God will provide. Marcus has been able to teach some out at the college, and his boss was kind enough to give him some administrative work he can do from home. So it’s not a lot, but every little bit helps. We plan to have another garage sale in the next few weeks, and I’ve already had people offer to donate.

Anyway, I wanted to share what God is doing in our lives. Because it’s been a crazy ride. I am thankful to watch God move in the hearts of His people. And I’m humbled to be a recipient to their obedience.

It reminds me of God’s overarching love story for us. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin. To pay a debt we could never repay. A debt He didn’t even owe.  Just like I didn’t owe Joleen’s rent. And all these people don’t owe us.

It’s our job to just accept it for what it is. God’s unmerited favor. His grace. Poured out onto each of us. Freely given. To not question it. Or feel guilty for accepting it, like Joleen did. How I wish she would have understood that I never wanted or expected to be repaid.

I wonder how often God wishes that of His people.

I can’t even begin to repay what has been given to us. I don’t know the givers. I don’t know the prayers being offered up on our behalf. But I know the One who has a plan and a purpose for it all. As hard as it is. As humbling as it is.

And I can only say thank you.

Thank you to friends and strangers. For opening your hearts in obedience to God. And for allowing us to experience His grace anew.

We’re looking at the end of March before Marcus can return to work full time, unless the doctor suddenly changes her mind. On paper, we don’t have enough to make it.

But God, my God, is the One who fed 5,000 people on the side of a lake with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

I think He’s got us covered.

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***ADDENDUM: So I was thinking this morning that it might be helpful to clarify a few things so you can fully understand the gravity of our current situation. 

1. My husband’s job is guaranteed through FMLA, but FMLA does not pay anything. Many employers offer short term disability which, if I understand correctly, would pay a percentage of one’s salary, but his employer does not. 

2. He is still required to pay something to cover the cost of his healthcare premium. Thankfully, his employer was kind enough to allow him to use his personal leave and sick time for this. So he is turning in just enough time to cover that cost on each paycheck. Ironically, the first paycheck he received after doing this was for a grand total of $7.77. Now, if you are a God-fearing, bible-believing Christian, you ought to get a chuckle out of that number. God really does have a sense of humor.

3. You may wonder why I didn’t go get a job. Well, we considered that option. I even submitted my resume to a couple of places. But in the end, we decided that the best thing for his recovery is for me to stay home and deal with the kids. He isn’t even supposed to lift anything over 5 pounds so that leaves a 30-pound two year old and a 46-pound almost four year old completely out of the question. And that would be impossible for him to do alone.

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