blogging · grace · life

for real this time…

…not that it’s “regularly scheduled” but you get it. I’m removing some distractions that I create for myself so I can tend to the one thing that won’t leave me alone. This book. I have some serious fears about it all. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s more exciting than scary…but it’s still scary.

Please hold me to it. You can even text me anytime between 8-5 everyday and if I respond you can say, “Why are you answering my text? Go write.”

Perhaps you have a book inside you, too? You know you’re the only one that can tell YOUR story…maybe you should.

I’m not on Facebook either…I sell real estate and need to nurse my business page but I gave that to Jesus. I’m going all 1997 and finding and helping buyers and sellers without the aid of social media. We shall see how it goes…

I always have a blog up my sleeve. Something to ramble about…words I think you might enjoy or find interesting, odd or funny. It will be hard for me not to jump back on here and scribble one for you. Like I tried doing today…I wanted to talk about Hannah’s wedding…and I will. I’ll tell you about my experience with shopping and finding a mother of the bride dress. I might confess some self image issues I had to battle and how I overcame them. I’ll most certainly rattle on and on about how Hannah was a most graceful, gorgeous and together bride…and how Jordan is a welcome addition to our tribe. He already was, but now we have the papers to prove it.

I will be back when the final chapter is complete. Good grief. Why am I crying? Why is this freaking me out?!

grace · life · marriage · wisdom

…the date night post

Okay. So here we go…

It’s Saturday…one week from the date that ended a lot worse than it began.

Date night is customary and welcomed in our house. It was an unspoken clause in our marital agreement to be friends and date and spend time together. We both savor time spent together…it’s our dual love language. We dated 14 months long distance prior to me moving to Baton Rouge, so once we found ourselves in the same zip code it was on! We are intentional about it…documenting unapologetically with selfies on the gram like a couple of teenagers. We keep it simple. A dinner somewhere new…we love good weather and a patio…perhaps a movie. Nothing fancy, and if you raise chickens you can bet those chickens on us being home and in bed by 10:00.

You think we’re boring?

We are NOT boring and we are also FAR from perfect. We fight sometimes. Say what?! Yep. Sorry to burst your Kurt and Gina bubble, but The Millers squabble. We are crazy in love and the best of friends, but we brought to the Marriage Table 40 plus years of living, a combination of 3 failed marriages, and a few too many stupid relationships gone wrong. We have context. We have precedence. We have some crap.

We were not squabbling last Saturday when I received a text around 11:00 AM, asking me to please be ready by 7:40. He made reservations at a restaurant I’d been wanting to try and I was truly looking forward to it! We both got fancied up a tad bit more than usual and headed out. The place was not what we expected thus generating a lot of inside jokes and laughter between a couple of friends. We were feeling super 50…We could not hear one another or our waiter over the ratio of noise inside the joint. We could not read the menu. We left our readers at the house so the 6 point font on the menus left us to trust our server’s suggestions. Our expectations fell a little flat but the biggest surprise of the night came five minutes before we left…

Kurt asked for the check and our waiter said I needed to go to the Ladies Room and get a selfie before we leave…he went on to explain that the words Hello Gorgeous were inverted on the wall and of course once you selfie they show up correctly and I can hashtag the restaurant and blah blah blah…I needed to wash my hands anyway so I take Kurt’s phone and head that way. I wash my hands. I take a selfie. I look down to critique the photo and a text pops up:

Hey! It’s Jen. I’m in town on Sunday and I’d love to see you! I know you’re missing me too.

What? Unfortunately, I can see this font. I read it again. Same thing I saw the first time.

I sit down on the bench provided in the bathroom, supposing it’s positioned for everyone that falls prey to shock and horror. My relationship flashes before my eyes. I’m not exaggerating. Every fuss and fight magnified and I immediately thought…I deserve this. I was crazy to think I could trust anyone…Satan destroyed my first marriage and now he was coming for this one in the opposite direction. I was shaking. I exit the bathroom and see Kurt’s face smiling back at me…so handsome…sitting there clueless as to what has just happened. I’m already hurting and dreading the inevitable conversation that awaits us both.

Flash forward 3 whole minutes. We are now in the truck. I’m asking who Jen is. He is saying he does not know who this is and it has to be the wrong number. I’m feeling sick. My heart is already hurting…physically hurting.

Another text comes through.

And another….

Then a photo of a girl lifting her shirt to reveal her bra and breasts…then another…

If you love us, you are now hurting for us. And thank you for loving us. But stay with me…the story ends well and it was a story I knew in my heart I had to tell…

Turns out. It was a scam. An attempt to get you to click on a link that follows the messages and images. Being the CIA agent I am, I research the number to find an article using the same exact images and information that if sent this text you should delete because it’s a mix between a scam and marketing scheme derived to get users to click on a link leading to a camming site. Which of course costs money and asks for payment information and so on…

I don’t want to put the link in my article but you can search “texting scams, Pennsylvania Jen” and read it for yourself.

Here’s the deal. I went to bed disheartened….even after I knew the truth. I woke on Sunday and knew I had to write. I thought about how many other couples might get hit with this nasty porn peddler as Kurt called him, and not recover. Couples hanging on by a very thin thread and this could be the one stupid thing that calls one or both of them to throw in the towel and call it quits. The accusations that will get tossed back and forth and the perfectly good evenings that will be hijacked by the devil himself. I think about the young children already struggling with the images being flung in their faces and now this *?&!{ is coming through their phones as spam. I am disgusted with all things disgusting.

Jesus…you can come on now. We ready for ya.

AND. I want to find that girl in the picture and bring her home with me and tell her she is worth more than she could ever possibly know and pray and pray and pray she comes to believe it. Damn anyone who subjects a child to lewd acts for profit.

I don’t know who this is for, or why I have to write and share the ugly parts… but I do. It’s my job. I thanked God for allowing that message to come through Kurt’s phone so I could hopefully stop some madness in your family before it starts by sharing our story. It took me a week to write it out…I could chase some rabbits on this topic and there is definitely more I could say…but for now.

I love you. I’m praying for you. Stay Faithful. Stay Alert. Be Kind.

1 Peter 5:8-11 MSG: Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

faith · grace · life

about God…

It’s not easy believing in God. In fact…it’s easier to shirk the whole idea, bring all my dependency and possible outcomes back to myself and take things as they come. Keeping it all in house removes any dependency on an outside source and when things don’t go like I want…my fault. No one else to blame. I totally get why people are not into it…

I’ve had many versions of God in my one life. The God I first heard about talked in a deep, loud voice and would show up in burning bushes, a donkey and rumble the sky with his commands for earthlings. I took it all literally and never recall fearing this first version any more than I feared waking up on Christmas morning to find a fat, jolly, old bearded man standing in my living room trying to sneak a baby doll under the tree.

Then my amygdala engaged…that portion of my brain that activates fear was actively engaged in my conception of God #2. God #2 was even more mean, loud, fiercely disappointed and wanted nothing more than to catch me doing something wrong so he could smite me. I didn’t like him as much as I knew I didn’t have a choice but to love him…or else. He was all knowing AND all seeing. I imagined him looking down from the sky and watching through the roof of my glass ceiling house…he could see my every move and read my every thought. I was petrified. I watched movies about The End Times and lived a large percentage of my preteen years fearing the return of Christ. No matter how hard I tried or how many times I asked him to save me, I would be left behind to either get the mark of the beast or declare allegiance to the one who left me and stand in line for the guillotine. I’d enter Heaven’s Gates beheaded but at least I wouldn’t spend eternity in Hell.

It didn’t take long to set that God aside…trying to please him at the same time I was trying to please everyone else that claimed to follow him was every bit of exhausting. Conveniently, at this same moment in time the world seemed to nurture my lack of confidence and self-worth. I found my acceptance from individuals that questioned or denied God’s existence, so I made a home there…there in the world, with things that helped me stay out of my busy, questioning head and thoughts. I still went to church, prayed, asked for forgiveness and would contest the non-existence of a creator, but God #3 was there only if needed or called upon while collecting dust on a shelf. I was tired of his unobtainable demands. The last thing I wanted was to die and go to hell, but I concluded that I didn’t have a say so in the matter. I’d just have to hope for the best.

The best thing happened…

The God of Motherhood. After I had Paige, at the baby age of 21, I needed a different god. I needed a god that could once again see through my roof and stay up all night in case I fall asleep and fail to hear her cry. Say hello to God #4. He was welcome in my home. I didn’t want to do this parental gig alone. I would ask him to be my eyes when I could not see, and my ears when I could not hear. Help me be a good mom. Help me do what she needs me to do…be what she needs me to be. Give me supernatural energy because I am spent. I don’t want my baby to go to hell either. What will I teach her so she can stay out of the fire? I want her to know you God and I want to tell her about Jesus…Jesus. What if I begin by teaching her more about Your Son and less about your requirements…What if I gently lead her into an understanding of what it means to believe in an unseen God…what if at the same time I’m teaching her I open up the door for you to reteach me? Two more kids later and God #4 began to soften and I kinda liked him. We talked…a lot. Like I think I talked to God more than I talked to anyone. I had to pray about so many things once I had children. I could talk all day and not cover all the bases. I developed an understanding that God could hear me and I was not bothering him and that he actually wanted to participate in my life…even the messy parts.

God #4 was better than all the other Gods I’d known but I still had some issues with the program…I was still lumping him back into humanity as I tried to box up his existence within Christianity. As a single woman in her 40’s I needed God’s help on multiple levels, so I went to church. I spent my whole life looking for God in a church…I found God #5 far from a building with a steeple.

I took a break.

I was not living my best life even though it felt like it at the time. Things were going more my way than in the past…things I’d prayed for would receive the answers I wanted.

This time was shortly after my small town divorce…if I can leave you any good measure of advice to carry onto your children it is this…do not go to bed with gum in your mouth, treat half a tank like an empty tank and you’ll never run out of gas, AND don’t divorce in a small town. Just don’t do it.

A time of undeserved merit and favor from God #5. Like I said…he was kinder than all the ones before. So kind that he blessed me in spite of…Quick Story….I was driving around looking at houses and spotted one that I loved. It wasn’t for sale, but the one two doors down was so I went to take a look. It was $10,000 more than my approved loan amount and I’d need to lay sod…another $4,000. Not going to happen and honestly didn’t want it anyways…I prayed to God and asked him to help find me a house that I could make a home for Hannah and Laken. A day or two later, it was the end of one of my classes, and I had a student ask me to go to the attendance office with her. She was afraid she would get in trouble for one thing or another and so I agreed to ease her fears and walk with her…I was waiting on someone to help her when a substitute teacher was telling the office staff her and her husband were moving…I asked where she lived and if her house was for sale. The House. The house I loved…the one two doors down…the one I saw days earlier but was not for sale…that was her house. She said her husband was on his way to a real estate office and I said, Stop Him! Call Him! And that house became my house. That house was within my budget…with a beautiful landscaped lawn…and I made a home for my babies there. God heard. God answered…rather quickly. Was that all me? Was God in it? This God I wondered and still wonder about…was He in the details?

I spent the next few years under a covering of protection that was unmerited. My mouth could spew scripture and my playlist was heavy on Hillsong and Bethel Worship, but I was far from God. I kept those things around as security just in case things fell apart…

Things fell apart.

I am sitting here today with another God. This is the God of my 50’s. He’s super quiet…perhaps a little burnt out with all my wondering about him. I’m sitting here in my living room giving him full permission to show up…to speak…to rumble the clouds just for me…I’ve got nothing. I’m just as lost as I was 29 books on Purpose ago… I ask for direction. I ask for forgiveness…I ask for forgiveness for asking for forgiveness so much. I ask for a reason to still be here…a revelation. I wonder if it matters. It being prayer. I wonder if it’s all been planned out in advance and my participation is futile. And I wonder if He is real. Are you there God? It’s me, Gina. Am I just taking up space? Are we all just taking up space? What is it that you want for us? What are we missing? If you are real…and I say if, because none of us have seen you and yet we cling to the hope…then show me. Show me in a way only I will understand. I want to know you and when someone asks me why I believe in God I want to say something more than, “I just do.” I can think of dozens of times in my life that you were so real. Please be real again.

In doing so….I would like to request the omission of cancer and death and disease and drowning and fire and snakes and anything to do with heights and floods that destroy everything I have left, or tornadoes…and infidelity and missing children and nuclear war and mass shootings and poverty or a car crash. I might think of some other things after I finish writing this but I’ll just tell them to you.

friendship · grace · life · wisdom

…so this is 50.

I can’t explain the high I received the day I turned 50…but it was nice. Real nice.

I was like…here I am! I did it! I’m still here!

I didn’t take myself out doing something stupid and GOD ONLY KNOWS how many times I was miraculously kept out of harm’s way. I’ll get to Heaven one day and be met at the gate not by St. Peter, but by my guardian angel giving me the stink eye.

There is an anticipation that comes with turning 50. It comes with some pressure. Pressure perhaps we place upon ourselves, but pressure nonetheless. It’s a halfway point. We think of life in a span of a hundred years. I grew up watching Willard Scott make a big to-do about individuals living to see 100 on The Today Show every morning. It’s a hoopla and halfway to hoopla needed a party.

I decided to landmark this mid-century milestone with something to remember…something to make not only myself smile, but some other people smile, too. I knew it was a long shot but I wanted to gather with some precious girls I’d stayed in touch with on and off since high school and college and do some laughing and catching up for the heck of it. I wanted to hug some friends I’d known since fried perms, popped collars, Madonna and Maybelline.

Kurt was trying to create a fuss for me behind my back that involved Paige, Laken and Hannah…once he realized what I was drumming up we merged the two and congregated all the guests in downtown Austin for a good time! My daughters got to see and meet some of the women I’ve talked about for years and my friends got to meet my daughters. Now, that’s a party!

julie, lisa, me, karen, michelle p, stephanie, michelle c, not pictured: melodie
me and the baby loves…laken, paige, hannah

We had THE BEST time. In fact, we had so much fun I forgot to take enough pictures to really make this blog post pop. That’s when you REALLY know you had fun…

I soooo admire the women in my life. I am so proud to be surrounded, near and far, by beautiful, strong, confident gals! Are you? Do you have good women in your life? Do you have friends that love you in and through your mess and stick around for the message? Do you have those who love you enough to call you out of stupid human tricks instead of choosing to stop calling you? Do you have fans and cheerleaders on the sidelines of your life when it’s a victory moment?!

If 20 years ago I gave you my best sage advice about relationships and life you might think to yourself, Oh please…what does SHE know… But now. Now I’m 50. Now when I say, “Listen up, sugar…” You lean in and listen to my age old wisdom and tall tales of back when.

So gather ’round my proverbial rocking chair and listen up… My advice to you is to be selective in this process. In the process of circling up your tribe. I’ve preached this before and I’ll preach it again…you become what you allow in your life. You better get picky, sister. I didn’t learn this lesson soon enough and if I could go back I would do some things different. Hear me when I say…stay clear of anyone that feels the need to knock you down in order to feel picked up. Run without apology from anyone who incessantly talks about others and tends to use your ears as a sponge for their judgement and jealousy. Not nice. If she is belittling you, she needs to go. If you feel unheard and unappreciated, first kindly talk about your feelings… and if the behavior continues…well…needs to go. You get one life! Don’t spend it with those who exhaust you! LISTEN TO ME! It’s not worth it. And if you are the one acting up…you better stop it. You picked up on some nasty habits from someone you let stay around too long and now you need a revival. Be Kind. Period.

Thank you for listening . I only type that because I care.

So…Now that I’m 50…

  • I am okay with still being a big dreamer and considering going back to college and getting my Master’s degree. I still don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. Be encouraged if you struggle here…you are not alone.
  • I will not ever apologize for wanting to lose another 5 pounds…for ordering a salad and skipping dessert. Why did I ever feel like my desire to be fit and say no to a brownie was offensive? Good Lord.
  • I will continue to value my health to a degree that comes across as obsessive. Have you been watching the news? Healthcare is a crisis! We all better take it into our own hands. If you’re depending on the government to take care of you if you eat one too many cheeseburgers and skip the gym…you’re in trouble. They don’t care if you die.
  • I will not apologize for not being a fan of stuff and needing simple and clean in order to function properly. Stuff makes me crazy. I need order and pretty and without it I’m searching for order and pretty when I could be doing something else.
  • I will not deny my fear of heights and I’ll wait while you ride the roller coasters, jump out of planes, leap off bridges and I will FOREVER think snow skiing is the biggest waste of money because it involves heights and cold and potential broken bones. I’m not paying anyone to make me scared, cold or hospitalized.

I’m just getting started, people. This whole 50 thing is just the beginning of me.

You’ll know I’m old and over it if you catch me doing any of the following:

  • There’s 2 to 3 good inches of gray roots on the top of my head and I make zero effort to conceal it under a cute ball cap.
  • I give away all my heels and stop getting pedicures.
  • I don’t wear a bra in public…and you know it.
  • I eat bags of potato chips with vanilla coke chasers from a recliner while watching reruns of Family Feud…every night.
  • My sheets have not been washed in over a week and I have coupons clipped and sitting in piles on my nightstand.
  • I talk about my most recent bowel movement as if I’m bragging on one of my kids.
  • I get a cat.
faith · grace · kids · life · wisdom

Mom! Look!

Let me set the scene for you…

I was walking every evening around our high school track in the blessed town of Andrews, Texas. If you’ve never witnessed a West Texas sunset, shame on you. Get in your car now and go. It’s life giving. Those sunset views as I walked, along with a good playlist on my iPod helped…some. I was going through a less than wonderful time in my life…some diagnosed it a midlife crisis behind my back…when in all actuality the midlife crisis didn’t set in for a couple more years. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Life was coming in strong and the walks were an attempt to clear my mind and talk to God. I was confused and my mind was a tangled mess that I myself could not unravel. Trust me…I tried. I needed more than wine and a Pinterest Board of motivation and positive quotes. I needed The One who saw fit to plant me on earth in the first place.

I circled that track and circled that track asking God to speak to me. SAY SOMETHING! I DARE YOU! I would tell Him He could totally talk to me and I would keep it just between the two of us. I was politely offering God a safe place to be vocal. Surely He was tired of us making messes and all He could do was remain silent and hope for the best from the free will He bestowed upon us humans. I felt for Him. Probably hard to watch at times…so I was totally there for Him. I just knew He had some things to say to me but feared I would tell “the others” and then “the others” would feel like God loved me more. I would stay hush-hush. If not, it could easily be an all out Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors Revisited…jealousy would commence and neither of us had time for that. 

Go ahead…speak. It’s cool…

The skies did not rumble. There wasn’t so much as a whisper in the wind. Night after night of mile walking and He never opened his mouth. He obviously didn’t trust me not to blog about it, so I offered Him the next best thing. Something less “Wow, God spoke to you?” and more “I thought He did that for me too one time!”  I told God He could sky write my next move in the clouds. I would ask Him a question and while trying to beat the time on my next mile, I would look up and await His response. I steadily watched the clouds, but the clouds remained just clouds. 

Over time my circumstances became heightened seeds of frustration and although I kept walking, I stopped looking up…stopped praying…stopped hoping…gave up.

I knew you could see it on my face. The apathy. The disdain. Those around me began asking with disturbing frequency how I was doing.

Great. Doing great. Thanks. 

My pessimism had me convinced and certain they were asking so they would have something to talk about in this one horse town. If I told them how I really was…the battles I was facing…they would offer me some theology and bible verses…the lyrics to a song they heard on K-Love that moved them and was sure to move me.

Don’t want it. Keep it. Save it.

I was teaching journalism during this time and yearbook deadlines were looming. I didn’t want to get out of bed…how am I supposed to show up for these students and make sure we have ample coverage of this school year with photos and stories and captions?!  Everything was meaningless. They don’t even care about this dumb book. I was so done and fought a daily battle with marching down to the principals office and telling him I quit. 

Show Off.

One evening Hannah and I made a trip to Dollar General…the shopping mecca of our small town…as we were leaving I could not help but notice the looming cloud above us. Wow. It was shaped like a big footprint. There were small clouds around it that looked as if they were participating in the sky painting, but happily played their smaller roles and allowed the much larger cloud to be the star.

There was no ignoring it’s grandeur, but like I said, I was not up for anything…I gave God plenty of opportunities to show up and He was silent…I was done.

Hannah was not done. 

MOM! LOOK! LOOK AT THE FOOTPRINT!

Geez. She saw it, too?! She’s 10. I have to be excited…

Yes, Hannah! I see it!

LOOK AT ALL THE LITTLE FEET AROUND IT!

She picked up on that…

I see that Hannah. What does that say to you?

The big foot is God’s and all the little ones are our footprints!

Ummm….yes. I can see that. Perhaps it means God goes before us and won’t take us anywhere He hasn’t already been.

Did I just say that? 

October 22, 2007. The Next Morning.

I get to work and turn on my computer. First thing before the students arrive I check emails. I have a message from a friend and fellow photographer that stood down on the field with me during football games to get shots of the game. 

Good Morning Gina. I hope you are doing well.

He signed his name and typed, Deuteronomy 31:8

Nothing else.

That was odd but okay…

I go home for lunch and as I’m sitting on the couch my bible…the bible that I had not opened in months…was all but screaming at me to open it. I wonder why he emailed me and I wonder what that verse says. It’s Old Testament. Probably something about God’s anger and how I’m doing everything to disappoint Him and vengeance is rising. I was well aware my life must be a poor reflection of what would honor God and I didn’t appreciate this guy sending me a reminder.  After arguing with myself, and unable to eat until I solve the mystery of the day,  I turn to the verse.

Amazing how life springs from the pages of this book. I recall the evening before and my words to Hannah, God goes before us and won’t take us anywhere He hasn’t already been. Hashtag affirmation. Hashtag heartsoftening.

Hello tears. There you are…

I had to gather myself to go back to work. Why did he send me that email? He never emailed me before? It made no sense? So random. And that verse?

I message him to ask why…

He tells me he was getting ready to leave town and didn’t have a minute to spare but sending that to me would not leave him alone…He said he wasn’t sure where the words were in the bible and had to take time to look it up, and then sent it rather quickly so he could scoot.

I am with you.

I will be with you.

I go before you.

I will not take you anywhere I have not already been.

Do not fear.

Stop being discouraged.

I’m not going anywhere…even when you ignore me…I’m here.

I’ve got you.

Y’all. This was 11 years ago! The life I’ve experienced since that day on that couch to now…NOT EASY. He knew. He saw it before I got there. He was already there. He has gone before me. He totally hears me. He is not silent. 

His voice is as loud and close as the nearest open page of His Word.

And He knows He totally has permission to get audible with me and sky write me all the things….

And He totally knows I won’t be quiet about it…

Hey. You. Yes, You. Life can feel like too much sometimes. Relationships are hard. Our children can break our hearts. We can break our children’s hearts. It seems like nothing will be the same…and nothing will change. I understand. 

He goes before you, too…

blogging · grace · life · wisdom

dear me.

A few months back I put this picture as the screensaver on my computer…

3 year old gina.jpg

When I open it up, the first thing I see is little Gina Lynn….little 3 year old me with a bad excuse for a haircut and a dogged determination not to smile. My dad was a preacher/barber and bless his heart…he could not pray or trim my hair into submission. From what he tells me, my hair grew straight up…weightless and wispy it gathered atop my head defining the effects of static electricity.  I had big features for a child and you and I both know that looks like a little boy in a dress. I doubt I cared much about my hair when this picture was taken. I was still too young to practice the dreaded art of comparison…but I didn’t stay too young forever.

I wonder at what exact point notions of what it means to be pretty invaded that innocent little mind and took over?

I think back and recall the first time I longed for longer hair. My very first best friend had the bestest, longest, thickest blonde hair in Kindergarten. I wanted her braids and ribbons and even her tangles. She had Johnson and Johnson No More Tangles spray and it took her mom a good portion of her one life to comb those suckers out…I wanted my mom to give up her one life for some tangles.

I remember going to Six Flags with our church youth group…somewhere around my late elementary years…I had some souvenir money burning a hole in my pocket.  You remember those colored pencil sketches of your tiny body with a big head?! That’s where my money went and I wanted my money back. My caricature had short, straight hair with a cowlick,  a big nose and big ears. Apparently he drew what we looked like instead of what we wished we looked like?! Bummer. I wanted him to see me differently.  I wanted to look differently.

These facts break my heart for every little girl. Every little girl that looks at herself and wishes something different was looking back at her.

While working on my memoir it has served me well to keep this picture in clear view. I like to think about where it all began and the years between this moment and now….

I talk to her…is that weird? Oh well…let’s say it’s weird and move on. I say things like…

Don’t look at me like that…

I’m sorry…you deserved better. Ugh. I’m really sorry. 

That hair…God love it.

You’re cute…

I wish I would have loved you instead of beating you up. 

I wish I could hug you.

I do. I wish I could scoop that little girl up in my arms and tell her everything that is going to happen and how to prepare for it. I want to tell her to love herself and not waste ANY energy on trying to get someone else to love her that doesn’t want to. I want to tell her where to spend her time and where not to…which door to open and which one to avoid like the plague. So yes…as crazy as it sounds I talk to little me…

What if she talked back?

Dear Bigger Gina,

It looks like my hair finally grew in. Now that you have some, maybe you should fix it sometimes instead of always pulling it up? You can do it. Fix your hair, Regina. 

Your love of books and knowledge has taught me a lot about people and life and random things about random things. I love how curious you are. Keep reading.

Thanks for taking care of us physically…for making time for exercise and being semi-psychotic about your food choices. Aging is a natural part of this gig and I think you’re doing your best to walk us into it with grace. Good girl. Keep it up.

Wow. Those are our daughters. They are remarkable. We did that?! And now they are having children of their own?! Look at those babies?! I think I’m going to cry. So if it wasn’t for ME being here THEY wouldn’t be here?! Thank you God for allowing me to be here.

You are a good mom.

Hey. I like our husband. He’s cute. And he really, really loves you.

You are a good wife.

I hope you’ll keep writing…we’ve got one heck of a story to tell. I know there are parts that you might want to skip over but I want you to remember that if not for THAT part we would not be in THIS part..and this part is pretty amazing. 

Can you honor me?  Honor me with the words you speak, the friends you choose, the way you spend your time and the way you use your gifts. Honor the fact that we are still here and have another day to keep trying. I see you trying. 

Hey. I think you’re pretty. I do. I know you love a good filter but the best filter you can use is the one that’s already inside us. Our heart. It’s too big for us. I know. You try and ignore it because you cry easily…but honestly, that’s the prettiest thing about you. Our big sappy heart. 

Just love me. I love when you look at me and like what you see because I like being you. I like where we are and how hard you’ve worked to get us here. You are really strong. When did we get so strong? Oh yeah. Now I remember.  

We’ve come a really long way…let’s keep going.

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faith · family · grace · kids · motherhood · wisdom

sent off with a sandwich and a prayer.

Back to School.

I’m reading all the Facebook posts and seeing all your pictures on Instagram of your baby loves heading back to school in their new uniforms and tennis shoes that have just enough wiggle room…the summer sunshine mixed with pool chlorine no doubt serves as a juvenile cocktail for growth spurts.

“Child. How can the pants you wore 12 weeks ago be three inches too short?!”

Am I lying? No. You know it’s true. Kids sprout in the summer.

A photo is a must. I’m loving all the new ways to document the year…the letter boards declaring their age, grade and a quote…

Annabelle 6, 1st grade. “I like Dora the Explorer and bacon.”

We didn’t have letter boards or Instagram when my girls were little..Let me think what I would have shared for this first day  back picture…

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Paige 8, 3rd grade. I like tweety bird and having my own room.

Laken 5, Kindergarten. I like to pick out my own clothes and this dress is stupid.

Ask my girls about the year I was burning up with a fever on their first day back…I stumble out of my bedroom just as they are preparing to exit the infirmary and insist on a picture. “Wait, girls! Lemme get your picture.” Hunched over in a wrinkled oversized t-shirt and my underwear I capture another “first”. I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss it.

That’s what we  do…we snap one photo after another…trying to stop time and freeze moments in squares.

You will blink and it’s Christmas Break.

You will blink again and need to blink real fast to hold back tears as they walk across the stage and close this chapter.

You feed and clothe and teach and nurture your birdies for 18 years then in what seems like a minute they leave home and you have boring couches where the pillows stay in the same place for weeks… The same five loads of repetitive laundry with socks that stick with their partners…Their rooms feel stark and hollow without their personalities and your refrigerator is left with mayonnaise and ketchup that will be tossed before consumed. Where is everyone?! It’s a ghost town up in here.

Empty Nest Syndrome is not something that lasts a scientifically researched set amount of time and then dissipates…no, ENS comes and goes in waves…waves of nostalgia dipped and battered in crocodile tears. Odds are it was brought on by a song, or commercial or seeing another mom loving on her baby. The onset and symptoms may vary but the cure is universal: Hearing that they still need you and watching them build their own nests with some of the love, comfort and care that you desperately tried to teach.

Mama. Daddy.

It goes by fast. It goes by more. than. fast.

Back When It Didn’t Feel So Fast…

School days were hard. Getting them all out the door happy was my personal mission impossible. If all three of them were chipper and satisfied with what they were wearing and how their hair looked, I knew to get right with Jesus…He was on His way. Get right with the Lord! I’m dropping them happy girls off and going back home to curl up in my designated “quiet time” chair with my half-attempted Beth Moore bible study so when He finds me He shall find me faithful.

Can I stop and chase a rabbit for a minute?…Those bible studies. Y’all. I tried so hard to emulate some of the precious women in my church that spoke spiritual discipline into my life. They were all about having a quiet time.  They had comfy chairs in carefully selected corners next to a small table bedecked with a lamp giving off a perfect 60 watt glow. Along with the lamp was a bible, a stack of current books from Lifeway Christian Book Store and a fill in the blank bible study. The chair was accented with a throw in complimentary colors to place in their lap while they sipped coffee, prayed and dug into The Word at 5 am. Girls. I tried. I did. Except I was tired as hell. I blamed my borderline anemia and the dry West Texas winds for my eternal fatigue but the truth was I was tired from all the pressure to be perfect. Jesus and I had an ongoing conversation…like I started praying from the time my feet hit the ground and never said Amen.  I prayed they loved their teachers, made good friends with good values, felt and held onto their worth, felt safe and WERE safe. Like, I would start out strong then find myself saying, hold on…I’ll be back…don’t leave…I’ve just got to see if I can find her other shoe and get them to school on time but I still have some things to say…and ask of You.  I never wanted to raise my kids without Him. It just seemed like I couldn’t measure up. I mixed what was meant to be grace and mercy and my greatest love story with shades of shame, self- defeating talk and a focus on inadequacy. Just as the enemy would have wanted.  I wish I could go back and release Young Mama Gina from the standards I thought I needed to meet.

Now back to the Back to School Blogging…

I cannot recall a time when all three of my girls liked the same thing in their lunches. It was mayonnaise for one, mustard for another and PB&J for the third. Which one hates turkey? Which one wants vanilla pudding?  Crisis Alert: I only have two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos left…someone is getting regular Lay’s…please forgive me.  Dear Lord Jesus…please don’t let her starve today and please help her pass her spelling test on an empty stomach if I fail to pack the provisions necessary in order for her to do so.

But this… THIS tops all of that…

‘Twas the night before a new school year and I called for the customary family meeting. We gathered in the lamplit living room and I began my rhetoric.

“This year will be different. My expectations are higher. Paige you will be in middle school, Laken at Devonian, and Hannah starts kindergarten…This will mean I’ll have 3 kids at 3 different schools. The ONLY way I can pull this off is if we ALL cooperate.”

I then began my well comprised list of To Do’s…

Eat breakfast and brush your teeth before you get dressed. I don’t want toaster strudel icing or toothpaste on your clothes. Eat naked if you have to but DO NOT eat or brush your teeth after you’ve dressed. And you better brush your teeth.

I will not sign ANY papers or check homework in the mornings. I won’t. I mean it. All of this needs to be taken care of the night before or it doesn’t get taken care of…

Speaking of homework…get your homework done before you do anything…like right when you get home. Before you watch Lizzie McGuire…before you jump on the trampoline…They nod in agreement and I carry on…I made sure we would be on our toes this year…like professional ballerinas on pointe. No more lazy up in this house.

I finish my New School Year Dissertation when Paige raises her hand.

Yes Paige?

“Can I say something.”

Of course.

“Can you stop saying crap so much?”

Hello?

The room got oddly quiet and I got uncomfortable…

Yes. Yes, Paige. I…I will stop saying crap.

There I was dropping the law and cultivating a plan for a smooth as butter school year and all my daughter wanted was for me to not say crap?

You could feel the struggle to hold in laughter. It didn’t take long for this stuffy meeting to make some great memories. I love it.

Attempts at perfection are nothing more than catalysts for profanity.

Perfection still makes me say crap.

Good Lawsy…I WISH I could tell you the worst thing I ever did as a mom was illicit a synonym for cow pies upon moments of frustration.

Nope.

My rap sheet is longer than that.

Now Listen.

With all my babies out of school…officially as of last Saturday…Go Hannah and Praise Jesus…I come at you from The Other Side as an encourager of peace and gently ask you to slow down and take it easy. It’s messy sometimes. It’s messy MOST of the times…

Beds won’t get made. Papers won’t get signed. The breakfast of your champions might some days include Teddy Grahams and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Dirty gym clothes found in a backpack on the way to school will fly under the stink radar thanks to a quick spritz of Victoria’s Secret body spray…and brace yourself for this one…retainers will be accidentally thrown in the lunchroom trash can…more than once.

It’s. Okay.

You will one day long for these moments. Moments you will treasure more once they pass, but learning to treasure them now will serve your heart well later.

And when nostalgia comes knocking and you long for the noise and the busy and the days you can’t get back…the days that sometimes made you say doggy doo but also the days that gave you meaning and purpose and crazy beautiful joy…

Something as simple as one of your babies calling to ask for something that they remember as part of the place they called home will remind you that a part of you will forever be with them…

Mom…Can I get your taco soup recipe?

You know you can…

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Stripes must have been the theme this year. Hannah 5, Kindergarten. Gymnastics, Blue’s Clues and honey mustard on everything.  Paige 12, 7th. Volleyball, Choir and Friends.  Laken 9, 4th. Dancing, Even Stevens and American Girl Dolls.

 

 

beauty · grace · kids · life

hymn and her.

A few weeks back several of you got a text from me asking you to pick your 3 favorite old hymns. I had a really special reason for asking! The littlest of my littles has got some mad skills in the art of calligraphy along with a mom that is always dreaming up business ideas…

Say hello to Hymn & Her Prints.

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Hannah will be making original designs of some of our favorite lyrics…

Trust & Obey…

I’ll fly away…

Standing on the Promises…

It is Well…

Good old fashioned hymns melt me! Along with these goodies she is available for personalized prints. Her attention to detail and personal creative edge is truly something!

She is as cute and sweet as she is talented! #mommaproud #mommabrags

You can follow her on instagram at hymnandherprints and you can email her at hymnandherprints@outlook.com for order inquiries.

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We must not hide our talents. Matthew 25:14-30

love gina

 

blogging · grace · life · motherhood · wisdom

let’s go be 49…

IMG_2198For the past few years on my birthday I’ve blogged a recap of the year gone by…this year I asked my Facebook followers to ask me any questions they might have about a prior blog post or anything else they might care to know about me…I got two questions:

What is the greatest lesson I have learned in the past decade and What was my biggest challenge in raising girls…I truthfully without hesitation answered THAT one on the spot…BOYS. Quick and perhaps witty but any mama of girls will say Yes and Amen to that answer.

However…the truth and the biggest challenge I faced in raising my girls was not stinky boys or mean girls…it was not the fighting over who wore my shirt without asking or I can’t believe you left my favorite shoes at a friend’s house. No. It had nothing to do with arguments or mood swings or lack of obedience…

The biggest challenge I faced in raising my girls was loving myself as much as they desperately wanted me to love myself.

My self deprecation was alive and well while at the same time trying to convince all three of them that they were more than braces, a bad haircut or the size of their jeans. I was begging them to recognize how kind and smart and brave and beautiful they were, all the while I was hating my reflection and wishing I were more…more of what? More of anything than what I saw staring back at me.

 

 

If I were looking at 40 year old Gina in the mirror right now I would love her. I would say be nice. I would say get over it. You are not perfect…you never will be. You’ve made some mistakes but you’re still standing. It’s not EVER going to be easy. Life is super unpredictable and totally crazy and you don’t know it but your next few years are going to wreck you more than you could ever wreck yourself. Hold on sister…

So if my greatest challenge in raising my girls is anything like any of you might be facing, here is my suggestion…Stop beating yourself up. In the same way you desire for your daughters to love and accept themselves for who they are…to be authentic and kind…start with being kind to yourself. They don’t need you to be a size 2…they just need you to be you. You are the first face they look for in the audience…in the stands…in the crowd. They need you to be so crazy about yourself that when someone says, “Wow, she looks just like you!” That is a huge compliment.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned in the past decade falls in line with my first answer…I’ve learned that loving myself is not arrogant or to be ignored, but crucial in order for me to give honest love and accept love in return.

Thanks for asking.

This is just the beginning of me…

All the days before today were just training days…

Let’s go be 49,

love gina