Author Archives: trulyyoursjen

Praise, Phish and Bob Weir: An Exceptional Trio

When I first started living my life for Christ, I drew a lot of lines in the sand. In many ways, my world became black and white. Yes to this and no to that. This is good and that is bad.

I remember feeling like if I quit doing some things, and replaced them with things that were more fruitful – that I would be well on my way to living the ultimate Christian lifestyle.

In my mind it was all so simple. Was I attending church and Bible study enough? What company was I keeping? Was I drinking? If so, how much? What was I reading, watching, listening to?  Was I putting in enough quiet time?

My faith was a lot about my actions and constantly teetered on the verge of legalism.

In some ways, I feel like this was necessary at that time in my life. I was in my early 20s, and let’s just say prior to living for the Lord – I was a bit of a wild child. In order for me to change some undesirable habits, my environment had to change. Consequently, I became immersed in the church culture.

My husband and I found a church we loved, filled with like-minded individuals who were living their lives for Christ. We began attending a house church with other people our age and quickly developed some of our closest, deepest friendships that are still some of our closest friends to this day. We began to experience relationships in ways we never had before.

I vividly remember going to our first house church cookout. As we parked the car next to the curb, there was a moment before opening our doors when my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) and I looked at each other and said, “Do you really think they won’t have alcohol here? How do we get through a cookout without alcohol?”

It seemed so strange that such a cookout would even exist. Cookouts and beer went together like peanut butter and jelly. I don’t care how long these people have been going to church. They have to know this, right? It was all so foreign to us.

That night we learned a few new things – like going to a cookout without alcohol is actually a ton of fun. For those of you who have never been to one – it’s true. I’m not lying. We had a blast. That evening is forever etched in my mind. I can clearly remember conversations I had with different people that night. I even remember watching as Pat lifted up his sweatshirt to reveal his multi-colored Grateful Dead t-shirt underneath after learning that our host was also a huge Dead fan.

In that moment, I realized it was possible for our past and our present to intertwine in a way that may actually be okay. Maybe all of our past wasn’t so bad?

Fast forward to present day and I can say with confidence that it wasn’t all so bad. Over the years, I have learned that God can take some of the most difficult, challenging times in our lives and use them for good – even our poor choices. He makes beauty from ashes time and time again.

Since my early 20s, my faith has become much less legalistic. I have learned, and truly experienced, how wide and high and deep is the love of God. I have felt His grace cover me time and time again and truly believe He loves me. And He always has. Even when I was far away from Him.

I began to really embrace this truth when my children were young. Due to a lot of circumstances outside of my control, we weren’t able to attend church as often as we could when it was just the two of us. Attending Bible study regularly and prayer nights at the church became more challenging. At first, this was really hard for me. Would God love me as much if I wasn’t showing up regularly? My legalistic self was now face-to-face with the knowledge that I couldn’t perform how I once had. What did this mean for my faith? Would people think I didn’t love Jesus anymore if I wasn’t at church on Sunday?

Turns out, it doesn’t matter what people think of me. What matters is pleasing God – not man. And God knew my heart and my circumstances. I had to learn to accept the love of Christ as it was – a free gift filled with grace and love. It wasn’t about me and it wasn’t about what I was doing. It was about Him. There was nothing I could do to earn His love. And nothing I could do to make it go away.

He is the perfect Father.

The more I began to understand and accept that, the more deeply I experienced His love – and the more freely I was able to give it to others. No strings attached.

To others looking at my life now, there may be moments when I seem like a poor example of a Christian. I don’t attend church every Sunday. I want to, and try to, but sometimes life’s unexpected twists and turns get in the way. I drink alcohol on occasion. I have my nose pierced and am highly contemplating getting a tattoo – or ten. I watch the occasional R-rated movie and very possibly watch Netflix shows that can be considered crass and inappropriate. Some of the music I listen to has bad words and, if the kids aren’t around, there’s a good chance I may be found singing these songs – loudly. Like The Birthday Song by 2Chainz – the minute I’m by myself and that song shuffles through my playlist – it’s game on.

And that’s okay. I’m a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Perfection is unattainable. I will never be perfect and neither will you.

In the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed my past and present come together in a way that I can only describe as beautiful. When my husband and I were younger, we attended many a jam band concert – namely Phish. After becoming Christians, we took a long break from that scene.

Over the years, as we have loosened the reigns on our list of dos and don’ts, we have started to attend a variety of concerts again (and living in Nashville, there is definitely plenty of live music to choose from.) In the past few weeks, we attended both a Phish show and a Bob Weir concert.

During the Phish show, as the band was playing and the people around me were swaying to the sounds of the music, I looked up at the stage framed by the city we now call home and at the stars twinkling in the sky – and strongly felt the presence of God. As my body moved and my gaze fixed upward, I began to pray. I prayed for those at the show with me. I prayed for God’s angels to come to that place. I prayed for His love and mercy to cover us. And a couple of weeks later, at the Bob Weir show, I had a similar experience (only indoors.)

I am learning something that seems so basic, but I had somehow missed. God is everywhere. You don’t need to be at a Christian concert to worship. You can worship Him wherever you are. I think my 20-something self would have guffawed at the thought of worshipping God at a Phish show. You go to church and Christian concerts to worship God. Not Phish shows.

The week after my worshipping God at the Phish show moment, Chris Tomlin lead worship at our church service. As my hands were lifted to the air and my heart was once again worshipping God I was reminded of the unexpected moment I had earlier in the week. The moment when God met me at the Phish show. The moment when my past and present collided in a way that felt like a true gift of redemption.

Our pastor then got up and spoke about the seven Hebrew words for praise. He talked about a word in the Hebrew language that meant praising God through music, Zamar. He talked about joyfully making music with song and instrument. As he spoke of the seven words for praise, I was reminded we should praise Him in all things. At all times. In song. In dance. In gratitude. In prayer. In worship. In silence. Loudly with hands lifted high and quietly while on our knees. At concerts and coffee shops. On walks in nature and when driving the car.

Praise Him for where we’ve been. Praise Him for where we are going. Praise Him for this very moment.

Praise Him for the journey.

Lines that are drawn in sand aren’t meant to last for long. As the tides rise and the waves crash in, the lines vanish with the water returning to it’s source. I am grateful that so many of my lines have been erased. I am grateful that God has taken my heart that at one time may have been more bent toward judgment then I would ever care to admit – and turned it to a heart that clearly sees my imperfection and my need for a Savior. He has forgiven me for much and He continues to do so. He loves me more than I will ever fully be able to fathom. I want my life to reflect this love He has poured so graciously and freely on to me. I want my life to be a vessel. More of Him. Less of me. More of His love. More of His light.

Praise Him for where we’ve been. Praise Him for where we are going. Praise Him for this very moment.

Praise Him for the journey.

In all things. At all times. Whether at church on a Sunday morning. Whether seeing Phish on a Wednesday or Bob Weir on a Monday night. Whether at a cookout with alcohol, or one without. Wherever you may be in your journey.

Praise Him.

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2: 8-10

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my 
God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my 
stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

 

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Confessions of a Cruddy Sports Mom

Last week I received a text that confirmed something I have known for awhile – I’m a cruddy sports mom.

Anyone out there feeling me?

This post is for all of you who get excited when the forecast calls for rain on game night, and this post is for all of you who would rather spend your Saturday mornings in bed than on the sidelines. You know who you are. Don’t hang your head in shame.

This is a safe space to admit you would rather be at home under your nice, warm, downy duvet than freezing your booty off on the metal bleachers at 8:45 am on a Saturday morning while your kid does the floss and picks grass in the outfield.

I assume there have to be other parents like me. Maybe they are even posing as die-hard t-ball fans? Maybe all of that enthusiasm is just for show. Doubtful. But maybe?

I want to be more enthusiastic about it all. I really and truly do. But I’m just not.

This fall, three out of our four kids played ball. Parents, I don’t need to go into details here. You know what this means. It means lots of time spent at the ball field and a lot of time spent in the car. Lots.

And some nights, all four of them had activities at the same time. Figure that one out. It’s as crazy as it sounds.

I am starting to fully understand the phrase, “It takes a village”- because oh man, does it ever. All I can say is thank goodness my girls ended up on the same teams as our neighbors. And yay for grandparents who have moved to town.

There were plenty of evenings I would send one child with a neighbor, run another to wherever they needed to be, pop over to watch the game for 20 minutes and then jump back into the car to pick up another child. You get the drift.

I am sure if anyone was paying attention (and they probably weren’t), that I looked like a crazy lady. (Which makes me want to pause for a minute to point out, if you do happen to see a mom or dad running around like a chicken with their head cut off instead of enjoying the game – try not to judge. They are trying their best just like you. I am sure they would much rather be sitting on the bleacher cheering on the team – but life.)

And let’s not forget what happens prior to even getting out the door. The kids walk in from school and it’s – “Do you have homework? Hurry up. Get your uniform on. You have five minutes to eat. Where are you cleats? Do you have your water? Come on. We need to GO, people!”

As crazy as it feels to me, they don’t mind. Not one bit. Why? Because they are doing what they love – playing ball.

And the same was true for me when I was a kid. I have zero memories of the time between school and heading to the diamond, but I can remember what it felt like to swing the bat and watch the ball go flying. I can remember rounding the bases. I can remember being in the outfield and having a teammate teach me what it means to “fly the bird.” Yep. That happened.

I remember my team and my love of the game. I don’t remember the sacrifices my parents made to get me there. Sorry mom and dad.

And this is what keeps me going. Even though I consider myself a cruddy sports mom, I can still get into a game with the best of ’em. I love watching my children do what brings them joy.

I love the smiles on their faces and the sparkle in their eyes when they finally receive the prized game ball for a job well done. I love knowing they are experiencing camaraderie with their teammates and that they are learning the invaluable skills that come from playing on a team.

There is much to love about sports and what it teaches our children.

So what’s the problem?

I think it’s more about having multiple somethings that people have to be to every night. And every weekend.

It’s more about exhaustion.

In the beginning of the season, I am excited. By the end, I am looking at the forecast and hoping the 20% chance of rain moves up to 100%. And I’m really hoping we don’t have to drive all the way to Franklin only to have the game cancelled 30 minutes after we get there. If it’s supposed to rain, let’s just cancel the game already.

And I had hoped this was what most parents were secretly thinking. I knew I was a cruddy sports mom, but I couldn’t possibly be the cruddiest. Could I?

Turns out – maybe so.

Last week, I received a text from the coach about my daughter’s last game of the season. The text read:

“Just received word that we have won tonight’s game by forfeit! We can still use the field if the girls want to do one last mini scrimmage like we’ve done in practice (and we could get a team picture before.) Or the commissioner said she could reach out to a team with a bye this week to see if they want to play us. Please let me know your vote: (1) mini-scrimmage; (2) scrimmage another team if available; (3) no thanks – done with fall softball.”

Yes! This was the moment! We could all collectively admit what we have been feeling. Let’s be done with it all.

And then the replies came in. One two after another. 2. 2. 2. 2. All 2s.

What the?!

This is the moment when I should have owned my number-3-loving self, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t let them in on my cruddy sports mom secret. My reply was, “Staying in Nolensville would be awesome!” (because the alternative was driving 20 minutes to the field where we were supposed to play that night.) I am such a chicken. Why couldn’t I just reply with 3?

The reason? Because in my heart I know what we know as parents to be true – this isn’t about me. Is it?

I think this is what all of those sports moms are on to. Just because I was tired and ready for the season to be over, doesn’t mean my daughter didn’t want to play. Of course she wanted to play. She loves softball. Just like I loved softball when I was her age.

Yes, I am a cruddy sports mom. Yes, I hope for bad weather and cancelled games on occasion. Who am I kidding? It’s not on occasion. I’m always am hoping for that. Yes, I pull out my phone sometimes during the game to check my email. Yes, I hear the alarm go off on a Saturday morning and think “WHY?” But regardless of how I feel, I will keep doing it. I will keep signing them up and running around like a crazy woman praying for the rain to fall.

Because, as parents, this is what we do. Right? We show up. We encourage. We cheer. We wash uniforms repeatedly. We sign up for our obligatory snack duty. We run from one place to the other dropping kids off and picking them up like a free taxi service.

Whether we are incredible sports moms (and dads), or cruddy ones – we are in it together. Sharing bleachers, toting snacks and feeling an overwhelming amount of love for our little people playing the game.

Yes, we are in it together. So, the next time you see a frazzled mom running to the stands yelling for her kids to “hurry up” with bags on her arms and a baby on her hip (I’m not there anymore, but I used to be), give her a fist bump and let her know you’re glad to see her.

And if you really want to make her day – tell her she is doing am amazing job and hand her the game ball.

 

 

 

 

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Have you ever done something that was out of your comfort zone? My guess is more than likely, at one time or another, you have.

Maybe it was traveling by yourself for the first time? Or going into your first job interview? What about having your first baby? Or the moment you realize they are actually going to send this tiny human home with you just 48 hours after birth? That was a big one for me. I vividly remember crying to the nurse as we were going through the discharge paperwork. What would we do with this precious little baby (who seemed incredibly vulnerable to the dangers of the world, might I add) when we got home? Talk about being out of your comfort zone.

Yes, I have been out of my comfort zone a time or two (or lots.) It may not have been pleasant in the moment, but the end result is usually the same – growth.

I recently experienced one of these uncomfortable growth moments. A friend of mine, Amber Sandberg, has an incredible podcast called the Mom Inspired Show, and I was scheduled to be a guest.

Ironically, I am the one who asked her about being on the show. It sounded like a lot of fun, until the day before it was scheduled. Then all of those, “What are you doing?” and “You can’t do this” monsters tried to sneak in and steal my joy.

I can write all day long, but unedited speaking that other people are going to be listening to? Gulp. When I write, I have the ability to edit. I can go back and add words, remove and rearrange sentences and even delete it all if the mood strikes. This is not the case with a podcast.

After a couple of minutes, I realized Amber was right (which shouldn’t have come as a surprise given this was her 105th episode.) It was just as she had described, two friends chatting.

The topic of conversation, friendship, is near and dear to my heart – so it was easy to talk about.

Amber and I are both midwest girls who relocated to a suburb of Nashville. She moved over a decade ago, and I moved a year ago. We met at MOPS last year and learned that our Birthdays are just one day a part, and to top it off – we were both about to turn 40. Instant connection.

In the podcast, we talk about moving, seasons of life, the challenges of developing and building relationships with the demands of motherhood, the importance of showing up, vulnerability, different personalities and self-awareness – all under the umbrella of friendship.

It was so much fun. Prior to the call, I was nervous and felt like this was completely outside of my wheelhouse, and by the time it was over – I was hungry for more. I absolutely loved being on her show and quickly asked if I could come back as a guest again.

What started as uncomfortable, ended up being an opportunity for growth and self-discovery that I’m incredibly grateful for.

Interestingly enough, the more I thought about my feelings – I realized the discomfort I felt in trying something new can be a kin to how it feels when pursuing new relationships. Finding friends means being willing to, at times, be uncomfortable.

Joining a mom’s group or a Bible study may not be comfortable. Being the first to say “hello” and introduce yourself to someone may not be comfortable. Asking a potential friend to go on a walk, or share a cup of coffee, may not be comfortable. Having 20 interrupted conversations with someone you are just getting to know at the park while you are watching your kids may not be comfortable. Opening up and beginning to share your past with someone may not be comfortable.

There is a lot about friendship that has the potential to take us outside of our comfort zone, but it is so worth it. I truly believe we are made for connection and the more deep and meaningful relationships we have in our life, the more fulfilling life becomes.

Here is my podcast debut with the very talented Amber Sandberg. You should totally check it out and while you are on the site, I highly recommend listening to her other podcasts as well. They are fantastic.

Click here to listen: http://mominspiredshow.com/why-friends-are-important-and-how-to-find-them-jennifer-thompson-105/

I hope you enjoy the show!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Skating Toward Plan C

Have you ever set out to do something and it didn’t turn out the way you planned? I would have to imagine so. That’s just part of living. Isn’t it?

That’s why we say things like, “Go with the flow” and “Roll with the punches.”

For example, you’re getting ready to head to the gym and get a call to pick up your sick child from school. So you do a workout video instead. You plan to make meatloaf, reach for the oats in the pantry and find an empty container. So you make spaghetti. You’re on your way to an appointment and your tire goes flat. So you reschedule.

The ever reliable Plan B, C, or D is like the boy and girl standing against the wall waiting for their turn to be chosen during the Rockin’ Robin at the roller rink (yes, that was a very specific memory from my childhood that I just randomly tossed in there because it made me smile.) You might be skating toward A all sweaty-palmed and nervous when someone goes flying past you like a bolt of lightening. How do they skate so fast? They beat you to it. So what do you do? Do you pout off like a baby and spend the rest of the day at the pinball machines? No. You pull up your skate strings and adjust course. And lucky you – look at all of the other incredible, and possibly even better, options waiting for you to grab them by the hand.

This is how it is with life. Plan. Adjust. Plan. Adjust. Plan. Adjust.

Skate toward your goal and if something happens to throw you off – stay calm and make another lap until you figure out your next move. Before you know it you will be in a sweat-covered, awkward hand-holding skating session with a near stranger and all will be right with the world again.

I have made a lot of laps in my day.

And with each lap, I have learned the value of taking deep breaths, staying calm and realizing that just because something isn’t going my way – that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. In fact, it’s usually in those moments when things don’t go my way that I learn a little something about life – and myself.

Take, for example, a moment I had last week. I was standing on my back porch looking at our little yellow bistro table that resides in the corner. I love to decorate and am in a constant state of “What would look good there?” Which is exactly what was happening in my brain as I stood on the patio staring at the table. It needed something. But what?

A vase. That’s what. More specifically – a white vase.

Lucky for me, I happened to have a white vase that wasn’t being used at the time. Off I went into the closet under the stairs in search of the vase (and in search of Harry Potter – just kidding. But that would be super cool.) I retrieved the vase and took it outside where the unforgiving light of day revealed the white spray paint I had used years ago to cover the glossy light pink was slowly starting to chip off. It wasn’t a white vase anymore. It was now a white and pink speckled vase. Not at all what I was imagining when I was looking at the table and thinking, “What would look good there?” (Honestly, I don’t think the answer to that question will ever be a white and pink speckled vase.)

No worries. White spray paint worked before and it would work again. Unless we’re out. Which I quickly discovered we were. Ugh.

Now I realize in the grand scheme of life, wanting to paint a vase and not having paint isn’t really a big deal. At all. But the thing is, I had a plan. And I can be impatient. And a strange combination of extremely motivated and simultaneously lazy. Like in this instance, I was motivated enough to paint the vase, too lazy to go to the store to get paint and also too impatient to wait.

This vase was getting painted. Now.

Enter the ever-reliable, always waiting to be chosen – Plan B. I made my way upstairs for the acrylic paint. That’ll do. Except it wouldn’t do. I tried and it just didn’t look right.

Enter the ever-reliable, always waiting to be chosen – Plan C. I checked the garage and found some leftover chalkboard wall paint. Now this could be interesting.

I went outside and began painting, and with each stroke I remembered how much I love to paint. It had been awhile. The feeling of the brush in my hand ignited something in me. As I painted one stroke and then another, I began to notice I actually liked the way the paint looked as it went halfway down the vase. The lines from the brush reminded me of fringe on a scarf. I decided to leave the bottom half white.

After I finished, I felt very grateful we were out of white spray paint. Something that had frustrated me just moments before was now something to be grateful for. In the absence of the spray paint, I was reminded of how much I love the feeling of a brush in my hand and the creativity it sparks inside me.

I started to make plans for how to incorporate my love of art back into my life.

Plan C enriched my life way more than Plan A ever would have.

So whether you find yourself skating toward plan A without any obstacles in sight, or making your fifth lap around the rink – look for the joy. Look for the blessing. Look for the challenge. Look for the beauty. Look for the possibilities.

For me, that moment was about learning how to be okay when things don’t go my way. It’s about knowing sometimes the things that threaten to throw me off course, are exactly what I need to get me to the place I ultimately need to be. Sometimes beauty is waiting to be found in the most unexpected places. Sometimes all it takes is a house, void of spray paint, filled with unused paint brushes – waiting to be used again.

 

 

 

 

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Fake News

Last week, as I was preparing dinner, I found myself admiring the lovely pot of vegetables cooking on the stovetop. It was so lovely, that I couldn’t help but to grab my phone and snap a picture.

“This will look pretty on Instagram,” I thought to myself as I stirred. “Or maybe Facebook? I should familiarize myself with Snapchat. That may really be the best.”

Next, I sent a picture to my husband so he could see the healthy and visually-appealing meal we would be having that evening. I was completely tickled with myself.

As I was mentally preparing the words to go with this scrumptious post, it hit me – this was fake news!

This in no way, shape, or form represents the majority of the meals I put on the table. The night before, I made cream cheese and chicken stuffed crescent rolls. Prepackaged crescent rolls that I can’t imagine are horribly good for you. The meal was great and the kids gobbled it up, but not once did I think to snap a picture of the chicken squares to post on any, or all, forms of social media.

This got me thinking. Why not the chicken squares? Why the pot filled with a variety of delicious veggies? 

Because it’s about appearance – isn’t it? Social media is a platform for showing the people in our lives what we want them to see. We get to choose. Are they going to see the good? The bad? Or the in-between?

My guess is that most of us default toward the good – whether we realize it, or not.

I never once thought to take a picture of my chicken squares, but immediately thought to snap a shot of the veggie pot.

I also have never thought to snap pictures of myself when I’m bed-heady and puffy-eyed after a full night of sleep. Who would want to see that? No, thank you. The pictures I post are usually of something I have deemed exciting and worthy of sharing.

And if you think for one moment that I haven’t scrolled through every picture snapped in those few seconds to find the one where I think I look the best – you are wrong. I always choose the picture I think looks best.

Isn’t that why we hold the camera (or phone – excuse me) up (never down!) when we take pictures – because it supposedly makes us look more slender? Or why some people put their hands on their hips and lift a leg the minute someone says, “Cheese!”?

We want the best version of ourselves on display. That means the best-looking, most kind, healthy-eating, most amazing parent, brilliant, buttoned-up version of ourselves.

And that’s okay. This isn’t meant to shame all of you on social media who post your most beautiful pictures. Post away! You can bet your bottom dollar I’m doing the same. Remember how I started? I completely do this. In some ways, I have to imagine we all do.

I don’t think the problem is that we want to share pretty pictures – the problem is when we start to believe the pretty pictures completely and accurately portray every part of a person’s life.

Someone can look absolutely incredible through the lens of social media – and still have some major issues. Or minor. I mean – who doesn’t have issues? (If you responded with “Me,” that may be an issue. Just saying.)

I believe we need to guard our hearts and minds when we scroll through our feeds. And I believe we need to teach our children the same. What we see isn’t the full picture. We see what people want us to see. And there is a whole lot that goes on in the blank space – in those moments when nothing is being shared.

The most perfect looking couple still argues. The most beautiful looking woman still gets pimples. The most accomplished children still whine. The best cook still serves her children boxed mac and cheese (or at least I hope so – that stuff is good.) The person on a luxurious vacation had to spend a lot of money, and time, to get there.

Nobody is perfect. Sure, on social media, some people may look pretty close to perfect – but it’s just not true. We all fall short. We all mess up. We wake up bed-heady and puffy-eyed, without an ounce of make-up on (unless we forgot to take it off – and in that case it may be smeared all over your face.)

(Case in point – This is me, right now. I haven’t showered or brushed my hair and I am still in my pajamas. And it’s almost 2 in the afternoon.)

My pot of veggies nearly turned social media post reminded me of this truth. I need to be careful of how I view social media. And I also want to be authentic in how I portray myself. Does this mean I’m going to stop posting my favorite pictures? Um. No.

But what it does mean is that I am going to try to start sprinkling in some of the not-so-pretty stuff, too.

The stuff that says, “Hey. I’m human. I just burnt my toast and yelled at my kids. Some days I’m rocking it. And some days…..well, some days not so much.”

Because some days are prepackaged crescent roll days. And others are beautiful veggie pot days. It’s time to remember that both exist. For me, it’s time to start showing both.

 

 

(Disclaimer – I love the yummy looking, healthy meals that people post. They make me want to eat healthier and are super pretty, too. This is in no way saying those posts are bad. They are awesome. Keep doing your healthy food post thing. I just realized for me, in that moment, it wasn’t an accurate portrayal of who I am. That’s all.)

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Thank You, Brave Women

Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative – I have to believe whatever side you lean toward – you can agree with this. Assault of any form is not okay.

In our core, as humans, we know this to be true. Or at least, I surely hope so.

This isn’t a political issue – it’s a human issue.

Regardless of what you think about Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford – can we agree on the bravery of the women who have come forward in the past months to share their personal stories of sexual abuse and assault?

Can we agree it takes a tremendous amount of courage to publicly relive those moments of pain and suffering?

It saddens me to say, most women I know can tell about about a time in their life when they have felt sexually violated. Some have openly shared their stories with many – others with only a select few.

Tragically, these tales of abuse are far too common. Do you know what else is far too common? The silence. What else? The belief that the victim somehow did something to cause this to happen. The belief that she is at fault for the abuse suffered at the hands of another person.

When people ask why someone did not come forward sooner, I have to believe they have never been a victim of sexual abuse themselves. Because if you have, sadly, you understand all too well why it would take someone so long. You also understand why someone may choose to never come forward, but instead to keep their stories buried deep within – never to be spoken aloud to another soul.

Because when the victim finally has the courage to tell their story, and when the words are finally spoken – the response of those listening has the potential to be devastating. And I believe it is this potential that keeps so many from speaking.

Imagine this scenario: You are finally ready to share your story. You open your mouth. The images flash before your eyes. The words fall out and fill the open space between you and the person with whom you are openly reliving this life-altering moment. And what happens? Nothing. Even worse, what if they don’t believe you? What if they mock you? What if they insult your family, and your loved ones? What about your children? How will they suffer because you have come forward with this truth?

This is a he-said/she-said situation and without proof (which is usually the case) the victim is called a liar (in so many words), or asked what she did to cause the attack to happen in the first place?

Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? In a world where there seems to be a double standard for sexual conduct. Boys will be boys, right? Boys receive fist-bumps and high-fives for their sexual prowess while girls are labeled “easy” and “slutty.”

I hope this is not how most would respond. I hope the response of most would be shared tears. A warm embrace. A thank you for the courage it took to come forward, and for the trust it took to share. An I’m sorry you went through this. I’m sorry you suffered in silence. I’m sorry you felt you had to hold that inside for so long.

I have three daughters and my hope is that, when it comes to sexual abuse, they will grow up in a world that is vastly different than the one where I grew up.

I want them to know that no matter how they dress, or what they say, or if they have one too many drinks some evening – that doesn’t mean they are asking for it.

I want them to know that “no” and “stop” mean exactly that. It doesn’t matter if they yell it, speak it, or barely whisper it. Those words are definitive. They are black and white. There is no gray looming anywhere in between those words. If someone hears those words and chooses not to listen – they are wrong. Point blank.

I want them to know that if they should ever ask a boy up to their room one evening, and then decide they want him to leave – he needs to leave. I want them to know that even if they have messed around with this boy before, that doesn’t give him free reign to her use her body however, and whenever, he would like. I want them to know that if, God forbid, something ever happens to them – that it isn’t their fault.

I not only want this for my daughters, I want this for all women. And men. Because men can be victims of sexual abuse, too. Let’s not forget that.

And for my son – I want him to grow up in a world where women are cherished, valued and respected. One where they are no longer viewed as sexual objects. I want him to know how to treat women and how to stand up for what is right. I want him to grow up in a world where the “boys will be boys” mentality is a thing of the past.

I believe one of the beautiful things to come from the #MeToo movement is seeing the avalanche affect. One woman comes forward and it empowers another, and another, and another, and another. Suddenly, we are not alone. Suddenly, we have found our voices. The thought that nobody will believe me is now replaced with hope. The thought that it was my fault is now replaced with the knowledge and understanding that it was not my fault. The second-guessing and wondering are replaced with confidence.

When one person finds their voice – so does another. 

Thank you, brave women, for coming forward. Thank you for being willing to relive moments that I would imagine have haunted you for years. Thank you for having the courage to come forward, even with the knowledge that you may be publicly ridiculed and picked apart for sharing your truth. Thank you for having the strength to face very powerful and influential people in our society. Thank you to the friends and family members of the victims who stand boldly by their side while very possibly enduring insults of your own. Thank you for giving so many of us hope. Thank you for helping us find the courage to share our own stories. Thank you for helping us find our voices.

Thank you for starting a conversation that needed to be started long ago.

Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative – I have to believe whatever side you lean toward – you can agree with this. Assault of any form is not okay.

This post is not political. This post is about gratitude. Gratitude to those who have been brave enough to share their story. This post is not liberal. This post is about hope. Hope for a different future for my children. Hope for change. 

Thank you, brave women for coming forward. Thank you for reshaping our future.

Thank you.

#MeToo

 

 

 

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Yes, It Matters

My friend and I had a conversation today that I have had numerous times, with various friends, since becoming a parent.

Does it matter?

Sometimes it all seems so trivial.

The bottoms you wipe. The diapers you change. The hours spent awake at night rocking your infant to sleep.

The piles of laundry you clean, fold and put away. The meals you make. The dishes you wash.

The trips to various doctors offices. The car rides to and from sporting events and extra-curricular activities.

The countless number of Cheerios you pick up off the floor. The number of sippy cups you fill.

The appointments you make. The playdates you plan – and those you cancel because your child is now sick.

The coats and boots you put on. The diaper bags you pack. The numerous times you have to run back inside the house to grab just “one more thing.”

The hair you hold back when your child is sick in the middle of the night. The temperatures you take. The trips to the pharmacy – and sometimes the emergency room.

The tears you wipe. The boo-boos you kiss, clean and cover with a band-aid (regardless if a band-aid is really needed or not.)

The homework you help with. The lunches you pack. The field trips you attend.

The stories you read. The Legos you build and toys you play with – even with that pile of laundry that needs folded.

The time you spend picking up and putting away things. Again. And again. And again.

The times you rush home from work to feed the kids a quick meal before heading to the ballpark (for the third time that week.)

The conversations you have about responsibility and making wise choices and what it means to be a good friend, and on and on and on until you are blue in the face.

The times you have to discipline your child. And the time you spend second-guessing whether that was the right form of discipline.

The class parties you help with. The school concerts and carnivals you attend.

The trips to the grocery and Costco and Target.

The time you spend worrying about your teenage child and praying they will make good choices. The time you spend praying they will make it home okay.

The vacations you plan. The bags you pack. And then unpack.

The electronics you monitor. The apps you check. The texts you read. The time you spend wondering when it’s okay to say yes to phones and social media and the internet and whatever new thing popped up this week in the ever expanding and constantly changing world of devices.

The trips to visit colleges. The hours you ride in the passenger seat with knuckles tightly clutching whatever you can grab on to while your teenager is learning to drive.

The list goes on and on.

Sometimes it may feel like you are stuck in the movie Ground Hog Day – doing the same things over and over and over again. Sometimes it may feel like you are doing all of this and nobody really notices. Sometimes you may wonder if anyone really cares.

As you pick up your 30th Cheerio and clean dishes for the third time that day you may wonder; Does it matter?

Yes. Yes, it matters.

Very much.

It matters.

Each tear you wipe. Each boo-boo you clean. Each appointment you schedule. Each of these is a moment spent doing something for someone you love. For someone who depends on you. It is for your child, your spouse, your family – and the value of this is priceless.

Each of these acts, as trivial as they may sometimes seem, are investments of your time and energy to help care for those you love.

These acts say, “I see you and I care about you.” They say, “I am here for you.”

They are acts of love. Some big. Some small.

And they matter.

You may not hear thank yous or receive accolades, but that does not take away from the importance, or the impact, of what you are doing.

What you are doing matters.

Yes, it matters.

Very, very much.

I hope you always know that in your heart to be true. I hope you carry that with you today and the next day and the next.

What you are doing matters.

Yes, it matters.

 

*A version of this originally appeared on the Truly Yours, Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer Facebook page

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Easy Peasy Chicken Burritos (and other stuff) That Will Make Your Tummy Happy

Ok, blog readers. First off, thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and ramblings on life. It means a lot to me that you’re here.

Second, part of this blog is Truly Creating, which is something I LOVE to do. I love to decorate, organize, paint, draw, write, craft. If I can sit down and use my hands to make something pretty, oh boy am I ever in my happy place (and if there’s music I like playing in the background – even better.)

Another thing I have grown to enjoy is cooking (which has definitely not always been the case – funny how time changes things.) I believe cooking definitely falls in the Create category. (But I would be totally lying if I said I could just whip up something out of nothing. Nope. Totally don’t do that. I’m a recipe gal through and through.)

So, I decided today I would share with you one of my absolute favorite, go-to, easy peasy meals that is sure to please. This post will in no way shape or form be Pinterest worthy. (I don’t even have a picture of this dish – so no eye-appealing image to draw you in and make your mouth water.)

This is straight forward, to the point, and totally unemotional (which makes it completely different than almost everything I have been posting lately.)

The best thing about this dish? It’s a crockpot meal. Yep. I just said crockpot. Did we just become best friends? I think we did.

Here you go…….

Ingredients:

  • package of chicken breasts (Organic or not. Take your pick. This is a judgment free zone. How many pounds? I have no clue. However many pounds are in a package of chicken breasts, I guess?)
  • jar of your favorite salsa
  • package of taco seasoning
  • can of corn (not drained)
  • can of black beans (drained and rinsed)

Optional Ingredients:

  • shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever your favorite cheese mixture may be)
  • red or green enchilada sauce
  • sour cream
  • green onion
  • cilantro
  • guacamole or avocado
  • rice
  • flour or corn tortillas
  • tortilla chips
  • your favorite taco toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.

Make it (Sorry. That sounds a little bossy, doesn’t it?):

  • Place the chicken breasts, salsa, taco seasoning, corn (not drained), black beans (drained and rinsed) into crockpot. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. About a half an hour prior to serving, shred chicken and leave in crockpot with black bean/corn mixture to let the chicken soak up more of the yummy flavor.
  • Ok, here is where it gets fun. This dish has options, baby. Oh yeah. You can eat it straight out of the crockpot as is, or……..

Option 1: Chicken burritos: Place chicken mixture into flour tortillas, roll and place in 13 by 9 baking dish. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is ooey, gooey, melty and bubbly. Serve with sour cream, guacamole  or avocado, cilantro, green onions (all optional.)

Option  2: Chicken enchiladas: Roll mixture into flour tortillas. Cover with your favorite red enchilada sauce. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and repeat the baking instructions listed above.

Option 3: Chicken tacos: Instead of using ground beef like a standard taco, use the chicken mixture in hard shell or soft shell tacos. Top with your favorite toppings: lettuce, tomato, olives, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, taco sauce, avocado….you get the idea.

Option 4: Chicken nachos (definitely a crowd pleaser in our house): Heap a giant pile of tortilla chips onto a baking dish (which now makes this a gluten free dish – oh yea.) Cover the chips with the chicken mixture and your favorite blend of cheeses. Broil until cheese is melted (Be sure to keep a really close eye while they are under the broiler. It doesn’t take long.) When they come out, top with your favorite toppings (see Option 3.)

Option 5: Rice bowl: Make your favorite rice according to directions. Place rice in a bowl and cover with chicken mixture. Top with your favorite toppings.

Option 6 (The final option. I bet you thought this would go on forever.): Chicken enchilada bake: I can’t have gluten, so this is one of my fave ways to prepare this dish. Grab a 13 by 9 dish. Spread a little enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish until it is covered (not a thick layer, just a small amount). Place corn tortillas on top of sauce. (If you want to get really fancy, place a small amount of chicken broth in a skillet – enough to cover bottom of skillet – and heat to simmer. Place corn tortillas in broth for a second before putting them in casserole dish) Cover tortillas with chicken mixture. Pour sauce on mixture. Cover with Cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and bubbling – approximately 30 minutes.

Now you can see why I love this dish! Number one – the crockpot, so it cooks all day while I do other things. Number two – options, so it never gets old. It’s the Choose Your Own Adventure recipe. Number 3 – gluten free possibilities. Number 4 – all of the options involve cheese.

Enjoy, my friends!!

 

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Ladies, Let’s Do This

Ladies, it’s time to start building each other up.

What if instead of criticizing, comparing and judging, we got into the habit of complimenting, holding our heads high, owning who we are and lifting each other up?

I’ve seen it all too often in my life and I’m not without blame. And, now that I have girls – I see it in their lives.

And it breaks my heart.

Why oh why?

What if, collectively, we decided to stop the shaming and start uplifting? What if all of our words were like high-fives for the soul? For friends and strangers a like. Wouldn’t that be powerful? Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

“I see you over there sister, rocking that outfit – own it, girl!”

“You are an amazing mom. Keep it up! You’ve totally got this!”

“I see you with your screaming child and I want you to know I’ve been there too. So many times. It’s hard, isn’t it? How can I help you?”

“I notice you’ve been working out and eating healthy. Keep it up! You are such an inspiration! Have any recipes to share?”

“I’m sorry your marriage ended. I care for you and want to be part of your support network. You will get through this. One day at a time. Want to come over for dinner?”

“I love when you got up and spoke today at the meeting. What you said really impacted me. Keep up the great work.”

What if our first, last and all of the in-between words we shared with each other were intended to build up and not tear down?

What if we stopped the whispering? And pointing? And eye-rolling?

Can you imagine the impact this would have on us? Our husbands? Our daughters? Our sons?

Because they hear us. They imitate us. Whether we want them to, or not. They do.

Our words hold power. How we treat each other matters.

The beautiful thing is, we have the power to stop the shaming and the judging. Stop judging ourselves. Our friends. Strangers.

I believe this change starts with how we speak to ourselves.

What does that little voice inside of your head say about you? Are you comfortable in our own skin? Do you recognize you are beautiful, unique, one-of-a-kind, a work of art made by God – never to be replicated, duplicated or remade? Do you know this?

Know it. Own it. Walk with your head held high. Be confident in who God created you to be. See your gifts and talents and begin to look around for the gifts and talents He placed in others.

Let’s stop competing – and start collaborating.

Let’s stop wanting to be someone else, and instead be are grateful for who we are – and grateful for who they are. Let’s learn from each other.

I’m trying to teach this valuable lesson to my daughters.

I am trying to teach them what a true friend is – and isn’t. I’m trying to teach them that when people are unkind, it usually comes from a place of insecurity or jealousy. I’m trying to teach them how to love others well. How to give grace. How to forgive. And that sometimes, even though you’ve forgiven, there are some relationships that just aren’t healthy. There are times when you have to walk away.

And in attempting to teach these lessons to my daughters, I’ve had to take a long, hard look at myself. My own words. My own actions. I’ve realized if I want better for them, then it starts with me. How do I speak about others? About myself? Are my words kind? Do they build-up? Do they tear down?

Ladies, it’s time. Time to start building each other up. Time to start loving ourselves. Loving our neighbors. Treating each other the way we want to be treated. No more silent, unapproving stares. No more snickering behind someone’s back. No more condescending remarks. No more comparisons. No more judgement. No more shame.

No more of the breast fed vs. bottle fed.

No more of the stay-at-home vs. working mom.

No more of the I’m right and you’re wrong , I’m better than you mentality. Because there is a whole lot of gray in this world. We have the freedom to make choices and just because I choose one way – doesn’t mean another person’s way isn’t right.  Because it’s right for them. And their family. And really? We are all just trying our best, right?

Let’s hold our heads high. Let’s share in each others joys and successes. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s compliment each other. Let’s recognize each other’s God-given gifts and talents. Let’s give high-fives to each other’s souls.

Ladies, it’s time.

Let’s do this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Say

Today, I knelt down in front of the ottoman that sits at the end of my bed. I watched this video with my hands folded tightly in front of me. And I cried.

It wasn’t a sobbing, intense cry. It was a silent, tears falling slowly out of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks cry. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with the sobbing, no holds barred cry. In fact, I’m a huge fan. I believe it can be incredibly cleansing and, at times, extremely necessary.

I know some people, including myself, have called it the “ugly cry.” I guess from a superficial standpoint you can see why. When it’s happening, you may not sound the best you ever have, and by the time it’s over – your face may not look the best, either.

After the last tear has fallen, you are usually left with a lot of snot, red puffy eyes and there’s a really good chance your shirt may be a little wet and snot covered, too.

But once you remove all of that superficial stuff, the ugly cry is really pretty beautiful.

It’s a true, outward expression of the pain (and even joy) that someone is overcome with in that moment. It’s raw, uncontrolled, passionate and purely authentic.

I will never forget the moment when I felt the true power of the ugly cry. Years ago, I was attending a friend’s mom’s funeral. His mom was a Filipino woman and in the final moments of the service, as we stood by her gravesite, there was a collective wailing that took place. It started with one or two women and suddenly, it was everywhere. Women wailing. Women falling. Women outwardly expressing the depths of the pain they were feeling internally. It was hard to watch. I remember actually turning away at one point because the intensity was so great. But at the same time, it was so beautiful. It was so real. They didn’t care what anyone around them thought – their hearts were broken and because of their pain, a collective cry of anguish was released into the air.

It was incredibly sad. And incredibly beautiful. There was nothing ugly about it.

For me, that kind of cry doesn’t happen often. When it does happen, unlike the collective cry I heard at the gravesite – mine is rarely in the company of others. Nope. The sobbing, no holds barred, ugly cry is a rare, personal occurrence – only reserved for the moments of extreme loss and pain.

So no ugly cry for me today. Today, my tears fell slowly and silently as I listened to this beautiful song.

As you can probably tell from my writings lately, I am processing some stuff. Is it a mid-life crisis? Could be.  Is it one of those exciting times of reflection and introspection that result in positive change? Very possibly.

Whatever the cause, this song ministered to my heart in a powerful way this morning. It brought me to my knees and reminded me that regardless of my circumstances, regardless of what I am thinking or feeling at any given moment – it’s what God says, it’s His truth, that matters.

If you haven’t heard this song (or even if you have) please take a moment to listen and to let the words touch your heart and soul.

This post is a homage to my previous blog – mylifesettomusic. At the end of every post I would include a song that touched me – like this one did this morning.

I hope you enjoy it and if you find yourself with tears falling down your cheeks today (or maybe even in the middle of an ugly cry) know He is with you. He says you are loved. He says you are strong. He says you belong.

You are beautiful, my friend. Ugly cry and all.

Simply beautiful.

 

 

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