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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Strong Woman

After reading about the Women's Marches around the country last week I was so tempted to write a post with my feelings and response to this march.  However, as I sat down to pull my thoughts together I found myself going an entirely different direction.  Instead of slamming other women I choose to encourage them.  I hope my story will help you reflect on your own.  And I hope you will realize the strength you so desperately crave is right there waiting for you.

My name is Juliana and I have been married to my high school sweetheart for almost 14 years.  I have two incredible boys, ages 11 and 5.  I was blessed to be able to experience motherhood through childbirth and adoption.  Life has not been full of sunshine and roses.  My faith has allowed me to grow, mostly during the worst of times.



This is my journey of becoming a strong woman.

When my husband was in the Navy and had to go away on repeated deployments I felt incredible loneliness.  
God used my loneliness to build a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities.  He showed me that I am strong with Him.  These years also built the foundation for our marriage.

We had a beautiful son.  A few years later I learned my husband did not want any more children.  I was heartbroken, devastated, questioning God's plan for my family.
A few years later another strong woman became pregnant.  Instead of aborting this baby she chose life for him.  Through a series of incredible events God orchestrated a beautiful adoption story.  (Read it here.)

We had several extremely difficult years in our marriage.  The time came where I had one foot out the door and no plan or hope for a saved marriage.  I literally cried in my bedroom closet asking God why.  God pointed me directly to scripture showing me that my husband and I were one and He gently commanded that I stay.  I surrendered my marriage (all of it) to Jesus that night - the hurt, anger, confusion, bitterness, loneliness - all of it.
God gave me the peace and comfort I so desperately longed for.  I learned that my fulfillment comes from Jesus alone.  I learned that when I surrender everything to God He makes me whole.  And over the next year God completely restored my marriage.  He brought more joy and life to my marriage than I could have ever dreamed of.  He transformed my husband and me, individually and together.
During and after these years God used my pain for His glory.  He put women in my life and allowed me to walk alongside two of them during divorce due to infidelity.  And He allowed me to see beauty come from ashes.  Both of them found incredible, Godly men a few years later.  God also allowed me to walk another friend through a very difficult time in her marriage.  She too had one foot out the door but God asked me to keep speaking truth into her life.  She always tells me I saved her marriage.  The truth is God used me as a tool to save her marriage and for that I am grateful.

My youngest son was hospitalized twice with double pneumonia.  He was almost 2 at the time and losing weight rapidly.  The antibiotics were not helping and they attempted surgery but it was unsuccessful.   I was terrified and honestly, angry.  Why would God give me this beautiful gift only to possibly take him away?
I found myself on my knees night after night in the hospital room praying over my son and singing praise songs.  These nights were some of the darkest and scariest nights of my life but also the most beautiful.  Through this time I learned that my boys are not my own.  They are God's.  And he has given me the privilege to love them and raise them to know Him.  This experience made me a completely different mom.

So...what is a strong woman?

A strong woman finds her fulfillment in Jesus.
She trusts God's plan for her family.
She is obedient to His commands, even when she thinks her way is better.
She knows that every precious gift is from Him and she treasures those gifts.
She supports her husband and his dreams.
She allows her husband to help even if he doesn't do it her way.
She asks God to bring the dreams in her heart to fruition.
She stays up all night with babies and soothes them back to sleep.
She keeps her cool while her toddler is throwing an all out tantrum in the store.
She disciplines her children and gives them the boundaries they need.
She does the all too often unappreciated tasks like laundry, cooking and cleaning.
She drives her children to what seem like endless school events and sports practices.
She is the glue that holds it together when life gets crazy.



Your story may be different.  Maybe you are single, unable to have children or have chosen not to have children.  You may be striving for a certain career or are passionate about missionary work.  You may have a heart for kids (fostering/adoption) or animals.  Whatever your story is, do not let anyone tell you that you are not strong enough or that this world owes you something.
In HIM we find an endless supply of strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
In HIM we find an endless supply of hope. (Psalm 147:11)
In HIM we find an endless supply of love. (1 John 4:7-8)
 
"Love is not about what I can get from this world.  Love is about what I can give to this world." ~Lysa TerKeurst


~Jewels*

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Just" a Wife and Mom

I feel like I have started my last few posts out like this but I cannot believe it's been 3 months since I posted.  My good friend sent me the sweetest surprise in the mail over Christmas.  It is a journal that says "Random Thoughts" which she said reminded her of me.  It encouraged me to pick back up on the blogging.  It truly is therapeutic for me and I love the idea of having written documentation of these chapters of my life to look back on.

This post has been simmering for a while.  And it all started with a simple conversation in the car with my 11 year old son a couple of weeks ago.  It went a little something like this:
G: "Mom, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Me: "Well...." <I was truly trying to think of something profound to say so I could encourage my oldest son to aspire to big dreams.>
G: "Well?"
Me: "Well, I wanted to be a teacher.  But I'm glad that didn't pan out because I know a lot of teachers who feel like they aren't able to really teach because of all these standardized tests and having to deal with crazy parents.  And I wanted to be a nurse but I was really bad at science."  <Just keepin' it real.> "But you know what I truly always wanted to be?"
G: "What?"
Me: "A wife and mom."
G: "A WIFE and MOM?"

I suddenly felt deflated.  As if, yet again, what I always wanted to be was not good enough.  As if it was not worthy enough.  As if it was not important enough.  But I explained to my son that I feel God called me to this very important role and I am so grateful he did.

Here is the thing, y'all.  I feel like in this modern age women like me are looked down upon.  We are considered old fashioned, too submissive or not goal oriented enough.  Why is that?!  I am not ashamed to say that I never needed to have 5 sexual partners to make sure my husband was the right one for me.  I did not need to travel the world and "find myself" before settling down and having children.  I did not need to experience other religions and cultures to know that Jesus is real and alive and has great things planned for me and my family.

Please hear my heart on this.  I am not saying that women with goals are evil.  I am not saying it is wrong to want to experience life before settling down and having children.  I am just saying it is NOT wrong to know who you are, who God created you to be and to be satisfied with being "just" a wife and a mom.

You know where I feel I have learned the most in life?  Through my relationships.  Specifically my relationship with my husband and my children.  God GIVES us these relationships so we can have a small glimpse into unconditional love, sacrifice, compromise, patience and grace.

Lately I have realized I have a choice.  I can choose to fill my time with "things" OR I can spend this window of time, small chapters of my life, developing a more intimate relationship with my husband and teaching my boys about Jesus' love and how to be men with a heart for God.

My relationship with my husband has always been my second priority (just behind my relationship with Jesus) because we need to be united to raise these boys.  I still want a best friend after my boys move on with their lives.
"What God has joined together, let no man separate." -Mark 10:9

And my third priority is my boys.  God has given me these gifts and they are mine and my husband's responsibility.  I am charged with caring for them, raising them to know Jesus and praying boldly over them.
"Start your children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." -Proverbs 22:6

I feel like I have not really been able to put into words why we moved way out to the country.  Why we wanted a more simple life.  But this...this is a big part of it.  I feel like God is telling me that my role as "just" a wife and mom mean so much more than I have ever believed.

Don't allow your role as a wife and mom to be diminished.  Allow God to mold you and work on your heart through these relationships.  Trust that He is using you in BIG ways to impact your family.  Be bold in your faith and confident in your abilities as a wife and Mama...even when you have days like this.

My Instagram post today:


Because us moms don't post enough "real life" pictures.
Because sometimes it's 2:30 and you still haven't showered (or washed your hair in three days).
Because these roots are OUT of control.
Because when you're had company for the last month straight you are happy to just have thirty minutes alone to not be productive at all.
And what the hell is this pubic hair like grouping coming out of the back of my head?!
Can ANYONE else relate to these things?! Anyone at all?!
#nofiltercanhelpthismess #keepinitreal #aaaaaandihaveapimple 

I also wanted to use this post as a catch up time.  So, here goes...


In the beginning of December we got a new puppy from the local pound.  Someone dumped him and his sisters on the side of the road.  Thankfully his sisters went to a rescue and this cutie patootie came home with us.  We named him Willie, after Willie Nelson of course!  ;) 





This was taken this morning.  I can't believe how much he has grown!  And he makes a great bible study buddy! :)

These guys... <3 


We went to Luckenbach with my cousin and her boyfriend to see one of our favs, Max Stalling.  Garrison learned to 2 step at school (thank you, small town school) and he swung his Mama around the dance floor a time or three.  Lucky Mama! :)



Garrison's baseball team, Kaos, won 1st place in one of their tournaments.  So much fun!!!


We had an amazing visit with some of our best friends from Dallas!  


Garrison and Daddy got to go see the Harlemn Globetrotters!  They had a blast!


Just a boy and his dog!  


We had three rounds of Christmas!  
Round 1 - Christmas Eve/Day with my parents.  
To say I am excited they made the move here is the understatement of the century.  SO grateful!!!
As a reminder, Ethan's birthday is also Christmas Day... How in the world is he 5 already?! 






My in-laws came for a visit and we took E to Chuck E Cheese to celebrate his birthday!  




We did our traditional "Christmas" over New Year's weekend with my sister and her family!  
So much cousin love!


One of the perks of living on 5 acres is a private fireworks show! 


Due to an infection in her foot my sister is yet again stuck on a scooter.  She doesn't let anything stop her from having fun though!  Oh how I admire this girl so!  She is SUCH an inspiration!!!




Until next time...

~Jewels*

Friday, October 21, 2016

Boogie

We adopted Sox aka Boogie from the Humane Society when he was just 8 weeks old.  That was in March of 2003, just one month after Garrett and I were married.  I remember when we first got him.  He was the softest dog I had ever touched in my entire life.  That never changed.  Garrett was in the Navy and we were living in Connecticut at the time.  We thought it would be good to name him after our home state of Texas so we first called him Rio.  We quickly realized that name did not fit him at all.  He was tan with all white paws so we thought Sox was a much better fit.  How we came to call him Boogie I do not recall. I just know that was his name for the last 13 years.


We had to put our sweet Boogie down yesterday.  He had been suffering from kidney failure for a while and in those final stages we could not bear to have him suffer.  I had been praying for confirmation for a week.  I needed God to give me a sign that it was time.  When I spoke with the vet she literally said, "It's time".  And as hard as it was to spend that final night and morning with him I never once regretted our decision.  That morning the boys and I said our goodbyes and prayed over him.  When I left our neighborhood to drive them to school we drove through a really thick fog.  My heart felt heavy and thick just like that fog.  I was praying for comfort and peace.  Within a few seconds the fog completely lifted and I saw the sun shining through.  It was one of the most peaceful moments I have ever experienced.  
My husband, my ROCK, took him and stayed with him during his final moments.  I could not bear the thought of remembering my sweet Boogie like that. I wanted to remember him as I knew him best - following me around from room to room, snuggled up next to me on the couch or in bed.  

Boogie was always there to provide comfort.  He just knew when I was sick, sad or in pain.  He was my guard dog and my best friend, especially during those first couple of years when Garrett was gone on deployments in the beginning of our marriage.  He loved us unconditionally.  Even in the final days when I think he knew his time was nearing he was giving us kisses to comfort us while we were crying over him.  He was truly the most selfless creature I have ever known.  

"The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog."  - M.K. Clinton

I wanted to share some pictures of our sweet Boogie over the last 13 years.  


The day Garrett brought him home

They really did have a special bond
 


He LOVED the water!  This was on a beach in Rhode Island.

And a lake in Connecticut

 Snow in Connecticut...I'm surprised he was able to stay above it! 

Boogie and Tex checking out the view from our new house in Virginia Beach.  He just loved chasing the ducks around the pond out back.  He would jump our 6' fence regularly to chase those ducks!

He was so good with the boys.  Garrison loved to feed him from his high chair.


Always nearby for protection



When Ethan came along Boogie was so excited to have another little one in the house!

Sweet hugs!

Just a boy and his dog

They loved Christmas morning!

Snow!!!! In Texas!!! I think he felt like a puppy again!


I think Stoic described him well.

This was the day before he went to be with Jesus.  I miss him so much but I am incredibly grateful he is not suffering.

Brothers.  Tex just doesn't know what to do with himself.  I think he is confused and slowly realizing Boogie is not coming home.

I was able to get a picture of the boys with Boogie on his last day with us.  We all miss him terribly but know he is in a better place.


Thank you for teaching me how to love completely and selflessly, Boogie.  Until we meet again my precious boy. ~Mama


Monday, October 3, 2016

Health Journey, Week 5

I don't have a great update today, unfortunately.  I stayed the same weight as last Monday.  The weird thing is I weighed in Saturday morning out of curiosity and was down 2 lbs from last week.  I guess I gained those 2 lbs back in the last two days though.  Ha!  

We did go to Dripping Springs for a baseball tournament so there was definitely more eating out than normal.  I did the best I could but did splurge a little Saturday night when we had Mexican food.  My body has always been a bit odd though and I can gain or lose 3 lbs in a day just from water weight or bloating.  Probably TMI but I don't have periods anymore (take my birth control continuously to help control endometriosis).  But I think my body still goes through PMS and I have been a little more emotional and quite a bit more hungry the last several days.  So I'm going to blame it on that too.  As women we have the ability to do that, right?! 

I did not take my BLOCK every day last week.  I think I only did it 3 days.  It is hard for me to remember since it is not a daily habit.  But I am committed to taking it every evening this week to see if that helps.  I also need to up my water intake.  I've been doing pretty good but definitely not sticking to the 100 oz plus per day like I was doing before.

Here is a great recipe I tried last week and we loved it!

Garlic and Paprika Chicken

Ingredients
6 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Clean and dry the drumsticks and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
3.  In a small skillet heat the olive oil.  Add the garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and herbs.  Cook for about 1 minute over medium heat.  (Careful not to burn the garlic.)
4.  Place the drumsticks in a 9X13 baking dish and pour the olive oil mixture over the drumsticks.  Make sure they are coated thoroughly.  
5.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until chicken legs are cooked through.  

Before Baking


Tada!



~Jewels*