Archive for November, 2009

November 26, 2009

thankful: my mom

Jules and KathyGrowing up, I never quite understood my mom. She was always busy in the kitchen or at a sewing machine, and I was always buried in a book or entertaining the thoughts in my head. I saw her more as an interruption to my days than as someone I wanted to spend time with. We were truly polar opposites. And because I was so close to my dad, I probably saw Mom as a threat to my time with him. Of course, I could never verbalize that or even process that thought in my head, but there was definitely a barrier between me and her. And it didn’t break down until I reached adulthood.
 
Now that I know my mom better, I see her life in a different light. Whereas she always seemed so busy and irritated by any interruptions, I know now that she was often overwhelmed by her daily tasks as a stay-at-home mom of three daughters born within 5 years. Her time in the kitchen was a creative outlet for her, but it was also necessity to make every dollar stretch as far as it could. And her time with a sewing machine was to keep us in clothing without being forced to take us all shopping (which was a complete nightmare) where she could get only a few clothing items when her own skills could create an entire wardrobe for the same amount of money. As I began to realize these were her talents and that she worked so hard to make us all happy, I dubbed her “Betty Homemaker” and started to appreciate all that she can do.
 
My mom and I finally became friends when I finally grew up. I learned to assess her life within its context, and I realized how talented she is and how little I had learned from her. Although I still don’t actively seek her knowledge, I’m fully aware that she is a treasure for our family. She was responsible for raising three girls much of the time while my dad was working long hours and being called in during the night. I don’t remember my dad being absent, but I do know that it was often Mom who disciplined me in the daily moments and who helped me with school projects. The fact that Mom was always home when I returned from school was something I certainly took for granted at the time but was something that allowed me to feel secure and stable in my life. And that was invaluable to me as I struggled through an emotionally tumultuous adolescence.
 
My mom is now my best friend. She’s the one I call first when something good happens or when I need a bit of advice or an opinion. She’s my greatest teacher, and she’s my most honest confidante. I know that Mom will give it to me straight, and I know that she will also steer me in the right direction. It was she who gave me the greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received: when I was miserable in a job and felt no respect for my boss, she told me that the experience was necessary to build character. I’ve never forgotten those words. And when I find myself struggling and uncertain as to how I can change a situation, I always hear Mom’s voice saying, “This will build your character.” It never fails to put things into perspective or to give comfort.
 
I celebrate my mom on her birthday this Friday, and I thank God for bringing us to a new relationship early in my adulthood. She is a champion with a servant’s heart, and I want her to know how much I love her and cherish her life. You truly are a treasure, Mom! Happy birthday!
 

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November 26, 2009

thankful: my dad

SmittyI was the firstborn of my parents’ children, and, as I hear it told, my dad was overjoyed at becoming a father. He’s always been very much a “family man,” and because he had almost three years with me alone, our bond developed without distraction. For most of my life, my dad was the most important person to me. Something I’m sure was difficult for my mom. My relationship with my dad was always stronger than with my mom, and it wasn’t until adulthood that this began to change. Of course, that doesn’t mean that things were always good with me and my dad. Throughout my adolescence he and I were at persistently at odds. I felt suffocated by his high expectations of me, and he was constantly perplexed at my indifference to them. He could never understand why I would want anything less for myself than the very best, and I could never make him see that my own hopes and dreams held just as much merit as those he had for me. The biggest issue, however, was church and living the Christian life. I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the “church-goers” I saw every Sunday, and eventually I just refused to return. Because my dad was raised in a home where church-going was expected behavior and not to be questioned, we began to argue about the subject at every opportunity. And I became more and more bitter about everything related to Christianity, but much of it was a direct result of simply going the opposite direction from what my dad expected of me. At 19, there was simply no chance of me hearing what “was best for me” when it came from a father who only sees the world in black and white. I wanted to live in the gray areas.
 
At the age of 27, I finally began to analyze my life in terms of my own sense of self and my own faith, rather than the faith of my parents. God was very gracious to show me that Christianity is not about going to church or believing what other people say simply to please them, but rather it is a life of faith and relationship with Jesus the Christ. And although these revelations were in line with all that my dad had expected of me, I fully embraced it because I had come to it on my own. From that point forward, my dad and I began to restore our relationship as father and daughter, and for the first time we also began to develop a friendship. I learned that our struggles had always been so volatile because we are almost exactly the same in every way. We approach the world through logic, and we both strive for perfection. We feel compelled to set things right, and we want people to appreciate the same things that we do. It helps to know that we are so similar since most of the world doesn’t follow our lead or play by the same rules. We now spend a lot of time shaking our heads at the rest of the world and wondering how people can possibly live the way they do. [Of course, the rest of the world, and our own family, spends a lot of time wondering why the two of us are not more normal!] At this point in my life, as I begin to realize I’m staring down middle age, it helps to have a partner like my dad. I am thankful for friendship and for his unconditional love, which I know exists even when I fail to meet his expectations. I’m thankful, too, that he has learned to see things as I do and to question more than he once would. I know that I’ve influenced his perceptions of people and that he wouldn’t be as much of a minister today had God not used me in this way toward my dad. I’m enormously proud when people tell me what a great man my dad is, and I’m finally beginning to understand why he spent so much time stressing the importance of “a good name.” Everywhere my family travels, someone seems to know my dad’s two older brothers, one of whom was a respected educator and the other a beloved football coach. This has always made my dad very proud. But now, I experience the same thing: many people know my father and have nothing but praise for who he is and how he serves. The older I get, the more I experience that same kind of family pride. And I’m so thankful that our relationship was restored early in my youth so that I could enjoy this time as intended.
 

November 25, 2009

thankful: my best good friend

CerellaI often speak of a great friend whom I’ve yet to meet, and many people have difficulty understanding how a friendship can grow so strong when only printed words are involved. But what no one can understand is that my friend Cerella and I share a profound love for the written word. It is how we first connected and it is how we continue to build a friendship that rivals any I’ve ever had through physical contact. This year, above all others, it seems our bond has grown stronger in every aspect of relationship, and for that I am forever thankful.
 
Ten years ago, when the Internet was just making its way into the homes of average working folk, I took a stab at fan fiction for a defunct television series called The Magnificent Seven, and Cerella declared herself my biggest fan. This was my first foray into online communities, my first experience “meeting” people online, and I hadn’t yet begun using my real name anywhere. [Remember how scary it all seemed back then?] But Cerella was honest and encouraging in her love for my writing style and the characters I was adding to existing Mag7 canon, and we quickly began corresponding regularly via e-mail. I learned that she, too, had writing aspirations, so many of our conversations centered around this topic. There were no boundaries in our communication, no issues related to our 10-year age difference. We simply shared our hearts and our thoughts and found common interests in books and movies and celebrities. That was the foundation but it was really just a starting point for something far greater.
 
During the following decade, Cerella and I would reconnect from time to time and catch up on the past weeks or months that had kept us too busy to correspond regularly. Each time we found it to be as if no time had passed at all. My experience is that this is a sign of true friendship that endures. The fact that we have still not met in person has no effect on our bond. In fact, the past couple of years have strengthened our relationship beyond anything I ever imagined. We are sisters in Christ, we are encouragers of each other’s dreams, we are sounding boards for life’s messy details, and we are definitely each other’s biggest fans. In just a couple of months the world will see the fruit of Cerella’s lifelong passion when her first novel is released. I have been celebrating every moment since she shared the news with me. I simply could not be more proud. And the beauty is that I know if this were my accomplishment, my friend would lead the cheering section. We are friends because we have come to love each other dearly. And though we speak often of traveling across the states that separate us to meet for the first time, we both know that our relationship does not suffer because it has not happened yet. If anything, our friendship has mined depths that most never even broach. I thank God daily for this blessing.
 
Cerella, my friend, you are one of my greatest blessings, and I’m so thankful for you every day. I do look forward to our eventual meet-up, but I don’t know if even that could replicate the thrill I get whenever I see your name in my e-mail Inbox. It just makes me happy to share life and love and heartache and struggles with you. You have become my best friend, and I know that all glory goes to God for even making that a possibility in this human life. I love, most of all, that our friendship is borne of more than humanity, and that we will spend all eternity together, shoulder to shoulder, praising the One who did this good work in us. I love you, girl! And hope you don’t mind that I stole your photo to use on this post. Ha!
 

'Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania' by Cerella D. SechristFor details about Cerella’s forthcoming novel, Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania, be sure to visit her website at www.cerelladsechrist.com.

 

November 24, 2009

thankful: sisters

3 different girls Sisters
  Joanie Jules Janeen
Middle name   Michelle Marie Melanie
Also known as   JoJo,
Joanie Dichelle
Julie, J, AJ,
Lulie Darie
Neen, Jusneen
Named after   Aunt Joan;
Dad chose the middle name
Grandmothers
Hazel Marie,
Kathleen Jewel
no one; Dad chose it for the “JM” initials
Intended name   Jason Murphy Jason Murphy Jason Murphy
Birth order   middle oldest youngest
Looks most like   Moon family + Qualls body type Qualls family + Moon body type Qualls features, through and through
Skin tone   Medium fair Ghostly pale Olive
Original hair   blonde, thick, straight reddish brown, fine, curly dark brown, thick, straight
Eyes   medium green, extremely near-sighted green with blue rims + brown flecks, extremely near-sighted dark brown, near-sightedness corrected by Lasik
Height   5′ 7″ 5′ 6-1/2″ 5′ 3″
Feet  9-1/2, stubby toes 10W, stubby toes 9M, long toes
College degree   Education,
East Texas State University
Psychology,
Texas Woman’s University
Criminal Justice,
Texas A&M at Commerce
Occupation   Elementary School teacher, F/T Admin Assistant / Webmaster, F/T Elementary School substitute, P/T
Family   husband Shane, daughter Kiwi,
son W.S.
1 niece + 3 nephews husband Mark,
sons K2 and D
Temperament   goofy, worrier optimistic, critical silly, wants control
Takes teasing  
well  
  
not often sometimes to a point
Motor mouth   yes yes yes
Invented  
“Piggy Nose”
  
yes no yes
Maintenance   high high high
Injuries   broken arm no broken bones,
but prone to falling down stairs + running into furniture
fractured foot + T-spine from car accident,
broken finger
Athleticism   improving non-existent,
throws like a girl
works out occasionally
Musicality   flute, piccolo in
high school band
sings loudly when no one is around drummer in
high school band
Music preference   CCM, pop, country 80s New Wave, country, soundtracks pop/rock, country
TV/Film  
preference
  
comedy, 80s films dark + gritty,
crime drama,
musicals
chick flicks, Food TV
Traveler   close to home,
Texas, Arkansas,
Oklahoma
Texas, Chicago,
St. Louis, Romania
Texas, California, Tennesse, Ohio, Caribbean cruise, Jamaica
Memory   sporadic photographic selective
Logical   least most sometimes
Emotional   most moderate least
Weird obsession   knowing something about everything Hollywood trivia M&M candy dispensers
Nerd factor   medium off-the-charts low

The basis for this comparison chart was lifted from a scrapbook page by Angie Lucas.

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