Strong Faith

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25.

As a Christian there are many people that I have admired and been inspired by throughout my journey. I have had the privilege of being witness to several woman who have been shining examples of not only Christians, but mothers, wives, leaders, entrepreneurs, and friends. There are strong women everywhere. Society over the course of the past several years has also began, I feel, to celebrate and empower women more than they have ever done in the past. As a mother of four daughters, it is important to me that they become strong women, and by having good examples of that it will definitely help guide them along the way.

Of all the strong women I have had the privilege to know one of the ones I admire the most is my husband’s grandmother, Billie. I remember when I was a teenager and first began to date my husband she welcomed me into the family instantly. It was like she had known me forever. I knew from the first moment I met her that there was something very special about her. There really are no words to describe what it is. Her spirit was just magnetic. You can’t help but to be drawn to her. Billie has always been one of those ladies who was always doing for others, but rarely doing for herself. I remember anytime we would call and tell her we were craving some of her delicious gravy and biscuits, she would stop what she was doing and make it for you. Once Ryan and I were married and had children she was always cooking for us, buying gifts for the girls, and volunteering to babysit. Oh, she always loved to babysit the girls, they had the best time together.

Billie has always just enjoyed life and she really doesn’t let much bring her down. She always finds a way to have joy in her heart. That joy comes from the relationship she has with God. Since I have know her, God has always been at the center of her life. Nothing ever came before that. To her, that is where all the blessings flow. Her faith has all been something I have so admired. Yes, I have faith, but hers is not easily shaken. For someone who has been through everything that she has, and still have unwavering faith, now that is something. Billie, in her lifetime, has lived through wars, depression, deaths of many loved ones ( including her husband), a stroke, the current pandemic , and many other trials. Yet, with all these, her faith has always remained strong. The stroke Billie had a few years ago left her confined to a wheelchair. She was always so active and overall healthy. I remember her always playing on the floor with my girls, singing, dancing, playing jokes on people(she loves to do that), she could do anything we could. But now she is unable to move her legs, and has weakness in her arms as well. Despite all this, she has the best attitude. She not one time has ever complained or asked why me? Her faith remains strong. Through it all, and even what is happening in the world now, she just smiles and says “Well, we are just going to pray about it.” And that is exactly what she does.

The whole Johns crew

I can tell you this I will spend the rest of my life to strive to be more like Billie. To always keep God as the center of my life, to always keep joy in my heart, to laugh and love with abundance, and to have such a strong faith that nothing will hold me down. The world would be a much better place if we could all be even half of the person she is. I pray that each and every person that reads this will develop a strong faith that never waivers no matter what storms you are facing. I am so blessed that I have someone like Billie in my life, and I pray that you do too.

God is within her she will not fall. Psalm 46:5

I pray for health and safety for all of you today and that each of you are covering with many blessings.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

A Dog’s Love

People have many different ways of dealing with stress and anxiety. Exercise, journaling, reading, going on a trip, talking to a friend/counselor, going to church/praying are just a few examples of common activities people take part in to help in times of need. I have done all of these, and they have been very helpful to me. However, we all know everyone is different. One thing may help someone better than another. That’s ok. We are all programmed to deal with difficult things in our own unique way. For some people stress/anxiety/depression may be something that they deal with on a daily basis. Others, it may be something that comes in waves, or when a big event happens. Either way, there are coping mechanisms out there to assist in making things easier for everyone.

One of my favorite coping mechanisms that I have is something that is truly simple. I just hang out with my DOGS!! Ok, I know there are many people out there that are going to say “This lady is crazy!!”. I understand the criticism. However, if you are a dog person like me you will get me. I mean who else wags their tail and wiggles their entire body when I walk through the door? I am lucky sometimes to get my kids off the couch or off their phone sometimes to even say hello. My dogs are always happy to see me. I have never not had them greet me with nothing but pure enthusiasm each time I walk through the door. How can this not instantly make you feel better no matter what type of day you have had?

Winnie
Lola and Penny
My grandpup Ollie(We call him Bean)

A dog’s love is so pure. They do not care what you look like, how you smell, how much money you have, what type of car you drive, or any of the things that some of us classify as important. All they want is to love you and for you to love them in return. They do not ask for much. Just a big belly rub, to throw the ball, take a ride in the car, go on a walk, or just hang out on the couch. The simple things in life is all they need. Would the world not be a better place if we could just think and be like dogs sometimes? If the simple things would be all that we needed? That in itself, would be a giant stress-reduction. To stop worrying about the big things and just enjoy the simplest of things.

The unconditional love of a dog truly just helps me melt away some of the stress I have of everything that is going on around me. When I cry, they lick away my tears are they lay tenderly beside me and never leave my side. When I just need to get out and take a walk, they are happy to join me every step of the way. They notice when I am feeling down, and bring me their toy to play. Just watching them bounce around and play without the weight and worry of the world, truly just brings a smile to my face, and instantly makes me feel better. They live life so carefree, and from moment to moment. They don’t worry about the days ahead, they don’t hold grudges. they live each day with as much excitement as the last. Again, if we could just live life more like they do I believe their would be more joy in all of our hearts. The joy of being CAREFREE!!

No matter what your coping mechanism may be I encourage each of you to utilize those techniques. Be sure to always take care of your mental health. Never neglect it!!! And if you don’t have a dog, I encourage each of you to consider getting one. There are many dogs out there that need homes, and would love to become a part of your family. The love they bring to a home is indescribable and although they are a big responsibility they are more than worth it. I promise they will bring a smile to your face even during the hardest of days.

I pray each of you are safe and healthy today. I pray each of you are smiling, full of joy, and covered in may blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

Be Still

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10.

I don’t know about everyone else but I am one of these people that wants an answer to EVERYTHING!! If I don’t know the answer myself then I go searching for it. I ask others, I read books, I search on the internet or social media or reach for anything that will help me find the answer I am looking for. I honestly cannot stand to not have the answer for everything. It is so hard for me to not have an explanation for some things. It really just stresses me out!!! I also do not just want the answer for me, but I also want to find out all the answers for my kids, my husband, and all my loved ones. I am not sure why this is? Maybe it is the just the need to fix everything for everyone, or just make sure everything is ok. I am a creature of habit, so to go off the routine or adding something that makes things a little different can also be scary to me. That is why I am always trying to look for the answer, trying to solve the issue, and making sure everything is running as normal. I just have the need for everything to be ok for everyone, including myself.

We all know the past few weeks, our world has not been ok. We are all facing a giant with this virus, that really, most of us did not see coming. Sure, we all watched the news and saw what was happening in China and Italy. However, most of us never thought we would be dealing with the same thing and in the level that we are dealing with it. I believe it was a shock to all our systems. The whole world is facing the fact that everything is not ok. We are all facing what we call a new type of normal in our lives right not. Staying at home, the social distancing, stores and jobs coming to a halt, home-schooling our kids, all of these things have now become our new daily lives.

As I said, the last few weeks have been difficult for me because I want everything to be ok or “normal”. I have found myself watching the news on TV to see what the experts or saying, or digging into articles, etc. to try and find the answer to how I can make things better or feel like everything is ok again. Why did all this happen? Why are so many getting sick? How do we help? How do we stop this from happening again. The what, why, when, and who has been deep in my thoughts. I, again, just have to figure it all out.

Then the other day, my husband made a statement that made me think I may have found the answer I was searching for. He said maybe this is one of the ways God is showing all of us that is just time to BE STILL!! No, I am not saying this is answer for the virus or everything that is happening. However, I am saying that God can make beautiful things out of ugly ones. He can use this time to bring families closer, to make people start opening their eyes on what really is important in their lives, and to deeper the connection with him. Maybe this is the world’s wake-up call to open our eyes about where our hearts are, and shift our focusing from a selfish way of life to one of love, kindness, giving, and acceptance. To make us not only love our families better, but to love EVERYONE. It is our responsibility, as Christians, to make the world a better place.

God is giving you the time now to BE STILL. He is giving you that time to spend time with your family and make your bonds stronger. He is giving you the time to reach out to others and help during this crucial time. He is giving you the time away from your hectic schedules to grab that bible you have not picked up and read and know him better. He is saying Be Still and know that I am God. Praise him, thank him, for giving the precious gift of time to be able to know him better. What a gift it is to sit in silence, without the busy noise around, and hear him talk to you. Yes, the world is scary right now, and we have so many uncertainities but we can all use this extra time that we have to take the opportunity to strengthen our bonds with God, family, and friends and cherish the time to just BE STILL.

I pray despite it all, that each of you are covered in many blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

A Breath of Fresh Air

In his hands are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95: 4-5.

Yesterday my family and I took the day to visit my families farm which is about an hour away from our home. It isn’t often we get to go there due to the hectic schedules that we usually are trying to navigate on a daily basis. However, due to the current situation we are living in with the Covid-19 virus our busy schedules have come to a screeching halt and the spare time we rarely had has become available. I truly love the farm. It has acres and acres of untouched land with beautiful ponds and tranquil hiking trails. It is a wonderful place to hike, fish, horseback ride, or go four-wheeling like we love to do here in Eastern Kentucky. It is just a fabulous place to get outdoors and enjoy some much needed fresh air.

Since we have been in our home for some time, my family and I decided we all need to get out of the house, but do it in a safe way as well. We all just needed to get away. God gave us such a beautiful sunny day yesterday, so it was a perfect time to let go and have a little fun!! Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, everyone is feeling nervous and anxious over the current situation in the world today. It is a scary time indeed. It definitely helps if we can get away from our phones, the TV, and computers and just find some time to enjoy the the beautiful things that God has created and just clear our minds of the clutter that is there. An added bonus to the social isolation is that we also get to be with our families making memories, this is such a beautiful thing, especially with all that is going on right now. I do not want to take one moment for granted.

I could see the joy in my girl’s faces yesterday as we spent the day together. The thing I liked the most was the fact I could see the worry leave their face as well. The anxiety that has been there the past couple weeks lifted, even if it was just few short hours. It is amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air will do for the spirit. They all talked about how much fun they had and not one time was anything mentioned about any scary things that are happening right now. Everyone was truly able to just let go for a while. What a BLESSING!!!

Yesterday I just felt like I could breath. I loved spending time with my husband and girls. I loved being able to hike and fish, and ride around in the outdoors. I cherished every second of it. I loved looking around at the beautiful scenery that God made that was all around us. The beautiful trees, the grass, the ponds, the streams, the fish, and the cute little chipmunk we saw running around on our ride yesterday. All things God has made and yesterday they seemed all the more beautiful to me. I found myself saying a few more extra prayers to God yesterday for such beautiful gifts of life . How thankful I am for all that God has created, and how thankful I am that we got to take some time to enjoy it as a family, together.

I encourage each of you that can to get out and get a breath of fresh air. Go for a walk, take a drive, or just go outside and sit in the sunshine for just a few minutes. Just take some time to clear your head, and allow some sunshine to soak into your soul. Take the time to enjoy God’s beauiful creations and let it help ease the burdens of today. Say a few extra prayers of thanks for the beautiful sunshine, scenery, family, and breath that you are given today. Thank God that even though things are uncertain right now, he still has created such a breathtaking world. Take a deep breath and enjoy.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of this hands. Psalm 19:1.

I hope each of you are covered in many blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

A Letter to my Senior

Emma Grace,

I have a mountain of memories that flood through my head as I look back on the 18 years we have been blessed to have you in our lives. From the very beginning you were going to make your presence known. When I was pregnant with you I was so sick for 9 months!! I mean really sick!!! It was as if even then you were shouting to the world “Hey look at me!!” Then came the delivery, and let me tell you I don’t even have the words to describe how rough that one was. You were a standout before you even took your first breath in this world.

You were born on December 3, 2001. The day before your dad’s birthday. What a great birthday gift!!! You were also born a little less than three months after the 9/11 attack. I remember being so scared of what type of world my new baby and her older sister were going to live in. The fear, the uncertainty, the overall atmosphere of the time was just overall a very frightening time.

As you started to grow the world was growing too. The weight of the fear that came with 9/11 seemed to ease a little. No, the world was never the same again but just like everything else, the world kept spinning and the country began to heal. Quickly the time past and it was time for you to go to Kindergarten. I remember thinking it would be easier to send you off to school because I had already gone through it with your older sister . However, it was not. My heart broke in a thousand pieces leaving you in that room and waving bye to you. You were so excited though and it didn’t take you long to adapt to school life and quickly start making friends. undefined You were always someone who made friends easily. You have the most extraordinary personality and a heart that is so big. And to top it off you have always been beautiful inside and out. It is hard for everyone not to love you.

The years passed quickly and we watched you grow. We got to experience so many things with you from karate, soccer, dance, cheer, pageants you name it, I think you tried it all. No matter what you were doing we just loved watching you and seeing that smile on your face. We just loved you no matter what you were doing.

Then comes the day I was dreading but excited for at the same time. Your first day of senior year undefined. This picture was taken that day with your sisters. I remember you waking up with an excitement that this was it. The last first day of high school. The anticipation of the exciting year to come was in the air for all of us. We were all so excited for the year to come. Your fall semester was great. There of course was football games, homecoming( being nominated homecoming queen for you), leading the news show at school, becoming the yearbook editor, hanging out with friends, and trying new adventures. All the normal and fun things you get to do in high school. As the spring semester started, all was going well. The talk of where to go on spring break, preparing for prom and making sure we got that perfect senior prom dress, because we all know that senior prom dress has to be the best. We were getting ready for senior banquets, senior picnics, senior trips, and all the activities that being a senior entails. So many fabulous things were coming your way.

Then it happened. The virus Covid-19. The virus that not only has turned the world upset down and changed life as we know it, but it also is the virus that is robbing you from your senior year. At this point we have no idea if you will get to go back to school to finish the year. From what we have been hearing you will not. If you don’t, that means no prom, no graduation, no senior brunch, no senior picnic or banquet, no senior activities at all. It will all be gone. Getting to say goodbye to classmates, to teachers, to anyone who has been on this ride with you will be taken away. I hate this for you and all the seniors across the country. Baby girl, I am sorry that there is no way I can fix this. As a mother one of the hardest things to face is not being able to fix problems for our kids. I want to make it all better. I want you to be able to finish up your senior year. I want you to go to your last prom. I want to see you walk across the stage at graduation. I want to see you hug your friends goodbye. I want to see you in maroon and white one last time. Unfortunately, I am not sure if this is going to be a reality.

If there is one thing I am learning so far from all this, it is never take one single day for granted. Even the normalcy of everyday life, going to school, going to work, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, everything is a gift to us that may be taken away at any second. We are all seeing this. So, Emma, even if you are not able to return to school, I want you to be able to see that everyday that you have had so far at school, with your friends, making those senior memories has been a gift. Even if you are unable to make anymore, hold the memories you have made in your heart forever. Cherish them, hold on them, see them for what they are, a blessing. Send your classmates and teachers messages. Let them know how much you love them. Let them know that you all are all in this together. Pray together. Pray that you will be able to come together again. Support and love each other no matter what.

As a mother, I will pray everyday that I get to watch you finish up your senior year with all the experiences that each of you deserve. There is nothing I want more. A group of kids that were born at a time when the world wasn’t so kind, is now again dealing with a world that is unsettled and uncertain. This, however, has only proven your resilience. Emma you are all so strong. You have tried to spread kindness in a world that has not always been kind to you and that has taken so much. There is no doubt, because of your strength, that even after all this you won’t look at it as being robbed but instead will use it as a lesson to build a better brighter future. Emma, never lose hope, let God guide your path, and know no matter what your future is bright.

I pray to Emma and all of you that you are covered in blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

Do Not Fear

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

This past week has been an uncertain, and I must say a very scary time for our country, and our world. The COVID-19 virus has taken over life as we know it. Just in the past week we all have had our lives turned upside down and we are having to learn to adjust to a new normal. A new normal of the now well know topic of “social distancing”, along with homeschooling, working from home, stockpiling supplies and groceries, and the confinement of staying at home due to the closure of restaurants and stores. This new normal is difficult for people who live in a country where we have always had the freedom to do what we please, and live our lives with such comfort and ease that we have had rarely had to think about the basic necessity of survival. I would say 9/11 was the closest we have all gotten to really having our lives forever changed and the uncertainty and fear that has also come along with the virus we are facing today.

In just a blink of an eye, our world is completely different. Last week I went to a grocery store with well-stocked shelves, and passed on getting toilet paper because we had a few rolls already at home. This week the same grocery store had empty shelves and had me kicking myself I didn’t buy that toilet paper because there is now a shortage. Two weeks ago I bought my 18 year old her senior prom dress and watched her smile and laugh with excitement as she tried her dress on looking forward to her very last prom. Now, this week we are being told more than likely they will not be returning to school and that means no prom, no graduation, no more senior memories for her. My heart truly aches for all my children, but it really does for her as this was supposed to be such a special memorable time for her.

So what are we supposed to do when we are facing such scary and uncertain times? How do we ease our children’s fear and anxiety through this? How do we calm our own anxieties and worry? These are all really hard questions, and because everyone is unique and deals with things differently there may be ways one person handles a situation that works better for them. As a Christian, I am doing my best to handle the situation the only way I know how with God by my side.

Here are a few tips that I am encouraging not only myself to follow but my family as well:

  • PRAY. Pray for our world, our country, your community, your family, your friends. Talk to him. Tell him your worries and concerns. Pray that we soon can get back to what we know as normal. Pray for a cure. Pray for those who are already sick to be healed. Pray for a hedge of protection for your loved ones and others. Just give everything to him. Prayer is so powerful, and trust me it works!! I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Psalm 3:14.
  • Don’t allow FEAR to rule your life. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done. It is difficult for me as well. However, we cannot live our lives in fear. We just can’t. We must stay strong, and lay all of our worries at God’s feet. We must make sure our kids see that we are strong and not living in a state of panic or fear. It is important for their mental well-being that we do this. Kids are so vulnerable, and so it is important for us to create an atmosphere of peace for them. Stay strong and don’t let the fear take over, live your life!! Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue. Isaiah 35:4.
  • Focus on the GOOD. I always try to find blessings out of every situation I am put in. Even the messy ones. Yes, the world is a scary and messy place right now. However, let’s try and find some good things to pull out of this. The first thing I can think of is that I get to spend more time with my family. Now that we are all home, we can spend more quality time together. Last night, we had a family game night and just chatted. It has been a long time since we have gotten to do that. So that was a huge blessing. Instead of focusing on the negativity and fear, reset your mind and always search for the good and the hope. An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25.
  • Know God is in CONTROL. You may be scared, your children may be scared and worried, but God is with you. Lean on him for your strength to get through this. Allow him to be your rock. When you feel the anxiety taking over your mind, pray and know that God is in control of this situation and he will never leave your side. Let him guide you to learn how to deal with the new normal we are all facing, let him show you that through him, you are strong. Peace is what I leave with you, it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Just know I will be praying for everyone during this time, and I pray that very soon this uncertain time will be over. I know you are all scared, but I also pray that each of you are covered with many blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer

A New Day

His mercies never come to an end they are new every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23.

This past weekend my youngest daughter Abby had a Back to the 80’s dance at school. Now, I will admit when she told me the theme I got more than excited!! I mean, I grew up in the 80’s so, of course, it is my absolute favorite decade!! The bright clothes, the big hair, and the totally awesome music makes it a hard decade for anyone not to love, am I right? I had this perfect image in my head for a costume for her to wear. The teased hair, bright makeup, leg warmers, and neon top immediately came to mind. She was going to look totally rad!!! And guess what? She did!!! Even though she did decide her 80’s style was a little bit more toned down then the image in mommy’s head. Hey, like I said I was an 80’s baby so I couldn’t help myself. She totally rocked her look!!

Abby and her cousin Addison at the 80’s dance

Abby had a great time at her dance and made wonderful memories with her friends as they enjoyed the style and music of that decade. It is always fun to see things from a different perspective or experience the way things were at a specific time in history. It really is educational to learn from decade to decade how much things change and evolve. With each new decade comes an array of things that change. Fashion, music, technology, leaders, interests, advancements and the lists goes on. As I sit here today I am amazed at the growth and changes that have occurred just in my lifetime. I remember having a rotary phone as a little girl(most people do not even know what that is) and now I carry a little phone that can do just about anything I want around in my pocket!! WOW!! Look how amazing change can be.

As we all reflect and celebrate all the decades that have passed, it is also important for us to remember to live in today as well. Our past teaches us, our future gives us hope of what is to come, and today, well that is what we are doing now. Therefore, it is important for us to never take one single day for granted. Thank God for the past, pray for the future, and wake up each day realizing that God wakes you up everyday with a fresh start. We get a new day everyday to do whatever we want with it. So what will you do with your fresh start each day? Will you wake up with a negative attitude which may affect your entire day or will you open your eyes and thank God for another day to live, another week, another month, another year, another decade? It is so easy to get so caught up in the everyday routine of life and not see that each and everyday is truly a blessing. We truly need to start celebrating every day, not dreading it. Each day we wake up and take a breath, God has given us a gift. A gift to nurture and cherish, a gift to use wisely to accomplish all that we want in life, and hopefully to help give back in the lives of others as well.

So again, it is fun to celebrate the decades and remember the times that have passed. It is also fun to sit and daydream and plan on what our future holds as well. Both of these are great. We must be careful, however to not live in the past, or stay in a state of dreaming about the future. We must remember to celebrate everyday. Take the time everyday to look around and find the blessing, even if it is in the littlest things. Hey, you may be filling blessed that today you no longer have that big, frizzy 80’s hair!! And guess what? That is ok, blessings come in all forms!! I urge you not to take today for granted, live life to the fullest everyday. Say a prayer everyday thanking God for another day for a fresh start. Thank God for the memories of the past, the great things to come in the future, and most of all thank him for today and go out and make it count.

I pray that all of you are covered in blessings today.

Love and hugs,

Jennifer