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A Sweet Letter From My Sister: A Letter of Love, Grace & Inspiration

LETTER-FROM-MY-SISTER

 

To all of your beautiful warriors.

I am deeply honored to have been asked by my sister to be a guest writer on her blog. She gave me a few possible topics that I could share about but I’m going to go a different direction.

I’m going to talk about us. Our relationship. I love my sister with all my heart and I think about her all the time. I worry about her nonstop. I get scared to death when I get a text from her or our mom/ I get scared that it may say something was dreadfully wrong. I want nothing more than for her to be healed. I’ve prayed and prayed for healing, but for some reason (beyond my earthly knowledge) this is her illness and only God can heal in His time.

I am 22 months older than Jamee which is not that far apart so we were a year apart in school and I’ve always been thankful for that. Growing up, Jamee was always the silly, goofy one and a lot more outgoing than I was. I was super shy and backwards. Almost terrified of people in some ways but thankfully, it is a trait that is not a part of my life today and none of my girls have inherited it. I was able to befriend her friends and they took me in as part of their group. Jamee and I fought a lot growing up (like most siblings do), but she really was one of my best friends.

A-LETTER-FROM-MY-SISTER

Sadly it took me until my late 20s to completely acknowledge our journey and understand how our relationship evolved and how we fit together as we grew older. And it was then that I apologized for every mean thing I ever said to her and our relationship has continued to grow and deepen as we get older.

I’ve always admired my sister. She has a strength and a way about her that makes her stand out. A certain charisma that draws people to her. I saw some of that light fade when illness started to take over, but she won’t back down. She fights back.

I’ve watched her get ink on her body that is permanent (I wish I was that decisive). I’ve seen her color her hair in various bold shades (both on purpose and on accident) from orange to violet to black and walk into a public space just daring someone to make a negative comment.

I have always been a people pleaser. Constantly busy trying to keep everyone happy. Even if this meant giving up my own happiness. I’ve made a lot of choices in my life basing them on the feelings of others rather than my own heart. I worry about hurting the feelings of those close to me or making someone mad at me. Constant worrying can be exhausting.

I started to feel like a coward but then I started thinking of my sister and my mood changed. I was inspired. I said to myself, no more. I’m going to be true to myself and stand up for myself. I have three beautiful little girls who look up to me. I’m their role model. Do I really want them to see a coward, or a strong, proud woman?

Thank you, Jamee. You are an inspiration to me. You are amazing and I’m so proud of you.

Love from your big sissy,

Brandy

BRANDY-AUTHOR-INFO

 

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My Inspiration: Abby’s Heart for United Christian Missions & Nicaragua

 

ABBY'S-HEART-FOR-NICARAGUA

My husband took his second mission trip down to Jinotega, Nicaragua this summer and one night while he was gone, after reading her bible at bedtime, she asked if she could as me some questions. First she blew me away with questions like if hell was a real place and if the devil ever walked on earth as a human like Jesus did. She is 6. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and come up with answers that she could understand. Then she began to ask me questions about the children of Nicaragua.

UNITED-CHRISTIAN-MISSIONS-NICARAGUA

 

From hearing stories from her daddy and looking at pictures, she knew that there were children that lived at the dump with their families just in order to survive. They often walked around barefoot around the mounds of trash and fought off vultures for food.

She asked if those children ever received toys or shoes and I told her that they probably only received what was donated by others as their families were very poor. She said, “Mama, I’ve got a lot of toys in my playroom and while I like my toys, I know that  I have a lot more toys than those kids so I want to go through my playroom and pack up some toys to send down to Nicaragua.” My heart melted.

After loading up a box of toys and taking them to United Christian Missions (the group that John travels with for his mission trips), she decided that that was not enough. She wanted to come up with a way that she could help provide shoes for the kids. She asked if we could have a yard sale to raise money to buy shoes. How could we say no?

UNITED-CHRISTIAN-MISSIONS-NICARAGUA

We had planned on decluttering and cutting back anyway so this was the perfect time. We went through the house and loaded up things we didn’t need or could live without and hosted a yard sale the last weekend in August. We called it “Abby’s Heart for Nicaragua Yard Sale.” We had a great turn out and ended up raising $300 for shoes for the children in Jinotega that help to allow them to attend school.

Her heart is so full of love and compassion that you can’t help but be inspired by watching her grow. She has a greater understanding of Christ’s love for others than many adults. Her teachers at school say she is the first one to volunteer if a classmate is in need of help. I think if there is one benefit of growing up with a parent that is chronically ill that it allows for a greater understanding of compassion, gratitude, and learning the importance of the little things. I am just so proud to be her mama.

If you feel inspired and would like to help the children of Nicaragua, you can participate in the United Christian Mission’s  Educate A Child program to help a child receive an education or participate in one of the other many ways to help make a difference. In addition to their website, you can also find UCM on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

What or who has inspired you lately?

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I Have A First Grader: First Day of School 2015

I have absolutely no idea how that is even possible that Monday was the first day of school which meant that I had a first grader. People always told me that time will fly by when I had a child but I never believed them. I do now.

To mark how grown up she was now that she was going into first grade, she decided she wanted to get her ears pierced (we let her make the decision). She didn’t even shed a tear. I did when I saw how much the earrings she picked out were but they were Elsa and I wanted to make it a special day so we went for it.

So with newly pierced ears and a new Jasmine backpack, Abby set off for her first day of school and headed down the first grade hall.

First Day of First Grade

 

In addition to the morning shots, after school we decided to head over to a nearby field and catch some quick shots with this adorable floral suitcase I stumbled upon at Dollar General. As soon as I saw it, photo ideas started running through my brain!

Of course, once I turned on the camera, she turned on the charm:
FIRST DAY OF FIRST GRADE

 

She was a little more anxious this year on her first day of school than last year but that quickly passed and she has been totally rocking it ever since. She’s been blowing through sight word lists like a rockstar (the goal is 1 a week and she has done 4 already). I’m a proud mama, what can I say?

I think its going to be an awesome year and there will so many fun memories ahead! I will end the post with this bit of cuteness – the progression of her first days of school from PreK to 1st grade (quick someone pass me some tissues!):

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

 

I hope you all are having an amazing and pain free day! Talk to you soon!

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My Little Cheerleader & The Lessons I Learned As A Cheer Mom

It is hard to believe Abby’s first season of cheerleading is over! For starters, don’t you just die from the cuteness overload when seeing this sweet face in uniform?

My Little Cheerleader

 

I just can’t. Swoon.

Like I said before, the season is finally over. John and I wanted to throw a party Saturday when the season was officially over (I am sure the coaches did too) because it meant that we now have our Tuesday and Thursdays nights plus Saturday mornings back! Hallelujah!

The basketball season went well. Our age group for basketball and cheerleading was K-2. The skill of the basketball teams grew by leaps and bounds from the start of the season to the finish. The number of cheers and routines our girls had built up in their repertoire was impressive. Abby is not the most coordinated child on earth but her growth from start to finish was amazing. Major kudos to all the coaches.

The season wrapped up with the area cheerleading competition, which was held this past Saturday, and our girls worked their tails off. The coaches put together a great routine and the girls performed it beautifully. I mean this was a 3 minute routine and these 5-7 year olds rocked it. I was honestly blown away with their stage presence. Their focus was completely on the judges. They smiled big, had high energy, and shook their booties (age appropriately of course).

Side note – I wonder how many cheer squads had some part of Shake It Off in their routines this season.

I have always scoffed at those parents who got upset by a bad call by a ref or judge (I mean come on, be a role model to your child please!) but I had to point the finger at myself on Saturday and give myself a time out.

As hard as our girls had worked, we were taken aback when the results were announced. There was only one other squad in her age group and they did well. They performed as I would have expected a group of 5-7 year olds to perform (random waves to family throughout the routine, blanking out, that kind of thing). We knew our girls were on pointe that day so we really thought we would take home the win but the judges didn’t see it that way and gave the win to the other team.

My first reaction was to go all mama bear, yell at the judges and ask them if they were blind. I know I am biased being a parent but the general consensus of the crowd was the same and thought our girls should have won. I was a little upset. Some were more vocal than others. I was more vocal than I should have been. I didn’t storm the table or anything but I did some trash talking amongst other parents and coaches. The worst part was that I did this trash talking in front of my child.

When we got home after the competition and I started packing up Abby’s cheerleading gear, I was still frustrated by the results but I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Instead of having a huge smile and just bubbling over with pride about how hard Abby and her team had worked, how she had gotten up in front of all those people without fear, and how she had gave it everything she had, I had a scowl and was muttering to myself about what kind of point system they must have used.

Some of the reasons we signed Abby up for cheerleading was so she could learn dedication, how to be part of a team, and – you guessed it – good sportsmanship.

I needed a hefty dose of that myself.

I had been a terrible role model for my daughter that morning and I needed to apologize.

And I did.

I sat Abby down and I explained that I did not have the attitude that Christ wants us to model. I should have modeled good sportsmanship and having a Christ-like attitude and I was sorry that I did not do so. The important thing was that they worked hard as a team, they had fun, and they totally rocked it. Everything else was irrelevant. I told her that she reminded me of what was really important and I thanked her for that and asked her to forgive me. She said she did and gave me a kiss and a hug around the neck before running off to play.

The next night, they had the end of season banquet. Abby came home with her trophy and all was right in the world. The results of the competition the previous day were all but forgotten.

She looks at her trophy and remembers the excitement of being chosen to call the cheer during the halftime routine and giggling with teammates about that part in the cheer where you have to shake your butt.

I look at her trophy and remember the lessons I learned as a cheer mom and how God used these little girls to teach me a lesson on attitude and what is really important about being a team.

Lessons-Learned-As-A-Cheer-Mom

 

P.S. Took an intermission from Blogging For Endometriosis Awareness this week but things will kick back up next week and not only are the next two weeks’ topics hardcore, there will be giveaways each week by our amazing campaign sponsors FJJ Creations and Seaview Jewellery! You will not want to miss it!

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Charlie’s Legacy: Grieving The Loss Of A Pet

Charlie's Legacy: Grieving The Loss Of A Pet

 

Not a day goes by that I don’t grieve the loss of Charlie. It will be two months next week since we lost her and just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. She was my constant sidekick and my ever faithful shadow and to not have her with me is like a piece of me is missing. For 12 1/2 years she was my best friend and I try to count my blessings in that we had her in our family for so long and she lived a full and spoiled life for 14 years. I am so, so grateful that we celebrated her birthday with a bang as she started to decline a month later. Thankfully, her decline was swift so she didn’t have to spend a lot of time in pain so for that I am grateful but if we could have had her 1000 years, I would have wished for 1000 years and a day.

She was just a perfect dog. She was very gentle and quiet spirited. I had written a post on the power of pet therapy and I wish I had known more about it early on as she would have been the perfect therapy dog to visit nursing homes and hospitals because of her gentleness.

She never tore anything up except her bed or her toys. She would destroy her bed but even in her young years, she never destroyed anything in the house (her floppy-eared companion, on the other hand, destroys everything).

She loved hanging outside and enjoying a cool breeze. John and I took the girls (Charlie and Chloe) with us on our first family vacation after we were married to the Outer Banks. The house we rented was on the sound side and the porch was gated so we just left the front door open and Charlie practically lived out on the porch, soaking up the breeze.

She was just amazing. There just isn’t any other way to put it. She was a huge part of this family and we all feel her loss. Chloe mourned for weeks. She still looks for her but she isn’t quite a mopey as she was those first weeks. Abby will come up and sit on my lap and whisper in my ear that she misses Charlie. We made a stepping stone (we used this kit from Hobby Lobby) and buried a box with her collar, letters and our favorite memories so being able to see it helps. There are many times that I have went out and there to talk to her like I would if she was here. I know one day we will be together again.

Charlie's Legacy

 

Helpful resources for grieving the loss of a pet:

Rainbow Bridge – This is an amazing resource. The “Rainbow Bridge” poem is beautiful and they also have grief support resources, a community, and ways to memorialize your pet.

10 Tips on Coping With Pet Loss – This is article provides great advice for moving through the grief process and the website also has many resources such as helping children cope with the loss, creating a memorial, and deciding when is the right time to get a new pet.

Coping with the Death of Your Pet – The Human Society is obviously a great resource to keep bookmarked when you are a pet owner but they also provide a lot of advice and resources for dealing with grief after losing your pet.

What Not To Say to Someone Grieving A Pet – Goodness knows as with any life experience, you get bad responses from well-intended persons. They want to help but they just don’t know the right things to say. I hear it every day about chronic illness but you also hear it after losing a pet and every time I hear “Why don’t you just go get another one?” I wanted to scream. My Charlie isn’t was a thing to be replaced. We will likely adopt another dog but in time. This is a nice article to read and yell at the computer “I know, right?!” Definitely a must read.

Dog In Mourning: Helping Our Pets Cope With Loss – Like I said in my post, all members of our family grieved the loss of Charlie and that included Chloe. I knew she would grieve but I didn’t realize just how hard it would hit her. It makes since as for her 8 years of life, she has always had Charlie so to be without her was a big struggle. This article gives great advice on helping your pet cope with loss as it can help you identify the signs that your pet is grieving and ways to help.

I hope these resources can help you with grieving the loss of a pet like they have been able to help me! If you have recently suffered the loss of a beloved pet, you have my deepest sympathies!