Saturday, February 18, 2017

A 16th Birthday

So this guy turns 16 tomorrow....and it is a milestone for this mom that makes me a bit emotional.

You see, my mom died just short of 3 months before my 16th birthday.

Does this make me sad?  It used to, but not anymore.  It makes me grateful that I get to see my oldest turn 16.  To be honest, losing a parent at a young age can give you a different perspective, and the perspective that I choose to have is thankfulness.  It is a privilege to be a mom to three kids....it is a privilege to have a family.....it is a privilege to get up each day and face whatever I need to face.  I am incredibly grateful to God for the gift of knowing my oldest longer than my mom knew me.  I do not know how that sounds to someone who hasn't experienced a loss, but it is how I feel.

So here are some other things I am grateful for on the eve of Evan's 16th birthday;


  • how Evan has taught me how to listen more and talk less (although I am still working on this).
  • the passion Evan has for life - for growing in his faith, playing his sports, working on his school, and caring about his friends
  • I am thankful for Evan's friends, they are each wonderful people that I love having hang out at our house.
  • that Evan and I forgive each other easily.....we are both firstborn children and analytical thinkers....so we have to forgive each other often!
  • how much Evan cares for his family....I could not have picked a better older brother for Ann-Marie and Alec
  • that Evan talks freely to his dad and I.....the conversations are something we all enjoy (o.k., maybe his siblings don't, but the parents do.)
So Happy 16th Birthday to our Evan.....we are so very proud of the young man you are growing into!


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Jerome Family Update 2016

I get to this point of the year and love to look back at what our family has done in the past 12 months. So here are our highlights for 2016:

Darrell's sister, Toni, turned 60 and we were able to celebrate with her.

 Ann-Marie finished her Level 5 year with a 5th place finish on floor.
Evan completed his freshman year playing basketball with the Plants & Pillars Basketball team.  Basketball continues to be his favorite sport.

Alec also played basketball for the first time with the 4th-6th grade team.
 School continues on at the Jerome Academy.....
 Ann-Marie babysat all summer for the first time.  We fell in love with this little guy.
 The second kid in our family had to get glasses.

 Ann-Marie turned 13!  Our second teenager......
 And I was able to fly back to Iowa to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday.
 We enjoyed a trip to Kalahari.....

 And we always enjoy being outdoors....
 We were able to buy a second vehicle, for which we are very thankful for.
 We snuck in a couple of visits with our friends, the Shullenbarger family, and ran a very hot, "fastest mile" race.
 Alec participated in gymnastics and soccer, as well as soccer camps and stayed busy with friend activities.
 We undertook some home improvements, which ended up including replacing our roof and front porch.
 Ann-Marie stays busy with activities with her gymnastics friends....


 We visited Kennywood as well as Waldemeer, which was new to us.  We were able to also spend a day at Lake Erie.


Our biggest trip of the year was driving across country visiting my family from Illinois to Colorado!  We were able to see all of my family along the way, make some amazing memories, and Darrell attended his New York Life conference in Denver, Colorado.  The drive was long, but the time with family and adventures we had were precious and worth it!











 The new school year started out in Colorado, with Evan starting his sophomore year with PACyber on the road.  Ann-Marie is in 8th grade and Alec is in 5th.

 Evan participated in another year of soccer.
 We celebrated our niece's wedding.  Congratulations to Jacob & Natalie!

 Alec celebrated his 11th birthday.....
 Ann-Marie started her Level 6 gymnastics year with winning 1st place all-around in her age group.
We were able to get family pictures taken (thank you Christy Grace Photography!)




Merry Christmas to you and your family!  And we pray that you have a wonderful New Year!


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Whatever.....



Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

It was a perfect early November day with crystal clear skies.  As a 15 year old, it was just another school day for me.  As I walked out the door that morning, we had a disagreement, my mom and I.....just another difficult interaction in the complicated relationship between a teenage girl and her mother.  As I walked out the door to catch the school bus, she called after me, "I love you," to which I replied, "Whatever."

WHATEVER.

That word will forever linger in my conscientiousness, a careless reply laced with a negative attitude that cannot be taken back.
That afternoon, I took the activity bus home to an empty house.  What I should have been doing was putting on my chore clothes to help with the evening chores, but I had already decided to stick around the house and conveniently miss chores with the excuse of a "late" activity bus.  I gazed out our kitchen window, taking in a stunning sunset which cast a glow over the field that my mom was harvesting.....or so I thought.  The still combine sat in that field, and unbeknownst to me, she was already dead.  And forever, my last words to her would be "WHATEVER."

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Proverbs 16:23-25English Standard Version (ESV)

23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
    and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Proverbs 17:27-28English Standard Version (ESV)
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
    and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Obviously, I am a slow learner.  I have used my words carelessly since that day, and I have a lot of regrets with how I have hurt others with my words.  My hope, my prayer, is that my story will help others be more careful with their words.  It has been painful to live with the fact that I was so careless with the last words that I spoke to my mother.  This pain almost killed me, because it ate at me from the inside.  I allowed it to fester, consumed with anger, filling my life with destructive behaviors to deaden the pain.  There is good news - once I let Jesus Christ heal that pain, I no longer live with that anger or with the destructive behaviors.  I know that I am forgiven, and along with that, I know that my mother has forgiven me as well.

On this anniversary of that day that my mother died, I want to share this story with you.  I want to be transparent about what happened so that the hope that I have will be shared with others that desperately need that hope.  That hope only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The peace I can have after all that has happened in my life is available to anyone who seeks it.

So the words "WHATEVER" have a different meaning in my life now.  I am more careful with the words I use, spoken outloud or written, because I know the power of words.  And before I leave the house, every single day, I make sure that my husband and my kids hear the words, "I love you," because you never know when those last words will be spoken.




Saturday, May 7, 2016

Before and After

It is spring....which means trees blooming, baby animals appearing, warmer and wetter weather, and before and after pictures.  Before and after pictures?  Ah yes, the weight loss season.  We have to get our flabby, winter bodies ready for swimsuit season.  No matter how one has treated their body during winter, the hope comes every spring that our bodies will be ready to wear that cute, new swimsuit.  So we are inundated with the weight loss advertisement's use of before and after pictures.  

I have been thinking a lot lately about "before and after."  We all have "before and after" stories; maybe it is of weight loss or a healthier lifestyle, but it may also be about more serious issues we deal with in life.  This concept of "before and after" hit me recently as I read a quote from a book I am reading.  The book is "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt.  As of this writing, I have not finished the book.  I think I will, but the book has taken some understandably gritty paths and I was, at one point, tempted to walk away from the book.  However, at some level, I could see myself walking down the paths that the main character has traveled, if I had not experienced the "before and after" of my story.

The main character is talking about the sudden and traumatic death of his mother when he was a teenager:  "As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that's happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.  Her death the dividing mark:  Before and After."  This quote stopped me in my tracks.  It was as if the author was talking about my experience with the death of my mom.  If you know my story, there were years after my mom's death in which I made poor choices with my life and went down roads that were not healthy for me.  I had lost my landmark.

Landmark is defined by dictionary.com as a prominent or conspicuous object on land that serves as a guide and something used to mark the boundary of land.  When my mom died, I was 15 years old and even though I was at an age where I was learning who I was apart from my parents, my mom still was definitely my landmark.  She marked my boundaries, she was my guide.  When she suddenly died, I lost sight of where it was that I should go; my boundaries were gone.  Although she had given me the tradition of faith (I grew up in a Methodist home), I had not internalized that faith and did not use it as a landmark in my life.

I thank God that He gave me another "Before and After."  It was years later that He led my husband and I to a church where we both found a solid landmark - Jesus.  It was not until I allowed Jesus to change my life, to take control of my life, and to use Him as my landmark that my life turned around.  I now understand that another person cannot serve as my landmark - it can only be Jesus.  People will fail you, they will leave you, and it is not healthy to rely heavily on another person as your landmark.  In my experience, once that landmark is gone,  you are lost, adrift, trying to find something else to fill that role in your life.  

It is because of my "Before and After" stories that I do not desire to be my children's landmark.  I want to love them well, be there for them, listen to them, guide and coach them, discipline them, enjoy them - but I want to point them to the landmark that never, ever moves or leaves them.  So on this Mother's Day Eve, I would challenge you to ask yourself two questions: (1) what or who is your landmark? and (2) What landmark are you pointing your children to?


Psalm 89:47English Standard Version (ESV)


47 Remember how short my time is!
    For what vanity you have created all the children of man!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thinking About Community

Neighborhood (from Dictionary.com):  the area or region around or near some place or thing; vicinity:

Community (from Dictionary.com):
a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage;  a locality inhabited by such a group; a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the):

This picture.....yes, the one with the dirty laundry of a family of five and a broken washing machine.....that is a picture of love in a community.  But I will get back to that.......

Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I did not get the neighborhood experience.  My closest friend lived a miles (yes, a whole mile) away from me (and yes, I did walk that once or twice).  However, the farming families of Iowa were intentional in creating a COMMUNITY, maybe not one based on how close in mileage your neighbors were, like a neighborhood, but a COMMUNITY of shared experiences, relationships, and culture.  I never felt that I lacked for COMMUNITY, and when we were in need, it was COMMUNITY that surrounded us in love.

I found COMMUNITY in both of the undergrad colleges that I attended......COMMUNITY in the military....COMMUNITY in Maryland through our church.

Then, nine years ago, Darrell and I decided to move our (then) young family - Evan (6), Ann-Marie (3), and Alec (15 months) - to Beaver County, Pennsylvania.....away from the COMMUNITY we had been investing in for the past 7 years.  All of our children had been born in Maryland and we were finally at a time where we felt comfortable in the area.....but due to job difficulties, cost of living, and desiring to be closer to family, we decided to move.

Beaver County, Pennsylvania.....a place where (upon first glance) everyone either went to high school together, was related somehow, or had connections to one another.  I had never lived there....how in the world was I going to find a COMMUNITY.....one that cared about me as much as I wanted to care about them?  At the stage of life I was at.....how was I going to find the time and energy to invest in, connect with, and build relationships like that?  I was terrified.

Nine years later.....and I can tell you that we have found that COMMUNITY....the kind of COMMUNITY that surrounds each other in times of happiness and in sorrow and in the everyday normal stuff that happens.  Back to the picture.....this is the kind of COMMUNITY that takes your dirty laundry into their own homes to wash it for you because your washing machine has been broken for 3 weeks (my very dear husband has tried and tried to fix it, but to no avail.....we will be getting a new machine soon.)  And this is not just one or two friends.....but several friends who have stepped up with offers of practical help.  (Now those are some good friends who are willing to wash and fold your family's underwear!)

How did we find such a loving and gracious COMMUNITY?  I have been thinking about this a lot lately due to our laundry situation, and have come up with three thoughts about forming COMMUNITY:

1.  Vulnerability:  You have to let them in.  Sometimes it is easier to seek people out then to let them in.  I have not always been very good at this, and I still struggle with it.  But in order for connection to take place, you have to be real.  Forming COMMUNITY is not sharing (in life or on social media) only what is going well in your life or your "perfect" side, but also your struggles, where you do not have it together, and your difficulties.  People want to see the real YOU before they want to commit to forming a COMMUNITY with you.

2.  Availability:  This one is hard also....I didn't say COMMUNITY was easy.  You do have to be available for someone else.  This might mean being available when they need to talk, being available to help them out, or being available to do something practical for them.  If you do not make space in your life for others, it is likely you will have a hard time finding COMMUNITY.

3.  Give AND Take:  Oh, how easy it is for most of us to give.  We want the satisfaction that we will never be the one in need.  But that is the opposite of how COMMUNITY works.  You have to be able to take graciously also (see laundry picture - handing over your dirty clothes is NOT easy).

So thank you.....thank you to our church (Pathway), thank you to our homeschool coop and athletic organization (Plants and Pillars), thank you to our gymnastics family (Arcadia),  and thank you to our neighbors, friends, and family in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, where we have found a wonderful COMMUNITY.

From my Bible reading this morning:

Hebrews 10:24-25English Standard Version (ESV)

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas 2014

 BEST.....CHRISTMAS.....EVER!
 We enjoyed a lot of fun family time this Christmas....starting with Kraynaks in Hermitage, PA.  Then to Daffins Candies, and finishing our evening with a meal at the Original Quaker Steak and Lube.



 Our Christmas tree was fat, fat, fat this year....and had a little problem standing up straight!



 Ravioli making day was a hit....Ann-Marie became a pro at rolling the dough....too bad she can't eat it!

 Some of the goodies we made...yum!

 We always take a day to go into Pittsburgh at Christmas time....we started at the National History Museum in Pittsburgh to see the trees and the creche.

 Then we went to the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh to visit their decorated rooms....
 And a stop at Market Square for lunch/dinner and browsing the market shops.
 A Christmas hair-straightening for Ann-Marie and then.....
 It was Christmas!!!!!!









 And Christmas Dinner at Mark and JoAnne's house with Pap as Santa.....


 To top it off.....our annual stop at the light display in Zelienople, PA.
 Also, introducing "Broccoli".....our Christmas present to replace "Blueberry"
 Not to be outdone....Darrell took Paula into Pittsburgh on a date night and enjoyed the lights at Phipps Conservatory and ate at a wonderful Asian restaurant.






 New Year's Eve at a friend's house with our closest friends.....unfortunately, Darrell and Ann-Marie were under the weather, so only the boys and I were able to watch the ball drop!
We pray your Christmas was filled with wonderful memories and wish you all a very Happy New Year!!!!